Did you know America has its own recreation of the Ancient Greek Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee? It’s the centerpiece of a beautiful park just outside of downtown, and it’s a great place to visit while in Music City.
The original Parthenon in Athens, Greece was built in 438 BC as a temple to Athena on the rocky mountain called the Acropolis. Over the centuries, it has served as a government building, a church, and a mosque. It was severely damaged in the 17th century but thankfully survived and is considered the most important surviving building of the Ancient Greeks. Many of its sculptures and architectural details were removed and taken to various museums around the world, most notably to the British Museum.
The Nashville version of the Parthenon was built in 1897 as a celebration of Tennessee’s 100th year of statehood. Nashville had the nickname as the “Athens of the South” so building the world’s only exact replica of the ancient Greek Parthenon seemed appropriate. After turning the temporary structure into a permanent building, it is now a museum that houses artwork and contains the historically accurate statues and details which made it a wonder of the ancient world.
Visiting the Parthenon is like stepping back in history. Its size and details are exact copies of what historians think the original temple to Athena looked like. The location of the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park makes it a perfect place for families to play and explore.
The Parthenon itself is a magnificent structure so take some time to let your kids wander around the outside. It is a great backdrop for a family picture and kids will have fun running up its steps.
Your self-guided tour will begin immediately after the entrance where you’ll go through several galleries containing artifacts and art from the Centennial celebration.
There are several other art galleries as well. After viewing the art, make your way upstairs to the star of the museum – the full-sized replica statue of Athena. Just completed in the past few decades, this gold-plated statue is jaw-dropping in size and grandeur.
It’s hard to convey the enormous size of this 41′ tall statue but know that that statue of Nike she is holding in her right hand is over 6 feet itself!
When we think of Ancient Greek statues, we only think of colorless marble but most of the statues were painted or covered in gold like this statue. It’s so interesting to see it how the ancient Greeks would have seen it!
Turn around and notice the large bronze doors to the naos (Greek word for the temple’s primary space).
Kids will love to look for the details on the columns and mythical creatures like Medusa included in the stonework.
Behind the statue, you’ll find a small room designated as the Treasury which now contains casts of the statues and pediments on the building.
As you head back downstairs, don’t miss the Kidsville activity corner for hands-on activities for children.
Your kids will want to visit the museum store before leaving. As you exit, be sure to visit the rest of the park which has a playground and several historical statues. Don’t miss the statue to the Tennessee suffragists in the park – Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment, which allowed women to vote. It’s just south of the Parthenon.
The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee is a great place to step back into the world of Ancient Greece without leaving the country. If your child is studying the ancient world in school, they’ll love seeing it brought to life!
- Cost: $10/adult; $8/children 4-17; free/children under 4
- Recommended: 6 and up
- Tour time: 30-45 minutes
- Gift shop located onsite and online
- Transportation: There is plenty of free parking onsite.
- Dining options: Bring a picnic and eat in the park! There are several nearby restaurants, mostly along West End Avenue near Vanderbilt University. Nashville’s famous Hattie B’s Hot Chicken restaurant is a short drive away. When in Nashville, we always go to Arnold’s Country Kitchen, a ten minute drive.
- Nearby hotels: In Nashville, I like to stay at the historic Hermitage Hotel near the Capitol. If you want to stay near Centennial Park, look for hotels near Vanderbilt, like this Marriott.
- Nearby attractions include: Centennial Park, Vanderbilt University, and Music Row
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