PACKAGE #3: FAMILY VACATION
If the only thing more intimidating than a week off with your kids is two
weeks off with your kids, the following travelogue—with activities for toddlers and teens—can fill your spring break with family activities guaranteed to pass the time quickly while maybe even creating a few long-lasting memories.
Ride the rails
Kids love trains, and they can get their fill at the Nashville Garden Railway Society’s 4,500-foot model train layout on the second floor of 100 Oaks Mall, where trains run through miniature environments—a state fair, a mining operation, a row of brick warehouses—dotted with a mini ski lift and lots of tiny plastic people. Open Sundays noon to 4 p.m., and some Saturdays. Admission is free. www.nashvillegardenrailway.org.
Talk to the animals
Any pet store will do, but if you’re taking your kids to see the trains at 100 Oaks, make a trip to PetSmart to see puppies, guppies and geckos available for sale or, even better, free gawking. 719 Thompson Lane, 386-0105.
Enjoy Eastern European eats
Behind a modest storefront across from 100 Oaks, Aleksey’s Market sells a diverse array of products from former Soviet bloc countries. Explore pierogies, sliced meats and cheeses, newspapers, jars of who-knows-what with labels devoid of any trace of the Roman alphabet. Dive into the self-serve display case filled with candies in garish foil wrappers. Chocolates with nuts, creams and sticky centers that taste delicious but don’t match anything in our Western candy-eating experience. 718 Thompson Lane, 383-0071.
Take a trip downtown
The Arcade offers an array of choices for lunch, though it’s hard to imagine eating anywhere but Manny’s House of Pizza, where the sounds of Brooklynese waft along with the smells of pizza, lasagna and pasta. After lunch, stroll to The Peanut Shop, with its riot of color and endless rows of confections. We highly recommend the malted milk balls.
Duck, duck, goose
Convert stale saltines and moldy bread crusts into family fun at Centennial Park, where an undiscriminating clientele of mallards, pigeons, Canada geese and the occasional crane accept handouts from dawn to dusk. The lake beside the Parthenon includes paths and fountains, but the main attraction is the hungry birds. You’ll never again doubt the appeal of a box of year-old Cheese Nips.
Get a gull’s-eye view of Nashville
Walk the 3,150-foot Shelby Street Bridge at twilight for a spectacular view of downtown. Ride bikes down the center lane, or stroll the elevated boardwalks as lights twinkle on the Cumberland. Kids will enjoy searching the skyline for the Batman Building, Hard Rock Café’s giant neon guitar and other landmarks.
Beat a path to the ’Boro
Enter the Gaylord Opryland universe
Inside Murfreesboro’s Discovery Center are a real fire engine, aquariums stocked with turtles and catfish, a treehouse play area, an art lab, a two-story slide and a water table. Outside the interactive museum are an environmental center, playground and boardwalk where children can explore Murfree Springs—a wetlands populated by beavers, river otters, herons and other wildlife. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday; $5 for adults and children; free for kids under 2. Call 890-2300. www.discoverycenteronline.org
Chill out with a paleta
At the charming 12 South shop Las Paletas, order chocolate, strawberry or mango popsicles for the kids and something adventurous—like cucumber with chili peppers—for the adults. Then make your way across the street to Sevier Park. Swings and a playground await, the perfect place for kids to work off their sugar buzz. 2907 12th Ave. S., 386-2101.
See stars under the stars
Located approximately 45 minutes east of Nashville in Watertown, the Stardust Drive-In reopens for the season March 10, offering double features on weekends only, until warmer weather arrives. The concession stand provides everything from pizza and Philly cheesesteaks to Alien Glow Pops, alongside a field that hums with frogs and crickets in summer. Tickets for children ages 6-12 are $3: five and under get in free. Call 237-0077. www.stardustdrivein.com.
Create a masterpiece
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts hosts children 5 to 12 and their adult chaperones for a free program with music and dance by the Village Cultural Arts Center and a hands-on art project inspired by the exhibit African Art, African Voices: Long Steps Never Broke a Back
, March 20-24, 10 a.m. to noon in the auditorium. Call 744-3247. For information about art camp March 27-31 (registration and fee required), call 744-4904. www.fristcenter.org.
