Visiting Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

A sculpture of a globe with the Nashville capitol building visible in the background.

A floating globe sculpture in Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Photo © Brent Moore, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Map of Downtown Nashville, Tennessee

Downtown Nashville

Tennessee celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1896 with the construction of the beloved Centennial Park, so it made sense to celebrate its 200th anniversary in much the same way. The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (600 James Robertson Pkwy., 615/741-5280, open sunrise-sunset, free) occupies 19 acres on the north side of the capitol building. It offers excellent views of the capitol, which towers over the mall. The mall and the capitol are separated by a steep hill and more than 200 steps, which may look daunting but are worth the climb for the views and access to downtown.

The mall has dozens of features that celebrate Tennessee and Tennesseans, including a 200-foot granite map of Tennessee embedded in concrete; a River Wall with 31 fountains, each representing one of Tennessee’s rivers; and a timeline with Tennessee events, inscriptions, and notable quotes from 1796 to 1996. A one-mile path that circles the mall’s perimeter is popular with walkers and joggers, and a 2,000-seat amphitheater is used for special events. The park may be a civics lesson incarnate, but it is also a pleasant place to pass the time. Ninetyfive carillon bells (for the state’s 95 counties) play “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Rocky Top,” and other Tennessee-themed songs every hour on the hour.

To the west of the mall is the amazing Nashville Farmers’ Market (900 Rosa Parks Blvd., 615/880-2001, daily 8am-6pm), where you can buy fresh produce, flowers, gourmet breakfasts and lunches, and locally made crafts. Locals often picnic in the mall with goodies from the market. There’s plenty of free parking here, but don’t speed. Because this is a state park, tickets come from the state police, and they’re pricier than metro Nashville tickets.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Nashville.

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