Downtown Nashville with a Baby

This weekend was one of the rare ones where we didn’t have any plans. We woke up Saturday morning with nothing on the calendar, nowhere we had to be. I didn’t even have any laundry to do. So we got to sleep in, drink some coffee, and hang out with Skyler on his six month birthday.

But with such a beautiful, not insanely hot, day streaming in through the windows, I knew I didn’t want us to squander it by sitting at home all day. Where could we go? What could we do? Justin wanted to eat some good food and enjoy some craft cocktails; I wanted to move, get some exercise, stretch my very out-of-shape body, and do something more than just go sit and eat; and Skyler…well, as long as there’s a boob nearby, he was going to be happy. 🙂

We tossed out every suggestion we could think of that would give us a one-stop-shop for what we *both* wanted — Walk around the mall? (Just did that recently); walk around the Opry hotel? (Better to save that for visitors and holiday time); TopGolf? (We just did that); bowling? (My hand hurts too much to bowl). We had recently visited the TN state museum and the Farmer’s Market, and Skyler’s still a bit young to enjoy the science center. The zoo would be a nice physical outing, but doesn’t offer adult beverages or delicious food (and plus, if it ended up being too hot, there aren’t many air conditioned respites throughout the zoo). Downtown kept coming up in the discussion, but we kept dismissing it — too hot, too crowded, too many drunk bros, too many everything.

Finally, while I was finishing up my morning pumping session, I suggested downtown again: It wasn’t *that* hot outside and there were plenty of air conditioned places for us to escape into; we’d surely hit my 10,000 step goal traipsing about amongst the crowds giving me what I wanted; if we wore Skyler instead of pushing him in the stroller, navigating the busy sidewalks (and avoiding drunk bros) wouldn’t be hard and he’d enjoy the people watching and the sights and the sounds; going early in the day avoids the drunk bro crowds and there are likely to be families down there too; and there were tons of places to eat and drink, of which we could visit many, satisifying Justin’s request. Downtown seemed like the best compromise!

So we took our 6 month old baby honky tonkin’ on lower Broadway for a 6+ hour afternoon adventure! And we had a blast!!

Another party vehicle… you could not pay me money to wear my bathing suit in the middle of downtown

It’s been pointed out to us that we may be some of the only locals who willingly venture to Lower Broad, *by choice*, on any day of the week, let alone a Saturday at the end of summer. But Nashville’s compact downtown offers so much entertainment for all ages (music! Photo opps! food! sweets! shopping! people watching!) that it’s kind of the perfect family outing, and we can’t wait to do it again! If we liked live music, which we try to avoid in most cases, then it would have been even better. (At Ole Red, when the singer asked if the audience had any requests, Justin mumbled, “Stop.” But the singer wasn’t half bad!) We sampled pralines, passed by a streetside preacher (and his five children), resisted buying all the candy, walked over 10,000 steps, and counted bachelorette parties — we started the afternoon with an over-under of 8.5, but we saw 3 within five minutes of leaving the parking garage, so we raised it to 10.5, both taking the over. We reached 15 bachelorette hours in two hours, and had counted 18 by the time we got to our car, (though I’m sure we missed a few). While we were counting bachelorette babies, we also counted as one of their bingo items — we heard at least one drunken bridesmaid yell, “Baby in a bar! Baby in a bar!” and check it off her bingo sheet.

 

So what did we do in downtown Nashville with a baby?

Here’s a photo-list of what our adventure included (click on any photo to see a larger version):

      • Parked at the 3rd and Commerce garage for easy access should we need a quick escape
      • Stopped by some of the spots where we took our maternity photos
      • Lunch at Merchant’s, one of our favorite spots for decent food and drinks amongst all of the downtown chaos. The bartenders are always super friendly and accommodating.
      • Took Skyler down to the riverfront
      • Walked up and down 2nd avenue, checking out Goorin Brother’s hat shop, a few souvenir shops, two candy shops, and buying a giant coconut macaroon from Mattheessen’s (holy moly, it was SO GOOD). (Not a macaroon, as Justin thought I was buying haha.) We even stopped in what used to be Piranhas, a dive bar where Justin and his friends used to hang out, and where he almost got into a fight with some racists on the night of our first wedding.
      • Took Skyler to his first honky tonk and second rooftop bar. Ole Red claims to have the best rooftop bar in Nashville and they might be right. It’s HUGE, has many comfortable seating options, includes an indoor area (with live music, of course), and has more than 180 degree views of lower Broadway. Would definitely bring people here when they visit.
      • Used the restrooms at the Hermitage Hotel, and *not* crashing a fancy wedding.
      • Happy hour drinks at the Instagrammable Stateside Kitchen (inside the Dream hotel). The staff here were super friendly and helpful, and Skyler got in a nice short nap on the booth.
      • Walked Skyler through historic Printer’s Alley. It’s so weird that this alley is now clean and home to luxury hotels and condos.
      • Dinner at Woolworth on Fifth, one of the most historic buildings in Nashville.

