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Tennessee Museums

In your travels throughout Tennessee, you will have an opportunity to visit numerous museums.

tennessee museumsThe Hollywood Wax Museum in Sevierville is one of Tennessee's newest museums. Image by Jeaneane Payne

Great Smoky Mountains

Alcatrez East Museum - Explore American history from a different perspective in five unique galleries that burrow deep into criminal profiles, the penal system, victim’s stories, crime prevention, forensic science, law enforcement and our justice system. The museum is 25,000 square feet, spread over 2 floors and includes over 100 interactives.

Beyond the Lens - Explore the best of pop culture with interactive games, amazing photo ops and intriguing exhibits for the entire family.

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center - The museum portrays Native Americans of East Tennessee history with artifacts representing 5,000 years of Native American life related to hunting, pottery, foodways, ceremony, games, medicine, and trade. Depicts pioneer and mountain culture's daily life, family and community, medicine, industry, recreation, and education. An exhibit, Tennessee on the Move, has a postal wagon, farming vehicles, a surrey, a freight wagon, and road construction equipment.

Hollywood Wax Museum - Your brush with fame starts here! You’ll rub elbows with Hollywood luminaries and laugh it up while posing for your own inspired pictures. Props are provided to make it even more fun! Imagine you pumping iron with Hollywood heavyweights, taking the stage with singing superstars, or even posing for the paparazzi at a movie premiere.

Little River Railroad & Lumber Company - Learn about the heritage of the Little River Lumber Company and the Little River Railroad. This museum collects, preserves and exhibits the history of these companies and of the people in this region. Townsend was the site of the sawmill and headquarters of this operation, which logged huge portions of what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame and Museum - SGMA Hall of Fame and Museum is located inside Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. The museum is keeping the memory and achievements of Southern Gospel music's pioneers alive for future generations.

Tennessee Museum of Aviation
- Travel off the beaten path and explore the fascinating realm of flight at this hidden treasure in the Great Smoky Mountains. Airworthy Warbirds are the foundation of this 50,000 sq ft facility. This museum brings aviation history to life as vintage aircraft are sometimes seen performing unscheduled flight demonstrations. The museums’ collection of military vehicles, aircraft engines, aviation exhibits, trainers, fighters, helicopters, jets and amphibious aircraft will definitely satisfy the interest of “Warbird” fans.

Titanic Museum - As the whole world remembers the world’s most famous luxury liner, Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tn. will continue to open the door to the past in it’s one-of-a-kind way – letting “passengers” experience what it was like to walk the hallways, parlors, cabins and Grand Staircase of the Titanic while surrounded by more than 400 artifacts directly from the ship and its passengers. As visitors touch a real iceberg, walk the Grand Staircase and third class hallways, reach their hands into 28-degree water, and try to stand on the sloping decks, they learn what it was like on the RMS Titanic by experiencing it first-hand.

East Tennessee Museums


Bessie Smith Cultural Center - Located in an area once dubbed as the city’s black enterprise zone, (the famed 9th Street District) now known as M.L. King Boulevard, the museum’s original goal was to present the many contributions African Americans made to the development of Chattanooga. The rise in the number of African American Museums during the 1960’s paralleled the growth in African American studies throughout the nation. Both visions were attempts to compensate for the failure of the American education system to provide adequate inclusion and contributions of African Americans in American history and culture.

Charles H. Coolidge National Heritage Center - The Charles H. Coolidge National Heritage Center takes care of over 6,000 objects that help tell the story of Medal of Honor recipients and fellow veterans from the Civil War forward.

Creative Discovery Museum - Creative Discovery Museum is one of the top children's museums in the country. Located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, just steps away from the Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee Riverfront and other fun Chattanooga attractions for families.

Hunter Museum of American Art - Hunter continues to re-imagine and re-interpret American art through compelling programs for every age and through diverse and interactive exhibitions.

Tennessee Aquarium - Like a favorite fishing spot, people return to the Tennessee Aquarium to see amazing animals that swim, fly and crawl in natural habitats. This remarkable journey from the mountains to the sea takes visitors through three living forests under glass and puts them eye to eye with 10-foot sharks, giant spider crabs, river otters and alligators.

Tennessee Railroad Museum - Take a trip back in time, to a slower-paced era when railroad travel was a way of life. Relive the romance of the rails when vintage trains provided an escape from the everyday routine. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum provides an interactive, historical experience that will add an extra dimension to your visit to Chattanooga’s popular attractions. Here you will find the only regularly scheduled, full-sized train ride in Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is so much more than entertainment… it is your chance to experience the sights and sounds of yesteryear.

The Battles for Chattanooga - The Battles for Chattanooga changed the outcome of the Civil War. A new show involves multimedia projection mapping with high color saturation, short-throw digital projectors, solid-state media players and 3-D modeling software. This one-of-a-kind storytelling experience uses the latest technology to bring to life the tumultuous battle days of one of our country’s greatest struggles fought here in November of 1863.


