Nature Centers, Parks & Playgrounds

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Local girls enjoy seasonal flowers at Cheekwood. This spring, you can see more than 100,000 tulips in bloom.

Spring is a great time to get outdoors with your family. Check out the following nature centers, parks & playgrounds in Middle Tennessee:


Beaman Park Nature Center
5911 Old Hickory Blvd., Ashland City
862-8580 •
Located in Northwest Nashville near Joelton, Beaman boasts a rugged sanctuary of natural beauty, offering programs that help kids connect with nature.

Bells Bend Outdoor Center
4187 Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville
862-4187 •
Part of Metro Parks, Bells Bend offers programs for all ages that range from geology to animal wildlife and nature hikes.

Bowie Park Nature Center
7211 Bowie Lake Road, Fairview
799-5544 •
Families can embark on guided walks with naturalists to discover the flora and fauna in the area, or participate in one of many programs. The Nature Center and Outdoor Classroom play host to many nature-related activities for kids with topics including butterflies, ecology, wildlife, nature photography, tree identification and more.

1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville
356-8000 •
There’s no better place for spring than Cheekwood’s expansive botanical gardens (eight total) which display some of the most vibrant colors in the area. This spring, you’ll get to see more than 100,000 tulips in bloom. Springtime programs for kids include exploration of the gardens combined with related hands-on art projects.

Discovery Center at Murfree Spring
502 S.E. Broad St., Murfreesboro
890-2300 •
The Discovery Center sits adjacent to the 25-acre Murfree Spring wetland. Stroll the quarter mile raised boardwalk and paved trail for a spectacular view of the area and wildlife. Kids love looking for tadpoles in the lily pad pond, and the center hosts a Nature Nuts program every Thursday as well as Wetland Walks on Fridays.

Merritt Nature Center at
Cedars of Lebanon State Park
328 Cedar Forest Road, Lebanon
443-2769 •
The nature center features exhibits on geology and natural features of the park. Public programs include tours of the nature exhibits, wildlife video programs, nature hikes, fossil hunts and more. Spring is a great time to see the rare wildflowers.

Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary
545 Beech Creek Road, Brentwood
370-4672 •
Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary is situated on 160 acres of rolling hills adorned with deciduous forests and several species of local flora and fauna. The sanctuary for native species allows owls to educate as their nesting and migration patterns are tracked. Wildflowers, butterflies and bluebirds are among the sanctuary’s most popular subject matter as well. Owl’s Hill offers a variety of nature programs for children throughout the year.

Radnor Lake State Park
1160 Otter Creek Road, Nashville
373-3467 •
The Environmental Education Center features a nature discovery room for children ages 4 – 10, a nature reference library and a wet laboratory that hosts public nature programs for all ages.

Shelby Bottoms Nature Center
1900 Davidson Drive, Nashville
862-8539 •
Nestled within Shelby Park, the nature center provides free monthly programs for kids of all ages that range from nature hikes to animal programs to ecology education.

Warner Parks Nature Center
7311 Hwy. 100, Nashville
352-6299 •
Nature enthusiasts of all ages will find a treasure trove of activities at Warner Parks Nature Center. Housed on 2,684 acres of natural areas, the nature center itself is a year-round environmental education and recreation facility that features a museum showcasing the area’s geological and wildlife species. Nine different trails vary in length and ease, perfect for hiking and nature observation. WPNC is renowned for the programs it offers to kids of all ages throughout the year, most of them free.

The Wilderness Station at Barfield-Crescent Park
697 Veterans Pkwy., Murfreesboro
217-3017 •
Tucked a half mile behind the park’s ball fields, the Wilderness Station’s goal is teaching wilderness and outdoor awareness as well as environmental education to kids of all ages. The 300 heavily wooded acres surrounding the station provide for nature education. A weekly Animal Encounters program teaches youngsters about critters native to Tennessee.


Parks & Playgrounds Picks

Davidson County

For a complete list of Metro Parks, visit

Bellevue Park
656 Colice Jean Road, Nashville

862-8400 •
The “Red Caboose” park is a family favorite featuring a large, modern wooden playground, a caboose, amphitheater with summer concerts and programs, a walking track and community center.

Centennial Park
2500 West End Ave., Nashville
862-8400 •
This 132-acre park in the heart of Nashville features the iconic Parthenon, Lake Watauga (kids have fun feeding the ducks there), a one-mile walking trail, sand volleyball pits, the Centennial Arts Center, gardens, a dog park and more. The park is home to several festivals throughout the year.

Fannie Mae Dees Park
2400 Blakemore Ave., Nashville
862-8400 •
Also known as Dragon Park, this park is especially for small children who love playing on and around the giant mosaic dragon. Several pieces of playground equipment are scattered the grounds, and there’s a cool mist-breathing dragon as well.


The Jungle Gym at the Nashville Zoo.

