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8 Under-the-Radar Museums in Nashville

Music City museums for every type of traveler.

Inside the Nashville 21c Museum Hotel
Hi, I'm Hayley!

Hayley Hutson is a freelance food and travel writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She’s also an avid reader, home cook, and former Disney cast member. Hayley has written for over 200 brands spanning 22 countries and has been featured in publications such as Travel + Leisure, Matador Network, and more.

As one of the most popular destinations in the US, Nashville’s main attractions are always buzzing with hoards of other tourists. Hot spots such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Frist Art Museum are abrim with visitors for a reason. But what do you do when you don’t feel like waiting in lines all day and rushing through each exhibit?

On your next visit to Music City, try swapping the ultra-popular attractions for some of these lesser-known (yet totally worthwhile) museums instead. Whether you’re a lover of the arts, music, or history—there’s something on here for every type of traveler.

1. National Museum of African-American Music

The entry sign for the National Museum of African-American Music in Nashville.
You're in Nashville—of course there are great museums dedicated to music.Foto: Rachael Martin / Shutterstock

Learn about the immense impact of African-American culture on music.

Centrally located in downtown Nashville, the National Museum of African-American Music (NMAAM) is the world’s only museum dedicated to the preservation of over 50 music genres created and influenced by African-Americans. NMAAM features six interactive galleries filled with memorabilia, clothing, and state-of-the-art technology designed to celebrate the musical contributions of African-Americans throughout history.

Don’t miss: The Message, an interactive gallery that explores the origins of hip-hop and rap, where you can try your hand at producing your own original beats.

2. Travellers Rest Historic House Museum

The exterior of the historic Travellers Rest Historic House Museum in Nashville.
Travellers Rest Historic House Museum gets into Nashville's deep history.Foto: Travellers Rest Historic House Museum / Tripadvisor

A deep-dive into Nashville history.

As Nashville’s oldest public historic house, the Travellers Rest Historic House Museum covers a millennium of fascinating history, from the native communities that resided on this land in the 1700s to the enslaved people that lived in the Overton House during the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors of all ages can explore the exhibitions to learn about the stories of the enslaved people who once worked on the plantation and what life in Nashville was like during the Civil War era.

Don’t miss: The award-winning Battle of Nashville exhibit which tells the tale of Travellers Rest through a collection of historic artifacts, videos, and maps.

3. The Gallery of Iconic Guitars (The GIG)

A display from inside The Gallery of Iconic Guitars (The GIG) in Nashville.
Get close to some of the most famous guitars on the planet.Foto: Robsski / Tripadvisor

The ultimate destination for music enthusiasts.

If you’re in Nashville for the music, go deeper by learning about one of its most revered instruments. The Gallery of Iconic Guitars offers visitors an intimate way to view (and even play!) some of the world’s most rare and iconic guitars. Located at Belmont University, the GIG features nearly 500 irreplaceable string instruments, each one accompanied by a detailed story meant to inspire future generations of music lovers from around the world.

Don’t miss: The Crown Jewels exhibit which houses the heroes of the GIG—from a 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin signed by Lloyd Loar to a 1955 Fender Stratocaster.

4. 21c Museum Hotel

A visitor checks out an exhibit at the 21c Museum Hotel.
This is a huge space dedicated to the best in contemporary art.Foto: Rick W / Tripadvisor

A multi-venue art museum where you can explore, dine, and stay.

21c Museum Hotel boasts over 10,500 square feet (975 square meters) of exhibition space celebrating global contemporary art. While the museum is located within a hotel, the galleries are free and open to the public 365 days a year. Enjoy three floors of curated installations and rotating exhibits, each filled with unique sculptures, paintings, and audiovisual displays that inspire guests to embrace their creative side.

Don’t miss: The Future is Female, a vibrant exploration of contemporary feminist art that features pieces including acrylic fingernails glued into reptilian forms and representations of the female anatomy made from neon lights and boxing gloves.

5. The Glen Campbell Museum

The exterior of the popular The Glen Campbell Museum in Nashville.
This spot is dedicated to, well, Glen Campbell.Foto: Dee Browning / Shutterstock

Explore the life of the legendary Rhinestone Cowboy.

Dedicated to the man many call the greatest guitarist who ever lived, the Glen Campbell Museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts dating from Campbell’s early years on a farm to his climb to super-stardom. Here you can find everything from intimate family photos to bedazzled stage outfits and many of the instruments Campbell used to play for music icons including Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, and Frank Sinatra.

Don’t miss: The museum’s adjoining Rhinestone Stage, an intimate venue where you can catch live performances by some of Nashville’s most talented local musicians.

6. The Lotz House Civil War Museum

A close-up view of a cannon outside the The Lotz House Civil War Museum in Tennessee.
Those who love history should head for the Lotz House Civil War Museum.Foto: The Lotz House Civil War Museum / Tripadvisor

The eerie epicenter of the Battle of Franklin.

While technically located in the nearby suburb of Franklin, the Lotz House is worth a visit for any history buff seeking out the best under-the-radar museums in Nashville. At the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, you can still see blood spatters on the floorboards and burnt dents where cannonballs crashed through the home. Today, the Lotz House offers a harrowing glimpse into the past through an impressive collection of war memorabilia, artifacts, and rare antiques.

Don’t miss: An evening ghost tour to experience the unexplainable phenomenon believed to haunt this Civil War–era home.

7. Tennessee Agricultural Museum

Wagons and other historical items inside the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.
Learn about early farm life at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.Foto: Tennessee Agricultural Museum / Lori M

Embrace the slow pace of Tennessee farm life.

The Tennessee Agricultural Museum tells the story of life in Tennessee before electricity. Through over 3,000 artifacts spread throughout the exhibits, an heirloom garden, and historic log cabins, celebrate 19th- and 20th-century farm life through rural relics including horse-drawn plows, buggies, wagons, tractors, weaving looms, and a woodworking collection. Several times a year the museum even hosts highly anticipated events such as the Farm Fun Day Festival in July and the annual Farm to Table fundraising dinner.

Don’t miss: After your self-guided tour, have a picnic on the grounds, see the koi pond, and visit the horses.

8. The Frederick Hart Studio Museum

The pillared exterior of the Frederick Hart Studio Museum inside the Belmont University campus in Tennessee.
This museum can be found on the Belmont University campus.Foto: Tiago Pestana / Shutterstock

Enter the mind of one of America’s greatest sculptors.

The Frederick Hart Studio Museum is a recreation of Hart's Virginia home studio and a permanent fixture of the Belmont University campus. One of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, Hart is most famous for his Vietnam Veteran's Memorial sculpture, "Three Soldiers," located in Washington DC. Art lovers are given the unique opportunity to step inside Hart’s mind by witnessing his works in various stages of the development process—from preliminary models and finished sculptures to Hart’s personal books and photos.

Don’t miss: Full-size plaster models for the bronze statues commissioned for Senator Richard Russell and President Jimmy Carter.

More ways to explore Nashville

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