American Museum of Science & Energy - The museum opened in 1949 in an old wartime cafeteria. It was originally named the American Museum of Atomic Energy. Its guided tours took visitors through the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The present facility, opened in 1975, continues to provide the general public with energy information. The name of the museum was changed to the American Museum of Science and Energy in 1978. Live demonstrations, videos and other programs are scheduled for the general public daily.

Blount Mansion - the birthplace of the state of Tennessee.

Confederate Memorial Hall - Bleak House - Confederate Memorial Hall, originally named "Bleak House," has a rich and interesting past. Bleak House, an antebellum mansion of fifteen spacious rooms and wide halls, stands well back on an eminence among lovely trees and elaborately landscaped grounds.

East Tennessee Historical Center: Custom House -
The historic building which is now officially known as the East Tennessee Historical Center was built in 1874 as Knoxville's first United States Custom House and Post Office. The architect of the original building was Alfred Bult Mullett (1834-1890), at that time the chief architect of the United States government. Of neoclassical Italianate design, the Custom House served as Knoxville's federal building until 1933, housing the federal court, excise offices, and post office. The former federal courtroom on the third floor features notable neoclassical decoration. From 1936 to 1976, the building served as one of the main Knoxville offices of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In 1973, the Custom House was among the first structures in Knoxville named to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1977, the Custom House was awarded to the public library to be developed into a center for historical research and was significantly restored and renovated by Knox County in 1980 and 1992.

Emporium Center for Arts & Culture - The mission of the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville is to serve and support a diverse community of artists, arts organizations, and cultural institutions by assuring their creative, financial, and operational well being.  The Arts & Culture Alliance provides leadership and advocacy that establishes and maintains the success of the arts and cultural environment of greater Knoxville, as well as providing for a strong climate for cultural and economic interaction between the arts and the community as a whole.

Frank H. McClung Museum - a general museum with collections in anthropology, archaeology, decorative arts, medicine, local history, and natural history. The exhibits document ways of life, cultural trends, and technologies from prehistoric times to the present day, and showcase much of Tennessee's past -- its geology, history, art, and culture. The McClung Museum is a special place -- a place of discovery, a place to learn about the world around us. As a part of The University of Tennessee, the Museum supports and participates in the University's mission to serve the state, region, and nation through scholarship, teaching, artistic creation, professional practice, and public service.

Knoxville Museum of Art- Founded in 1961 as the Dulin Gallery of Art, the Knoxville Museum of Art moved into its current facility in World's Fair Park on March 25, 1990. Designed by noted museum architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, this 53,000 square foot concrete and Tennessee pink marble building features five galleries, the Great Hall, auditorium, Museum Shop, and various gardens and terraces. KMA received accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1996.

Southern Appalachia Railway Museum (SARM) - a non-profit organization located in Knoxville, Tennessee, dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and operation of historical railroad equipment, and the preservation of the railroad history of the Southern Appalachia Region. The club sponsors the operation of the Secret City Scenic excursion train in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Volunteer State Veterans Museum - 4000 Chapman Hwy, Knoxville TN 37920. No charge. Museum has more than 2,000 artifacts on exhibit from the Civil War to the Persian Gulf War. Thurs, Fri & Sat.; 10 am-4 pm; Sun. 1-4 pm. (865) 577-0757.

Women's Basketball Hall of Fame - Experience the history and excitement of women's basketball at the world's most interactive hall of fame. Watch a riveting video of the game's history. Hang out in a modern locker room as some of the country's top coaches get in your face with behind-the-scenes video. Shoot some hoops and take home unique souvenirs from our gift shop. Jam-packed with memorabilia, activities and exhibits, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame will infuse you with the spirit and energy of the best players in the history of women's basketball. This is not just a museum. It's an all-out, one-of-a-kind, bigger-than-life experience.

Zoo Knoxville - Zoo Knoxville offers special programs. The zoo celebrates the wonders of the natural world. Through education, conservation, exhibition, research and recreation, the zoo tells the stories of the animals, the plants and the people who make up the communities of the earth.


Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum - Located on the beautiful campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum houses one of the most diverse Lincoln and Civil War collections in the country. Exhibited are many rare items - the cane Lincoln carried that fateful night at Ford's Theatre, two life masks, the tea set he and Mary Todd used in their home in Springfield, and numerous other artifacts. Approximately 30,000 books, manuscripts, pamphlets, photographs, paintings and sculptures tell the story of President Lincoln and the Civil War period in America's history.

Green McAdoo Cultural Center - The Center is the site of Green McAdoo School which gained national recognition in 1956 when 12 young people now known as the Clinton 12 walked into history and changed the world. Green McAdoo depicts the history of desegration in Clinton, Tennessee. Racial discrimination and violence brought about the arrival of the national guard and martial law. The center also portrays how a community came together to overcome the obstacles created by discrimination.

