As we anticipate summer’s end, we’re craving one last adventure (or five). Warm, sunny weekends will soon be few and far between, which means it’s time to get outdoors now. At this point, it’s likely you’ve checked off many of your summer bucket list items – the usual suspects if you will – and are on the lookout for something unexpected. Enter, these five hidden gems. We’ve scouted and visited some of the most under-the-radar or, at least, under-hyped Nashville oases for you to add to your summer and fall exploration lists. (Did you know there was a waterfall in West Meade? A fairy garden in East Nashville?) Here are five hidden outdoor spaces you need to visit.
Lockeland Springs Park
1810 Woodland St, Nashville, TN 37206
Park on the street and look for the park sign.
In 1889, James Richardson purchased Lockeland Springs and the surrounding land. When he noticed a positive change in his health as he began drinking the spring water, he decided to start bottling it and created a bottling plant around the springs. Years later, his product actually won an award for its quality and composition at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. For about 40 more years, the spring water was bottled and sold out of this East Nashville facility, and Lockeland Springs Park is home to its remains.
You’ll find more than just broken glass, though, as many of the structures themselves still stand in the wooded park. Signs mark the path with information about the wildlife in the area, and a small stage and seating area serve as an outdoor classroom. Tiny explorers can wander from sign to sign and learn a few things while they’re there. Though, we think their favorite surprise will be the mini “fairy gardens” that dot the property. In a few covert areas in the park, tiny villages for tiny fairies are set up, much to the wanderer’s delight.
Lockeland Springs Park is cool and shaded, offering an adventure for those of any age looking to see something new in Nashville, almost any time of the year. The parking is simple, but it is residential, so be mindful of the homeowners when you select a spot on the street.
Shelby Park Cave Spring
401 S 20th St, Nashville, TN 37206
Park behind the tennis courts and walk straight down the hill opposite the courts.
Down the street from Lockeland Springs Park is Shelby Park. One of East Nashville’s most beloved parks, it’s no hidden gem (though it is certainly special!). However, many don’t know about the spring grotto at one of its entrances. Just south of the dog park and over the hill behind the tennis courts is a quiet, undiscovered Cave Spring. This area was once one of the parks most popular attractions. Cave Spring grotto invited park visitors into its cave for a respite from the heat and offered relaxation as they listened to its sounds. While it isn’t totally restored, the spot continues to provide stillness to its visitors who choose to sit on its steps or venture into the cave. Grab a picnic lunch and start or end your walk around Shelby Park at this pretty hidden gem.
The West Meade Waterfall
402 Hathaway Ct, Nashville, TN 37205
Park on the street at the end of the cul-de-sac.
We know there are plenty of impressive waterfalls just a short drive out of town, but did you know there’s a waterfall in West Meade? Located at the end of a cul-de-sac on Hathaway Drive, the waterfall’s quiet location lends itself well to a moment of reflection. During the summer it’s often just a slight trickle running down the fall. However, after a heavy rainstorm, the water cascades with more force.
The waterfall was purchased in 2013 by Tennessee Parks and Greenways, and two years later it was taken over by Metro Nashville. The waterfall is free and open to the public, and visitors are invited to explore the surrounding area filled with breathtaking wildlife from birds and bobcats to salamander and bullfrogs. While it’s not the gushing waterfall you might be picturing, it’s a nice and relaxing place to enjoy nature.
Cornelia Fort Airpark
1199 Shadow Ln #1093, Nashville, TN 37206
Once a privately owned functioning airport used by many musicians to arrive and depart Music City, the Cornelia Fort Airpark now serves East Nashville as an expansive, open space for visitors to enjoy — be it for a stroll, a bike ride, a run or even a photo shoot. The city of Nashville acquired the airport in 2011 after the May 2010 floods rendered it inoperable, and today, the 141-acre property, named after a World War II pilot of the same name, is part of Shelby Park. Its wide-open territory (not to mention the runways!) is unlike other Nashville parks. On an early summer evening, you can spot countless fireflies, and you’ll likely spot some sort of wildlife during your visit.
Bikers and runners will find the long, flat paths appealing, and kids can play games on the playset or burn off some energy playing tag in the field. If it’s a little more culture you’re looking for, head to the airpark for a Pickin’ Party. Held monthly, the events bring the crowds to Cornelia Fort, raising money for its preservation efforts. Musicians bring their instruments and strum along under the stars, while attendees enjoy the tunes, craft beer and tasty food.
Wedgewood Urban Gardens
613 Wedgewood Ave, Nashville, TN 37203
Near the Nashville Fairgrounds, right next door to Smokin’ Thighs and in plain view, there’s a community garden you may have overlooked. Wedgewood Urban Gardens is a one-acre garden maintained by the Nashville Food Project. They use the crops they grow there to fuel their outreach to alleviate hunger and cultivate community, part of their overarching mission. At Wedgewood Urban Gardens, though, the street-side crops are available for harvest by anyone. Find blackberries, blueberries and strawberries as well as fresh herbs, flowers and more. A walk through the garden offers a glimpse at the good work that the Nashville Food Project is doing. Additionally, leave with a refresher of the many different crops that can be grown here in Middle Tennessee. Enjoy a raised seating area with benches and tables for taking it all in, and be sure to wander through each of the little paths to take in all that the garden is producing.
(If you’re interested in getting your hands dirty, Nashville Food Project is actively looking for volunteers to plant, weed, compost and harvest at the Wedgewood Urban Gardens. Find out more here.)
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