Museums in Nashville

Nashville is the country music capital, therefore, your first stop on a tour of this city’s museums would have to be the Country Music Hall of Fame. After you’ve engrossed yourself in costumes, photographs, instruments and memorabilia of the top country singers of this century and the last, you will be excited to know there’s even more to see. However, the real surprise is the wide array of museums that call Nashville their home that have nothing to do with country music.

Country Music Hall of Fame has moved to it’s new location in the heart of Nashville. Although this has been the home of America’s country music since 1967, it reopened in it’s new building, on the west bank of Cumberland River, in 2001. Besides viewing country music’s story through the years, there is on-site dining for your dining pleasure. Country music changes and grows day to day, but it stays, as Willie Nelson said the place where, “people tell their life stories.”

Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum includes not just the country music talents, but all musicians. You’ll find the spirit of Jimmy Hendricks, but also names you may not be familiar with, who worked in the background but shaped the music world, just the same. You’ll see Chad Smith’s (Red Hot Chili Peppers) snare drum, Billy Sherril’s piano where he composed “The Most Beautiful Girl” and “Stand By Your Man,” Peter Drakes steal guitar heard on classics sung by Bob Dylan, George Harrison, George Jones and Tammy Wynette. If you are a music lover, this is one stop you can’t afford to miss while visiting Nashville.

Grand Ole Opry Museum will mesmerize you with the spirit of country music with stars such as Patsy Cline (they have a rendition of her living room) and George Jones. Besides enjoying a trip down memory lane, this music museum is great for the budget and the price of “free.” The Opry Museum includes interesting history from early Opry days as well as exhibits of all the greats such as Minnie Pearl, Tex Ritter, Marty Robins and much, much more.

Tennessee Museum was first opened on the Nashville public square by artist, Ralph E. Earl back in 1817. Earl was a portrait artist who painted a famous life size likeness of General Andrew Jackson. There are many traveling exhibits throughout the year, but the permanent ones include “The First Tennesseans,” “The Frontier,” “The Age of Jackson,” “The Civil War and Reconstruction,” “The New South” and “Antebellum” which was a period of prosperity for Tennessee between 1840 and 1860.

Travelers Rest Plantation and Museum is located in a historic house built in 1799. It was claimed by the National Society of the Colonial Dames as it was to be demolished. Today it is a museum, restored to it’s original style and charm and is a National Register property. Besides feeling like a time traveler as you view this plantation/museum, there are many traveling exhibits and event throughout the year such as the Holiday Decorating (join the staff to fill the house in old fashioned decoration), “All Through the House” (an early old fashioned Tennessee Christmas) or “Civil War” (an historical role playing game).

Tennessee Central Railway Museum is all about preserving Tennessee’s railroad heritage. Besides viewing historic railway equipment, you can take a passenger excursion while seeing the beauty of Tennessee. The streamline coaches are air conditioned and have huge picture windows and there’s always something unexpected going on like a train robbery, a murder mystery or visits from Santa or the Easter Bunny. It’s the kind of place you will want to plan a full day visit.

Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Museum is in a 72,000 foot building located in the Summit Center on Broadway. It features exhibits of college basketball and football teams. However, the most fun is the interactive areas of a strength training piece of equipment used by Olympic swimmers and the interactive (virtual reality) one-on-one basketball game. They also have 2 – 30 seat theaters where visitors can watch sports videos. Their hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

1949 MG TC Midget RoadsterCreative Commons License photo credit: Brent and MariLynn

1949 MG TC Midget Roadster from the Nashville Lane Motor Museum

Lane Motor Museum is home to 150 unique cars and motorcycles. They include prototypes, competition cars, alternative fuel cars, micro-cars, military vehicles as well as amphibious vehicles. The majority of the vehicles on display range in age from 1950 to 1970 although they also have some from as far back as 1920 and as new as 2000. They pride themselves on being a working museum where they attempt to keep all cars in working order. The real treat of this car museum are the one-of-a-kind vehicles on display.

Nashville Toy Museum is the place to visit if you are in love with toy trains and antique toys. Kids don’t get exposed to these kind of things these days, but they will love it. There’s also a whole room of nothing but military toys. And another room of antique dolls and stuffed toys. Fun for the kids and those that are kid at heart.

Willie Nelson General Store and Museum walks you through the life and times of Willie Nelson and his friends. Feel what it would be like to live in the midst of country music stardom while learning exactly what toll it may have had on some. The joys and sadness, the ups and the downs, their all there for you to imagine while walking through the memorabilia of these country music stars.

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art allows you to stroll through their beautiful gardens before or after you visit their museum filled with contemporary regional artists. It is all housed in a spectacular mansion complete with a restaurant for lunch, The Pineapple Room. You could spend and hour or a whole day enjoying the art and grounds.