How to Explore Nashville’s Centennial Park
As part of a summer series, T+L is highlighting amazing lesser-known attractions found in the United States. Next up: a gorgeous bit of nature in Tennessee's second-largest city.
In Nashville’s West End neighborhood, on a jot of farmland down the road from the neon-lit honky-tonk bars, sits one of the city’s greatest treasures. Centennial Park occupies 132 acres, and boasts past lives as fairgrounds, racetracks, and (most notably) the 1897 Centennial Exposition, a six-month celebration of Tennessee’s statehood.
At the expo, the park hosted a full-scale model of the Parthenon, celebrating Nashville’s position as the “Athens of the South.” The structure, which houses a museum, remains the centerpiece of the park, and here visitors can peruse permanent art exhibitions, a massive statue of the Greek goddess Athena, and an ever-evolving array of temporary installations. Entrance only costs $6.
This is just one of the park’s historic structures and artifacts. A portion of the original ship prow from the USS Tennessee, which was used in the Spanish-American War, welcomes visitors at the park’s original entrance on 25th Ave.
What’s more, the Nature Conservancy recently debuted an installation called “If Trees Could Sing,” for which artists created a soundtrack corresponding to the park’s trees. Visitors can listen by scanning QR codes on plaques near the trees themselves. On their smartphones, visitors can view videos of Nashville artists telling—and sometimes singing—stories about the trees.
Centennial Park also boasts a walking trail and a small lake. Like music? There’s a band shell for local concerts. More the sporty type? Check out the sand volleyball courts.
Bonus tip: On your way into the park, stop by Hog Heaven, a barbecue stand at the edge of the park. Mark Medley, assistant curator and registrar to the Parthenon, says this is his favorite place to pick up some lunch for a picnic. If you’re in the mood for something different, he recommends Rotier’s Restaurant, which boasts a large menu of gourmet hamburgers.
Want more ideas for what to do and where to eat in Nashville? Right this way.