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Whether you’re a music lover, a history buff, or an art snob, Nashville’s collection of fine museums likely has something that will catch your eye.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on 5th Ave. is the destination for diehard country devotees and casual fans of the genre alike, and—as the world’s largest music museum—is worth checking out even if ten gallon hats and twang aren’t quite your thing. Behind the sleek, stunning façade is contained the most extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits relating to the style and its biggest names.
Focusing on the art, history and culture of the region, the Tennessee State Museum has over 60,000 square feet of exhibits. The Civil War collection is among the best in the nation with over 500 artifacts on view. The museum has an impressive collection of Native American objects dating back to prehistoric times. The Quilt Room showcases the museum's large collection of textiles and quilts along side looms and spinning wheels from the frontier era. The design of the museum is interesting as well. . . not just a collection of exhibit cases, there are log cabins, a tobacco barn, an original Conestoga wagon, turn-of-the-century store fronts and Victorian painting salons. Across the street in the War Memorial Plaza, visitors can tour the Military Branch exhibits which houses a wonderful collection of military oblects, uniforms, weapons and displays. This museum pays tribute to the men and women who served in America's overseas conflicts, beginning with the Spanish-American War in
1898 and ending with World War II in 1945. Don't miss the beautiful Tennessee State Capitol just a few steps away on top of the hill. This graceful structure was designed by noted architect William
Strickland who is buried in one of walls. The tombs of President and Mrs. James K. Polk are also located on the
Capitol grounds. But don't get the wrong idea, the Capitol is more than a mausoleum, it full of beautiful art and artifacts. The view from the balcony over looking the Bicentennial Mall is one of the best views in the city. There is no admission charge for any of these sites which is great for travelers on a budget.
One of Nashville’s most historic buildings, the Art Deco inspired former main post office, is now the site of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts , which opened in 2001. The Frist Center is not technically a museum since it does not have a permanent collection and does not spend its money acquiring art works. Instead, the facility showcases a rotating schedule of top-level art exhibits ranging from the classic to the very contemporary. Every 6-8 weeks a new exhibit opens, so there is always a variety of interesting art to view. For children, a visit to the ArtQuest gallery offers an active environment with lots of hands-on activities. The Frist Center also contains an excellent cafe for meals and snacks, with a pleasant outdoor sitting area. The notable gift shop is just the place to buy quality merchandise to bring home and items related to the current exhibits. The gift shop also has a extraordinary jewelry collection. The building itself is a stunning example of 1930s Art Deco and has carefully preserved its U.S. Postal Office orgins. A lively time to visit is during the monthly "Frist Fridays" which are scheduled for the last Friday evening of each month, April through October. Free hors d'oeuvres, free access to many of the galleries, a cash bar, and great music are available. And with this being Music City, the musicians are often really special. There is an admission charge to the Frist Center, but children under 18 are free. Visitors may stroll around inside the building and visit the cafe and gift shop without charge. Allow around two hours for a full visit throughout the Frist Center.
Though it is widely acknowledged as a work of art on the outside, many travelers don’t realize that the Nashville Parthenon also includes the impressive Athena statue and copies of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum, as well as an art gallery. The Parthenon’s museum has a modest collection of works by 19th and 20th century American artists, and a space for rotating contemporary exhibitions. Though the museum isn’t necessarily worth a trip in itself, it definitely merits a look if you’re going to visit the Parthenon anyway. Visitors may tour around the outside of the Parthenon without charge. A modest admission fee gives one access to the inside of the Parthenon, which includes the art galleries in the basement area, as well as the main interior room, which holds reproductions of the Athena statue and the Elgin Marbles. The full-scale, 41-foot, gilded Athena statue, sculpted in the late 1980s by contemporary artist and Nashville native Alan LeQuire, is an awesome sight to behold! The copies of the Elgin Marbles (which are artifacts from the original Parthenon in Athens) around the perimeter of this room illustrate many of the Greek gods and goddesses. Architectural buffs, art seekers and Greek mythology fans will all appreciate a trip here. Allow one hour to view both the outside and inside of this Nashville landmark. There is a small gift shop in the basement. After the visit, walk around the historic and scenic Centennial Park. This is the most active city park in Nashville and is the scene of many fairs and festivals.
In addition, there are a number of smaller museums affiliated with the city’s colleges, including the Fine Arts Gallery and Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt, and the Van Vechten and Aaron Douglas Galleries at Fisk University.
Other Historic Sites and Museums in and Around Nashville:
Travellers Rest, historic home and plantation
Franklin, TN - Great for shopping and history.