Centennial Park’s Parthenon is a full-size replica of the Athenian original. (Photo: Alamy)
Nashville’s Centennial Park is no ordinary urban oasis. Commissioned as state fairgrounds just after the Civil War, the park hosted the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in 1897. The Exposition led to the creation of many buildings and open spaces that allowed the park to evolve into an incredible city escape. Today, it houses many treasures that make it a must-visit in Music City.
Designed to represent a full-scale model of ancient Greece’s Athenian Parthenon, the structure pays homage to Nashville’s moniker as the “Athens of the South.” Centennial Park’s version was constructed for the 1897 Centennial and International Exposition using just plaster because at the time, it was intended to be a temporary exhibit. However, the Parthenon’s popularity made it a park mainstay. It was rebuilt in the 1920s using concrete and steel. Today, it houses an art gallery showcasing astounding works like a nearly 42-foot-tall replica of the Pallas Athena.
Man-made Lake Watauga is centrally located and was also created for the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in 1897. The park grounds now loop around the peaceful body of water, which is stocked with fish and home to birds and ducks. Plan ahead and pack your lunch; the lake is a popular place for a stroll and picnic.
Music, Art and Events
From Shakespeare in the Park productions to concerts, food truck festivals, and arts and craft shows, Centennial Park hosts a variety of events each year. To find out what is going on in the park on your trip, visit The Tennessean events page.
The 132-acre park features gorgeous sunken gardens and the Centennial Art Center Courtyard and Herb Garden. These lush landscapes provide a gorgeous backdrop year-round for visitors and is a popular setting for couples looking to tie the knot.
Planes and Trains
You’ll find a steam locomotive, trolley car, and a fighter plane on permanent display in the Park — artifacts from the 1897 Exposition. Encountering these unlikely vehicles is a treat for both children and adults. Visitors are allowed to get up close and inspect these marvels of transportation.
While Centennial Park is steeped in history and tradition, it does have some modern comforts. The Park offers free WiFi throughout the area, a dog park for your four-legged friend and a marked one-mile loop around scenic Lake Watauga that is ideal for Nashville joggers and walkers.