Centennial Park is the quintessential Nashville green space. The park is situated on 132 acres just two miles from downtown Nashville. One of the things I love about researching for this site is all the cool facts I learn about places I thought I knew well. The story behind Centennial Park is a good example of this.
History of Nashville’s Centennial Park
The site of the park was originally owned by Anne Robertson Johnson Cockrill. Ever heard of her? Yeah. Me neither. And that’s a shame because she has a GREAT story. Anne’s family was originally from North Carolina. They travelled to Nashville (Fort Nashborough at that time) on a flotilla. Ready for the best part? In 1776, the flotilla stopped for the winter because the river was frozen. All the men were out hunting, leaving the women alone at Fort Watauga.The fort was attacked by Indians. Anne was wounded but still managed to lead the women of the fort in a bucket brigade of boiling wash water that drove off the Indian attackers and saved the whole fort from burning down. There’s a lesson here people. Never mess with a Southern woman on laundry day 🙂
Anne’s bravery earned her a land grant. That land went on to become the state fairgrounds. From 1884 to 1895 the land was used as a race track and was known as West Side Park. In 1897 the site became the home of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. It was renamed Centennial Park at that time. Most of the exhibits built for The Exposition were removed after the event. But the full scale model of the Parthenon remained. The Parthenon sits as the center of Centennial Park. It is surrounded by sunken gardens, walking trails, a man made lake, a bandshell and much more.
Home to Community Events
Centennial Park is host to lots of community activities. There are band concerts in the summertime, Shakespeare in The Park, Craft Fairs, local festivals and more. But there is fun to be had at this park on any given day regardless of season.
The park is home to a plane and train on display. If you have a kid who loves either of those, good luck seeing any other areas of the park 🙂 There are lots of areas that would be perfect for a picnic. And in Nashville, you can probably enjoy a picnic for at least 8 months out of the year.
One of the best things about Centennial Park is that it is the kind of place where your kids can have fun the same way kids have done for the last hundred years. There are no high-tech distractions here. But there is something very satisfying about watching kids…be kids. Our crew enjoyed lots of running and climbing. Don’t forget to bring your camera. Centennial Park has some of the most beautiful natural backdrops to be found in Nashville.
Centennial Park Playscape
Make sure the playscape is the last stop on your tour of Centennial park because once your kids get there, you won’t be going anywhere else for a while. The play area contains lots of swings, slides and stuff to climb on.
There are several picnic tables near the play area. If your kids are old enough to play independently, you could use these tables to relax and take advantage of the free park-wide wifi.
There is one bad thing about Centennial Park. And it will require you to time your trip carefully.
The bathrooms near the playscape are atrocious. I beg of you. Don’t even go in. I did and I feel I may never recover from what I witnessed. Just make sure you and the kids ‘go’ before your trip.
So if you find yourself with a free day and the weather is decent, you won’t regret making a trip to Centennial Park. You will enjoy the scenery and your kids will be really tired on the ride home!
Family Fun Facts
Location: 2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203 (Map)
Open: Dawn until 10PM
Rachel is a Middle Tennessee native, born and raised in the Nashville area and having lived in Hendersonville, Murfreesboro, and Mount Juliet. She is mom to 3, step mom to 4 and Grandma to one (so far!)