Brandi & Candace
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
The first time I visited Bicentennial Mall was on a third grade field trip in 1997, shortly after it opened. I remember the fountains, and that's about it. But unbeknownst to me, this park had quite the history already. Governor Ned McWherter casually mentioned to The Tennessean in July 24th, 1989 that he was "thinkin and dreamin" about building a bicentennial mall, mimicking the mall in Washington DC, providing a clear view of the state Capital, providing parking for state employees working in the surrounding buildings, and acting as a symbolic investment in the North Nashville neighborhood which had been devastated during the construction of 1-40 twenty years previously. But this was all hypothetical at this time.
In August of 1992, a twenty five member Bicentennial Commission was appointed to make plans for the 200th birthday of Tennessee, upcoming in 1996. Governor McWherter advised them to make a durable landmark to match the Parthenon and Centennial Park, which had been erected for Tennessee's 100th birthday. The entire project cost about $22 million, which came from federal grants, private donations, corporate sponsors, existing budget surplus, and unfortunately, some money from the education budget and gas taxes were moved for this project which caused some controversy. The groundbreaking began June 27th, 1994.
It's a beautiful monument sitting on 11 acres. There's a plaza with a 25 foot long granite map of the state. There is a wall of history, where you get to walk along the timeline of Tennessee history, complete with facts. There is a walkway of counties, honoring each of the 95 counties. There is a 2,000 seat amphitheater. Honoring Tennessee's music history is a court with 95 bells (for each of Tennessee's 95 counties) that plays music at the top of each hour. The aforementioned fountains are a representation of the 31 major rivers in the state. There's a state time capsule, buried with dirt from each of the state's counties, and a beautiful World War 2 Memorial. It's adjacent to the Nashville Sounds Stadium, the Farmers Market, and the Tennessee State Museum. There are also planters showing native plants to Tennessee, and tulip poplars, the state tree.
Generally, this park hosts different festivals, like the Tennessee History Festival, the Italian Lights Festival, the Nashville Food and Wine Festival, and the Music City Irish Fest. The amphitheater has hosted many events, including the Nashville New Years Eve Music City Midnight concert, and free summer Symphony concerts.
There's also some great tours that'll walk you through the park with specialized perspectives and reenactors, if you choose. You can explore those options on the Tennessee State Parks events page. For me, I spend about and hour and a half, and strolled around for about two miles to see everything.
Name: Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park
Address: 600 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243
History: 5 out of 5
Walkability: 5 out of 5
Kid Like-ability- 3 out of 5
Date Night-ability- 3 out of 5
Charm: 5 out of 5