Best of Summer: Editor’s Event Picks

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June, July & August are chock full of cool things to do with the kids! Here are our picks for the best of this season's music, movies and special events.

MARVELOUS MUSIC AND FAMILY ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Ascend Amphitheater
All summer, select dates
Outdoor concerts at Ascend are a blast with the visual backdrop of Nashville’s skyline. A few of this summer’s notable concerts are Nashville Symphony’s “The Music of John Williams” (June 4), Duran Duran (July 6), Journey (July 27) and Goo Goo Dolls (Aug. 5). Go to ascendamphitheater.com.

Bonnaroo
June 9 – 12

Have fun camping in nearby Manchester during the eclectic music festival that draws 85,000 fans. There are 150 performances on 10 stages plus other activities. This year’s artists include Pearl Jam, Macklemore, Chris Stapleton and more. Tickets are $349.50. Visit bonnaroo.com.

CMA Music Festival
June 9 – 12
The big concerts at Nissan Stadium are sold out (Want tickets for 2017? Buy them when they go on sale THIS summer because they sell out fast!), but you can still enjoy lots of FREE country music on several stages downtown. There’s also the popular Fan Fair X goings-on at Music City Center ($10 per day/$25 for all four) that gets you into autograph lines with lots of the country stars; there are kids’ activities inside, too. Find schedules at cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival.

Happy Racers

The Happy Racers perform alternative kids’ music at Cheekwood’s Family Night Out on Thursday, June 16.

Family Night Out at Cheekwood
June & July
Thursday nights are hoppin’ at Cheekwood during this series featuring outdoor live performances, food trucks and cash bars. This year’s lineup includes:

• June 2: Big Machine Records’ Savannah Keyes
• June 9: Mrs. Steve, The Music Man
• June 16: The Happy Racers
• June 23: The WannaBeatles
• June 30 & July 28: International Night
• July 7: Southern Roots family concert
• July 14: Cowboy Dan
• July 21: Bright Star Theatre’s Upcycled Cinderella

Family Night Out’s included with gate admission ($16 adults, $9 ages 3 – 17; free for members). Call 615-356-8000 or visit cheekwood.org.

Frist Fridays
Last Friday of the month, June, July & August
From 6 – 9 p.m., enjoy live music at the Frist Center’s outdoor Turner Courtyard. This year’s lineup: SixtyFour (June 24), The Revelers and Halfbrass (July 29) and Rhett Miller (Aug. 26). Admission is free for members and included with regular museum ticket ($12 adults, free ages 18 and younger). Call 615-244-3440 or visit fristcenter.org.

Full Moon Pickin’ Parties
All summer, select dates
Celebrating 16 years, Friends of Warner Parks hosts this family-favorite outing with proceeds benefiting the educational programs at the parks. Enjoy bluegrass music under the light of the full moon — and if you play a bluegrass instrument, bring it to get in for $5 and you get to play along (find the list of approved instruments at the website). Summer installments are Fridays, June 17, July 22 and Aug. 19 from 7 – 11 p.m. Advance tickets are $20 adults, $7 ages 7 – 17 ($25/$10 at the gate), free ages 6 and younger. Visit friendsofwarnerparks.com.

Nashville Symphony Free Community Concerts
June, select dates
The Nashville Symphony performs seven free outdoor concerts in June featuring music by Dvorak, Rossini, Bernstein and John Williams. The shows are at Centennial Park (Thursday, June 2 at 8 p.m.); Bicentennial Mall State Park (Friday, June 3 at 8 p.m.); Crockett Park (Sunday, June 5 at 7 p.m.); Two Rivers Mansion (Tuesday, June 7 at 7 p.m.); Cumberland University (Thursday, June 9 at 7 p.m. — free for kids, but there’s a $5 fee for adults to support the local Fine Arts Council); Key Park in Lafayette (Wednesday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m.); and Southeast Park (Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m.). Call 615-687-6400 or visit nashvillesymphony.org.

Red Caboose Concert Series
Fridays in June
This free family concert series takes place from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Red Caboose Park in Bellevue. This season features Eight O’Five Jive (June 3; blues & early rock ‘n’ roll); The Miltons (June 10; classic country); The Al Holbrook Band (June 17; soulful rock and blues); and The One Hitters (June 24; hits of one-hit wonder bands). Call 615-862-8440 or visit nashville.gov/parks-and-recreation/cultural-arts/music/free-summer-concerts.aspx.

