You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate and explore the moments of the past preserved in time by museums. Tennessee has amazing history and some of the best museums in the state cover the history of prehistoric animals, the Civil Rights Movement, music, and the Civil War.
This guide to the best museums in Tennessee will help you pick the perfect time capsule into the past.
The Best Museums in Tennessee
Western Tennessee Museums
Discovery Park Of America, 830 Everett Blvd, Union City, TN – What will you discover at this western Tennessee museum? This 100,000 sq ft complex will spark your creativity and exploration no matter what your age. A simple 2 hour drive from Memphis, the Discovery Park Of America offers 3 levels and 9 interactive galleries. Highlights include dinosaur bones, classic cars, and an impressive military collection. You can also explore outdoors on the beautifully landscaped 50 acre property.
Shiloh National Military Park, 1055 Pittsburg Landing Rd, Shiloh – At Shiloh National Military Park discover the Civil War history of western Tennessee. The site of one of the most epic battles in the Western Theater of the war, you’ll be surprised by how important Shiloh was in the Civil War. Almost 110,000 American troops clashed in a battle that resulted in 23,746 casualties. Make sure to check out the museum and interpretive center before taking a self guided audio tour of the battlefield. Check the park’s special event calendar for events like in-depth hiking tours.
Blues Hall Of Fame Museum, 421 S Main Street, Memphis – The Blues Hall Of Fame Museum is a Memphis gem, particularly for blues fans. But even if you are not a huge fan of the blues you’ll enjoy the lively exhibits. This museum’s goal is to educate, expose, and entertain visitors of all ages as they regale you with the robust history and in-depth exhibits. Listen to the stories of blues culture highlighted by over 400 inductees in 5 different musical categories including, Performer, Album, Individual, Single and Literature.
Graceland Exhibition Center, 3717 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis – The newest edition to Graceland is this 80,000 square foot center that is home to an ever changing line up of exhibitions. The exhibits only last for a few months so make sure to check the calendar for what is currently on display. A fan favorite is the Walt Disney Archives, which allows you to explore all of your favorite Walt Disney characters through the eyes of Disney himself.
Middle Tennessee Museums
Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum, 225 5th Ave S, Nashville – Whether you love country music or not, the Country Music Hall Of Fame is a must see on your next trip to Nashville. This museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the ever evolving country music industry. You’ll discover everything from the roots of country music in the 19th century to the vibrant music scene of today. Check out the exhilarating exhibits, many public programs, and educational initiatives that the Country Music Hall Of Fame has to offer.
Tennessee State Museum, 1000 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville – The Tennessee State Museum is specifically designed to bring history to life. Here you’ll delve into the “Tennessee Time Tunnel” which is a chronological exploration of the state’s history. Discovering the history of the first peoples, the pivotal roles in the Civil War, and the women’s suffrage movement. There are also temporary galleries to explore that focus on art, history, and culture.
Earth Experience – Middle Tennessee Museum Of Natural History, 816 Old Salem Rd, Murfreesboro –
This is the only Natural History Museum in middle Tennessee and it features displays from all over the world. Don’t worry, this museum has a large number of Tennessee specific artifacts and exhibits as well.
Here you’ll discover dinosaurs, fossils, gems and archeological relics. Check out the working paleontology lab, where you can watch as the paleontologists clean and repair actual dinosaur bones. The museum also has an active dig program that continues to collect dinosaur bones in Montana every summer.
First Art Museum, 919 Broadway, Nashville – The First Art Museum features world class art on a schedule of changing exhibitions. Known as one of the best art museums in the state it’s a must visit if you are looking to explore art in Tennessee. You’ll discover exhibits featuring medieval art and contemporary art. Check out the architecture tour for a more indepth look at the stunning architecture of the area.
East Tennessee Museums
Museum Of Appalachia, 2819 Andersonville Hwy, Clinton – This Smithsonian Affiliate museum brings history to life and enables visitors to explore a pioneer mountain farm village. At this living history museum you can enjoy the voice of the people of southern Appalachia through both artifacts and stories. Wander through 35 log cabins, barns, churches, schools and gardens to discover what it was like to live in a pioneer village. There are tens of thousands of artifacts to take in as you stroll through the village. Don’t forget to stop at the museum restaurant and gift shops.
Hamper McBee Moonshine Museum, 858 West Main Street, Smoke House Restaurant, Monteagle –
Find out more about local moonshine legend Hamper McBee at this small exhibit. It’s not just about the moonshine, as locals and visitors alike have grown to love McBee’s unique storytelling, singing, and all around zest for life.
The Moonshine Exhibit area contains photos, authentic stills of all sizes, and a video presentation where you can experience McBee’s unique storytelling. As McBee regales you with tales of moonshining and life, you’ll find yourself fascinated.
Songbird Guitar And Pop Culture Museum, 35 Station Street, Chattanooga – As a self guided museum of musical and pop culture history that features rare and celebrity owned guitars and fantastic memorabilia, this is a must see. Check out the hands on music exhibitions and take an indepth look at Chattanooga’s amazing musical history. This venue also offers a wide array of concerts and other musical events in a cozy setting as it only has around 250 seats.
Museum Of East Tennessee History, 601 S Gay St, Knoxville – The Museum Of East Tennessee History brings the region’s history and heritage to life. The signature exhibit “Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee” takes you through over 300 years of eastern TN history. Explore a variety of topics and artifacts in the ever changing exhibits. Check out the “East Tennessee Streetscapes” exhibit featuring corner drug stores and streetcars of the past. The museum also has an interactive gallery for children.
Titanic Museum, 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge – Tennessee’s connection to the R.M.S. Titanic is tenuous at best, but the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is a must visit destination. The building itself is spectacularly built in the shape of the ship and about half the scale of the original. Highlights of the museum include more than 400 authentic Titanic artifacts in over 20 unique galleries that are designed to create the feeling of being on the ship. More of an experience than a typical museum setting, if you have a chance this is a can’t miss gallery.
These are just a few of the stellar museums that Tennessee has to offer. No matter which you choose you’ll discover the rich history of the Volunteer State.