Nashville is not only the largest city in the state and the capital of Tennessee. It's also a cultural hub for the whole of the South. Often known as Music City, Nashville is the world capital of country music, and this history brings tons of tourists here every year to explore some of the major sights and hear some of the best music in the whole country.
If you're a fan of country music, you'll be in seventh heaven here. Many of the museums in Nashville are devoted to music and musicians, and a walk through downtown Nashville will bring you in touch with important sites related to the history of this art form. However, although it may not always seem like it, Nashville has more to offer than just country music. You'll also find museums devoted to visual arts, contemporary art, local history, and even motor vehicles. So whatever area of knowledge you like to explore, chances are good you'll find it here.
Nashville is a fantastic place to explore Tennessee history, art, and country music. As you'll find while you explore, it's also a great place to eat, especially if you track down some of the best street food in Nashville. But however you choose to spend your Tennessee vacation, you'll be glad to know that you're never far from a Bounce luggage storage in Nashville. Drop off your bags with Bounce so you'll be able to explore Tennessee's history and culture more easily.
Country Music Hall of Fame
Probably the most famous museum in Nashville and one of the city's main attractions, the Country Music Hall of Fame is a sight to see even for people who aren't huge fans of this musical style. The exhibits here explain the history and evolution of country music through artifacts and interactive displays that will give you a deeper understanding of the importance of this music in the lives of millions of people. You'll see guitars, stage costumes, and other relics of some of the biggest names in country music. The Hall of Fame also hosts rotating temporary exhibits that explore the wider impact of country music and culture on the world beyond Nashville, and the way this music has influenced and been influenced by other musical styles. All in all, the Country Music Hall of Fame is a must-visit for lovers of music, history, pop culture, and just those who are curious about Nashville's connection to its musical heritage.
Johnny Cash Museum
Johnny Cash was a musician with a unique crossover appeal. Generally considered one of the biggest names in country music, he also found fans in many other genres thanks to his eclectic approach to songwriting and his outlaw image. The work and life of this unique talent is celebrated at Nashville's Johnny Cash Museum. Check out the interactive exhibits that tell the love story between Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash, and how this country legend became such a crossover star. You'll see stage costumes, handwritten letters, instruments, and other items owned by the Man in Black. The Johnny Cash Museum is obviously an obligatory visit for Cash's many fans. But the fascinating story of this man's life might be enough to create new fans from anyone who visits.
Patsy Cline Museum
Located in the same building as the Johnny Cash Museum, the Patsy Cline Museum celebrates another legend of country music. In many ways, this trailblazing performer provided the model for later artists like Johnny Cash, since Cline was one of the first successful country crossover artists. Her songs, such as Crazy and I Fall To Pieces as still as popular and relevant today as they were when she wrote them, having been covered by dozens of artists since then. The Patsy Cline Museum includes replicas of rooms in her Nashville home and even a reproduction of a booth at a drugstore where Cline once worked as a waitress. This museum offers a fascinating insight into the work of a hugely influential artist.
Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
Nashville isn't known as Music City for nothing. Many of the top museums in Nashville are devoted to country music and the musicians who made it. That's great if you're a fan. But, while you may have to whisper this in Nashville, there is more music out there than simply country.
The Musicians Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to musicians who work outside the country genre. The museum covers musicians of every description, and the exhibits are arranged geographically to explain the music scene in cities across the United States. Housed in what was once the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, this museum is located right downtown and is packed with musical memorabilia from around the country. Whatever you like to listen to, chances are good it is represented here, so don't assume that Music City only cares about country music.
Tennessee State Museum
Country music is a huge part of Nashville's cultural life, but there is more to the city and the state than just that. At the Tennessee State Museum, you'll learn more about the forces that shaped the state and the impact it's had on the nation and on the world beyond country music. In fact, the Tennessee State Museum is one of the largest state museums in the entire United States, and that's a reflection of all the fascinating history the state has to share. Learn about the state's role in the Civil War, the reconstruction area, Tennessee's frontier days, and the modern day culture of the state and its capital city. The Tennessee State Museum will give you a deeper understanding of why this state is the way it is, and just what makes it so special.
