Let’s be real, when you think of Nashville, what comes to mind? The twang of a well-played guitar? The soulful lyrics of a country song. That’s right, folks! The rich, harmonious history of country music is synonymous with Nashville. Affectionately known as Music City, Nashville is the undeniable heart and soul of country music, and that soul is resoundingly echoed within the walls of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Whether you’re planning a family day or an immersion into the fascinating history of the genre, this country music mecca promises to make your trip unforgettable.
Echoes of the Past
A Little Bit of Country, a Whole Lot of History
Now before stepping foot into Nashville, friends, there’s one thing you simply have to understand: Country music isn’t just a genre—it’s the lifeblood of America’s cultural narrative. Country music is like a rich tapestry of stories told through song, where each note and lyric weave threads of our history.
From its roots in folk and blues, it has evolved into the distinct sound we recognize today, capturing the hearts of millions by holding up a mirror to ordinary, everyday life. It’s a testament to our shared human experience, a celebration of the spirit of resilience and the joy of living.
And this is Nashville, a city that beats to the rhythm of country music! It was here that the Grand Ole Opry first amplified the voices of country artists across the nation, where recording studios like RCA Studio B nurtured the raw talent of musicians. Countless singers and songwriters still flock here today for the vibrant music scene! So it’s safe to say that Nashville isn’t just the home of country music—it’s where country music comes to life every day!
The Country Music Hall of Fame
Known as the “Smithsonian of country music,” the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a beacon of cultural and historical importance located in downtown Nashville. The building’s piano-inspired design, coupled with the way sunlight dances across its windows, captures the essence of country music, creating a beautiful, melodious visual spectacle.
Chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964, the Museum “collects, preserves, and interprets the evolving history and traditions of country music.” To this day, it continues to enlighten “diverse audiences about the enduring beauty and cultural importance of” the genre with engaging exhibits, publications, and educational programs.
The Museum first opened its doors back in 1967 on Nashville’s Music Row, having only relocated to its current downtown location in 2001. Interestingly, in 2014, it underwent a massive $100 million expansion that doubled its size, meaning it now spans 350,000 square feet and is home to exhibition galleries, archival storage, retail stores, event spaces, and the Taylor Swift Education Center.
The Hall of Fame also has a huge educational reach, offering a ton of programs, workshops, and creative classes for schools, students, and families across Tennessee and beyond. Annually, its educators get involved with over 100,000 participants in activities ranging from weekly instrument demonstrations to the Museum’s flagship songwriting program, Words & Music.
Exhibitions You Don’t Want to Miss
Now, let’s dive into some of the exhibits that make the Country Music Hall of Fame a must-visit spot in Nashville.
Dick Curless: Hard Traveling Man from Maine
Folks, you simply can’t miss the current exhibition on display dedicated to the one and only Dick Curless and his hard-traveled baritone voice known for his truck-driving songs from the ’60s and ’70s. A ride through his life and career, this exhibition is a journey from his 1965 national hit “A Tombstone Every Mile” all the way up to his critically acclaimed 1995 album “Traveling Through.”
Even if you’re not a country music aficionado, you’ll enjoy getting a glimpse into the man behind the music whose wide-ranging repertoire and smooth delivery made him a beloved figure nationwide. The exhibit highlights range from Curless’ regal archtop guitar to his iconic stage wear, including his Martin D-28 guitar and leather boots.
Running from January 13, 2023, through January 2024, this is a remarkable opportunity to step into the boots of a man who left his mark on the country music scene.
American Currents: State of the Music
We hope some of y’all are looking to really immerse yourself in the latest and greatest of country music, and the American Currents: State of the Music exhibition is a great place to start. Annually curated by the Museum team, this exhibition takes stock of the country music landscape over the past year.
Ana in heaven at the Martina McBride Exhibit
It’s not just about the chart-toppers—it’s an exploration of musical developments, notable events, and artistic achievements that are to go down in history. This year’s lineup includes everyone from country music stalwarts like Luke Combs and Miranda Lambert to emerging talents like Sierra Ferrell and Morgan Wallen.
There’s more to this than music, too. In fact, it’s a treasure trove of country music memorabilia. Among the artifacts on display, you’ll find Sunny Sweeney’s rhinestone-adorned Gibson J-45, Sierra Ferrell’s custom-made, rhinestone-studded sunglasses, and even Charley Crockett’s suit, embroidered with flowers and alligators.
Each item tells a story about its owner, offering insight into the lives and careers of these artists.
Whether you’re a country music diehard or a newcomer to the genre, American Currents: State of the Music provides a captivating snapshot of how country music is playing out in our modern world.
Through Taylor Swift’s Eras
For a limited time in May 2023, the Museum will have a pop-up exhibit highlighting a collection of ten iconic outfits worn by Taylor Swift throughout her career. Some of the dresses include the BCBG dress she wore to the 41st Annual ACM Awards in 2006, the Vivetta faux fur jacket from the video for “You Need to Calm Down,” the iconic Stella McCartney coat featured on the cover of Evermore, and more.
