Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
222 5th Ave S., Downtown
Not only is a visit to this museum a must for anyone with a passing interest in country music; it also provides a lot of context for the city as a whole. Every aspect of the industry is documented in painstaking detail. Standout exhibits include Sing Me Back Home, full of photographs and original recordings that go back to the nineteenth century. Kids get their own exhibits and programs—there are live instrument demonstrations, songwriting classes, and interactive galleries in the Taylor Swift Education Center.
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
1 Symphony Pl., Downtown
This neoclassical stunner looks straight out of the nineteenth century but was actually completed in 2005. And it’s so much more than a typical symphony hall. Aldridge is a fan of the movie nights, where feature films (like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Star Wars) are played with a live orchestral accompaniment: “It’s such a magical experience for families to hear the symphony play alongside classic movies,” she says. “We love watching Home Alone at Christmas. It’s fun for both grown-ups and kids.”
Ernest Tubb Record Shop
417 Broadway, Downtown
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop, with its vast array of bluegrass and classic country music, also hosts a live WSM-AM radio show each Saturday night after the Grand Ole Opry. It airs from the Texas Troubadour Theatre in Music Valley and was established in 1947.
116 Fifth Ave., Downtown
The Ryman was founded as a church in 1892, which explains the church pew seating. In the mid-twentieth century it came to house the legendary Johnny Cash television show and the weekly Grand Ole Opry concert and radio show, which was broadcast on WSM-AM. The television show is no more, and the Opry has moved to a new home at the Grand Ole Opry House, but the Ryman remains a must-experience concert venue for its spectacular acoustics. Definitely try to get tickets to a show there and skip the daytime museum tour: You can kill two birds with one stone and check out the display cases while you’re at the concert.