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My favorite places to take visitors to Nashville, Part 2.1

I wasn’t expecting the popularity of last week’s entry about downtown Nashville!  That’s awesome! It’s Monday again and time for the next installment of where to visit when in Nashville… this week’s topic: Parks.

I had read once that part of the magic of Central Park in New York City is how its something of an oasis among the honking cars and skyscrapers. I’ve grown the feel that way about many of the parks in Nashville. (This one is going to be so big, I’m going to have to split it into atleast two posts.)

First on the list, without hesitation, is Centennial Park.

Centennial ParkLocated across from Vanderbilt University, this park is never empty. You’ll find college students studying on blankets, games of Frisbee going on, kites being flown, and any number of fun activities that college students do to blow off a little steam.

Centennial Park has a deep history, one that has definitely shaped what the park is today. The center focus of Centennial Park is the Parthenon.

From the Nashville.gov Parks and Recreation Department site:

Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, this replica of the original Parthenon in Athens serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Naos are direct casts of the original sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 B.C. The originals of these powerful fragments are housed in the British Museum in London.

ParthenonIt is SO WORTH the cost of admission if you get there during hours of operation. It will take your breath away, everything you find inside. You don’t have to be an art lover to feel and understand the grandeur of what you’ll find.

Now, while the Parthenon is definitely the focus of the park, don’t miss the many other things there are to see there! Feed the ducks on Lake Watauga. Go for a hike on the one-mile walking trail. Check out the train and fighter plane. Take your dog (if you have one) to the dog parks. Check out the calendar to see if there is anything going on in the events shelter and/or band shell. (During the summer they feature Movies in the Park, Musician’s Corner and Shakespeare in the Park. Oh and most things are FREE.) Take a relaxing stroll through the sunken garden. Bring the kids to the playground.

There is SO MUCH to do at Centennial Park! You can easily spend an entire day there and not see or do it all.

Next up on my tour of parks is Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.

Here is where you’ll get an amazing history lesson about Tennessee. Just a glimpse at the park map tells you that you are in for a treat!

This park… I’m not even sure where to begin! There is SO MUCH to see! It’s beautiful. Let’s start there.

Bicentennial MallTo the left is a photo I took at one end of the park looking back cross the rest of the park. The Tennessee State Capitol (center) overlooks it. On one end is what is called the “Court of 3 Stars and Bell Carillon.” Its HUGE, and simply amazing to be standing in when the bells start to chime and play their song.

There is a World War II memorial and a Centennial Memorial. The World War II memorial features a black granite globe floating on a shallow bed of water. You’ll love rolling it around in its bed… it turns adults into little kids!

There is a timeline of Tennessee history that is absolutely fascinating to walk along and read. Definitely check out the amphitheater (and find out is there is anything showing there!)

The Rivers of Tennessee Fountains were damaged in the flood two years ago, but they are scheduled to be back in working order later this year. I’ve only seen these from a distance myself, so I can’t wait to have it open again to see for myself!

RiverfrontMoving on, there is a new play park on Nashville’s Riverfront called Cumberland Park. When I say new, I mean, like, weeks old. I’ve not been there myself, but its on my personal summer to-do list!

But since I am talking about the Riverfront, I might as well also mention this is where many concerts and events are held through the summer. A floating stage is brought in for things like CMA Fest, and the bank of the river becomes an amphitheater for concert goers. It’s also the site of a spectacular 4th of July fireworks display. Walk a little bit down the river and check out Fort Nashborough while you are in the area.

My final stop on this particular tour of parks isn’t really a park. But I felt the peace of it deserved being included here.

Nashville National Cemetery is the most peaceful, moving oasis in this city that I love. If you don’t leave there humbled, moved, and filled with pride of country and thanks to those who gave all… you need to turn around and go back and closely read the tombstones.

 201: Nashville National Cemetery -- Memorial Day 2011

For a listing of ALL of Nashville’s parks, visit this listing. Part two of this segment is coming soon, primarily featuring lakes.

My favorite places to take visitors to Nashville, Part 1

I love it when people ask me for advice on where to visit when they come to Nashville. I love showing off my city!! My aunt recently emailed me asking for advice for a friend on where to visit while in Nashville, and I thought, “It’s high time I posted a blog series about my favorite places to take visitors!”

Live musicWhen you come to Music City, its pretty much a given you’re going to find music. Austin may be “The Live Music Capitol” but Nashville has its own share of live music venues!

You truly have a lot of options of where you can go for live music in Nashville. I would personally advise sticking to Broadway, 2nd Avenue and Printer’s Alley. (These three are also know as “The District.”)

Broadway features your more “public view” of Nashville. This is the strip you’ll see on all your TV specials about/from Nashville. You’ll find the world famous Tootsies on Broadway, for one. The Stage, Legends, Second Fiddle and Crossroads are my personal “go to” bars if I am on Broadway. (But everyone has their own preference!) Margaritaville recently opened on Broadway as well.

During the day, pop into Hatch Show Prints, where you can find all those classic Nashville concert posters being made. And take a moment to check out Gruhn Guitars as well as the new Opry Originals Shop.

Second Avenue’s biggest feature, to me, is the Wildhorse Saloon. There are several other music venues and restaurants along second, and they are all worth checking out! But if you remember when there was the cable station TNN and the show The Wildhorse Saloon Dance Show, you might want to pop in and check it out yourself. Maybe learn a line dance or two.

Printer's AlleyPrinter’s Alley is my home away from home. You’ll hear people say “oh its dangerous” and there’s a Nude Karaoke sign that tends to run people off thinking “oh its just a bunch of strip joints.” No, no, no, no, no! The Alley is one of the tightest knit group of friends and regulars you’ll find in Nashville. It’s also full of a deep and rich history.  Two karaoke venues, two live music venues and an English pub are what you’ll find when you enter the Alley, with my personal favorite place being the Fiddle & Steel Guitar Bar. Definitely check out Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Club as well, though. Many amazing artists have played there and continue to play there today.

While you’re downtown, there are several more places you’ll want to visit.

Top of the list will be the Ryman Auditorium. Located just behind the bars on Broadway, it could be easy to miss as you navigate traffic. (No really! I know its there, and I’ve blasted right past it without even a glance!) The mother church of country music is a place you just want to visit. So much history! And there are shows there regularly, so check to see if there isn’t one showing that you might want to attend! I saw Merle Haggard there a couple years ago and it was AAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaamazing.

You also absolutely must visit The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Block out a period of time, and take the tour. I live here. I’ve been twice. And I am planning to go again soon. It’s truly that cool of a place to visit.

Finally, if you want a cool “I visited Nashville” photo, go on over the to Shelby Street Bridge. It’s the best place to get a shot with the skyline behind you…

Me and my husband in 2007 on the bridge.

To be continued…

Upcoming segments: Parks, Music Valley, Outlying areas (“Other”), Restaurants