Family Vacations

Are you planning a Nashville road trip with kids?  I’ve got all the tip and tricks for a successful road trip to Nashville including where to stay, where to eat, and more.

Nashville Road Trip with Kids

This year, we kicked off the boys’ summer break with a trip to Nashville. Nashville is a city close to my heart because I’ve been there on several girls’ weekends. It’s a place I knew my kids would love, so I new we couldn’t go wrong.  What made it even better, was Nashville was on the way to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where we were going for a beach vacation.

Nashville mural

Nashville Road Trip – Kid-friendly Activities

After the four-hour drive from St. Louis, we wasted no time heading straight to one of Nashville’s top attractions for families: the Adventure Science Center. It was a great choice for sure!  After being cooped up in the car for so long, my boys ran from one side of the science center to the other. The science center has a ton of hands-on and interactive activities for kiddos of all ages!

Mason’s favorite thing to do was pretending to drive the ambulance, while Logan was fascinated by the exhibit that allowed him to imagine what it would be like to walk on the moon.

Adventure Science Center

The next day we did the Hop on/Hop off Trolley tour of Nashville. If you choose to do this, here’s a tip: tickets for this are less expensive if you purchase online or over the phone than at the ticket booth.

Trolley Nashville

The first time I saw the trolley on previous visits to Nashville, I was dying to get the boys on it.    I knew they would love it and then we have loads of options to explore.  We boarded the trolley at Downtown Broadway. Our first stop was at the Nashville Farmers Market, where there’s plenty of fresh food for sale. There’s a ton of different food vendors, and we went with a brick-oven pizza, which was delicious!

Nashville Parthenon

Next, we stopped at the Nashville Parthenon, which looks exactly like the Parthenon in Greece. It’s an art museum on the inside, with lots of beautiful grounds on the outside, including a playground and lots of open fields. Finally, we stopped at the Gulch to get pics at the famous wings mural, which is just one of many fun murals in Nashville.

Wings mural

Some other fun kid-friendly ideas that we had on our list but swimming at the Drury indoor/outdoor pool won out :  

Nashville Zoo

Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

The Ryman Tour

Another tip when traveling with kids:  Be flexible.  I had a lot of things planned but ultimately they were begging to swim and Mason fell asleep on the trolley.

Nashville Road Trip – Where We Stayed:  

When it comes to lodging, I’m very particular.  We look for certain amenities that will make the vacation easier for all of us. A hotel breakfast is super important to my kids, and it saves us from having to eat out and spend a lot of money on food the kids may or may not eat. And I like having a separate bedroom with a door, so I’m not forced to go to bed at the same time as the kids. Also, the boys insist on the hotel to have a pool, which is fine by me so they can burn off all their energy.  

I was thrilled to partner with  Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin, Tennessee, because it was the perfect fit for us.  We absolutely loved it!  Located just 15-20 minutes south of downtown Nashville, so you won’t have any parking hassles or late-night party scene.

The first thing you notice when you enter is the amazing lobby. It’s grand, yet welcoming.  And every afternoon, the scent of fresh popcorn wafts through the air, enticing guests both young and old, to stop and enjoy a quick afternoon snack.

Our room was clean and updated. There was a fridge microwave and sink in the bar area. The bathroom was spacious, featuring a gigantic tub and separate shower, toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, and body wash) in large dispensers inside the shower.  (Check out my Instagram story by clicking the “highlight” button to see the full video)

While our room was wonderful, we certainly not prepared for the value of the breakfast at Drury. There was no shrink-wrapped, slapped-together convenience food—it was a full-blown breakfast with anything you could want!  They served a full spread of hot foods like eggs, biscuits and gravy and sausage and potatoes. Then there was a huge selection of cereals, fresh cut fruit, and yogurt. They even had a station where you could get made-to-order pancakes and another where you could make your own waffles, which the boys loved. The food was all super fresh, and the Kelso Bros Coffee was piping hot.   

Drury breakfast

Another great feature was the pool. My kids love to swim no matter where we are, and the pool at Drury didn’t disappoint. It was heated, with a neat indoor/outdoor feature—where you could swim under a large partition to go from one side to another.  There also was a huge hot tub, and an endless supply of high-quality clean towels too.

