According to one recent study, Nashville ranked just 29th among the 50 largest cities in the United States for recreation opportunities. While it’s no surprise that peer cities like Denver and Portland ranked ahead of Nashville, it did come as a bit of a shock that Nashville was ranked behind cities not necessarily known for their outdoor and recreation cultures, including Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. It should be noted that the study used certain metrics like public beaches per capita, which might put Nashville at a disadvantage (and cities like San Diego at a clear advantage), but factors like music venues per capita were also taken into consideration, which would definitely help to give Nashville a boost relative to other metro areas around the country.
While Nashville certainly has plenty of room to improve in many ways, especially when it comes to things like creating more access points to utilize the Cumberland River as a recreational asset, Davidson County continues to make great strides towards being a regionally- and nationally-recognized recreation hub. Here’s a list of our top 5 reasons why Nashville is a great city to get outdoors and be active:
1. The Greenway System
Whether you’re a walker, a runner, a cyclist, a rollerblader, or just about anything else, Nashville’s greenway system is a great resource for local outdoor recreation. If you’re not familiar with them, greenways are “linear parks and trails that connect neighborhoods to schools, shopping areas, downtown, offices, recreation areas, open spaces and other points of activity,” and are “often located along natural landscape features like streams, rivers and ridges, or along built features, such as railroad corridors and scenic highways,” according to Greenways for Nashville. With more than 65 miles of greenway trails in Davidson county, it’s no surprise that upwards of 90 percent of Nashvillians live within 2 miles of a greenway access point. The best part? They’re completely free and open year-round!
2. Great Local Parks
Nashville is fortunate to have access to an abundance of high-quality parks. Ask anyone around town where their go-to place to get outdoors is, and you’re sure to hear a lot of the same answers. Percy Warner Park, Radnor Lake State Natural Area, and Centennial Park (and Sportsplex) are all common favorites among locals, providing space for walking, running, hiking, festivals and races, and other beloved community events. Places like Bells Bend Park and Cane Ridge Park (in addition to Warner Park) offer access to mountain biking trails, and dozens of other parks across the county feature everything from tennis courts and golf courses to baseball diamonds and basketball courts, providing recreational outlets for just about anyone. In total, Nashville has 108 parks and 19 greenways, adding up to more than 12,000 acres of accessible open space around town. Current projects like the renovation of Riverfront Park on both the east and west banks of the Cumberland continue to add park-based amenities to Nashville, with features like a dog park, river access, and a 6,500 seat amphitheater soon to be open for use.
3. Tons of Local Waterways
For a landlocked city, Nashville has access to a plethora of water-based recreational opportunities. If you’ve spent even one summer living here, you know that it gets HOT, so taking some time to get out on a lake or river is key to keeping cool. Whether your activity of choice is grabbing a canoe and floating one of Middle Tennessee’s scenic rivers, like the Harpeth or Caney Fork, or hopping in a boat and spending a day on Percy Priest or Center Hill Lake, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the water in Nashville. Other opportunities include plenty of fishing and swimming, a growing stand up paddle board culture, and Nashville’s annual Dragon Boat Festival on the Cumberland River (seriously, check it out if you never have – it’s a blast! Here are some pictures from when we raced in it last year.).
4. Our Growing Cycling Community
Did you know that Nashville is one of only 18 cities in the United States with a population of 500,000 or more to be recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly Community? Over the last decade, Nashville has made a ton of progress in becoming a safer city for cyclists of both the commuting and recreational variety. Nashville has more than 140 miles of designated bikeways across the county, including the 26-mile long Music City Bikeway, which links Percy Warner Park on the west side of town to Percy Priest Dam on the east side. Nashville has also invested heavily in its BCycle bikeshare program, providing affordable access to bikes for both residents and tourists in the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods. The BCycle system currently features 25 stations and 225 bikes, with plans for five more stations to be installed in 2015. In the two short years since the program’s inception, more than 50,000 BCycles have been checked out!
5. Our Close Proximity to Nearby Recreation Opportunities
If the outdoor amenities in Nashville proper aren’t enough to keep you busy year-round, then it’s fortunate that Nashville also happens to be surrounded by incredible outdoor and recreational opportunities that are just a short day trip away! Within a 2-hour drive are plenty of world-class rock climbing destinations, including King’s Bluff in Clarksville and T-Wall and Foster Falls near Chattanooga. There’s also an endless number of nearby backpacking and hiking trails that make great weekend getaways, including the Cumberland Trail System, Savage Gulf State Natural Area, and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Nashville is also the end point of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, and is just a few short hours from sections of the Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the thrilling whitewater of the Ocoee River. Seriously, there are so many recreational resources in close proximity to Middle Tennessee that there’s no way they can all be covered here, so you’ll just have to do some exploring yourself!
Itching to get active in Nashville? Join us for one of our upcoming trips! We’re heading to Frozen Head State Park on Saturday, January 31st for a backpacking trip, and we’ll be at Climb Nashville for Indoor Rock Climbing every Tuesday now through the end of March!
– Matt (Team Green’s Event Coordinator)