A great museum should be more than just a fallback option if your day’s plans are ruined by bad weather. Museums can inspire, inform and entertain, and Nashville is full of options that do all three. From music to cars, high art to intellectual, history to mystery, Music City’s museums have something for just about every taste.
Nashville’s reputation as a creative hub was built on the back of country music, and this massive downtown museum showcases the genre from its roots in Appalachia to today’s modern hitmakers. Country legends are enshrined in the hall of fame, and rotating exhibits spotlight artists and songwriters over the decades. Whether you’re a country fan or not, you can’t tell the story of the region without highlighting the importance of the musical traditions that have shaped the history of the South.
Things to know before you go: The CMHoF is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with an additional hour to browse exhibits until 6:00 a.m. on Fridays. Admission for youth is $17.95 and $27.95 for adults, but local families can get free admission through the Community Counts program.
Nashville is a city of gamers, and this popular museum in the basement of the city auditorium pays tribute to the musicians who recorded all those records that made history. Focusing on the musicians, engineers and producers who worked behind the scenes or behind the headliners, the exhibits offer fascinating insight into the process and equipment that made the stars shine. Priceless artifacts inscribed here include one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars and the stage he performed on in Nashville, as well as instruments played by luminaries like Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash and Elton John.
Things to know before you go: The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and admission is $28 for adults and $15 for youth.
The former is unusual in that it has no permanent collection, relying instead on rotating exhibits to keep things fresh. The museum attracts some of the most notable traveling shows from around the world, sometimes scheduling years in advance. Housed in a former 1930s downtown post office, the building itself is a work of art, a model of Art Deco and classicism. The museum also offers a solid series of educational programs for children and adults.
Things to know before you go: Timed entry reservations are available for admission Thursday through Monday. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and admission is $15 for adults and free for visitors 18 and under.
Specializing in European cars, motorcycles and military vehicles, the Lane Motor Museum is unusual in that it strives to keep its entire collection in working order. These aren’t just centerpieces; they actually race and the driving demonstrations are part of the fun, especially when they launch the 62-foot-long LARC-LX amphibious vehicle into the back parking lot. They only have room to display just over a quarter of the nearly 600-vehicle collection of flying cars, hover cars, three-wheelers, bicycles, and more. at a time, so the exhibits rotate frequently.
Things to know before you go: The Lane Motor Museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Admission is $12 for adults with youth and senior discounts available. Tours of the museum’s undisplayed vehicle vault are offered on weekends for an additional $10 fee.
Managed by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Studio B has been known as the birthplace of “The Nashville Sound” since its construction in 1957. Named “The House of 1000 Hits”, Studio B was the site of live music sessions. historical records. by icons like Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Arnold and Roy Orbison. With apologies to Memphis, the truth is that Elvis recorded over 240 songs in Studio B, and today you can still stand on the “x” recorded on the floor where The King stood as he was singing “Are You Lonesome Tonight”.
Things to know before you go: The historic RCA Studio B is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tickets are available in addition to admission to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Unlike some celebrity museums which are just collections of memorabilia acquired at auction and displayed for profit, the Johnny Cash Museum is run by family members of ‘The Man in Black’, so it’s a family heirlooms shared with the public. The self-guided tour takes visitors through Cash’s historic career in country and popular music and shares his impact on the entire industry. As a bonus, you can purchase a separate ticket to the Patsy Cline Museum upstairs above the Cash Museum and learn about the meteoric rise and tragic demise of another country music icon.
Things to know before you go: The Johnny Cash Museum is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with admission $23.95 for adults and $19.95 for youth ages 6 to 15.
Many cities have lobbied to house this important museum which showcases the contributions made by black artists to nearly every genre of music over the centuries. Why did Nashville get it instead of, say, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, or Memphis? Simply because the organizers raised money and put a shovel in the ground to build it right in the heart of downtown. Once the project was formalized, memories poured in from collectors and musicians across the country. The museum is divided into several galleries organized by genre and period, and visitors are given an RFI wristband where they can save playlists, songs and videos to download and enjoy again after returning home.
Things to know before you go: The NMAAM is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Admission is $24.95 with youth and senior discounts available.
Music Valley Road
For fans of the campy 1980s TV series The Dukes of Hazard, a visit to Cooter’s Place is basically like a pilgrimage to Mecca. Owned and operated by Ben Jones, the actor who played the amiable auto mechanic who spun the Duke Boys’ car after multiple jumps over Hazzard County’s seemingly endless variety of washed-out bridges, this sanctuary is filled with memories from the Serie. Other actors from the show occasionally make appearances in the store/museum, and the walls are covered in photos, props, and costumes. Visitors can also have their photograph taken seated in some of the show’s famous vehicles.
Things to know before you go: Admission is free and Cooter’s Place is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
The official state museum is a repository of history and artifacts through the years and across Tennessee. The permanent collections are organized thematically around significant eras in Tennessee history, natural history, and even sports memorabilia. Among the more obscure items in the collection are a letter from Andrew Jackson challenging a rival to a duel on a horse race bet (Jackson killed him, by the way), an Egyptian mummy, a hip with a bullet lodged inside from a Civil War battlefield, a death mask of Napoleon, and the withered thumb of a notorious horse thief. Yeah, Tennessee has had a goofy history, that’s for sure.
Things to know before you go: The museum is closed on Mondays and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Free entry.
Belmont University has long been known for its music program, and its alumni include famous musicians like Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, and Lee Ann Womack. So it makes sense that the university maintains a remarkable collection of musical instruments as part of an on-campus museum. The Gallery of Iconic Guitars (known colloquially as GIG) features early prototype instruments from famous makers such as Martin, Gibson and Fender, as well as guitars and mandolins played by famous musicians. The space also includes a small stage for demonstrations, lectures and performances.
Things to know before you go: Admission is $5.00 and the GIG is open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Another annex of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Hatch Show Print is probably the most famous letterpress printing shop in the world. Since 1879, the shop has produced advertising posters for circuses, concerts and major events using the traditional method of letterpress printing of carving wooden printing plates which are inked by hand and printing the prints one by one. time. The walls of the shop are lined with shelves under the weight of wooden letters of various sizes and styles used to create the script on the posters, and some of the fonts they use today were carved decades ago. . Hatch offers boutique tours and hands-on workshops where visitors can actually put some ink under their fingernails while creating art.
Things to know before you go: Tours take place daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and last approximately one hour. Admission can be purchased as part of a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the adjoining lobby.
Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink and travel writer based in Nashville, where he has lived all his life except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned to handle chopsticks. He is a regular contributor to Nashville Scene, Nashville Lifestyles, Local Palate, Edible, FoodRepublic.com and Conde Nast Traveler. He likes beer, bourbon and bacon but is not fond of them.