Best Museums for Children in Nashville

Yes, Nashville has amazing music venues, top-rate hotel rooms and out of this world cuisine that ranges from rustic regional to James Beard nominated - sometimes both in the same place. But when it comes to entertaining our children, there are just as many options as honky tonks. From the expansive gardens at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum,  where kids can wonder at towering bugs, or tiny little trains made within the gardens using natural materials, to the much more high-tech adventures that can be found at the Adventure Science Center, whether in the planetarium or simply enjoying the solar-inspired exhibits. Out at Murfreesboro's children's museum, the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, children are exposed to a number of different cultures, thanks to a rotation of traveling exhibits and programs that expose them to all kinds of things they might not ever think possible. And at the Frist Center's Martin ArtQuest Gallery, children and their whole family can get involved in making projects and typing in what they learned in the museum's current exhibits. By no means is children's entertainment a second thought in Music City. In fact, with places like these people might think kids are the real stars in town.

10 Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame celebrates athletes of all forms, from all across the Volunteer State. The goal of the museum is to support and give back to state communities while educating local youth about the importance of healthy habits and aiming to have a positive impact on their lifestyle choices. The Hall is a state of the art, 7,200 square foot, interactive facility that is both entertaining and educational. By educating youth, through sports, it promotes the virtues of competition, fair play, friendship, solidarity, mutual understanding and respect for human dignity. These principles are identical with those enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame focuses the majority of its attention on educational objectives, and is built on the premise that the lessons of sports have a tremendous impact on society. ((615) 242-4750)

9 Tennessee State Museum
Everything you ever wanted to know about Tennessee and more! The complete history if the state is traced from the original Native American inhabitants through the first European settlers and on through the Civil War and Antebellum period, culminating with displays of contemporary art and artifacts. Highlights include a collection of over 200 quilts, dating from 1808 to the present, a collection of over 500 flags and banners, and prehistoric artifacts from around the state. The State Museum installed a Storybaskets program as a way to give connections to the past for young children with books, activities, and toys which relate to the story, complete with instructions to parents. Bank of America for funded the program that added five baskets throughout the museum. (615-741-2692)

8 Lane Motor Museum
A well-known Music City landmark, this unique collection of cars will have collectors drooling and turn visitors into aficionados after one visit. With over 300 cars in the museum, there's plenty to see, and at affordable prices. The Museum has been developed in a well-known Nashville landmark, the former Sunbeam Bakery. Home to the bread company in 1951, the 132,000 square-foot facility was the largest and most modern bakery in the area at the time of its opening. The building was outfitted for the museum's needs but left with many of its original characteristics, including a high ceiling, natural light, and hand-crafted brick and maple wood flooring. The main floor has approximately 40,000 square feet of open space, ideal for displaying the collection. ((615) 742-7445)

7 Tennessee Central Railway Museum
Dedicated to the preservation of Tennessee's railroad heritage, the Tennessee Central Railway Museum invites visitors to ride one of their historic passenger trains and experience the joys of rail travel. Since the 1989, the museum has also been running passenger excursions from Nashville to points east, including Lebanon, Watertown, Cookeville, and Monterey. Trains typically consist of air-conditioned coaches with refreshments and souvenirs available onboard. Many trains also include deluxe accommodations in special cars available at extra cost. So buy a ticket, take a ride - a ride on one of the historic trains is journey you won't soon forget. ((615) 244-9001)

6 Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum adds a strikingly modern touch to the Nashville skyline, right at the epicenter of the city's rapidly growing core, across the street from the Music City Center, and adjacent to the Omni Hotel. The museum, called the "Smithsonian of country music" because of its unrivaled collection, recently unveiled a $100 million expansion, doubling its size to 350,000 square feet of dynamic state-of-the-art galleries, archival storage, education classrooms, retail stores, and special event space boasting stunning downtown views. Country music is chronicled in exhibits like "Sing Me Back Home: The Journey Begins, Folk Roots to the 1960's" conjures childhood nostalgia as does the exhibit's second installment, "Dreaming My Dreams: The Journey Continues, 1960's to the Present." Listen and learn from greats like Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. (615-416-2001, 800-852-6437)

