The United States has been the birthplace of numerous musical genres, and some of the world’s most famous singers, songwriters and performing artists start here. These 10 museums – voted as the best by readers – celebrate musical history through the lens of a specific artist or genre or with a big-picture approach. These are the 10 best music museums in the U.S. for 2023.
Photo courtesy of B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
No. 10: B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center - Indianola, Mississippi
The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola celebrates the blues – America's music – and the man who helped spread its popularity around the world. Interactive exhibits and artifacts trace the history of the blues through its Mississippi Delta roots.
Photo courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame
No. 9: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum - Nashville, Tennessee
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville celebrates the genre's greats while tracing the history and traditions of country music from its pre-commercial roots to the present day. The museum is also home to the 776-seat CMA Theater for live performances.
Photo courtesy of Patsy Cline Museum
No. 8: Patsy Cline Museum - Nashville, Tennessee
Patsy Cline died young – she was only 30 years old – but she had a big influence on the American country music industry in her short time. This Nashville museum explores her life and work through artifacts, personal belongings, video and audio recordings and costumes.
Photo courtesy of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
No. 7: GRAMMY Museum Mississippi - Cleveland, Mississippi
The 28,000-square-foot GRAMMY Museum Mississippi opened its doors in 2011, and it currently hosts more than a dozen exhibits exploring American music history. Mississippi was chosen as the site for this second GRAMMY Museum due to its rich musical heritage.
Photo courtesy of Birthplace of Country Music
No. 6: Birthplace of Country Music Museum - Bristol, Virginia
This museum showcases the roles Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia played in the development of country music. The Smithsonian affiliate traces this musical history back to the 1927 Bristol Sessions recording – an event that helped shape the sound of commercial country music. The collection includes photographs, printed music, recordings, concert posters, instruments and a variety of recording and playback gear.
Photo courtesy of Motown Museum
No. 5: Motown Museum - Detroit, Michigan
The Motown Museum in Detroit, aka Hitsville USA, is the home and heart of Motown. Tens of thousands of people visit this location, one of the region’s most bustling tourist hot spots, to see historical memorabilia and photos and learn more about the history of Motown Record Company. Make sure you visit Studio A, where some of the most popular Motown music was recorded.
Photo courtesy of C/O Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
No. 4: The Museum at Bethel Woods - Bethel, New York
The Museum at Bethel Woods is dedicated to preserving the stories of Woodstock, the most famous three-day music festival in history. Visit the original site of Woodstock and be transported back in time via their main exhibit that takes visitors through the 1960s with pictures, music and films.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sapp
No. 3: GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live - Los Angeles, California
Exhibits at the GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live in Los Angeles tell the story of American music through permanent exhibits, such as "Culture Shock," which explores how music and culture collide, and "Crossroads," which traces the evolution of music genres over time.
Photo courtesy of Photo Courtesy of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
No. 2: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland, Ohio
Yes, this is the hall of fame for rock stars. This museum on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland opened up shop in 1995. Today, visitors can experience different theaters, seven floors of exhibits, all kinds of interactive stations and more, while learning about some of the most influential rock musicians in history.
Photo courtesy of Johnny Cash Museum
No. 1: Johnny Cash Museum - Nashville, Tennessee
This dedicated space to "The Man in Black" is packed with Johnny Cash memorabilia, including costumes, gold and platinum records, handwritten song lyrics and even a piece of the wall from the home he shared with his wife, June. A small theater screens clips of Cash’s television and movie appearances.