Tales at Twilight
July, select dates
Cumberland Park is home to this festive family outing every Friday in July from 7 – 8 p.m. featuring live music and other performances. This year: The Happy Racers (July 8); Mr. Chris Hip Hop Dance (July 15); The Nashville Library Puppet Truck (July 22); Sir Crazy Pants (July 29). Call 615-862-8440 or visit nashville.gov/parks-and-recreation/cultural-arts/music/free-summer-concerts.aspx.

Uncle Dave Macon Days
July 8 – 9
One of Middle Tennessee’s biggest annual music festivals celebrates its 39th year at Cannonsburgh Village in Murfreesboro. Enjoy national competitions in bluegrass music, buckdancing and clogging, old-time demonstrations and family activities. Tickets are $10 per day or $17 for both; free ages 5 and younger. Visit uncledavemacondays.com.

Woods Amphitheater
All summer, select dates
Outdoor concerts on the Fontanel grounds. A few of this summer highlights include the Music City Jazz Festival (June 3 – 4), Bob Dylan (June 26), Boston (Aug. 2) and Australian Pink Floyd (Aug. 19). Get the full schedule at fontanel.com.

MOVIES MADNESS

22nd Annual Movies in the Park
Thursdays, June 2 – 23
This free series takes place at Nashville’s Elmington Park. Bring your chairs and blankets. Games and other activities start at 5 p.m., and the movie starts at sundown. Here’s what’s coming: Space Jam (June 2); Finding Nemo (June 9); Pitch Perfect 2 (June 16); and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (June 23). Visit southcommevents.com/moviesinthepark/nashville/about.html.

Carmike’s Summer Kids Series
June 2 – Aug. 4
Carmike Cinemas in Bellevue, Franklin and Murfreesboro have family films on Thursdays, June 2 – Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. The $4 admission includes the movie, popcorn and a soft drink. A few of this year’s titles include The Croods, Epic, Rio 2, The Peanuts Movie and Monsters vs Aliens. Visit carmike.com.

Lawnchair Theater
Fridays, all summer
Free family-friendly movies outside every Friday at 8 p.m. at 4144 Old Hillsboro Road in Leipers Fork. Call 615-870-8870 or follow them on Facebook at “Leipers Fork Lawnchair Theater.”

Malco’s Kids Summer Film Fest
June 7 – July 27
Malco Theatre in Smyrna hosts family-friendly movies every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. Movies are $2 per person. Partial listing includes The Croods, The Peanuts Movie, Home, Penguins and Horton Hears a Who. Call 615-223-6252 or visit malco.com.

Wizard of Oz

See “The Wizard of Oz” in HD while the Nashville Symphony plays the score live during Movies at the Schermerhorn on Friday, June 17.

Movies at the Schermerhorn
June 12, 17 & 24
Hit movies in HD while the Nashville Symphony performs the scores live! The lineup includes Star Trek: Into Darkness (Sunday, June 12 at 7 p.m.; $29 – $79); The Wizard of Oz (Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m.; $39 – $79); and Raiders of the Lost Ark (Friday, June 24 at 7 p.m.; $34 – $84). Call 615-687-6400 or visit nashvilleysmphony.org.

Murfreesboro’s Movies Under the Stars
June & July, select dates
From June 6 – July 30, your family can enjoy free films at five different locations each week: Cason Lane Trailhead (Mon); Cannonsburgh Village (Tue); Siegel Park (Thu); Mitchell-Neilson Primary (Fri); and Hobgood Elementary (Sat). Movies begin at 8:30 p.m. Call 615-893-2141 or visit murfreesboro.gov/parks.

Regal’s Summer Movie Express
All summer, select dates
$1 admission to family features every Tuesday and Wednesday, June 7 – Aug. 10. Dates vary slightly by local theater. Regal locations are Green Hills, Hendersonville, 100 Oaks, Opry Mills and Mt. Juliet. A few of this year’s titles include The Lego Movie, Minions, The Peanuts Movie, Shaun the Sheep and more. Visit regmovies.com/movies/summer-movie-express.

Sensory Friendly Family Film Festival
July & August, select dates
NCG Cinema in Gallatin hosts free family-friendly movies on select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays late July – August. Visit ncgmovies.com.

Zoovie Night
Friday, June 24
See Kung Fu Panda after hours at Nashville Zoo. Gates open at 6 p.m. with inflatables, a DJ, crafts, face painting and more; movie begins at sunset. Free with gate admission or $6 per person at 6 p.m. Call 615-833-1534 or visit nashvillezoo.org.