Children's Museum of Oak Ridge - a dynamic cultural center that features innovative exhibitions, programs and workshops for all ages. Science, art and history are emphasized in hands-on learning opportunities that encourage young people to understand their cultural heritage, environment and the world around them. Educators are encouraged to utilize the Museum's numerous resources - over 20,000 objects, archival holdings, audio/video tapes, books and magazines.

Farragut Folklife Museum - a treasure chest of photographs and artifacts which tell a story of the history of the Farragut and Concord communities. One of the highlights of the Museum is the Admiral David Glasgow Farragut Collection. Admiral Farragut, the first commissioned Admiral of the United States Navy and perhaps best known for his statement, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead," was born in this area on July 5, 1801. This nationally sought after collection houses artifacts such as Farragut’s personal china, uniform ornamentation, family photographs, manuscripts, letters of interest and a large collection of scrimshaw. The Museum also exhibits objects of memorabilia, history of schools, churches and community, railroad artifacts and changing exhibits of interest to the community.

Museum of Appalachia - one of the largest, single collections of pioneer relics and mountain life exhibits on a 70-acre frontier farm.

Middle Tennessee Museums


Belmont Mansion was constructed as one of the most elaborate antebellum homes in the South, with 36 rooms and 19,000 sq. ft. The estate contained an art gallery, conservatories, lavish gardens, aviary, lake and zoo.

Belle Meade Plantation

Carter House, built in 1830 by Fountain Branch Carter, witnessed one of the bloodiest battles during the Civil War on November 30, 1864.

Country Music Hall of Fame
- presents the crown jewels of its vast collection to illustrate country music's story as told through the turns of two centuries. A treasure trove of historic country video clips and recorded music, dynamic exhibits and state-of-the-art design, regular menu of live performances and public programs, museum store, live satellite radio broadcasts, on-site dining and fabulous public spaces all contribute to an unforgettable museum experience.

Downtown Presbyterian Church church was one of many buildings used as hospitals during the Union occupation of the city during the Civil War. It was designated Hospital No. 8 and housed 206 beds.

Historic Carnton Plantation - On November 30, 1864, the tragedy of the Battle of Franklin, so devastating to the Confederacy, unfolded in the fields near Carnton, home of John and Carrie McGavock. Over 20,000 soldiers in the Army of Tennessee attacked well-fortified Union breastworks at the southern edge of town. Soon the McGavocks would witness the carnage of war as they opened the doors of their home to be used as a field hospital for wounded Confederates

Nashville Zoo
at Grassmere is open every day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Parthenon - stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, Nashville's premier urban park. The re-creation of the 42-foot statue Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building and the Athena statue are both full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals.

Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum - Saved from demolition in 1954 by the Tennessee Society of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, the historic house, built originally in 1799, was restored to interpret the early 19th century life of Judge John Overton, one of the state’s first Supreme Court Justices, the founder of Memphis, and a close personal friend of Andrew Jackson.

West Tennessee Museums


Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art - The museum is unofficially called “The Jade Museum,” since one of the main materials featured is jade in sculptural form. The main Asian collection features artworks from the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China, which ran from 1644-1911. The Judaic Gallery, which opened to the public in the fall of 2004, contains over 200 works of art created by contemporary Jewish artists working and living in Israel today.

Center for Southern Folklore - The Center is a non-profit organization that showcases and celebrates the wonders, lifestyles, people, history, and cultures of the South.

Children's Museum of Memphis - Kid-friendly environment. Brain-shaping results. For the price of admission, you can spend the entire day in the award-winning Children’s Museum of Memphis, where learning is child’s play. Children lose themselves in the world of playful learning at dozens of interactive exhibits.

Davies Manor Plantation - This historic property, located in Bartlett, features the oldest log home in Shelby County open to the public, along with thirty-two surrounding acres and numerous outbuildings. These outbuildings include a former tenant farmer’s cabin, a commissary, a gristmill, and two nineteenth-century log cabins that were relocated to Davies Manor in 2007 from Libertyland.

Dixon Gallery and Gardens - The gallery features permanent exhibits along with temporary exhibitions throughout the year. There are also various gardens landscaped in the manner of an English park with open vistas adjacent to smaller, intimate formal spaces.

Graceland - Explore Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland Mansion. Fully immerse yourself in Elvis' life and career like never before at Elvis Presley's Memphis as you experience Elvis' roots, his influences, and his artistry. Savor delicious Memphis cuisine at our themed restaurants.

Magevney House - This small, white clapboard cottage was built in the 1830s and was home to Irish immigrant, Eugene Magevney. Typical of pre-Civil War, middle-class homes, it is furnished as it might have been in 1850 and features several personal possessions of the Magevney family, including a desk bureau and other antiquities.The house is one of the city's oldest remaining residences.

Mallory Neely House - Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located at 652 Adams Avenue in the Victorian Village Historic District, the Mallory-Neely House is one of the City’s treasured historic sites. It is all the more special in that it retains all of the original historic interiors, furniture, and artifacts almost exclusively. It offers a visceral experience walking through the home and lives of a family from over one hundred years ago.

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art - The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art enriches the lives of our diverse community through the Museum's expanding collection, varied exhibitions, and dynamic programs that reflect the art of world cultures from antiquity to the present.

Memphis Cotton Museum - When you visit the Cotton Museum, you're treading on the legendary floor of the Memphis Cotton Exchange where cotton traders once stood at the center of the global cotton economy. Once, only the elite members of the Cotton Exchange were allowed to enter. Today, this historic space is open to the public and is devoted to sharing the story of cotton – the crop that created empires, transformed American culture and changed the history of a nation and the world.

Memphis Music Hall of Fame - What began as a tribute to Memphis’ legendary musicians who shook the world has finally opened as a museum that is as outrageous as its inductees! The Memphis Music Hall of Fame museum and exhibition introduces guests to some of the greatest musicians of all time – each responsible for shaping modern music and changing the world forever right here in Memphis. This fun, fascinating and educational exhibition features never-before-seen memorabilia, rare video performances and interviews, interactive exhibits, and much more.

Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum - The story of the two railroad bridges across the Mississippi River at Memphis and their significance in the history of the city. View a trolley exhibit, a freight tunnel, wagon memorabilia, and much more.

Memphis Rock 'N' Soul Museum - At this Smithsonian affiliate just steps from Beale Street, you’ll learn how Memphis became a crucible for the blues, rock ‘n’ roll and soul.

Memphis Zoo - From the time you step inside the grand entrance, you know you’re in a very special place. The main entrance and courtyard pays honor in its design to the ancient city of Memphis, Egypt. The meandering streams, crisp waterfalls, native plants and tranquil gardens alone are a great reason to visit. Come play around in the Memphis Zoo. Hop on the tram and see everything from exotic animals to the petting zoo and everything in between.

Metal Museum - Founded by artist-blacksmith James Wallace, the museum is devoted to exhibitions of metalwork and public programs featuring metalsmiths.

Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium - Features animals and exhibits, historical collections and archives, conservation and research. Its National Rivers Hall of Fame collects, preserves, and shares the stories of the women and men who have had a significant impact on the rivers of America.

National Civil Rights Museum - The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is a very special experience that takes visitors through centuries of history. Visitors begin within the original Lorraine Motel structure and continue through the Legacy exhibits within the Young & Morrow and Boarding House buildings across Mulberry Street.

Pink Palace Museum -covers all things about the Mid-South: natural history, wildlife, Memphis history, the cotton industry, plus rare oddities like a shrunken head and Elvis Presley’s military uniforms.

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum - A walk through this antebellum home is a journey through history, revealing secrets of its past that had been kept hidden for more than 100 years.

Southern Folklore Gallery - The Center for Southern Folklore offers a wide variety of events, programs, and customized tours that showcase the music and cultural history of the Memphis/Delta region. To top off the programs they serve yummy southern comfort food.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music - The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of American soul music. Located on the original site of the Stax Records studio in Memphis, the Stax Museum pays special tribute to the artists who recorded there, as well as other American soul legends, with a rare and amazing collection of more than 2,000 artifacts, interactive exhibits, films and galleries.

Sun Studio - Sun Studio is known worldwide as “The Birthplace of Rock’n’roll”. It is the discovery location of musical legends and genres of the 50’s from B.B. King and Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis; from Blues and Gospel to Country and Rock’n'roll. Today its goal is to spread the story of Memphis’ history and culture through the music that put Memphis on the map.

West Tennessee Cotton Museum - features the story of the huge cotton farms in the area, some of which began in the early 1800s. The museum offers exhibits, photographs, and primitive-to-modern farming implements, from old plows to 9-footlong sacks used to collect handpicked cotton.

Wolfchase Galleria Mall - Wolfchase Galleria features Dillard's, JC Penney, Sears and Macy's plus 130 of the most exciting stores in the Mid-South. Stores like American Outfitters, Hollister Co., Fossil, bebe, Brooks Brothers, Wet Seal, Guess, Banana Republic, Gap, Pottery Barn, dELiA*s, The Disney Store, Journey, and Thomas Kinkade Gallery. While you're shopping at Wolfchase be sure to enjoy a variety of delicious foods at your favorite eateries located in the Food Court or one of two restaurants located in Wolfchase Galleria. To make your trip complete, take in the latest movie at the Malco Theatre or a ride on the fantasy carousel.


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