Nashville's Best Free Historical Attractions

From museums to parks, there's something to be found in Nashville for all kinds of history fans—even the most frugal of folks!

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Tennessee State Museum

Tennessee State Museum

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

1000 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN 37208, USA
Phone +1 615-741-2692

The Tennessee State Museum (TSM) is one of the largest state museums in the nation. TSM is located in Downtown Nashville at 5th Street and Deaderick Street; look for the Tennessee Performing Arts Center marquee. Local favorites at the museum include the Egyptian mummy, Civil War Exhibit, and the Frontier Display. Admission is free for all permanent exhibits.

02 of 10

Tennessee State Capitol

The Tennessee State Capitol
Malcolm MacGregor / Getty Images
600 Dr. M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Nashville, TN 37243, USA
Phone +1 615-360-4326

Designed by architect William Strickland, the Tennessee Capitol building overlooks Bicentennial Mall. Construction began on the Capitol Building in 1844 and was completed in 1859. Strickland died during the construction in 1854 and is actually buried within its walls. The State Capitol building sits atop a high hill in downtown Nashville and offers a spectacular view of many areas around the downtown area.

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War Memorial Building

Legislative Plaza, Military history Branch of Tennessee State Museum, War Memorial building, Historic Tennessee State Capitol building, Nashville
Danita Delimont / Getty Images
301 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243, USA
Phone +1 615-782-4030

The War Memorial Building was built in 1925 to honor soldiers who died in World War I and it is home to the Tennessee State Museum's Military Branch Exhibit. The centerpiece of this exhibit is a large statue entitled Victory, located in the atrium. The War Memorial Building is located across the street from the State Capital.

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Historic Second Avenue

Wildhorse Saloon, Historic Second Avenue

Mx. Granger / Wikimedia Commons / BY CC0 

Formally known as Market Street, Second Avenue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. This area is Nashville’s oldest downtown district and encompasses somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or so properties.

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Historic Lower Broadway

Downtown Nashville music entertainment establishments
FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

Lower Broadway encompasses some of the oldest blocks in Nashville. Currently, Lower Broadway is home to most of the local honky-tonks. Many of the buildings are still intact (with a renovation here and there), and several still stand just as proud as they did during the Civil War.

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Nashville Arcade Mall

Nashville Arcade
Raymond Boyd / Getty Images
65 Arcade Alley, Nashville, TN 37219, USA
Phone +1 615-248-6673

The Nashville Arcade Mall was built in the late spring of 1903. Modeled after an arcade in Italy, it is one of a few of its kind remaining in the country. It has an awe-inspiring glass roof that goes from one end to the other. In the last decade, the Arcade has undergone a wonderful revitalization. It is now filled with art galleries and other businesses that include the old peanut shop and even a few specialty stores.

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Downtown Library

Nashville Public Library
Raymond Boyd / Getty Images
615 Church St, Nashville, TN 37219-2314, USA
Phone +1 615-880-2613

While there are plenty of grandiose things to see and do at the Downtown Nashville Library, the place for History Lovers to go is the Special Collections Section located on the library's second floor. It is home to the Nashville Room, the Civil Rights Room, and the Nashville Banner Archives.

This is where you can find everything that you ever needed or wanted to know about Nashville. A special highlight included in the Civil Rights Room is a symbolic lunch counter. You will also find a timeline of national, state, and local civil rights events.

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Bicentennial Mall

Bicentennial Capitol Mal
Raymond Boyd / Getty Images
600 James Robertson Pkwy, Nashville, TN 37243-1200, USA
Phone +1 615-741-5280

The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, one of Nashville's hidden gems, is located in the northwestern part of downtown Nashville, between Jefferson Street and James Robertson Parkway—next to Farmer's Market. This 19-acre park was built in honor of Tennessee’s 200th year of statehood and offers visitors a serene and captivating look into Tennessee history at every turn.

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09 of 10

Fort Negley

Fort Negley in Nashville

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

1100 Fort Negley Blvd, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Phone +1 615-862-8470

Fort Negley was the largest fortification built by the occupying Union Army in Nashville, and the largest inland stone fort constructed during the Civil War. Though the fort was used as a Union Army centerpiece when declaring its superiority over Confederate forces, it was never actually directly attacked during the Battle of Nashville.

Fort Negley now hosts a grand Visitor Center, just over 4,600-square-foot; it includes a multipurpose theater, exhibit space, meeting room, and an outdoor plaza.

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Fort Nashborough

Fort Nashborough
Danita Delimont / Getty Images
170 1st Ave N, Nashville, TN 37201, USA
Phone +1 615-862-8400

Nashville was founded by James Robertson, when he led a party of early pioneers across the frozen Cumberland River to a place called the Cedar Bluffs, on Christmas Eve, in 1779. Here is where the city of Nashville was founded, and Fort Nashborough was built, making it the first white settlement in the area.

The fort was named after the American Revolutionary War hero Francis Nash and, while the current fort is a reconstruction, it is still worth a visit.

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Nashville's Best Free Historical Attractions