PREMIER FAIRS, FESTS & OTHER EVENTS

Arena Polo
All summer
The excitement of arena polo is now happening at the Park at Harlinsdale Farm thanks to the Franklin Polo Academy. Summer matches take place June 3 & 25 and July 25, with other special events happening in August. Tickets are $10 adults, free ages 10 and younger. Call 615-800-2268 or visit franklinpolo.com.

Summer Saturdays - Old MacDonald

Children can meet horses and other friendly farm animals during Summer Saturdays at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum on July 16 & 23.

Ag Museum’s Summer Saturdays
July 16 & 23
Free fun takes place at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. There are lots of hands-on activities for kids, up close encounters with friendly farm animals and more. Call 615-837-5197 or visit tnagmuseum.org.

Music City Hot Chicken Festival
July 4
Kick-off your July 4 festivities at Nashville’s East Park with this free festival celebrating peppered-up poultry. There’s live music, too, and the fun wraps up at 3 p.m. so there’s plenty of time to get downtown for the fireworks! Visit hot-chicken.com/festival.

Lucky Ladd Farms’ Family Festivals
All summer, select dates
Lucky Ladd Farms in Eagleville hosts fun, themed festivals each month this summer on select Saturdays: Kids Construction Festival (June 25), Watermelon Festival (July 23) and Sweet Corn Festival (Aug. 20). There are more than 70 activities at the farm for kids, including lots of critters to pet. Admission is $13 adults, $11 ages 2 – 12. Call 615-274-3786 or visit luckyladdfarms.com.

Music City July 4:
Let Freedom Sing!

Last year, Nashville had the bragging rights to the country’s biggest fireworks display — even beating New York City — and despite the rain, more than 150,000 folks packed the downtown area to celebrate America’s independence. This year, the free music performances move to two new stages — The Green at Riverfront Park and Ascend Amphitheater. Sheryl Crow headlines this year’s festivities. The Family Zone opens at noon on the streets of downtown Nashville featuring climbing walls, water slides, games and more. It’s all FREE! Visit musiccityjuly4th.com.

Nashville International Puppet Festival
June 17 – 19
All ages can experience the art of puppetry at Nashville Public Library when troupes from six countries present more than 30 free performances in addition to other entertainment by local children’s artists. Get the full schedule and reserve tickets at nashvillepubliclibrary.org/puppetfestival.

BOS-Tomato Art Fest - Shalene France Gray and kids

Local mom Shalene France Gray and her girls — Octavia and Zazou — sport their festive, colorful attire at the annual Tomato Art Festival in East Nashville.

Nashville Zoo’s Ice Day
Saturday, July 23
Cool off from summer’s heat during Nashville Zoo’s Ice Day where you and the zoo’s animals can cool off with icy treats. Kids love the ice cream eating contest and inflatable water slides. Zoo admission is $16 adults, $11 ages 2 – 12 (some activities are extra). Call 615-833-1534 or visit nashvillezoo.org.

RC & Moon Pie Festival
Saturday, June 18
There’s a fun festival for just about everything including two of the South’s favorite traditions — RC Cola and Moon Pies! Bell Buckle’s annual event includes costume contests, live music, crafts and sampling the world’s biggest Moon Pie. Kids love competing in the watermelon seed spitting contest and Moon Pie toss. More about the free fun at bellbucklechamber.com.

Tomato Art Festival
Saturday, Aug. 13
East Nashville’s signature event celebrates all-things tomato, and it doesn’t matter whether you call it a veggie or a freakin’ fruit! Make a splash in your most festive attire and enjoy costume contests, a parade with floats, lots of children’s activities, storytelling, live performances and, of course, tomato-centric art! Visit tomatoartfest.com.

Toruk: The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil
Aug. 24 – 28
This brand-new show inspired by James Cameron’s movie Avatar comes to Bridgestone Arena. Tickets are $25 – $115. Get ‘em at 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com.

Williamson County Fair
Aug. 5 – 13
Franklin’s Ag Expo comes alive with the Children’s Barnyard, an interactive farming exhibit for little ones. Lots of live entertainment, rides and contests happen, too. New this year is Lady Houdini and  the “Kids Celebration” family game show. Visit williamsoncountyfair.org.

Wilson County Fair
Aug. 19 – 27
The grandaddy of all the Middle Tennessee county fairs, this one’s the biggest and longest running. It takes place in Lebanon featuring a huge Midway, the children’s Ag-Venture Barn, lots of animal encounters, live entertainment and more. There’s a new Daredevil Show this year. Visit wilsoncountyfair.net.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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