Nashville is the home of country music and regardless of whether you are an avid listener of this genre, it’s an experience you should look to embrace while exploring Music City. A stereotypical reflection on Nashville may include locals wearing cowboy boots with everything or perhaps all the local musicians performing their latest hits in a Broadway bar. Whether there is any truth behind these stereotypes is entirely debatable but one thing is certain, Nashville is the epitome of embracing the country music scene. What better place to experience this than by taking the Country Music Hall of Fame tour.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Country Music Hall of Fame…well, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like! It’s the pinnacle of the country music industry and where tributes to the legendary artists that have shaped this genre can be found. Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is the highest honor and dates back to 1961, when Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams became the first members to be inducted.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge country music fan but that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate the history and development of this culture. On the other hand, Heather is a “Southerner” so understandably has been surrounded by country music all her life. Regardless of your background, taking the Country Music Hall of Fame tour is an awesome educational experience and one that we can strongly recommend to anyone visiting Nashville.
Let’s take a look at what you can experience during the tour and why you cannot afford to visit Nashville without adding the Country Music Hall of Fame to your itinerary!
Country Music Hall of Fame Tour
Before visiting Nashville, we strongly recommend planning an itinerary to experience the best of this city (we generally advise this anywhere you go but Nashville is a pretty diverse city with plenty to see across a wide geographic area). However, downtown Nashville is the heart and soul of the city so it’s critical that anything else that you do should work around this.
Visiting downtown Nashville will not only allow you to take a self-guided walking tour of many of the city’s iconic attractions but it will give you easy access to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Located on 5th Avenue parallel to Broadway, this venue is connected to the gorgeous Omni Nashville Hotel which if you are considering a weekend in Nashville, is definitely one of our recommended accommodation options.
Although the Country Music Hall of Fame tour can be done in a couple hours, your interest levels will determine exactly how much time you want to spend inside the museum. Your admission tickets are valid all day so you could easily spend the entire day learning about the history of country music.
Before visiting, I’m sure that you will be interested in ticket prices and some of the options available when exploring the Hall of Fame.
General museum admission prices are as follows:
Adults – $24.95
Youth (Age 6-12) – $14.95
Children (Under 5) – Free
Discounts are also available for seniors, students, military and members of the Country Music Hall of Fame museum gain Free entry also!
In addition to the basic admission prices, there are self-guided audio tours available which provide in-depth information about the exhibits and experiences as you walk around the Hall of Fame Museum. The audio tours are led by Bill Cody, an iconic personality on WSM radio, as he takes you on a journey through the different eras.
These can be purchased for an additional $5 at the ticket desk prior to entry into the museum!
The Country Music Hall of Fame museum is open daily between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM, excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
222 Fifth Avenue South,
Nashville, TN 37203
Tel: (615) 416-2001
Parking is available throughout downtown Nashville but we recommend the nearby Music City Center parking garage which offers convenient access to the Country Music Hall of Fame. For only $7, you can stay here for 4 hours. If you plan on exploring the rest of the downtown Nashville attractions, you can pay $12 for up to 10 hours!
Alabama: Song of the South
Our tour started in one of the newer ‘feature’ exhibits titled “Alabama: Song of the South.” If you are familiar with this Hall of Fame band, you will know that this group of cousins started out in the small town of Fort Payne, Alabama before venturing out and helping shape the industry through their unique blend of country music.
Whether you are interested in admiring Jeff Cook’s first electric guitar dating back to the 1960s or perhaps taking a peek at the many awards that Alabama earned such as a Grammy and CMA trophy, there is plenty of memorabilia here to help you learn everything there is to know about this historic group.
Permanent Historical Exhibits
We started in the “special exhibit area” because the majority of the tour takes place on the other side of the elevator. As you begin your self-guided tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame, it’s worth noting that many of the exhibits are frequently changing given that the museum owns more than two million artifacts in their collection.
Both the second and third floors have permanent exhibitions (the tour starts on the third floor and you make your way back down to ground level) and much of the tour offers a chronological look at country music history.