Drury indoor/outdoor pool

Drury indoor/outdoor pool

What was our favorite thing about Drury? It definitely was something called “kickback hour”.  It’s every evening at  5:30, and to say that it exceeded our wildest expectations, would be putting it lightly.  Even though it’s considered a snack, it’s really more like a full-blown dinner.  It has a full spread of items like baked potatoes, pasta, chicken tenders, a nacho bar, hot dogs, and salad bar. I found this to be a nice touch, and an unexpected surprise, because going out to eat with the kids can be stressful and expensive!  Also, get this, adults can get THREE free drinks during kickback hour. Yes, you read that right, THREE!  Amazing!  

Drury kickback hour

Drury kickback hour

We absolutely LOVED Drury and can’t believe the value and quality offered,  and can’t wait to stay with them again. 

Nashville Road Trip – Where We Ate:

When traveling I like to find out what special food the area is known for.  In talking with some locals the Nashville foods to try are:  hot chicken, biscuits, sweet treats, BBQ, and goo goo cluster bars

Since we regularly ate a huge breakfast at the hotel and appetizers for dinner at the kickback hour, eating around Nashville was more for lunch and progressive-style snacking and treats.  Because vacation calories don’t count right?

Biscuit Love, Immensely popular, known for cuisine centered around biscuits.  Make sure to try a bonut, which is fried biscuit dough topped with Italian cream cheese.  Delish!

Bonut Biscuit Love

Biscuit Love Nashville

Five Daughters Bakery Try and tackle one of their 100 layer donuts, which is a hybrid of a croissant and donut.  Are you kidding me?!

Five daughters Nashville

5 daughters Nashville

Caviar and Bananas This gourmet market and cafe uses only fresh ingredients to deliver a tasty culinary experience.   The decor is as amazing as the food.  This place looks like its right out of a magazine.  Caviar and Bananas

Martin’s BBQ Their specialty item is a Redneck Taco, which is any of their hickory-smoked meats on a corn cake.  Yee haw!

Martin's BBQ Nashville

Other kid-friendly places we wanted to try but didn’t have time:  

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken If you never tried chicken and waffles, this is the place to give a whirl.  Also, the chicken comes in different spice levels; the hottest contains the fire-breathing ghost pepper.  Yikes! Note: When we stopped by this place there was a 45-minute wait outside the building. Be prepared to wait and have something to entertain the kids.  

The Grilled Cheeserie Its humble beginnings was as a popular Nashville food truck, whose menu was created by a master chef.  So, this isn’t your run of the mill sandwich.

The Aquarium Restaurant  A true underwater dining experience, as you’re surrounded by a 200,000-gallon saltwater aquarium.    

The Pancake Pantry You’ll get a full serving of Southern hospitality at this 50 plus year-old Nashville hot spot.

Overall Nashville is such a great town to explore with kids.  We had so much fun, and hope to be back soon.  I hope this helps you plan a fun trip there with your family.

Nashville mural

XOXO  Sarah

We were so grateful to partner with Drury Hotels for this trip, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Choo Choo,  All aboard the Kozy Kaboose.  Over Christmas break, I took my boys on the ultimate little boy staycation.    I gave them clues to where we were going and when they saw the caboose they couldn’t believe their sweet little eyes.  Spring break and Summer break are approaching and KOA’s campground in Eureka, Missouri has just the answer for those wanting a memorable camping experience without battling the St Louis crazy hot/cold weather.  

Kozy Kaboose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kozy Kaboose authentic caboose has the original Route 66 nostalgic feel.  It was completely refitted to a modern condition.  If your child is a train enthusiast, they’ll go crazy over spending an overnight in this choo choo delight.  It sleeps four people comfortably; 2 adults and 2 children, with a queen size bed and a bunk that my boys couldn’t get enough of.  My youngest spent almost an hour just going up and down the ladder.  

