The Discovery Center enlivens kids’ learning experiences by cleverly disguising exhibits as awesome playtime arenas. Tiny tots and even 10-year-olds are encouraged to run wild at this hands-on children’s museum and nature center, trying their hand at the many fun activities.
At the creation station, which is stocked with paint, clay, chalk, paper, and just about anything a young da Vinci or police sketch artist needs, kids are free to unleash their creative potential. Alternatively, at the fire-truck exhibit, they can put on a firefighter’s boots and hat and climb aboard the full-sized 1954 Oren fire truck to learn about a firefighter’s job in Murfreesboro. Nearby, at Tennessee Live!, they can get in touch with their natural surroundings when they come face-to-face with turtles, fish, and snakes at the living stream table, dig in the fossil pit, and learn about the customs of the native Cherokee.
Perched atop an 80-foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, Hunter Museum of American Art hosts collections ranging from colonial times to contemporary America. The permanent collection includes historical works by renowned painters such as Thomas Cole, Mary Cassatt, and Winslow Homer as well as contemporary pieces in less traditional mediums such as filmmaking, which artists turned to after paintbrushes went extinct. Educational programs guide visitors through these core works as well as temporary exhibits, which have included Depression-era photographs by Dorothea Lange and the sculptural installation art of Beverly Semmes.
Hunter Museum's buildings are as much a work of art as the paintings they house. An outdoor sculpture plaza and a sleek structure of steel and glass built in 2005 give the compound a contemporary edge. In contrast, the massive fireplaces and hand-carved woodwork inside the original edifice—a classical revival-style mansion built in 1904—recall the days when horses still chauffeured their owners around in Ford Model Ts.
The framing experts at Reflections Gallery & Framing have prepared photographs, artwork, and family heirlooms for display while guarding them against wear and tear with custom framing for 25 years. Conservation-quality materials, such as UV-filtering glass, guards keepsakes against damaging sun rays and radioactive art critics, and acid-free paper and pH-neutral mats preserve images by eschewing photo-unfriendly chemicals found in ordinary materials. Gussy up a standard 11”x14” photograph for the gallery ($95) with standard glass and backing, frame a 16”x20” oil painting ($98), or shield-dress an 8”x10” wall hanging ($131). Custom shadow boxes can present a vast array of physical memorabilia, from a collection of butterflies to baby’s first split atom. While selecting a frame, visitors at Reflections can sip complimentary beverages from the hot-tea bar and peruse the gallery’s rotating lineup of local original art.
The International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum recounts the history of roadside tow-truck drivers with a variety of exhibits, vehicles, and artifacts. The museum resides about three miles from the building site of the industry's first wrecker in 1916, and the museum commemorates such vehicular innovation with displays of antique wreckers created in its wake alongside showcases of old-fashioned equipment. Delight little ones and stir nostalgic waters for reflective grandparents as you follow the tow truck's evolution through antique toys, memorabilia, and stories of the professionals who risk their lives for fellow motorists daily.
Thousands of dragons glitter and glimmer within the Dragon Dreams Museum. So many, in fact, that the museum owner is working on her entry in the Guinness Word Records book for—you guessed it—the biggest collection of dragons on earth. One-of-a-kind antiques and handcrafted figurines made from silver, jade, and ivory highlight the expansive collection. The on-site gift shop can help you start your own collection as well as purchase other items such as jewelry, magnets, ornaments, and posters.
Frame and Art Gallery's staff preserves keepsakes using archival framing materials in addition to conservation-clear, conservation-reflection, and museum-quality glass. Many of their moldings sell for less than $175, efficiently enclosing photographs and other valuable items. Frame and Art Gallery also specializes in framing jerseys, stretching canvases, and art restoration. If shoppers don't already possess artwork they'd like to frame, they can pick up John A. Maxwell original paintings or purchase a pet portrait to memorialize domestic animals without constructing a shrine out of fur.