5 Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art
A world of its own, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens offers visitors a chance to escape, discover, and be amazed. The estates grounds offer such mesmerizing sights as the reflection pool, Japanese garden and their nature sanctuary. This 55-acre botanical garden and art museum, located on the historic Cheek estate, exists to celebrate and preserve its landscape. If the awe-inspiring scenery has your appetite working overtime, Cheekwood is known for their fine-dining and mouth-watering fares. After filing your belly, the Georgian-style museum which features national traveling exhibitions, ranging from Early American to European decorative art awaits you. Cheekwood provides hours of pleasure set in a breathtaking backdrop. (615-356-8000)

4 Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
A must-visit for kids of all ages, Nashville's zoo at Grassmere is the perfect place for an adventure. Since it first opened in 1990, the zoo has collected an impressive variety of animals from around the world, including African elephants, a Bengal Tiger, hippopotamus, meerkats, cheetahs, and a wide variety of birds and reptiles. The zoo boasts the largest volunteer-constructed playground in the world, a 66,000 square feet of kid-centered fun complete with a 30-foot tree house, tunnels and slides, a koi pond, a waterfall, and water play areas. Plus, the newly announced renovation and expansion is set to bring more animals than ever to Nashville. (615-833-1534)

3 Frist Center for the Visual Arts - Martin ArtQuest Gallery
Color, texture and line come together for kids at this children's museum. A division of the Frist Center, the Martin ArtQuest Gallery not only gives junior artists the chance to interact with the elements of art, but also create something for themselves. Children are encouraged to experiment with mixed media and are offered insight into historic artistic movements. But of course, ArtQuest is not just for kids. Everyone is welcome to come in and learn about and make art, and it's not out of place to see a grandparent, parent, and child all participating in the same engaging activity, fostering a lifelong appreciation for art. (615-244-3340)

2 Discovery Center at Murfree Spring
Chartered in 1986 as the Children's Museum Corporation of Rutherford County, the Discovery Center has evolved of the years to provide hands-on education opportunities for children in the community. An extensive grassroots campaign orchestrated by young parents led to the purchase of a building and the beginnings of innovative and educational exhibits and programs. During its first year of operation, more than 11,000 visitors came through the center, and they have not stopped coming ever since. Each year 120,000 children and families visit the Discovery Center, some over and over again to catch any of the rotating exhibits, like the tech-driven Makerspace that had 3D printing demos, and outrageous events like a glow-in-the-dark golf tournament. ((615) 890-2300)

1 Adventure Science Center
Future astronauts, surgeons, engineers, and teachers get a head start at this children's museum. Young minds are stretched and strengthened through unique interactive exhibits like the Adventure Tower, a seven-level journey that engages the imagination with stops like a glass pyramid overlooking the entire city, a display detailing the human epidermis, a walk-in guitar and a tessellation wall. Their award-winning programs include daily science demonstrations, Discovery Cart activities, workshops, lectures, camps, Science Cafes and other special events. The Sudekum Planetarium features state-of-the-art digital projection and surround sound to present programs on a wide range of sciences, history, culture and laser shows, with insight into the heavens. (615-862-5160)

Hollie Deese is a Nashville-based writer who has spent the past 10 years falling in love with the sights, sounds and flavors of Music City. Hollie has 15 years experience as a writer and editor for regional and national publications, including The Tennessean, USA Today, Nashville Interiors, and the Nashville Ledger.  

Read more about Hollie Deese here.

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Maps and Directions

Tennessee State Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: History Museums, Museums
Lane Motor Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art Museums, History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
Tennessee Central Railway Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art & Culture, Art Museums, History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
Country Music Hall of Fame 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, History Museums, Museums
Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art Museums, Gardens, Museums
Neighborhood: Belle Meade
Frist Center for the Visual Arts - Martin ArtQuest Gallery 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art & Culture, Art Museums, Children's Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
Discovery Center at Murfree Spring 10Best List Arrow
Type: Children's Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Murfreesboro
Adventure Science Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Children's Museums, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
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