Kozy Kaboose

 

 

The bathroom has a shower-tub combo.  A small fridge is supplied and is large enough to hold some basic food supplies and drinks.  When eating, or playing a fun game of candy land you sit at a cute booth that seats four.  Also, there’s a TV with over 20 channels, and swivels from the dining area to the bedroom location.     

Kozy Kaboose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just steps from the back door, which has a porch with furniture, a grill and there is a fire ring that’s ready for roasting hot dogs and making s’mores.  My guys devoured more chocolate bars than anything else, which made bedtime a lengthy process.  Instead of purchasing pricey firewood, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by going to Academy Sports.  They have these convenient tree stumps, which have a core that’s soaked in lighter fluid.  All you have to do is light the middle and you have a toasty fire that lasts around two hours.  We added some Funky Colored Flames, that are also available at Academy, and your kids will be mesmerized by the variety of colors it produces.     

Kozy Kaboose

 

 We stayed for just one night, but given the chance, multiple nights would make for an awesome staycation.  They gave us a scavenger hunt on arrival the kids could hunt for.  When it’s warmer they have a pool, a playground and tons of fun kid-friendly activities.  For more information check them out at Kozy caboose Eureka

Kozy Kaboose

So, gather your family and get on board for an experience that’ll create great family memories!  If you missed our other family-friendly trip ideas check them out here:  

Echo Bluff state park

Bentonville, AR

Big Cedar Lodge

  • This post was sponsored by KOA but all thoughts are completely my own.

 

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Hey guys, I wanted to get you all the details from our amazing weekend at Echo Bluff State Park.  If you love being outdoors this state park needs to be on your bucket list.  It’s only 2 1/2 hours from St Louis and is absolutely beautiful and is great for small children, family reunions, girls weekends, and for couples too.  Here’s the details from my trip.

Where we stayed:

The Betty Lea Lodge has regular rooms, cabins with 1- 4 bedrooms, or large stacked duplex and even camping sites.

Here is our 2 bedroom cabin (they are a year old everything is nice and new)

 

 

Here is the Lodge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where we ate:

We ate at the Creekside Grill in the Lodge for breakfast and lunch.  They had all the typical grill foods.

We also ate at Dos Rio’s a Mexican restaurant in Eminence and had hand dipped ice cream at Dino Mart

 

 

 

 

 

What we did:

Hiking:   Painter Ridge Trail South Loop, Painter Ridge Trail North Loop, Current River Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the crystal clear water at Sinking Creek in front of the Lodge.  Note:  Bring your water shoes, bring floats, nets water toys and buckets for the kids.  You’ll find lots of critters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature Playground, this playground is top notch.  My boys loved climbing, sliding and running all around the beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

Sarah’s Scoop:  

There is little cell phone reception in the area so have a plan ahead of time

The Lodge has board games for use in the main lobby

If you want to roast s’mores let the front desk know and they will make sure the fire pit is lit.

Other Activities in the area:

What to bring:  Water shoes and water toys and floats, water proof case for your phone, s’more supplies or you can purchase in gift shop.

I promise you will not be disappointed but call in advance they were booked months out when I made our reservation.

Hope you enjoy!!  XOXO  Sarah~

Roadtrip part 2.  We started off our trip in Bentonville AR and are now at Big Cedar Lodge.

Big Cedar Lodge– was created by Bass Pro Shop founder Johnny Morris when he purchased the existing property in the area, known as Big Cedar Hollow, in 1987.  Since then, it’s grown into one of the best wilderness resorts in the U.S.  It covers 800 acres that overlooks Table Rock Lake in the Ozark Mountains just outside Branson, Missouri.

If you like being surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery while still enjoying premium facilities and amenities, this is a wonderful destination.  This is one of my favorite places in Missouri.

Big Cedar Lodge offers plenty of outdoor activities for all ages.  Having two very active little boys, this is music to many parents’ ears.

The main lobby is tastefully decorated in a rustic theme.  While I checked in, my boys played with the Lincoln Logs on a game table, which would’ve kept them busy for hours.

For dinner we ordered some pizza from a local place, while playing some of the board games you can check out.