     

    Fun Family Outing

    When we left our house at noon, we thought for sure we’d be home by 4, that Skyler wouldn’t last that long since he was so anti-nap. But we didnt get home until after 7 and Skyler was in a good mood the whole day. Our spontaneous decision to face the swarms of tourists paid off.

    Not sure why the Google Timeline is so weird – we obviously didn’t take some of these paths, but it does show how much ground we covered and how I got my 10,000 steps 🙂

    We had so much fun looking at downtown through Skyler’s eyes: the lights, the colors, the sounds, the mass amounts of people. So many new shapes and objects and noises. He was wide-eyed and alert the whole time, never wanting to close his eyes and miss something. He got tons of smiles from strangers, with dozens of people saying “Look at that baby!” to their friends, pointing at his headphones or commenting on his cuteness or noting how chill he seemed. He was interested in *everything* and never got fussy as long as we kept him moving. He didn’t want to spend too much time in any one spot; always something new to see!And *we* got to do what we wanted to do. Eat decent food, drink decent drinks, walk around and do more than just sit somewhere. Plus we got to see some weird things, meet some folks, walk down Nostalgia lane. And we laughed, a lot. It was a good day and the perfect way to celebrate Skyler’s 6 month birthday 🙂

    What shall we do next time?

    We’re thinking the Pedestrian Bridge, Music City Walk of Fame park, Music City Center, perhaps the First and some other rooftops for sure 🙂 I’m hoping to wear Skyler to one of the First Saturday Art Crawls this fall, as well as attend the Southern Festival of Books at the War Memorial and Oktoberfest in Germantown, so he’ll have lots more people-watching time downtown!

     

    Tips for Taking a Baby Downtown Nashville:

     

    Skip the stroller.

    We have experienced the pain-in-the-assery of pushing a stroller downtown and likely won’t do it again. Not only are people oblivious to their surroundings, but there are too many non-stroller friendly obstacles in your path (which makes me really feel for wheelchair-bound folks or anyone who needs those ADA-compliant sidewalks and ramps, oof.) So baby wearing is the optimal choice here and (I’m betting) in most urban exploring situations. By leaving the stroller in the car, you do lose a lot of valuable storage space though, so we brought a second backpack to carry his Lobster, my purse, and overflow items that didn’t all fit in the diaper bag. Next time: we’re going to consolidate both backpacks into one larger backpack so the baby-wearer isn’t over-saddled.

    Bring headphones.


    Lower Broadway is LOUD. With every honky tonk boasting live music all day long, you can go deaf without ever entering one of the music establishments. Even if you are a couple blocks from the main strip, there’s the possibility of construction noises, motorcycles, and sirens. So you’ve gotta protect little ears (and honestly, should probably protect your own, too). Skyler’s headphones garnered tons of attention with people commenting on how cute he looked, and one street-side musician even complimented us saying we were the first smart parents he’d seen all day. (To be fair, we did see an even younger baby wearing headphones at Merchants!) We bought these headphones before taking Skyler to Pride this year (which was so insanely loud this year, I think I’ll wear earplugs next year), and will definitely make sure he wears them any time we venture into a loud cityscape.

    Be prepared for any situation.

    We weren’t sure how baby-friendly any of the establishments would be, so we had to be prepared for any situation. No changing station? 21 and up? No baby at the bar? Thankfully, downtown Nashville caters to families of all sizes and everywhere we ventured made it easy to have a baby. Ole Red and Stationside Kitchen even had changing tables in the men’s rooms. Having the Lobster seat, which clamps easily to almost any surface, made things even simpler. (If you need a babyshower gift, this is the one to get!) Merchants had a 20 minute wait for a booth but the bar was virtually empty, so after checking with the hostess that we could sit the baby at the bar, we clamped him in and enjoyed our lunch; the same thing happened at Woolworth on 5th at dinner time. We have always sat at the bar when given the choice and were able to continue that tradition without problem. At the other establishments, we opted for booths so we could spread out to let Skyler lie down and nap, and have an easy place for me to breastfeed him comfortably.

    Don’t have a schedule.

    Skyler hates naps, so we were prepared for a fussy baby. Of course we hoped that he would sleep in the car on the way downtown, as he usually does, since we had some errands to run before our afternoon outing could begin. But the kid didn’t start to snooze until we were only 10 minutes away, so he had the shortest of snoozes before we hauled him out of his carseat and put him in the LilleBaby. We fully expected him to have an overtired meltdown at some point, so we chose the 3rd and Commerce garage in case one of us had to run back for the stroller. Not knowing when he’d get fussy and need to lie down, we didn’t have a schedule and, when we take him back down in the future, we wouldn’t try to make reservations anywhere or be somewhere at a specific time. By being free of time commitments, we could leave or enter a place whenever we needed based on Skyler. Weirdly, he *never* got fussy while walking around; in fact, I think he would have been content to be carried around town for hours. He really only got fussy when he got hungry, so we hung out at Ole Red and Stateside Kitchen a bit longer than we may have had it just been us so that he could eat and nap.

    What tips do you have to help parents enjoy exploring cities? Does your baby enjoy people watching or being worn? What should we go on our next downtown adventure afternoon?