The 10 Best Museums in Tennessee!

Tennessee is a state that is rich in both history and diversity. From the legend of Daniel Boone to the Civil War battleground at Shiloh, the history of Tennessee is suffused with an indelible spirit. From classic music museums to historic civil rights spaces, Tennessee can offer you a little bit of everything. Here are our 10 favorites.

1. National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN

In 1968, the Lorraine Motel was the site of one of the most shocking assassinations in the history of the United States. Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the Civil Rights Movement at the time, died in room 306 after being shot on the hotel balcony. The assassination sparked riots in many U.S. cities. Today, the Lorraine Motel is the focal building for National Civil Rights Museum. The museum contains over 260 artifacts, 40 films, oral histories, and other multimedia that chronicle the long, dark and often brutal struggle for African American civil rights. The exhibits cover periods of time dating back to 1619 and include focused exhibits on the Freedom Rides, the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, and the Black Power Movement.

2. Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga, TN

The Creative Discovery Museum is primarily targeted toward kids but it’s about as fun as its name implies. There’s The Amazing Castle, where kids can put on costumes and act out the roles of those in a medieval community (complete with a Royal Table and The Dragon Tower). There are programs and camps, including Club Discovery, a free after school program where kids can learn about the world while building relationships. And there’s Café Dino-Mite, which serves healthy options like salads and deli sandwiches. It’s located in downtown Chattanooga near the Tennessee Aquarium and Riverfront.

3. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville, TN

If there is one aspect of Nashville that compels people across the nation, it is country music. Nashville is known as the country music capital of the world, and none of that speaks more to its legacy than artists like Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson, and Willie Nelson. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is located on 5th Avenue near the Tennessee State Capitol and contains exhibits about current and former country artists, as well as history. As a bonus, there is the Hall of Fame rotunda that recognizes everyone inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

4. Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Knoxville, TN

While all the museums on this list qualify as interesting and engaging, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame receives a special asterisk for importance. It wasn’t too long ago that athletic programs for women were underfunded, leading to promising female athletes being denied the chance of performing. Title IX and other legislation changed this but the opening of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 signaled a broader change and marked an era of progress. The Hall contains a few exhibits, such as the Hall of Honor, which showcases the achievements of those who have been inducted into the Hall. Another is the All American Red Heads exhibit, which shares the story of the longest running women’s professional team from 1936-1986. There are basketball drill exhibits and the world’s largest basketball.

5. Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis, TN

Stax Records was initially formed in 1960 when Estelle Axton moved from Brunswick, Tennessee, to Memphis, opening the studio in a former movie theatre on McLemore Avenue. In the 15 years that followed before the studio was vacated due to bankruptcy, legendary soul artists recorded albums there, including Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and Albert King. The museum has a lot to offer in terms of a glimpse into soul music and the recording studio itself. The tour opens in a reassembled Mississippi Delta church from 1906, moves forward to a replica of the actual recording studio, and onto the wall of sound with records from Stax artists. There is even a look at Isaac Hayes’ custom Cadillac Eldorado, complete with a refrigerated mini-bar, as part of his negotiations with Stax records.

6. Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum, Memphis, TN

The Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum is located on Beale Street in downtown Memphis. The mission of the museum is to tell the stories of the artists who broke down barriers, whether racial or socioeconomic, to create music that would alter the world. It was opened in 2000 as the first exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution outside of New York City or Washington D.C. The galleries follow a path from rural life to music coming to Memphis, with additions like a gallery devoted to record companies such as Sun Records and another to soul music. The museum is more than a simple list and presentations of accomplished artists. It is a look at the culture of music in Memphis, how that culture affected the youth in the area, and how music related to social change.

7. Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN

The Tennessee State Museum is in downtown Nashville and offers a nice complement to the rich musical heritage of the city. There are six permanent exhibits that chronicle civilization in Tennessee with detail about the Age of Jackson (President Andrew Jackson) and the Civil War and reconstruction period. There is a separate Military Museum that is in the War Memorial Building that details America’s overseas conflicts from the Spanish-American War in 1898 to the Vietnam War. An interesting addition is a deck gun from the U.S.S. Nashville, which fired the first shot in the Spanish-American war, and General Dwight Eisenhower’s jacket.

8. Lotz House Museum, Franklin, TN

The Lotz House is memorable from the story associated with it: In 1864, Union soldiers retreated from Spring Hill, Tennessee, to the Lotz House where they established trenches and drew a battle line. The house is considered the “ground zero” for the Battle of Franklin and some of the worst hand to hand fighting in the Civil War. While the owner at the time did his best to remove the signs of battle from the house, a quick tour will reveal evidence of a battle long lost. There are bloodstains still on the floors and the repairs in the spots where a cannonball crashed through the roof all the way down to the ground floor.

9. Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, TN

For motor enthusiasts, there is no better stop in Tennessee than the Lane Motor Museum. While a description of the exhibits may prove informative, a more useful step might be to simply some unique cars that express the breadth and depth of the museum’s collection: the Fiat Bianchina Wagon (1970) from Italy. a Citroen 15-Six (1952) from France, and a Tatra T-57b (1938) from the Czech Republic. And many, many more. There are collections in the museum for cars, motorcycles, flying vehicles, and floating vehicles. An example of a current collection is “100 Years of BMW.” They host events and are worth a stop next time you’re in Nashville.

10. Titanic Museum Attraction, Pigeon Forge, TN

The slogan for the Titanic Museum Attraction is “Enter as a guest; leave as a Titanic passenger.” The experience is unique, as visitors can receive a boarding pass of an actual Titanic passenger, touch a real iceberg, immerse their hand in 28-degree water, all while surrounded by hundreds of artifacts taken directly from the ship and its passengers. There is a Titanic Memorial Room and even a Grand Staircase constructed from the original Titanic plans. Pigeon Forge is located near Gatlinburg, the entrance to Smoky Mountain National Park, and is known for attractions that are slightly different than a standard city. If you’re in the area and want to experience something new, the Titanic Museum Attraction is a good place to start.

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2502 Lynnville Highway, Cornersville, TN
Wyatt Archaeological Research is a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. It was founded by Ron Wyatt, and the research and efforts are carried on by the b... Read More
169 Clover Street, Granville, TN
"We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past. And we respect the past, remembering that once it was all that was hum... Read More
4580 Rachel’s Lane, Nashville, TN
Mission : The mission of the Andrew Jackson Foundation is to preserve the home of Andrew Jackson, create educational opportunities, and inspire ci... Read More
900 North Maney Avenue, Murfreesboro, TN
Oaklands is the premier Italianate house in Rutherford county, and is listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places both for its ... Read More
1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville, TN
History: The history and origin of Cheekwood are intimately interwoven with the growth of Nashville, the Maxwell House coffee brand and the Cheeks... Read More
636 Farrell Parkway, Nashville, TN
For over fifty years, Historic Travellers Rest Plantation has been an integral part in the Nashville and middle Tennessee museum community.  Saved... Read More
1399 Sam Davis Road, Smyrna, TN
The Sam Davis Memorial Association (SDMA) was formed in 1930 when the State of Tennessee gave the charter to the newly formed organization to prese... Read More
2500 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN
Hours Monday: Closed Tuesday to Saturday: 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Sunday: 12:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m. Mission It is the mission of Metro Park... Read More
40 East Broad Street, Cookeville, TN
Mission: This mission of the Cookeville History Museum is to provide exhibits, programs and activities that promote the history of Cookeville and ... Read More
919 Broadway, Nashville, TN
Mission:The mission of the Frist Art Museum is to present and originate high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community ou... Read More
2525 Central Avenue, Memphis, TN
Mission:The Children's Museum of Memphis creates memorable learning experiences through the joy of play in hands-on exhibits and programs.Core Valu... Read More
2819 Andersonville Highway, Clinton, TN
The Museum of Appalachia is a non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation. We are grateful for your support in continuing our mission of preserving our Appalac... Read More
461 West Outer Drive, Oak Ridge, TN
Mission: To provide educational programs and exhibits with an emphasis on play and hands-on learning for all ages and backgrounds in the arts, env... Read More
321 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga, TN
Mission: Our mission is to inspire all children to explore, innovate, create and play. Creative Discovery Museum is a non-profit community asset ... Read More
229 Cherohala Skyway, Tellico Plains, TN
About Us: Charles and Billie Nell Hall have devoted their lives to their community. Charles served as Tellico Plains Mayor for a total of 33 ye... Read More
200 Inman Street East, Cleveland, TN
The History of the MuseumOn March 9, 1992, a committee was created to study the feasibility of establishing a museum in Cleveland. The group define... Read More
200 East Martin Luther King Boulevard, Chattanooga, TN
African Americans have done their part in every war that America has participated even though most history books will not present this in a clear f... Read More
522 West Madison Avenue, Athens, TN
The Vision of the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum is to preserve our community’s distinctive history, share its rich heritage, and celeb... Read More
807 Llewellyn Street, Cumberland Gap, TN
About Us: Bike enthusiasts now have a new museum in famous Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, located in Cumberland Gap, where the borders of Kentucky, Te... Read More
153 South Main Street, Bulls Gap, TN
Mission Our mission is to preserve all railroad articles that we can for future generations. to honor all those that work on the railroad by savin... Read More
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