Nashville, TN was the last stop on my cross-country road trip in August 2016. I know there is a ton of fun stuff to do in Nashville, but this was one of my primary destinations. I parked in an underground garage across the street. It was pretty close, but I’m sure you could find less expensive parking nearby.
As I walked in the entrance, I really had no idea where to begin. It’s sort of a giant lobby area, and there are two stores off of it with a walkway between them that leads to other areas of the building (which I’ll get to at the end). Luckily there was an information desk who was able to point me in the right direction.
To buy tickets on site, you head to the back corner of the room. The line was short, however, I was not prepared to purchase a ticket (I probably should have done more research). When I stepped up to buy my ticket, I just said, “One please.” She printed the ticket, I paid, and walked away. However, I had no idea where I was supposed to go at that point. There was a small line to an elevator, and I eventually figured out that was where I was supposed to be. Before we all get inside this large elevator, and I realize everybody around me has headphones on. When you buy a ticket, get the one with the self-guided audio tour, and you get something similar to what I experienced at Graceland.
As the elevator is almost full, a lady pops her head in and says, “You want to go to the third floor to begin the tour. It starts at the Taylor Swift Educational Center.” We all kind of laugh under our breath because this is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Taylor Swift is still pretty young. We’re all expecting things from the 1940s and Elvis era.
Then as the door opens, you can’t miss it. The Taylor Swift Educational center is full of people. So I try to see what the big deal is. There are a few workers inside directing people and answering questions. While I’m waiting in line, the young girl in front of me turns in a paper and says, “I finished the scavenger hunt.” The woman working there replies, “Which prize would you like?” and opens a giant cabinet filled with memorabilia. The girl grabs something and wanders off, and I’m next in line.
So I ask the woman, “Why the Taylor Swift Educational Center?” She explains that Taylor donated a ton of money to the Hall of Fame to create an interactive place with classrooms for field trips or tours to gather and learn more about country music. It’s pretty incredible that such a young musical artist appreciates the genre that much to try to grow awareness about its history and gain new appreciation from kids who may not yet understand it.
As I’m going through the room, there’s a display case with dresses she has worn on tour and one of the guitars she played on stage. There’s a lot of stations set up for kids to do crafts and drawings. And then I find it, the scavenger hunt. I grab one from among the display of informational sheets. On both the front and back is a list of different things to find throughout the entire tour of the building. I’m glad I took one because this is what helped me look at and read every single display in the building. Some of them were actually tough to find. And yes, there is an accountability factor to some of it that proves you actually saw these things.
As you navigate through the displays you see everything you could imagine and want from a historical standpoint. There are typewriters that were used to write lyrics, sheets of lyrics, guitars played by certain famous artists, boots and outfits worn that were iconic, things seen in music videos, even a tour bus. There was quite the variety. As you go through the tour, it literally takes you from the beginnings of country music all the way to current artists. I wouldn’t say it’s dominated by Taylor Swift, but it starts with her Center and ends with her tour bus. If you put forward the amount of money she did to the Hall of Fame, you would deserve that too. The cool thing about the tour bus is it teaches you the process of making an album and the different jobs that go into it. You can also step inside a recording studio and actually record yourself singing. When I went, there was a girl inside one who was pretty good, and a bachelorette party shout-singing in another.
At the end of the three floor tour, I went to turn in my scavenger hunt, but the room was closed. On the door was a sign that said I could turn in the scavenger hunt to the information desk in the lobby. I felt a little odd as an adult turning this in, but the prize options were pretty awesome. In line with the entire experience, I opted for the Taylor Swift book that outlined her Red album and tour. There were DVDs featuring people I had never heard of, lanyards, and other random trinkets, but I ended up giving the book to a friend for her birthday because she is a huge T. Swift fan.
So, like I said in the beginning, I was in the giant lobby again. I did enjoy the stores. I bought a shirt to commemorate my visit. When I did, they gave me a coupon for the Hatch Print Shop and directed me down the walkway. If they hadn’t told me about it, I would not have found it or known to go look at it. I recommend taking a look. It’s one of the few places that still uses a working letterpress to create designs and art for posters, shirts, and more. I liked it so much, I now follow them on Instagram. I did buy a poster from the $5 pile that was for a 4th of July event a few years ago. They have a whole wall of cute sayings printed in various fonts and designs that are super cheap and chic. Think Newsies the movie, when they decide to print their own newspaper, but with color and cooler concepts.
By the time I finished going through the Hall of Fame, two stores, and Hatch Show Print, the building was closing. Hopefully that explains that you’ll definitely get your monies worth in time, but also in entertainment. In summary: get the audio tour, do the scavenger hunt, and explore the stores in the building.