Best art museums in Nashville: discovering the city's artistic wonders

There's much more to Nashville than Southern cooking and country music; explore art museums such as the city’s own Parthenon, or the classic Frist. Here are the 10 best art museums in Nashville.

Nashville is the beating heart of the Deep South, and as such, it has its own unique culture and history to explore. Visit one of its classic landmarks, the Parthenon – modeled on the one in Athens – to enjoy the artworks displayed inside, or explore classic music posters at the Hatch Show Print Shop. Classic art galleries like Frist offer a range of contemporary works, while kids will love alternative museums like Cooter’s Place. Here are the 10 best ways to see art in Nashville.

Best art museums in Nashville

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1. Be amazed at Nashville's own Parthenon

You'd be forgiven for thinking you've taken a wrong turn and ended up in Greece once you see Nashville's replica of the Parthenon. Not only is the building as impressive as the original in Athens, but it houses a magnificent collection of artworks.

Highlights:

The museum features a giant statue of the Greek goddess Athena within its great hall. Entry to the museum requires a fee, but you can still admire the beautiful architecture from outside during a walking tour.

Address and opening hours:

2500 West End Ave., Nashville, TN, 37203. Open 9:00 AM-7:00 PM Monday-Thursday.

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2. Explore Nashville's unique street art and murals

Some of the best contemporary art in Nashville is found outside of the art galleries and on the walls and street corners of its most popular neighborhoods. Inspired by Nashville's vibrant music and art scene, many of these murals make for an excellent backdrop for group and family photos.

Highlights:

Some iconic pieces of Nashville art include "#WhatLiftsYou Nashville Wings", "It's Gonna Be OK," and "Nashville Looks Good on You". Find these art pieces and more on a street art tour.

Address:

Meeting Point: 833 9th Ave. S, Nashville, TN, 37203. Tour times vary.

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3. View eclectic art at the Frist Art Museum

As the Frist Art Museum has no permanent collection of artworks, it features an ever-changing selection of exhibitions to explore. From pop art to classical works to children's book illustrations, there is always something different to see here.

Highlights:

The Frist Art Museum itself is housed in a wonderful Art Deco building on Broadway, and you can combine your outing with a segway tour, which starts only 10 minutes from the museum.

Address and opening hours:

111 Broadway Suite 200, Nashville, TN, 37201. Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM Tuesday-Sunday.

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4. See the work of up-and-coming artists at Centennial Art Center

Located in the northeastern portion of Centennial Park, the refurbished Centennial Art Center is dedicated to the history of the park as well as serving as an art gallery for new local artists. Make sure to take some time to stroll through the rest of the park as well, including the impressive Parthenon.

Highlights:

The gallery hosts a teaching facility with painting and pottery classes that anyone can join for a small fee.

Address:

301 25th Ave. N, Nashville, TN, 37203.

Best design museums in Nashville

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5. Admire the impressive architecture at the Tennessee State Capitol

First opened in 1859, the Tennessee State Capitol building is an impressive example of Greek Revival architecture. Tours run regularly that showcase how it was built, the unique interior design choices, and the monuments found within the building's halls.

Highlights:

After dark, take a night–time trolley tour to see the building illuminated.

Address and opening hours:

600 Dr. M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Nashville, TN, 37243. Open 9:00 AM-4:00 PM Monday-Friday.

6. Learn about pre-industrial life at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum

Take a trip back in time at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum to discover how the early Tennessee farmers used to live. The museum features over 3,000 exhibits from those days, from basic farm tools to heavier machines.

Highlights:

The museum often hosts programs designed to demonstrate early farming practices such as milking, basket weaving, and horse walking.

Address and opening hours:

404 Hogan Rd., Nashville, TN, 37220. Open 9:00 AM-4:00 PM Monday-Friday.

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7. Discover classic posters at the Hatch Show Print Shop

The Hatch Show Print Shop has been operating out of Nashville since 1879 and has become well-recognized for its vintage style of promotional material. Browse the shop to see some of the iconic posters that have come out of the shop over the years.

Highlights:

Take a guided tour to learn about its history. You can even have your own souvenir poster printed at no extra cost.

Address and opening hours:

224 Rep. John Lewis Way S, Nashville, TN, 37203. Open 9:30 AM-5:30 PM daily.

Alternative museums in Nashville

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8. Get close to music history at the Gallery of Iconic Guitars

The guitar is probably the most significant musical instrument in the Nashville country music scene. The Gallery of Iconic Guitars houses a collection of rare and famous guitars from the 19th century through to today. You can even play some of the guitars here, too, if you are keen to try.

Highlights:

The museum houses over 500 unique guitars and stringed instruments. It is located near the Belmont Mansion, and you can visit both via a trolley tour.

Address and opening hours:

1907 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN, 37212. Open 10:00 AM-4:30 PM Thursday-Saturday and Monday, 1:00 PM-4:30 PM Sunday.

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9. Find the Dukes of Hazzard at Cooter's Place

If you are a fan of the original Dukes of Hazzard TV show, you will love this quirky museum. Run by none other than the original Cooter himself, Ben Jones, this museum features plenty of memorabilia from the show, including a replica of the General Lee.

Highlights:

For a small fee, you can have your picture taken with some of the exhibits.

Address and opening hours:

2613B McGavock Pk., Nashville, TN, 37214. Open 9:00 AM-7:00 PM daily.

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10. See Nashville celebrities up close at Madame Tussauds

Featuring life-like waxworks of famous names in the entertainment industry, Madame Tussauds offers you perhaps the best opportunity to meet your favorite Nashville celebrity up close. From Patsy Cline to Taylor Swift, it’s a great way to learn about the famous figures who helped make Nashville what it is today.

Highlights:

You can sing rock ‘n’ roll with Elvis or take center stage with Reba and other country stars.

Address and opening hours:

515 Opry Mills Dr., Nashville, TN, 37214. Open 11:00 AM-7:00 PM Monday-Thursday, 10:00 AM-8:00 PM Friday-Saturday, 12:00 PM-6:00 PM Sunday.

FAQs

Are there any free-entry days for art museums in Nashville?

During the first Saturday of each month, many art galleries host free-entry days. Other art museums, such as the Centennial Art Center and Tennessee Agricultural Museum also offer free admission.

What are some unique and lesser-known art museums worth visiting in Nashville?

The Frist Art Museum, Centennial Art Center, and Gallery of Iconic Guitars are some of the more unique art galleries in Nashville. Another good option just outside Nashville is the Cheekwood Estate.

Which art museums in Nashville have works by famous artists?

The Frist Art Museum and Rhymer Gallery regularly feature works by famous artists. You can also find some contemporary works and sculptures at the Cheekwood Estate.

Are the art museums in Nashville wheelchair accessible?

Yes. Many of the museums in Nashville have been designed with accessibility in mind, including the Parthenon, the Frist Art Museum, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Are there any art museums in Nashville that are suitable for children and families?

The Frist Museum houses the ArtQuest Gallery with interactive exhibits that allow children to learn about art. There is also the Cheekwood Estate, which features outdoor gardens and sculptures that kids will love exploring.