However, some of the more iconic exhibits are constant so for example, you can be sure that each time you visit you will have the opportunity to admire Elvis Presley’s Solid Gold Cadillac along with a variety of other pieces from Elvis’ golden years.
The permanent exhibits start with a look back at the history of folk and country music and even the good old “Hee-Haw” experience.
As you begin your historical timeline and appreciate the development of country music thanks to leading artists across the various generations, you realize just how far the industry has come.
Through advancements in technology and the ability for present day musicians to take advantage of the opportunities available to them, the contrast between historic legends and today’s era is certainly something to consider.
The Gold Record Wall is another significant location inside the Hall of Fame as it represents all of the albums that sold over 500,000 copies.
For those that achieve over a million sales, they are certified platinum. You can browse through the plethora of iconic artists that are on this wall and perhaps find one or two of your favorite hits from the last few decades.
Dylan, Cash, and The Nashville Cats
When Bob Dylan made a surprise visit to Nashville in 1966 to record an album, he called up many of Music City’s finest studio musicians to help him. By 1969, Johnny Cash had recruited Dylan to appear on his groundbreaking TV show at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.
The exhibit titled Dylan, Cash, and The Nashville Cats: A New Music City, provides a reflection on how these individuals helped shape the Nashville music culture in the 1960s and 70s.
Dylan and Cash’s friendship helped create a unique culture between the Nashville local musicians and outsiders that made their way to Nashville to benefit from the thriving country music industry.
It’s fair to say that before Cash and Dylan helped inspired this culture, Nashville was seen as a ‘locals’ spot and outsiders were not necessarily made to feel as welcome as they were after Cash and Dylan’s influence.
Brad Paisley – Diary of a Player Exhibit
For those of you that are looking to experience the modern era of country music, the Brad Paisley exhibit offered a look through the childhood to present day of the West Virginia native.
Dating back to Paisley grabbing a Silvertone electric guitar aged 13 in 1985 and performing in the renowned WWVA’s Jamboree USA, we are taken on a journey to see how Paisley matured from a childhood prodigy to country music star.
A variety of memorabilia is on display including a number of spectacular guitars but I think my favorite has to be the image of Paisley with a West Virginia guitar, clearly depicting his loyalty to the state where he was brought up.
Country Music Hall of Fame Rotunda
Perhaps the most iconic location inside the Hall of Fame is the Country Music Hall of Fame Rotunda. This central gallery commemorates all inductees through bronze plaques that line the walls inside this quiet space.
Visitors to this spot can learn more about their favorite country legend while paying respects to all those that are no longer with us, yet played an integral role in shaping the music industry today.
Here lives country music: its spirit, its soul and its history, its people and its songs (Paul Ackerman)
This 5,300 square foot area is a gorgeous architectural masterpiece and with fountains quietly gurgling on the perimeter, it’s the perfect ambiance for visitors to show their appreciation to the legends that earned country music’s highest accolade.
Here are some of the legends that can be found here along with the year they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame:
- Ernest Tubb (1965)
- Patsy Cline (1973)
- Johnny Cash (1980)
- Loretta Lynn (1988)
- Willie Nelson (1993)
- Elvis Presley (1998)
- Dolly Parton (1999)
- Glen Campbell (2005)
- Garth Brooks (2012)
- Kenny Rogers (2013)
There are currently 133 members (including the three newest additions in 2017) of the Hall of Fame.
If you are planning a visit to Nashville in the near future, the Country Music Hall of Fame tour is an experience you won’t want to miss. The beauty of this attraction is that it’s an evolving museum with a number of exhibits frequently changing. Each year you can return to celebrate the new inductees and contemplate how the country music industry continues to thrive.
It’s possible that after visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame that you will leave with a much greater appreciation and respect for country music. As I indicated previously, I am not a huge country music fan but you don’t have to be to enjoy this tour.
There is so much to learn and enjoy throughout the self-guided tour and I would certainly go back in a heartbeat to experience this all over again!
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Disclaimer – We would like to thank Visit Music City for hosting us on this trip and providing us with tickets to experience the Country Music Hall of Fame tour. These are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.