Tennessee has many museums, historic sites and whole towns that tell the stories of the past. Pioneers, presidents, military heroes and artist greats fill the state with histories to tell for generations. Here's where to hear them.
Did you know Tennessee was home to three presidents? You can see the humble beginnings, homes and even burial grounds of Andrew Jackson in Nashville, James K. Polk in Columbia and Andrew Johnson in Greeneville.
Learn even more about the story of the Titanic and its fateful journey inside the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge. You'll receive a card about a passenger on the Titanic as you go through each exhibit that details everything from how the ship worked to the luxury fixtures available to first class members. Touch an iceberg, feel how cold the water was when the ship sank and so much more.
You can learn about the courageous stories of the Clinton 12, who bravely fought for equal access to public education. Step inside a 1950s classroom and see what life was like under "Jim Crow" laws. Follow the chronological story of the desegregation of the Clinton High School, the first integration of a public high school in the South, with life-size photographs and narratives.
Can a whole town be considered a museum? When it's preserved as well as Rugby, Tennessee is, it can be. This living Victorian village was first established in the 1880s by British immigrants wanting to create a Utopian society. Take a springtime tour to peek inside the historic buildings and the first public library in the South. Spend a weekend by booking a stay in one of the historic lodges, explore the 10 hiking trails that snake through the local area, and dine at the Harrow Road Cafe that specializes in English-American fusion cuisine.
Learn about the real man behind the legend at David Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone, Tennessee. The park commemorates the famous Tennessean, pioneer, soldier and politician by showcasing a replica cabin, visitor center exhibits, an 18th-century living farmstead and more. It’s located near his father’s Crockett Tavern Museum in Morristown and the Cherokee National Forest.
See for yourself how pioneers lived out their lives through the interactive Cannonsburgh Village in Murfreesboro, representing more than 100 years of early Tennessee life. See a blacksmith fire iron into a piece of art, tour a museum, caboose, school house, gristmill, telephone operator’s house and more. Self-guided tours are free.
Up, up and away! Those who are fascinated with aviation will love touring the Beechcraft Heritage Museum in Tullahoma. Walk through three hangars filled with airplanes. The Walter Beech Hangar houses some of the earliest models of aircraft. You’ll find military airplanes in the Alton E. “Chuck” Cianchette Hangar including pre-World War II Twin Beech Model 18Ds. A Staggerwing, one of the first general aircrafts to go through wind tunnel testing, is also on display. In the Bost Hangar, two of the oldest 1947 Bonanzas, the first Model 55 Baton and the last Duke ever manufactured are all viewable.
Tennessee’s second largest general museum, the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville has more than 35,000 square feet of exhibit space filled with science, history and fine art pieces. Kids will love McGregor’s Market and kitchen, the toddler space that includes the Bubble Cave and the intricate model trains. An 1840s cabin, a vast porcelain collection and an 1898-designed Federal Post Office further tell the story of the state’s history.
There’s always something new to see at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis. Photography, paintings, lithographics and more are currently on display. Paintings, sculpture and textiles by self-taught African American artists from the museum’s permanent collection take center stage now through May 10. To commemorate the museum’s 100th anniversary, art from Carroll Cloar is also on view. The museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays.
Memphis’ only car museum is now open, featuring more than a dozen iconic American sports cars. Marvel at the inaugural exhibit that features cars from post-war U.S. to the 1970s and beyond. The museum curates each vehicle based on the historical and cultural story it tells. Not only are features of each car shared, but also what was happening in the world when the vehicle was built. Learn the stories behind some of the most well-known cars of the world at Edge Motor Museum.
Learn about the legend, Casey Jones – his life and his famous last train ride at the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum. You’ll find three authentic rail cars, and original engine Jones drove, Civil War era artifacts, and the rich railroad history of Jackson, Tennessee. Kids can even climb aboard a train and ring the bell like Jones would have done. After stepping through history, make a stop into The Old Country Store to enjoy a southern-style buffet, have an ice cream in the recreated 1880s Ice Cream Parlor and Fudge Shoppe or stop in for a quick bite at the Dixie Café of Jackson featuring take-out options and an 1880s lunch counter.
Check out even more museums the next time you’re in Tennessee.