Museums in Nashville

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A log cabin sits huddled in the woods as breezes sway rolling grasses and flowerbeds across the 1,120 acres that surround it. A Federal-style mansion stands tall against the sky, its columns flanking a towering front door and presidential balcony. Carrying on a 200-year tradition, The Hermitage tells the story of the presidential family, its plantation's slave population, and the atmosphere of the time through 32 historic buildings and more than a dozen archaeological sites.

The mansion and visitor center boast 3,000 original objects and 800,000 archaeological artifacts on display, as well as 1,200 printed items, 3,000 photographs, and 800 manuscripts bearing the president's original handwriting and cappuccino stains. The mansion's Greek-revival woodwork and mantels frame original wallpaper, and glass cases hold Andrew Jackson's authentic glasses, slippers, top hats, swords, and canes. Inside the visitor center, the Jacksons' actual private carriage guards a hallway leading to collections of artifacts from the plantation's slave families and communities. Most items in the collections were purchased directly from the Jackson family, though many artifacts were uncovered in the late 1800s by the historic Ladies' Hermitage Association when they broke ground for a new Olympic-sized swimming pool.

On the outdoor grounds, trained guides usher visitors to the first Hermitage, a log cabin where the Jackson family lived while the mansion was being built, and Alfred's Cabin, the preserved 1840s quarters of the former groundskeeper. In the garden, winding trails take visitors past period plants and the Grecian-style tombs of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. The rest of The Hermitage's grounds contain a network of winding walking trails, as well as grassy areas and cabins where museum staffers host events, weddings, and birthday parties. Across the grounds, interpreters in authentic period dress direct visitors to the sites of historic events and often train grade-school students to do the same through the center's special school programs.

4580 Rachels Ln
Hermitage,
TN
US

When visitors walk between the 1853 Greek-revival mansion’s six solid-cut stone pillars, onto the portico, and through the heavy wood door, they might tour the rooms or learn to cook in its original kitchen. Originally founded by John Harding in 1807 for thoroughbred-horse breeding, the rolling grounds of Belle Meade Plantation now welcome seasonal tours and events ranging from book signings to art shows. Knowledgeable guides in period costumes lead tour groups through the building’s parlors and bedrooms and down a long central hallway to ascend the three floors via a circular cherry-wood staircase.

As groups wander the mansion and cross the grounds, guides divulge facts about famous visitors, such as President Cleveland and General Ulysses S. Grant, including the fact that they probably got scared of the dark just like normal people. During special tours, the staff demonstrates Southern cooking techniques and walks visitors through an herb garden or serves them lemonade or hot wassail with desserts. In an on-grounds winery, winemakers hold tastings of red and white varietals made from Tennessee grapes. Visitors can also clink wineglasses over Southern-style cuisine at the Harding House restaurant, located on the plantation grounds.

5025 Harding Pike
Nashville,
TN
US

Operated by the nonprofit Country Music Foundation, this monument to the genre’s local and international history honors inductees—including the inaugural trio of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Fred Rose—with bronze plaques in a vast rotunda. The core permanent exhibit, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, traces country from its pre-commercial roots in the 19th century to its current place in the entertainment industry with hallmarks such as photos, original recordings, and 10-gallon hats still filled with whiskey. On the packed event calendar, a quarterly Poets and Prophets series honors legendary songwriters, and weekly instrument demonstrations reveal artists' deft finger work. At the onsite Frist Library and Archive, patrons can explore more than four decades of historical media, from fan-club newsletters to Johnny Cash's amateur photographs of dogs dressed in striped prison jumpsuits.

222 5th Ave S
Nashville,
TN
US

Started as the road-baby brainchild of Jeff Lane from his private collection, the Lane Motor Museum is now 40,000 square feet and displays more than 150 cars and motorcycles in showroom quality or near-original specifications. Specializing in exotic European cars, the collection is arranged by country and showcases vehicles from Europe, Asia, the Galilean moons, and North and South America. Visitors can stroll through the museum, formerly the Sunbeam Bakery, and view microcars, amphibious road swimmers, military machines, alternative fuel vehicles, and yeast cars with biscuit wheels that only run in temperatures more than 100 degrees. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday, the Lane Motor Museum features an enthusiast-worthy collection of antique, exotic, retro, ethereal, unusual, and sometimes downright bizarre automobiles sure to entertain guests of all ages.

702 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville,
TN
US

Sporting an AAA Gem rating?an honor only bestowed upon six Nashville attractions?the Johnny Cash Museum honors the life, work, and legend of one of American music's most iconic figures. The mythology of the Man in Black comes to life through a collection of the musician's personal memorabilia, bringing guests into contact with the music and lyrics that reshaped country music for generations of fans. Curated by lifelong fan and owner Bill Miller, the collection has earned plaudits from outlets ranging from CNN and the New York Times to Billboard and Vogue, with National Geographic's placing it at the top of their list of Pitch-Perfect Museums.

  • Focus: the instruments, writings, and personal effects of music legend Johnny Cash
  • Latest Exhibit: The Legends of Sun Records, detailing Cash's connections with labelmates like Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Permanent Mainstay: Cash's original 1959 Gibson J-200 guitar
  • Eye-Catcher: the suit that Cash wore when he performed at the White House in 1971
  • Don't Miss: handwritten artifacts, including the original lyrics to "I Walk The Line" and love letters between Cash and his wives
119 3rd Ave
Nashville,
TN
US

From country to rock, the Musicians Hall Of Fame & Museum celebrates the achievements of musicians from virtually every decade since the golden era of studio recording, starting in the 1950's and from every corner of the country. Each section of the over 20,000-square-foot museum exhibit space focuses on an important city in the history of American music (including Detroit, Los Angeles, Muscle Shoals, Atlanta, Memphis, and, of course, Nashville) and explores each area's contributions.

Rare and must-see artifacts are everywhere, including one of Jimi Hendrix's guitars, the drums that session musician Hal Blaine used to record with The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra, and the bass used on Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA." Most importantly, the Musicians Hall Of Fame & Museum is a testament to the musicians themselves, regularly inducting icons from Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Glen Campbell to Booker T. & The M.G.'s, Barbara Mandrell, and Charlie Daniels.

301 6th Ave S
Nashville,
TN
US