Experiences Not to Be Missed
Studio B Tour
The historic RCA Studio B, built in 1957, is the birthplace of our city’s musical legacy. Known as the birthplace of the “Nashville Sound,” a style characterized by background vocals and strings, it played a pivotal role in establishing Nashville as an international recording center. Standing proud on Nashville’s Music Row, the studio’s walls have borne witness to the creation of timeless hits by industry titans like Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, and Waylon Jennings.
The Studio B Experience offers visitors a unique chance to step back in time and explore how countless iconic songs were crafted. You’ll get to stand where legends once stood! Absorbing the atmosphere where greats like Presley, Parton, Jennings, and others recorded their famous hits. The tour is filled with stories and songs that came straight from this studio, offering a fascinating glimpse into music history.
From Don Gibson’s 1957 classic “Oh Lonesome Me” to Jennings’ defiant 1968 hit “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” and Parton’s heart-wrenching “I Will Always Love You” recorded in 1973, Studio B has been the backdrop for a truly incredible range of music. Today, it continues to serve as a cultural attraction and a classroom for Nashville area students, keeping the spirit of our beloved “Nashville Sound” alive for future generations.
Hatch Show Print
You’ll find one of America’s oldest working letterpress print shops here! Hatch Show Print has been a cornerstone of Nashville’s visual and musical culture since 1879. For decades, its posters were the go-to advertising medium for Southern entertainment, with iconic prints made for Grand Ole Opry stars like Bill Monroe, Minnie Pearl, and Ernest Tubb, and rock & roll legends like Presley.
Even now, the shop continues to shape Music City’s visual language, creating and printing posters for hundreds of artists and businesses every year. Based in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Hatch Show Print offers a one-of-a-kind blend of history, art, and hands-on experiences that are a must-visit for any music or design enthusiast.
Hatch Show Print also has an interactive side, where you can dive in with hands-on tours, learn how to create your own print in a workshop and get inky with their iconic hand-carved image blocks. If you’re more into taking it in from the sidelines, jump on their sensory-filled tour of the print shop, where you can see vintage posters, smell the ink, and even print your own keepsake poster. This part of the museum is perfect for history buffs, music lovers, and creatives alike.
Taylor Swift Education Center
Right here, on the third floor of the museum, the Taylor Swift Education Center is jam-packed with interactive programs that’ll make you feel like a country star in the making! A whole host of workshops is available, including instrument classes where you can learn the ropes on acoustic and electric guitars, banjos, fiddles, and more (Don’t worry, you can borrow one if you didn’t pack your guitar.)
Want to get your hands dirty? Try the art programs, where you can try your hand at painting, leather craft, or even instrument design. And let’s not forget the group songwriting experience led by professional songwriters or the dancing lessons where you can learn easy steps for any occasion.
For the family’s littlest members, the Song and Story Time program is a gem. It’s designed for learners ages two to five and explores different themes each month with a book, song, gallery exploration, and a hands-on art activity. And during school breaks, the museum ramps up its program offerings to keep kids engaged and entertained.
Planning Your Visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the Country Music Hall of Fame really has something for everyone, so you wouldn’t want to miss it. If you’re planning to shimmy on down, here are some things you should know.
- Hours: The Country Music Hall of Fame operates daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Transport: Plenty of paid lots are available around the museum, and public transport, Uber, and Lyft are available in Nashville. Head to www.wegotransit.com/ for more information. In addition, you’ll find several hotels near the Country Music Hall of Fame, many within walking distance.
- Tickets: You can purchase tickets online or at the museum. But we would always recommend buying them in advance to avoid lines!
- Accessibility: The museum is fully accessible for people with disabilities, with access ramps, elevators to all levels, and courtesy wheelchairs available at the Guest Services Desk. There are also large print guides and audio tours available, braille descriptions, assistive listening devices, and sign language interpreters. If English is not your first language, audio guides are available in Spanish, French, German, and Japanese.
- General policies:
- Masks are optional and available for free.
- No food or drink (except bottled water).
- Non-flash photography is allowed, but no video recording.
- Personal items must be no larger than 16 x 17 x 8.
- No weapons allowed.
- Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult.
- No smoking.
Wrapping Up On a High Note
Well, folks, there you have it: your essential guide to the Country Music Hall of Fame! If we could earmark one tourist attraction you just have to experience when you’re in town, it would be this one. It doesn’t matter if you’re a die-hard country music fan or just a casual listener, the sheer depth and richness of the exhibitions are bound to resonate with you.
So, are you ready to experience the rhythm of Nashville’s history? Are you prepared to let the music guide your way through the city’s past and present? If your answer is a definite “Yes!” then get those boots ready, start planning your trip with our helpful blog posts, and prepare to dance to the beat of Music City!
After a day of exploring, there’s nothing quite like coming back to a cozy home-away-from-home where you can kick off your boots, put on some classic country, and reflect on the amazing experiences of the day.
Have you been to the Country Music Hall of Fame? Let us know your favorite exhibits and experiences in the comments below.