For dessert, we headed to the campfire area for s’mores.  They had several fires going and each family got a s’mores kit.  The weather was fantastic, and we were serenaded by the sound of hundreds of tree frogs croaking.  To cap off our evening, we hit the links at the fishing-themed mini golf course located next to the campfire area.

When we returned to our room, the “cookie lady” had left us some treats: “wishing” maple leaf cookies.  They’re gingerbread in the shape of a maple leaf.  They get their name because when you hold one in your hand, you make a wish and then tap the cookie’s center.  If it breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2-

When I woke up the next morning, I headed to Big Cedar’s fitness gym.  This facility has a lot of machines of all kinds..  After lifting weights, I went outside to get some cardio in.  I quickly found the 5K walking/ running trail on site.  Well-marked and paved, it took me all around the amazing property, where I was surrounded by the sounds of nature (waterfalls, frogs, birds, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lodge had organized a kids fishing rodeo, so we hopped on the shuttle and headed to the lake.  Just like at the s’mores night, don’t worry about bringing your own supplies to Big Cedar, you’re already covered.  The staff gave my boys fishing, rods, showed them how to put a worm on the hook, and off they went!

After fishing, we headed over to the marina for the paddle boats.  We toured the lake and cove, where there’s a beautiful waterfall.  They boys enjoyed spotting ducks and turtles that were out sunning.  When we got back to the marina, we headed to the outdoor café for lunch, where we saw even more turtles on the banks.  There were several turtle families with babies, so the boys were very excited to see them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top of the Rock

The only time we left Big Cedar Lodge, was to go to The Top of the Rock, which is a short drive north on Hwy 65 from Big Cedar.

They give you a golf cart, which an adult drives around the property on very scenic paved trails.  Waterfalls, bridges and other breathtaking nature scenes surround you during your journey.  The highlight of the drive comes when you drive into a cave with a gigantic waterfall.  After leaving the cave, we drove over several covered bridges and saw more waterfalls.  The drive lasts between 45 mins and a hour, but when done, we all wanted to go around again!  It was AMAZING!!!  Tickets are($25 for adults/ $12.50 for kids), but we all thought it was well worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just read this week that Big Cedar opened a new activity center called Fun Mountain on property.  It looks amazing.

Overall I would describe our trip to Big Cedar Lodge magical.  If you love being outdoors I would highly recommend this place to anyone.

Happy Travels to you.  Sarah

 

A goal I have for my family, is visiting all 50 states before our two boys (Logan, 6 and Mason, 3) graduate high school.   Right now we’re focusing on hitting all of Missouri’s border states.  Arkansas is a reasonable distance away (less than 5 hours), so off we headed to the “Natural State”. This was a two part trip.  First, we went to Bentonville, AR.  After that we traveled to Big Cedar Lodge, which is just outside Branson, Missouri.  More details on Big Cedar Lodge in a future post.

Bentonville is a cute mountain town with a Wal-Mart on every corner.  No surprise, because Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton is from Bentonville.

Amazeum: 

Our first stop in Bentonville was the Scott Family Amazeum.  And it was true to its name, because it’s an amazing kids museum.  Some of the hands-on exhibits included:  Load-and-Haul (simulated an assembly line-like factory), art studio, cave exhibit, cardboard box mazes, and Nickelodeon Play Lab featuring Sponge Bob Square Pants.  Our visit wrapped up around closing time, and they give all the kids streamers for a parade out the door.

 

Crystal Bridges Art Museum: 

Founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation, Crystal Bridges Art Museum is a great and free destination for art lovers.  After viewing some of the art exhibits, we spent  a lot of our time exploring the trails that wind around the 120-acre grounds; which was absolutely beautiful!  It has two spring-fed ponds, with a glass-enclosed bridge overlooking them.

Downtown Bentonville:

Downtown Bentonville features the Wal-Mart Five and Dime Museum.  The gift shop is a fun stop, because it sells a lot of unique and historic items which were sold there in previous decades.  My boys chose a package of Peeps to satisfy their sweet tooth.

After a brief playground stop in Eureka Springs, we hit the road to Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri.  Stay tuned for more details on this excursion, as it’s truly one of the gems of the Ozark Mountains.