Located near the historic Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame honors legendary performers, songwriters and others who made a significant contribution to country music. Forming a bass clef when viewed from the air, the unique building is an iconic feature of the Nashville skyline. The Hall of Fame, surrounded by honky-tonks and other live entertainment venues where many of the honorees got their start, features a rotunda that chronicles the history of recording technology.
Galleries at the Country Music Hall of Fame display an expansive collection of music-related memorabilia and bronze bas-relief portraits of honorees adorn the walls of the building.
The Country Music Hall of Fame was established to showcase the ever changing history and traditions of country music in a variety of exhibits, publications, educational programs and events. As one of the world’s largest and most active popular music research centers and home to the world’s largest collection of country music artifacts, it’s not surprising that it has earned the nickname, “The Smithsonian of country music.” The Country Music Hall of Fame offers visitors an amazing adventure into the world of country music with a massive collection of items in several world-class galleries, a 776-seat CMA Theater and much more.
The Country Music Hall of Fame was founded in 1967 as a result of the Country Music Association’s campaign to create a research and educational organization that would give the world an insider’s view into country music. The non-profit organization, Country Music Foundation, was chartered by the state in 1964 to collect, preserve and publicize country music artifacts and to showcase the history of country music. Through this foundation, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was established and since then, has grown and evolved into the iconic organization that it is today.
The museum has experienced numerous expansions and changes throughout the years. What started out as a collection of artifacts on display in a small site of Nashville City Park grew to a more than 130,000 square foot facility in the heart of downtown Nashville in the arts and entertainment district. Today, after a $100 million expansion and more than doubling its size to 350,000 square feet, over 150 full time employees run the show—which includes displaying costumes, films, historic cars, musical instruments and artifacts. The Museum includes archival storage, classrooms for educational events, retail stores and special event space.
When you visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, you’ll be treated to a variety of exhibits and programs that provide a wonderful view of how the genre has evolved through time. The Hall of Fame, which features both current and past artists is what many country musicians consider the highest honor—and it is given to those who have made an extraordinary contribution to Country Music. The first inductees were Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Fred Rose.
Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music features a historical timeline of country music that dates back to its original emergence on the music scene and includes sounds, stories and the voices that influenced the genre. Included in the exhibit are photographs, text panels, audio recordings, vintage video, interactive touch screens and numerous artifacts.
Blake Sheldon: Based on a True Story provides a deeper look at one of country music’s biggest stars. The exhibit gives you a close-up view from Blake Sheldon’s life, including his childhood, his move to Nashville from Oklahoma to his successful career and how he rose to stardom to become an international celebrity. You’ll see memorabilia, artifacts, photographs, the guitar he used on his first radio tour and his red chair from The Voice, among other items.
This exhibit includes a variety of personal items that belong to award-winning singer and songwriter Dierks Bentley including guitars, stage wear, song manuscripts, photographs and more. His newest studio album, Black, is featured and explores his relationships in the past and how they impacted his music.
Songwriter sessions, in which visitors can view live performances in an intimate setting, are held on Saturday mornings at 11:30am in the Ford Theater. A question and answer period follows each performance.
Instrument demonstrations are held every Sunday at 1:00pm that offer guests a chance to learn about the many instruments that country music artists use. Musicians perform and share information about their technique and the history of the instrument and guests are able to ask questions.
Special screenings of documentaries, feature films and TV specials that highlight country music and its performers are offered in the Ford Theater at the museum. Visit the calendar to find out when these screenings take place.
Each weekend, the Country Music Hall of Fame offers a variety of hands-on programs that include interactions with professional musicians, artists and educators. Guests can learn guitar basics, dance to country music, write their own songs and more. All of these programs take place on Saturdays and Sundays in The Taylor Swift Education Center.
Each year, guests to the Country Music Hall of Fame have the opportunity to witness performances by a well-known artist or musician. The artist provides a series of original performances that highlight his/her career.
Nashville Cats is a great way to discover the careers of many of country music stars’ backup singers and musicians. In-depth interviews, vintage recordings, photos and film clips showcase some of these career backup artists, their techniques and contributions to country music.
The Museum Store is a must-visit before leaving the Country Music Hall of Fame offering an array of merchandise including official t-shirts, mugs, caps and Hatch Show Print posters that commemorate the exhibits you enjoyed. There are also books, music and official Museum and Studio B merchandise.
The Store is open daily from 9am to 6pm
A great place to pick up special Nashville merchandise and souvenirs, Circa boasts a selection of men’s and women’s clothing, seasonal items, jewelry, food, home decorations and other Nashville-made items.
Circa is open daily from 9am to 6pm
After enjoying your journey through the history of country music at the Museum, stop in any of the onsite restaurants for a delicious meal and a cold drink.
2/22 serves lunch from 11am-2pm, Monday – Saturday and features locally sourced meats and produce in a variety of southern dishes.
Bajo Sexto Taco serves up tacos and flautas, hand-made tortillas, wine, beer and margaritas daily from 11am-4pm.
Red Onion is open daily from 9am-5pm and serves quick meals to go or to be enjoyed onsite in their café. Breakfast, lunches, soups and salads, the menu features fresh, fast food made from locally sourced produce and meats.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is located at 222 Fifth Avenue and is open daily from 9am to 5pm. They’re closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Things to do nearby
Just a short walk from the Country Music Hall of Fame, Tootsies Orchid Lounge is a legendary honky tonk bar. Enjoy live music, cold drinks and the iconic Tootsies Hall of Fame, pictures and memorabilia of past and present country music stars that have visited the lounge and influenced country music through the ages.
Housed in the original building for the Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company, owned by Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons (two of the greatest steel guitar players in history), Robert’s Western World in steeped in history and a five-minute walk from the Country Music Hall of Fame. Another famous Nashville honky tonk, Robert’s offers live music, awesome cowboy boots and a unique menu, including fried baloney sandwiches and ice-cold beer.
Located within the Country Music Hall of Fame museum, Hatch Show Print is the oldest print shop in the USA and the place where prints of the biggest names in country music are still being made. Here, you can see the original printing press that is still in use to create prints. You can purchase a variety of posters featuring stars from yesterday and today.