The Jungle Gym at the Nashville Zoo
3777 Nolensville Road, Nashville

833-1534 •
Included with zoo admission ($15 adults, $10 ages 2 – 12), the Jungle Gym is the largest community built playground in the United States. It features a 35-foot tall tree house structure, slides, cargo netting, swings, a concrete sculpture garden with a giant snake tunnel, bat cave, hippo and crocodile figures, a dancing water fountain and more. Open daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Long Hunter State Park
2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage
885-2422 •
The ship playground at the Bryant Grove area of Long Hunter State Park is sure to fire little sailors’ imaginations.  The two-mile paved nature trail around Couchville Lake is perfect for a woodsy “hike” with the stroller.

Shelby Park
1900 Davidson St., Nashville
862-8539 •
Located along the Cumberland River in East Nashville, Shelby Park features more than 1,200 acres offering wildlife viewing opportunities, playgrounds, a dog park, ball fields, nine- and 18-hole golf courses, Siever Lake (popular for fishing), a community center, nature center and more.

Warner Parks
Percy: 7311 Hwy. 100, Nashville
Edwin: 50 Vaughn Road, Nashville
352-6299 •
The two adjacent parks cover 2,684 acres that feature several hiking trails (both paved and natural terrain), equestrian trails, athletic fields and two golf courses. The Nature Center hosts free monthly events for kids year round.

Rutherford County

For a complete list of parks in La Vergne, visit
For a complete list of parks in Murfreesboro, visit
For a complete list of parks in Smyrna, visit

Barfield Crescent Park
697 Veterans Pkwy., Murfreesboro
890-5333 •
Lots of fun is to be had with playgrounds (including a fenced-in one for tots), hiking trails, The Wildness Station, tetherball, an 18-hole championship disc golf course, horseshoe pits, a grass volleyball court and baseball/softball complex.

Lee Victory Park

110 Sam Ridley Pkwy., Smyrna
459-9742 •
Playground equipment, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, a volleyball next, ball fields and basketball courts, and a wooded hiking trail.

Old Fort Park
1028 Golf Lane, Murfreesboro
890-5333 •
Reconstructed in June 2012, the modern-day playground features saddle seats that spin, rockers, slides of varying sizes, a toddler area, a baby area, swings and more.

Sharp Springs Natural Area
1000 Espey Drive, Smyrna
459-9742 •
18-hole disc golf course, four fishing piers, ball fields, a greenway trail and bird blind.

Veterans Memorial Park
115 Floyd Mayfield Drive, La Vergne

793-3224 •
La Vergne’s main park consists of a playground, walking trails, ball fields, tennis courts, an in-line hockey rink, skate park and more.

Sumner County

For a complete list of parks in Goodlettsville, visit
For a complete list of parks in Hendersonville, visit

Drakes Creek Park
161 Indian Lake Blvd., Hendersonville

822-3898 •
This large park features five different playground areas, including the Ship Playground, eight picnic shelters, a two-mile walking path (lighted and paved), 20 soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, baseball/softball fields and more.

Moss-Wright Park
745 Caldwell Drive, Goodlettsville

851-2241 •
Aside from being home to Historic Mansker’s Station, Moss-Wright Park boasts a large playground, two miles of trails, several ball fields and a lighted volleyball court.

Williamson County

For a complete list of parks in Brentwood, visit
For a complete list of parks in Franklin, visit
For a complete list of Williamson County parks, visit

Crockett Park
1500 Volunteer Pkwy., Brentwood

371-2208 •
Home of the historic Cool Springs House and the Eddy Arnold Amphitheater (lots of free concerts during the summer!), Crockett Park is Brentwood’s largest at more than 164 acres that include open meadows, nature trails, ball fields, paved paths for walking and biking and a community playground for kids of all ages.

Fairview Park
2714 Fairview Blvd., Fairview

Fairview Park features a large playground for all ages, an outdoor pool and walking trails.

Granny White Park
610 Granny White Pike, Brentwood

371-2208 •
The park features a modern playground, paved walking trails, open green space, ball fields and tennis courts.

The Park at Harlinsdale Farm
239 Franklin Road, Franklin

794-2103 •
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this farm was a battle site during the Army of Tennessee’s retreat from Nashville. Today, the park  is available for recreational fun including a dog park, hiking trails, a pond for catch-and-release fishing and more.

Pinkerton Park
405 Murfreesboro Road, Franklin

794-2103 •
The most highly used park in the Franklin Parks system, Pinkerton features a children’s playground and the Tinkerbell wooden playground along with a walking trail, picnic tables and more.

Wilson County

For a complete list of Wilson County parks, visit

Charlie Daniels Park
1075 Charlie Daniels Pkwy., Mt. Juliet

758-6522 •
The park includes a large modern playground featuring a space ship, castle area, a covered picnic pavilion and colorful toddler barnyard.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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