As you plan some adventures to close out 2020, you probably need to keep an eye on your budget as we near the holiday season. Fortunately, Middle Tennessee is filled with frugal ways to entertain children, and a great many of them are fun for the whole family!

Today, we’ve lined up Parks’ top picks for Affordable Family Trips. Did we include your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Adventure Science Center
Nashville, TN

Rain or shine, Nashville’s Adventure Science Center is an outstanding educational destination for families with young children. Let your mind run wild at this ASTC Member museum designed to give kids and adults a place to interact with science in a personal, multi-sensory way. Explore a working beehive, climb the 7-level exhibit-packed adventure tower, and leap higher than ever before with the 1/6th level gravity jump! 

Whether your little scientist wants to jam at the music exhibit, crawl through a beating heart as they explore the human body, or just relax under the starscape in the planetarium, they’re sure to be delighted by the Adventure Science Center. Leave yourself time to visit the third floor and take in panoramic views of Nashville; binoculars are mounted for those who want a closer look at the skyline. 

Cheekwood Estate & Garden
Nashville, TN

The historic Cheekwood Estate features 55 acres of botanical gardens, an art and sculpture trail that winds through the woods, and several outdoor areas designed with children in mind. Bring a picnic lunch, then spend a few hours exploring the grounds. Kids are invited to climb the two-story treehouse, visit the Japanese gardens, and take in the sprawling train village.

We recommend reaching out to Cheekwood Estate ahead of your visit if there are specific attractions that you feel you wouldn’t want to miss; occasionally, exhibits and portions of the gardens are closed, and planning ahead will help you avoid any disappointment. 

Visit their ticket page to price your visit and purchase tickets in advance of your trip.

Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Nashville, TN

This famous Tennessee zoo gives kids and adults alike the opportunity to have close encounters with cheetahs, giraffes, meerkats, elephants, kangaroos, ostriches, zebras, a wide variety of birds, and many more species. 

Children can roam free and play on the 66,000-square-foot jungle gym (complete with play castle), take the Wilderness Express Train, fly on the Soaring Eagle zipline, take a whirl on the Carousel, and even pet a koala--all without leaving Nashville!

Many species at the Nashville Zoo like it hot. Bear in mind that cold temperatures mean many animals will take temporary shelter out of sight indoors.

Ford Ice Center
Nashville, TN

This beloved skate center exists as a public-private partnership between the Nashville Predators and the wider community. With two full NHL-size rinks, the Ford Ice Center is the perfect place to go skating with the kids. Training sessions and lessons make for a busy rink schedule, so be sure to proactively check the center’s current 90-minute public skate schedules here to plan your visit.

Lines for public skate times can be long, so arrive well ahead of time to ensure your spot on the ice. Skate rentals are included in the $10 admission fee. Waivers must be signed by everyone prior to skating.

Centennial Park
Nashville, TN

Located in the West End section of Nashville, Centennial Park is a lush paradise that spans more than 130 acres. Boasting a man-made lake complete with ducks, an expansive play area for children alongside beautiful statues and world-class architecture, and an impressive dog park, this landmark is beloved by adults, kids, and canines. 

In May, June, September, and October, The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park host Musician’s Corner, a free event for kids and their families. Showcasing more than a thousand musical artists since its 2010 inception, this show makes our “do not miss” list. 

Check out the full calendar of events to plan your trip!

Lucky Ladd Farms
Eagleville, TN

Home to the largest petting farm in Tennessee, Lucky Ladd Farms connects children with hundreds of friendly domesticated animals. Hands-on encounters are exciting learning opportunities, and admittedly adorable photo ops, as well. Visit cows, sheep, llamas, goats, alpacas, turkeys, chickens, peacocks, and peahens, as well as the miniature horses, donkeys, and ponies offering little ones a whirl in the ever-popular pony ride area.

With its focus on community education, safety, and fun, Lucky Ladd Farms is a great warm-weather activity for the whole family!

Soar Adventure Tower
Franklin, TN

If your family wants to break out of the monotony of playgrounds to experience something uniquely challenging, consider tackling a massive, four-level outdoor adventure tower. Soar Adventure Tower offers a hands-on, fully interactive environment that is designed to challenge your child in mind and body alike. 

While at first glance the adventure tower may seem nearly too tall to tackle, it’s carefully structured with safe adventuring in mind. The ground level is ideal for kids aged 4 – 7, and permits parents to accompany younger climbers, while the upper levels divide the children by height. This system consistently ensures that children only encounter obstacles that are well-suited to their size and abilities.

Discovery Center
Murfreesboro, TN

The Discovery Center is ideal for preschoolers and young school-age kids who are just beginning to socialize and learn about the world around them. Thanks to a consistent emphasis on learning through all five senses and outdoor play, you can rest assured your child will be playing and learning all day long.

Send them sailing down a 2 ½-story Super Slide, unleash their inner artist at the Creation Station, take a break for lunch at the Center’s picnic grounds, and enjoy exhibits that let children take a role and join in. After playing as a train engineer, vegetable farmer, or firefighter, your little one will have had a blast; prepare for many requests to return. Your child’s imagination is sure to take center stage at the Discovery Center!

Strike & Spare Family Fun Center
Hendersonville, TN

Every family needs a great bowling alley when it’s time to get silly, and Hendersonville’s Strike & Spare is our top choice! This family fun center has 34 lanes for traditional bowling, 12 VIP lanes, a state-of-the-art LCD scoring system, bar and café, arcade games, VR gaming, and lively music to accompany all of the activities. 

Purchase a wristband to unlock unlimited laser tag, bungee jumping, skating, VR gaming, and go-karting. Whether you’re celebrating a special event like a birthday or graduation, or just want to let loose as a family, you’re certain to have a great time at this popular bowling destination.

DEFY Trampoline Park
Brentwood, TN

If your kids are bouncing off the walls, get out of the house and unleash them at DEFY Trampoline Park in Brentwood. DEFY offers an affordable month-long membership, making this clean, upbeat spot one of the most effective and economical ways to wear out even the most energetic little one, rain or shine.

DEFY is set up for you, whether you’d rather sit back and relax for a few moments or if you’d prefer to jump along with the best of them. There is plenty of space for observers and jumpers alike. DEFY consistently delivers the bounciest fun in town – and they’ve also recently added an indoor zipline and “death-defying” stunt fall tower! 

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