Nashville's 10 Best Museums

Nashville is home to museums for music giants to wax models and art havens to giant historical sites.

It's good to step away from the honky tonks to explore everything else Music City has to offer including museums and art galleries that put a range of interests on show.


Johnny Cash Museum

Johnny Cash Museum

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Man in Black is in the museum that bears his name. This museum is authorized by Cash’s family and features interactive exhibits and memorabilia that tell his life story: stop by the cafe and try some Folsom Prison Brew before leaving.


Patsy Cline Museum in Nashville

Patsy Cline Museum

When you’re done touring the Johnny Cash Museum, head upstairs to explore the music and legacy of Patsy Cline. Exhibits in the Patsy Cline Museum include replicas of the rec and dining room in her Nashville dream home and personal correspondence with her fans. Don’t miss the wooden booth at Gaunt’s Drugstore exhibit—she served milkshakes as a waitress there in high school. 


Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

This museum has been called the “Smithsonian of country music.” Situated a block from the Honky Tonk Highway, it features a core exhibition that immerses visitors in the history of country music through artifacts, interactive touchscreens, text panels and photographs. The Hall of Fame Rotunda features plaques of more than 125 members including Roy Acuff, Alan Jackson, and Hank Williams.


Replica of the tractor George Jones drive to the liquor store

George Jones Museum

There it is, encased in glass in the George Jones Museum—the John Deere riding lawn mower The Possum famously rode to the liquor store—and the bar—when his wife hid his car keys. The museum also contains some of his stage outfits, personal notes from his friends, like Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger and Merle Haggard, and his many awards. After paying homage, stroll up to the rooftop bar for a cocktail and take in views of downtown Nashville and the Cumberland River.


Trisha Yearwood at Madame Tussauds Nashville

Madame Tussauds Nashville

Luke Bryan fans who dream of meeting Luke Bryan can do just that at one of the town’s newest attractions, Madame Tussauds Nashville. Not a Luke Bryan fan? Take your pick from a host of other music legends, including Bruno Mars, Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Rogers...even Bob Dylan. 


Covered wagon exhibit at Tennessee State Museum

Tennessee State Museum

There are many Nashville museums that tell the story of music in Tennessee and the country. The Tennessee State Museum tells a different story—one of the state’s contributions to the world other than music. See Tennessee-made furniture, a replica print shop and pioneer cabin, and Victorian painting gallery. Also learn about famous faces that hailed from Tennessee like Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. 


Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville

Frist Center for the Visual Arts

This museum, which houses a working post office inside its landmark post office building, features rotating exhibits of contemporary art. The ArtQuest Gallery hosts 30 interactive stations to teach art concepts to young artists through hands-on activities. Past exhibits include Buddhist art and sand mandala painting.


The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville

Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum

The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum honors musicians regardless of genre. Exhibits are displayed geographically and tell stories of music in Memphis, Los Angeles, Muscle Shoals, New York, Detroit and Atlanta. Don’t miss the guitar that played the Theme from “M.A.S.H.” or the drums used on Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” Also, interact with the 9,000-square-foot GRAMMYS exhibit, where you can take drum lessons from Ringo Starr or rap with Nelly. 


The Parthenon in Nashville

The Parthenon

This full scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece was built for the 1897 Centennial Exposition. It still stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park and houses a 63-piece gallery of art by 19th and 20th century American artists. Additional gallery space displays temporary shows and exhibits. The Parthenon is also home to a 42-foot tall gilded statue of Athena.


Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art

Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art

In the 1800s, Joel Cheek’s cousin, Leslie, used the fortune Cheek acquired through his Maxwell House coffee to build a mansion and formal gardens. The 55-acre property is now a beautiful botanical garden featuring a literary garden, boxwood garden and color garden. The mansion is filled with sculptures and fine art produced by American artists from the 19th and 20th centuries including Andy Warhol, Maurice Pendergast and Alex Katz. A sculpture trail on the grounds extends a mile and features 15 sculptures—a unique addition to the art museum.

Lisa Kaylor
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