Let lorikeets land on you
Begin the 20-mile Perimeter Trail from Green’s View, Proctor’s Hall, the Cross or Morgan’s Steep, among other places. Allow seven to nine hours to see lakes, bluffs and Shakerag Hollow, a two-mile stretch of mixed-oak forest dotted with wildflowers and wildlife. For maps and information, call (931) 598-1214 or visit the Sewanee Outing Program office in the Bishop’s Common, 56 Tennessee Ave., Sewanee.
The Nashville Zoo offers a local safari of the world’s exotic habitats, including the new Lorikeet Landing aviary, where birds fly freely. Keeper Talks and animal feedings are held at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekends through March 31. Amphitheater shows begin April 1 and run daily at 11 a.m. with a presentation on training animals. On April 7, welcome three Masai giraffes to their new home in Nashville. Call 833-1534. www.nashvillezoo.org
Join the Adventure Science Center and the Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society for a free star party on Saturday, April 1, at the Special Events Field in Edwin Warner Park. All ages will enjoy Saturn and the Orion Nebula in the night sky. Event is 8-10 p.m., or arrive early to glimpse a thin crescent moon passing in front of the Pleiades star cluster. Call 401-5077.
Learn a Lutz-Salchow combo...
…or just do your best to stay upright on the ice at Centennial Sportsplex public skate sessions, March 15-18, 22-23 and 29-31. For schedules, visit www.nashville.org/sportsplex
or call 862-8480.
Start the great American novel
Teens 12 to 18 can use spring break downtime to craft poems or short stories for the Nashville Public Library Teen Creative Writing Contest. Deadline for the free competition is April 8. For information, call Jessica Trinoskey at 862-5774. Edmonson Pike Library will host a creative writing workshop for grades seven to 12, 5:30-6:30 p.m. March 22, 5501 Edmonson Pike, 880-3957.
As part of the “After-School Snack Attack” series, students in grades seven to 12 will create edible concoctions with gummy worms, crushed chocolate cookies and other fakes. 4-5 p.m. March 22, Southeast Library, 2325 Hickory Highlands Drive, Antioch. For information, call 862-5871.
Under the sea
After a grueling morning of climbing, grab a meatball sandwich or a muffuletta the size of a Frisbee at the newly opened Italian Market, then hit the two 12-by-60-foot bocce courts for lawn bowling and after-lunch cigars. The market offers lessons Saturdays. Or if you beg the owners and the store happens to be void of customers, they will provide a quickie session out back. Let’s hope the beer license arrives soon. 411 51st Ave. N., 298-3811.
Combine the meditative and the macho with archery. Take a one-hour lesson ($20) with Joe Fiato at his Hermitage store. Joe has taught competitive archery for 20 years and will run you through fundamentals like stance, draw and release as well as aim, site and the benefits and drawbacks of the compound, recurve and longbow. One problem: Joe doesn’t supply practice bows and an archery setup costs upward of $400. Even so, Tennessee has some of the best archers in the Southeast. If you want to join them, dig into your cash reserves. 4319 Central Pike, Hermitage, 885-0293.
Dine in the great indoors
Finish off your he-man day at Sportsman’s Grille (1601 21st Ave. S., 320-1633), where the walls are lined with taxidermied mammals and an abundance of televisions. Toast your day’s successes with a variety of adult beverages and a menu of meat and potatoes. You’ve survived the ersatz Matterhorn, mastered the art of Robin Hood and managed to pretend you enjoy mini-golf. Spring break is officially over.
Get up, stand up
For dinner, try Coco Loco (4600 Nolensville Road), the bright turquoise Puerto Rican/Cuban restaurant that doubles as a dance club. Order a mojito, peruse the lengthy menu and twirl the night away in the club, which is open until 3 a.m. Or, if your scuba lessons were too much and you’d prefer a quiet night, try Caribbean Hut (1316 Antioch Pike) for real Jamaican cuisine: curried chicken and goat, jerk chicken, oxtail and beans and rice. Don’t miss plantains covered in butter, sugar and a little bit of salt. n