George Jones Museum
George Jones is another legendary figure in country music. At this museum dedicated to the man and his work, pride of place goes to the John Deere riding mower the musician famously rode to the bar after his wife hid his keys to prevent him from going. George Jones was a major figure in country music, and the museum also preserves personal notes to Jones from friends like Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash, along with his stage costumes and music awards. George Jones was a complicated man known for his sometimes bizarre behavior prompted by alcoholism. At the same time, he is one of the most successful country singers of all time, and many country fans still regarded him as the greatest singer to ever work in the genre. The George Jones Museum celebrates the life of this fascinating but troubled man whose life was the fodder for so many classic country songs.
Tennessee Central Railway Museum
Those with an interest in rail travel or industrial history won't want to miss this small but intriguing museum. The founding of the railroads was integral to opening up the American frontier, and that's as true in Tennessee as it is anywhere else. This museum explores the effect the coming of the railroad had on Tennessee, and how the world changed thanks this mode of transport. Best of all, as well as the fascinating exhibits, you can even take a ride on a train to relive the golden age of rail travel. The museum hosts excursions by rail around the state, so you can enjoy history in a fun and immersive way. These excursions are great for families, and can be one of the best things to do in Nashville with kids.
National Museum of African American Music
It's not only country music you'll hear playing in the bars and theaters of Nashville. Music City attracts musicians of all styles and genres, and Nashville celebrates this heritage at the National Museum of African American Music. The music of African-Americans has had as big an impact on the world as any other genre, and there's barely a corner of the planet you can go to that remains untouched by jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll, and hip-hop, among other styles. The exhibits at this fascinating museum celebrate both the stars and lesser-known artists who have made African-American music so globally successful, and you'll learn all about the rich history and vibrant future of various genres of music that have grown out of the African-American experience.
Glen Campbell Museum
Glen Campbell was a hugely successful singer-songwriter who was just about everywhere during the 60s and 70s. He even hosted his own TV show. Perhaps best known for his song Rhinestone Cowboy, his influence is still felt in country music and other genres to this day. The Glen Campbell Museum is spread over 4000 square feet, and tells the story of this artist's life from his Arkansas childhood through his early years to the height of his fame as a recording artist. If you're a fan of Glen Campbell, you can't afford to miss this museum. Also, the museum is home to the Rhinestone Stage, which hosts performances by up-and-coming country artists continuing Campbell's musical legacy.
Lotz House Civil War Museum
As a Southern state, Tennessee was hugely impacted by the Civil War. You can learn more about the state's role in this nation-defining conflict at the Lotz House Civil War museum. The house dates back to 1858, and was the center of the Battle of Franklin in 1864, which was one of the bloodiest battles of the whole conflict. Now, the restored house tells the story of this battle and its place in the wider context of the war. You can also embark on a walking tour of the battlefield that will give you a more visceral understanding of the way the conflict took shape. Plus, the house is reputed to be haunted, so amateur paranormal investigators will have a field day at this historic site.
Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, is a man who shaped the nation in its infancy. The Hermitage is the home he built in Nashville in 1804, and it remained his home for the rest of his life, especially after he retired from public life. It is also now the final resting place of this important president. At the Hermitage, you'll learn more about Jackson's life and the way his policies and decisions shaped the history of the United States. You'll also get a glimpse into what life was like in the 19th century, both for important people like Jackson and those who worked on his estate.
Lane Motor Museum
For something completely different, don't miss the Lane Motor Museum in South Nashville. This museum is dedicated to cars, and boasts the largest collection of European cars and motorcycles in the United States. The cars are kept in showroom condition, and you'll see everything from high-end sports cars to military vehicles to relics from the earliest days of car making. Gearheads won't want to miss this attraction, but it's also a great place to take a break from Nashville's focus on country music and explore something different in the city.
What are the best free museums in Nashville?
Despite its huge collection, the Tennessee State Museum is completely free to visit. This makes it one of the best free things to do Nashville, and a place where you could easily spend an entire day without spending anything – so long as you can avoid the gift shop. You can also take a guided tour of the Tennessee State Capitol and learn more about where Tennessee's laws are made.
Which are the best museums in downtown Nashville?
Some of the best museums in Nashville are located downtown. The Musicians Hall of Fame, the Tennessee State Museum, and the Country Music Hall of Fame are located within a few blocks of each other downtown.
Are there any cheap museums in Nashville?
The Lane Motor Museum only costs $12 for an adult ticket, and kids up to 17 years old only pay three dollars, making this a great bargain in a sometimes expensive city. Likewise, while Andrew Jackson's Hermitage is more expensive at $24 for an adult ticket, but that includes a guided tour of the mansion and a wine tasting, making it a good deal for the price.