On the riverfront you’ll find Cumberland Park, an innovative 6.5-acre play space for kids and families that’s full of unique play structures, water features, and an outdoor amphitheater. Kids can play in the sand, on tandem seesaws with their parents, and climb on a stepping stone path. They can also explore the mist feature and scale the stone climbing wall that’s embedded with ropes, fossils, climbing nets, and sliding poles. The park sits between the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge and the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge and offers direct access to the pedestrian bridge by way of an elevator and staircase. If you pass under the bridge at the Bridge Building event space, you’ll also come upon what locals commonly refer to as the “rollercoaster statue,” but which is actually titled “Ghost Ballet.” The sculpture by Alice Aycock was installed in 2007 and is meant to combine elements from the industrial heritage of the east bank and today’s modern Nashville, symbolically connecting the two and unifying the city. On the other side of the river is Riverfront Park, created in the early 1980s to commemorate Nashville’s river history. Find local artist Alan LeQuire’s statue of Timothy Demonbreun, an early French Canadian fur trader who settled here, and for whom the street Demonbreun is named.
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Tennessee statehood, Nashville constructed the impressive Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (tel. 615/741-5280), north of the state Capitol. The mall, which begins just north of James Robertson Parkway and extends north to Jefferson Street between 6th and 7th avenues, is a beautifully landscaped open space with limestone outcroppings and native plants. It’s perfect for a stroll before or after you visit the Tennessee State Museum or the Nashville Farmers’ Market, but the mall is much more than just a park. It is also a 19-acre open-air exhibition of Tennessee history. Tour Tennessee via a 200-foot granite map of the state, 31 fountains representing Tennessee rivers, an amphitheater, and a visitors center. Along 6th Avenue, the walkway of 95 Tennessee counties offers information on each. Along 7th Avenue is the Pathway of History, a wall outlining the state’s 200-year history. Within the mall, there are also several memorials. Free park tours led by rangers and other events are held throughout the year. Visit www.tnstateparks.com for more information.
If you’re looking to enjoy nature closer to the city center, Centennial Park, (West End Ave. at 25th Ave.) fits the bill. This park, built for the 1896 centennial celebration, is best known as the site of the Parthenon, but it also has many acres of lawns, colorful playground equipment, 100-year-old shade trees, and a small lake. The park was actually used as a staging area during the War of 1828 and the Civil War, and an oak tree in Centennial Park marks the original terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The park also hosts Musicians Corner, a series of live-music performances held Fridays and Saturdays in May and June and Thursdays in September. Inspired by “Speakers Corner” in London, Musicians Corner is a free-spirited community series that includes local food, eco-friendly vendors, and charity outreach efforts. Dogs and kids are welcome, with the “Kidsville” component of the series including child-friendly arts and crafts, music education activities, games, entertainment, bubbles, balloons, and prizes. For more information, visit www.musicianscornernashville.com.
In recent years, Centennial Park has undergone marked upgrades including improving the water quality of its lake, increasing the pollination of flowering trees and shrubs, building a dedicated area for Musicians Corner, adding parking, and unearthing the long-buried Cockrill Spring, which flowed just beneath the surface of the park for more than a century until it was unearthed in 2014. Plans for continued improvement include revitalizing the Great Lawn, doubling the amount of trails, constructing a new outdoor pavilion, and installing a special lighting feature at the Parthenon to showcase the building.
Known together as The Warner Parks (tel. 615/370-8051; www.nashville.gov), Edwin Warner Park and Percy Warner Park offer beautiful scenery, miles of hiking and equestrian trails, picnic areas, and outdoor recreation sites. Percy Warner Park (2500 Old Hickory Blvd.) is the crown jewel of green spaces. Named for a local businessman and avid outdoorsman, the wooded hills and rolling meadows extend for more than 2,000 acres. Though popular with bicyclists, be aware that they must share the winding, paved roads with vehicular traffic. Perfect for picnics and other outdoor activities, the park offers clean shelters, restrooms, and even a 27-hole golf course. Edwin Warner Park, 50 Vaughn Rd. (on Old Hickory Blvd., near Hwy. 100), also has lovely picnic areas, scenic overlooks, and a dog park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.