We all know that country music and Nashville are synonymous. There are museums aplenty in this town paying tribute to a variety of performers who have their mark in country music. But, nothing quite rivals the Country Music Hall of Fame. The stately building itself commands a large chunk of downtown and promises to pack history, interactive spaces, motion picture displays, artifacts, classes, shows and exhibitions under one roof. We love a place that houses so much in one location. So, we partnered with this iconic country music destination (via sponsorship) to uncover the truth about how a family with two kids under the age of 10 would spend the day.
First things first. You might be thinking that only fans of this type of music should visit.
Kid Allergy Travel believes that even if you are not a country and western music fan, you will find yourself lingering here. This is a self-guided walk-through. So, be confident that you can always blow through the history portion if you want. But…be open to the idea that you might just stay awhile. Yes, it is about country music. But…ultimately, this museum is music themed which is a universal concept. And…you might just be surprised at what does draw your attention and keeps you staying and playing once you commit to going in.
Taylor Swift Education Center, Special Star Exhibits, Folk Roots to the 1960’s, The Precious Jewel and Gold Record Wall
After a brief elevator ride, you begin your tour on the third floor.
My kids immediately made a beeline for the Taylor Swift Education Center. Here you can take a group banjo or mandolin lesson for free, watch a puppet show, find your musical calling via an instrument petting zoo, or channel your inner artist through crafting, such as letter press art or bedazzling your own paper cowboy hats or postcards. Check the calendar of events here for details during your visit. You can also write Taylor a personal message as shown here by our four year old.
But, even after all of that, there was more fun to be had by the children. Kid Allergy and his brother moved on to enjoy a bit of collaborative songwriting.
Mom and dad were touched by what children had to say in response to writing the rest of a lyric: “What if I…” Responses posted on the board ranged from: -everyone got along -loved each other as much as we LOVE MUSIC? -everyone was kind? -people could change – knew my self worth! -could face all my fears -finally get to become a doctor!! -travel the world + spread kindness
See…I told you this wasn’t just about being a country music fan. This is just plain old I heart community sentiment right here.
When we had exhausted the various activities there, the kids were drawn to the 1950s videos being projected on the walls. Meaning, they completely skipped the costumes of Shania Twain and the Judds (thus, abandoning the Costumes Scavenger Hunt right off the bat). They went right for Sing Me Back Home: Folk Roots to the 1960s. The Wurlitzer jukebox from 1947 was also a big hit. And then…the two boys caught site of the cars! That’s right. Customized country and western themed vehicles line the hallways. Door handles shaped like pistols and longhorn hood ornaments were spotted eliciting cries of excitement from my two boys. Dad might have even uttered a few happy words when he spotted Elvis Presley’s “Solid Gold Cadillac.”
Once we rounded the corner, we settled in to two great interactive spots: Design Your Own Costume Coloring Table and Country Themed Interactive Screens. While the boys (and I mean all— kids and husband included) sat to play, the true country music fan (me!) finally got to take in some history.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Precious Jewel exhibit as the instruments that made country and western music evolve get to take center stage. These tools of the trade made greatness and it was awe-inspiring to see these treasures on display.
When I checked on the boys, they were busy creating signature looks for their inner musician and watching clips of western themed videos. My husband was in stitches over some of the Hee Haw sketches from 1969-1971 and the nine year old enjoyed animated Simpson episodes featuring stars like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr. and Natalie Maines.
1960s to Present and Special Exhibits
When we visited, Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s, Little Big Town and American Currents: The Music of 2017 were on display on this floor.
And, when we descended the stairs and encountered the Roaring ’70s, my husband and I were immediately drawn in to a time of bell-bottoms, shag carpets, pet rocks and mood rings–the Texas of our youth. You see, my husband and I grew up during the Armadillo Renaissance in Texas. The combination of urban country folk of the Lone Star State and a music venue called Armadillo World Headquarters pushed a progressive agenda transforming the sound music and art during this era.
From this counterculture came a hybrid type music sometimes called “redneck rock.” Ultimately, this cosmic consciousness sprouted the roots of what is known today as Southern Rock.
I thank the person who came up with placing the Electronic Armadillo Floor Challenge in the middle of this exhibit. My kids spent a full 30 minutes chasing after visions of electronic armadillos and feeling victorious when finally got to squishing one.
This gave me the opportunity to relive my early years through the various detailed placards and mountain of Armadillo & Outlaws memorabilia. I reveled in being transported to another time and place, hearing the sounds of a young version of my father softly singing along to his 8 track cassette tape of Willie Nelson songs he cherished, all the while learning a little bit more about this music and landscape of an age that shaped my parents and the wider community around me.
When I was ready to come back to the present, I pulled my children away from the Armadillo squashing game, only to see them blow past Little Big Town. We paused briefly to watch some footage about television history and country music in a small amphitheater and then finally landed at American Currents.
And boy…what a way to end the exhibit section of this museum!
Basically, this is the king of all interactive encounters, especially if you are a music lover. You register on one of the various tablets along the wall and then take off to begin your individual Country Music recording experience.
You can then head to the Taylor Swift Tour Bus to select your performer style, design your album cover, record vocals over a pre-recorded song in a recording booth (yes…that means you get to sing your heart out!), mix your recorded song, write some song titles using randomly generated country theme icons and a post-its and then gather badges as you expand your knowledge of current Country Music star to land your spot as a Music Super Star. And, for you non country music fans, you can even choose a classic rock song from Queen or pop hit from Taylor Swift.
There was an option to enter your email address to send a copy of your work, unfortunately though, neither my hubby nor I actually received this email. Either way, the whole family from four years old to adult, found this area stimulating and just plain fun.
Hall of Fame Rotunda
You end your time at the Country Music Hall of Fame at the Rotunda where, quite simply, country music lives. Once you cross the threshold, the room hits you with its silence.
There is a medallion in the center of the round room speaking a message of spirit, soul and history. It was clear that this was a place of reverence. Inductees have preserved to have their names grace these walls. And, even if you don’t love this style of music and connect with the names on the walls, you can still appreciate the beauty of the display and respect the hard work it takes to earn your place here.
- Parking. Quite simply, it isn’t easy getting to the Country Music Hall of Fame unless you have a free hotel shuttle or you are situated at a location close enough to walk. If you are driving, there is no parking directly on-site and everything within close proximity is quite expensive (think $23 for 3 hours). So, we decided to find parking a bit father away a few blocks past the Omni Hotel to save some hard earned cash. Only problem with this strategy, little kids don’t like to walk 10 blocks before starting their day. So, consider the payoff of starting the activity with tired kids or just sucking it up and shelling out the cash to have the kids rested for a big day. Remember, there is so much here that it will be quite a bit of site-seeing.
- Tickets. There are discounts for Seniors, Adult Students and members of the Military. Plus, tickets are good for the entire day. In and out privileges are honored. This is particularly helpful for anyone wanting to go off site for more comprehensive dining options or to manage parking.
- The Museum Store. Going above and beyond an average museum souvenir shop, this place is worth a stop. You can buy instruments, recorded music, or even exhibit specific merchandise in addition to the normal gift shop swag.
Kid Allergy Travel received sponsored admission to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos both by Kid Allergy Travel and Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation.