3 Music Cities for Families to Discover
Kids and music go together like peanut butter and jelly, and these three unique cities offer music and family fun for all ages. You just have to decide which one to visit first.
From Broadway plays to kindie music, no other American city offers the variety of musical talent and performances like New York. Here are some must-experience destinations if your family travels to the Big Apple.
Broadway offers a variety of shows that appeal to kids. Those listed here are open to ages 5 and older. Learn more about what is currently showing at broadway.com.
• Kids will gawk at the life-size puppets in “The Lion King” as the puppets parade down the aisles to the stage.
• Bring your golden ticket and sweet tooth to see Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Kids will enjoy the eye-popping sets that make up Willy Wonka’s world.
• A “Wizard of Oz” retelling, “Wicked” is recommended for ages 8 and older due to some scary elements for younger kids, like flying monkeys.
• “School of Rock” features a cast of real-life kid rock stars and all the fun of the original movie featuring Hollywood star Jack Black. This play is best for older kids since there are some curse words and authority-defying themes.
Kids ages 7-13 will rave about this safe, daytime dance party in a family-friendly redo of popular New York City nightclubs. Enjoy DJs, electronic music and live performances. Visit cirkiz.com for locations and dates.
Beloved artists from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to Judy Garland have graced Carnegie Hall’s stages. Share the magic with your budding musician through free family days and an interactive concert series. Learn more at carnegiehall.org/events/family-events.
Radio City Music Hall
If you plan to be in town during the Christmas season, don’t miss the high-stepping Rockettes as they perform their festive “Christmas Spectacular.” Take your family on the Stage Door Tour of this art-deco diamond and meet a Rockette in person. Learn more at rockettes.com and msg.com/venue-tours/radio-city-music-hall.
Kindie Music Scene
The Big Apple is home to kindie music greats like Laurie Berkner and Dan Zanes. Look for various family concert series across the city, including Madison Square Kids and SummerStage Family Workshops. Visit madisonsquarepark.org/kids and cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage to learn more.
Nashville’s earliest settlers created the foundation for its “Music City” nickname by playing fiddle tunes and buck dancing after landing on the shores of the Cumberland River. Later, during the 1800s, the first around-the-world music tour by the Fisk Jubilee Singers put Nashville on the map for music publishing. Here are some ways to discover the country music capital of the world for yourself.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Videos, a giant guitar-shaped tunnel and slide, and interactive exhibits will entertain young ones at this Nashville must-see museum. View memorabilia including costumes, cars and instruments. Go deeper into country music history with the RCA Studio B Tour, and see where greats like Elvis Presley recorded. Learn more at countrymusichalloffame.org.
Grand Ole Opry
Shows at the Grand Ole Opry combine new artists with country greats like Montgomery Gentry and Ricky Skaggs, typically consisting of eight or more performers who take the stage for an unrehearsed, live performance. Each act features two or three songs to keep things interesting for shorter attention spans. Enjoy concessions during the show. Learn more at opry.com.
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
This resort — a destination within itself — accommodates almost 3,000 rooms, three large pools, a spa, 17 restaurants, an arcade, numerous atriums with gorgeous gardens and waterfalls, and an indoor river large enough for a boat tour. It’s the perfect place for your family to stay while exploring Nashville. Downtown destinations are just 15 minutes away.
Nashville’s Music Mile
Nashville’s Music Mile starts at the Music City Walk of Fame on Demonbreun Street. Take a few selfies with permanent sidewalk markers honoring famous musicians from all genres. Then picnic in nearby Nashville Music Garden. This public green space features six dozen varieties of roses named for country music stars and songs. Take some time to stop and smell the Tennessee Waltz, the Elvis and the Coal Miner's Daughter. Learn more at visitmusiccity.com.
Honky-Tonk With Kids
It would be a shame to be surrounded by honky-tonks, live music and barbecue and not experience these Nashville staples. Lucky for families, a number of Music City restaurants and cafes welcome kids and feature live music. Check out Rippy’s, Station Inn, The Bluebird Cafe, Acme Feed & Seed, Robert’s Western World and the Wildhorse Saloon, just to name a few. When in doubt, visit during lunch or join the early dinner crowd. Live music shows start as early as 11 a.m. Learn more at visitmusiccity.com/visitors/food.
Austin, Texas, claims to be the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Fortunately, much of this live music is also family-friendly and free. Check out these venues while you’re in town.
Shady Grove restaurant’s Unplugged series is one of the longest-running music series in the city. On Thursday nights from April through September, customers enjoy frosty beers on the shady patio and free live music performed by artists such as Rhett Miller and Flatland Calvary. There is also a kids’ menu. Learn more at theshadygrove.com.
Texas Radio Live From Guero’s Oak Garden takes place every Wednesday night at Guero’s Taco Bar. Families can listen to a variety of Texas’ best musicians. Enjoy live music Thursday-Sunday as well. The tacos aren’t bad, either! The kids’ menu consists of low-priced, kid-pleasing fare. Learn more at gueros.com.
Central Market in Austin North Lamar is a local favorite place to grocery shop and grab something to eat on the shady deck while you listen to live music. A large, nearby playground keeps the kids entertained. Central Market also hosts the Texas Community Music Festival each April, which features an eclectic mix of performers. Learn more at tcmfestival.com.
The Midway Food Park combines green space with a playground, a live music stage and food trucks. Hear musicians perform Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year. Learn more at themidwayfoodpark.com.
One of the best ways to take in a variety of new bands is by experiencing Austin City Limits Festival — perhaps the city’s most well-known, live music event. Kids under age 10 get into the festival free with parents. There are plenty of bands to see before bedtime, and the kids will especially enjoy Austin Kiddie Limits, where they can create crafts, attend music and dance workshops, and listen to live entertainment. This year’s festival takes place Oct. 5-7 and Oct. 12-14, 2018. Learn more at aclfestival.com.
“Austin City Limits” appears weekly on PBS and is the longest-running music program in TV history. Visitors can win tickets to a live taping of the show, which can last up to two hours, at The Moody Theater. Fans can also take a backstage tour of the theater for $12 per person. Learn more at acltv.com.
Rodeo Austin, held every March, combines live music, a fair and a rodeo all in one. Enjoy 100-plus live performances and fairgrounds featuring a carnival, shopping and special attractions. Learn more at rodeoaustin.com.
Before You Go
These music cities will have your family singing your praises, so check out all three. Contact each city’s convention and visitors bureau for more information.
NYC & Company: nycgo.com
Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Center: visitmusiccity.com
Visit Austin: austintexas.org
Christa C. Hogan is a mom of three who takes advantage of Wake County’s year-round public school calendar to travel frequently with her kids.