WHO: Ginessa (Mom) and her six children: Simeon (11), Judah (9), Eden (6), Elias (4), Selah (3) and Tobias (6 months)
WHAT: Tennessee State Museum
WHERE: 1000 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville
WHEN: Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat 10 a.m .- 5 p.m., Thru 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sun 1 - 5 p.m.
INFO: 615-741-2692 | tnmuseum.org
There aren't many things in life much better than finding places you and your kids love in the city you live in. This is exactly how we felt after our recent visit to our Tennessee State Museum that's smack dab in the heart of Nashville!
The new Tennessee State Museum sits conveniently on the corer of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Grand in stature and less than one year old, it is quickly becoming a popular family and tourist spot for all the right reasons.
Accessibility to the museum is convenient, and there is a designated parking lot located right across the street next to the Nashville Farmers' Market. We were able to find quick parking, hop out of our van and load up a couple of our little ones in our double stroller.
As we headed up to the front doors, we were all immediately intrigued by the lovely walkway, fountains and small grassy knoll leading up to the museum. The new building is beautiful! You are ushered into a large, granite open foyer upon entering. Immediately to the left you will find the double doors to the Children's Gallery, and that's where we all were first hooked.
THE CHILDREN'S GALLERY
The beautiful construction and attention to fun details grab your attention in the hands-on Children's Gallery. It is a very spacious, color-filled room that is able to hold larger groups of children easily. Each of my kids were engaged the moment we walked in (I was too!). You are invited to explore the large Tennessee-inspired murals on the walls and floors while speakers play some of our state's greatest hit makers like Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and BB. King. The best part: it's all educational.
I love how much intentionality went into creating a special place where kids can learn more about our state in a fun, meaningful way. There are tons of visually appealing state symbols, a children's book area, train table, music center and a Magna-Tiles table where children are encouraged to make a "quilt" out of the tiles. So cute!
We met Miss Morgan, a museum staffer, sitting at the Children's Help Desk. Miss Morgan has been here since the new museum opened, and she was so wonderful about explaining the space to us and helping us to feel welcome. She quickly got my older boys involved in a state scavenger hunt around the room, and she provided take-home coloring sheets of museum artifacts for my toddlers. She also informed us that the museum holds regular toddler storytime hours (best for kids ages 3 - 6), complete with a craft, every Thursday and Saturday from 10:30 - 11 a.m.
The Children's Gallery is so whimsical and aesthetically pleasing that we knew it was going to be a hard pitch to get the kids out of there and ready to explore the other parts of the museum. They were having so much fun! Thankfully, Miss Morgan was quick on her feet encouraging us to do the even larger family scavenger hunt by heading to the front Visitor's Desk to grab some clues for our search.
THE MAIN GALLERY
After spending a good 30 minutes in the Children's Gallery, we moved on to the rest of the museum. However, I can't help but think of how great it will be to visit the children's area again on a later date. It will definitely make the perfect outing for play dates, especially as the weather gets colder in the upcoming months.
Following along with the new scavenger hunt map, we headed up the elevator to begin exploring the main gallery. The main gallery tells the history and story of Tennessee from the very beginning. They call it the Tennessee Time Tunnel. It starts from the prehistoric era and continues to modern day. There is plenty of visual stimulation and enough "wow" displays that kept even my youngest children engaged during the walk-through.
My older three children recognized many of our state's symbols. In fact, my 9-year-old was most excited when we spent time in the Presidents of Tennessee section because he had studied former presidents like Andrew Jackson and James. K. Polk in school.
We were all enjoying ourselves, and after about 20 minutes into our time in the main gallery, I could tell that some of my younger toddlers were getting restless. Usually when this is the case, my husband and I will "divide and conquer," but instead, we decided to all venture over together to see one of the latest exhibits, Let's Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee's Food. This temporary exhibit runs through Feb. 2, 2020.
Let's Eat! is a fun exhibit that does a great job of highlighting the history behind some of our favorite foods associated with Tennessee. The exhibit includes eight sections tracing the state's food from its Southeastern Indian origins to contemporary food festival celebrations. And you'll find it all, whether its barbecued, fried, roasted, pickled or chilled. The history is told through an array of artifacts, digital storytelling, graphics and photography.
By the time we were finished in this section, we were definitely in the mood to eat! Thankfully, you are welcome to bring snacks to the museum as long as you keep them in the lockers at the front desks or stored away until you reach the designated patio area outside.
We decided to go that route and eat a small snack on the semi-covered museum patio before heading home. It was a great moment to pause and discuss our favorite things about our visit. If we had planned to stay through lunch, we would have most likely ventured a few feet from where we were parked and into the Nashville Farmers' Market. You could not pair a better place with the Tennessee State Museum.
If you are looking for somewhere new to take your children and you haven't yet explored our Tennessee State Museum, I highly encourage you to do so. We will definitely be returning! I love the fact that it was not meant to be explored in its entirety in one single day. There is always something to look forward to on the next visit. Like all museums, the Tennessee State Museum is constantly updating its exhibits throughout the year, so you have to check the website or better yet, sign up to receive informative e-mail updates.
Whether your child has an upcoming history project, you're looking for some additional educational options, or you've made plans to visit the Farmers' Market, the Tennessee State Museum is a must-see! It's free, it's fun and it's full of rich history that engages young and old alike. I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to visit. We are already planning our next trip back!