Exploring any city around the world will generally lead you to finding various attractions, areas or cultures that stereotypically represent that city. In many ways our home away from home is Nashville, Tennessee primarily because of its location and also because of our fond love of this city.
With so many cool things to do and experience each time you visit this city, Nashville is home to a myriad of stereotypes that I now associate with this part of the state. And you can forget everything about country music because there is so much more as you have probably established from recent posts we have published. Today we want to share with you another perfect way to explore Nashville, through the gorgeous Bicentennial Mall State Park.
History of Bicentennial Mall
As a lasting memorial to the bicentennial celebrations in 1996, Bicentennial Mall provides a distinctive snapshot not only of Nashville’s rich history but also of the state of Tennessee.
The 19 acre park provides a perfect reflection of Tennessee, not only through the iconic Pathway of History that details all those important dates between 1796 to 1996 but also through the variety of other features that will be detailed later.
After spending quite a bit of time at Bicentennial Mall, it’s interesting to learn about the history of Tennessee and how this became the 16th state of the union back in the late 18th century. I can only imagine the celebrations that took place and I am sure these were recreated in 1996 when the opening of Bicentennial Mall was done to provide such a worthwhile commemoration.
Immediately you hear the words ‘state park’, you probably associate this with natural beauty and everything that typically goes along with this. Of course, this reaction is understandable but there is an added twist to Bicentennial Mall State Park because of its central location in downtown Nashville.
After spending a full day experiencing everything downtown Nashville has to offer, I am sure you may be thinking “Why didn’t we include Bicentennial Mall in our post of top attractions in downtown Nashville?”
The reason was because of just how awesome this place is! We felt that this deserved a post on it’s own and hopefully you will be inspired to explore this for yourselves the next time you visit Music City.
The proximity to the Tennessee State Capitol is also an important aspect of Bicentennial Mall. Today, visitors can stand at one end of the Mall and peer directly down and then glance up to see the impressive State Capitol towering about the landscape on Nashville’s Capitol Hill.
Parking is for the most part readily available at Bicentennial Mall, except for when certain events are taking place here that make this a pretty hectic spot to try and explore. We recently visited this during one of these events and chose to return at a later date simply because of the volume of people trying to make their way through the Mall.
If possible, I recommend parking on the west side of the Mall directly beside the Farmer’s Market which is yet another great reason to visit…but more on that later!
Regardless of where you decide to begin exploring Bicentennial Mall, you will find plenty of attractions and landmarks in between to keep you occupied. I am going to start at the southern point of the Mall, directly in front of the Tennessee State Capitol building, and hopefully provide a guided tour that will make you want to explore this part of Nashville in the near future!
Here is a map that is available both in the visitor center and also at the Tennessee State Park website.
Tennessee Map Plaza
Walking down from Capitol Hill, you are welcomed with a really cool map of Tennessee that is pretty detailed. What’s even more amazing is that this is imprinted on the ground so you are able to walk all over the state. Given that Bicentennial Mall is focused so much on commemorating the state of Tennessee, I think this is a valuable resource especially if your knowledge of geography in this part of the US is lacking.
This 200-foot map is made out of granite and features the majority of key geographical and topographical landmarks in Tennessee, including rivers, cities and major routes. Smaller inset maps are available to provide a brief history of the state.
If you choose to pay a visit to the Visitor Center or perhaps grab a bite to eat in the Nashville Farmer’s Market, you will walk out and immediately be faced with the spectacular sight of an amphitheater.
This 2,000 seater design is of course an iconic landmark because of it’s association with Greek architecture and maintains Nashville’s position as once being reputed as the ‘Athens of the South’.
Just like the Parthenon in Nashville, the Tennessee Amphitheater as it is commonly known, is another Greek masterpiece that provides visitors a glimpse of some of the original designs in Athens, along with it’s functional use of being a perfect hosting venue for special events (available for a fee).
World War II Memorial
Traveling around the world, you frequently stumble across unique monuments and memorials that stick in the back of your mind. This is definitely true with the World War II Memorial at Bicentennial Mall, probably because it is a rotating marble globe floating on just under 2 inches of water.
A really cool feature given that it allows visitors the opportunity to explore the world as it was back in the 1940s during the Second World War.
Another feature surrounding this memorial are the granite pillars that each provide words and images that depict iconic moments from the war, in relation to Tennessee natives.
I mentioned earlier about the Pathway of History that lines the western edge of Bicentennial Mall running parallel to the Nashville Farmer’s Market. However, this is not the only prevalent pathway here, instead there are a number of others that run throughout the Mall and provide an iconic representation of Tennessee on various levels.
The Path of Volunteers runs inside the Mall and along with the Walkway of Counties that lines the eastern edge of the park, it provides an added feature that you can explore as you walk the entirety of the Mall.
Court of Three Stars and Carillon Bells
At the northern end of Bicentennial Mall is the Court of Three Stars. Designed in a similar pattern to that of Stonehenge, this circular plaza represents the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee (East, Middle and West).
Add the 95 Carillon Bells that are part of the towers that surround the perimeter of the Court of Three Stars, and this is a really awesome spot to relax and view everything else Bicentennial Mall has to offer.
These bells of course have an inherent symbolism and in fact they correspond to the 95 counties that make up the state of Tennessee. These gorgeous bells can be heard every hour, so be sure to plan your visit around this.
Looking for a little more history? Another random fact is that there is actually a 96th bell that sits inside the State Capitol Building and this represents the government answering to the people of Tennessee. There is always a fun fact behind everything right?
Bicentennial Mall is a great representation of both Nashville and the state of Tennessee as a whole. With so many inspiring features that make you want to explore more, this relatively small urban park packs a punch with a variety of distinguishable attractions that each depict Nashville in a different light.
From the Greek stereotype depicted in the Tennessee Amphitheater to the Court of Three Stars that represents the people of Tennessee, I am always excited to make a return visit to Bicentennial Mall to learn something new. If you add this to your itinerary, I am sure you will feel the same way!
Feel free to share your thoughts on Bicentennial Mall with us below as we would love to find out what inspired you in this state park.