Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Music Museums: Whatever Moves You

The soundtrack of American life is populated with trailblazing musical icons across many genres. From singer-songwriters who paved the way for new political movements to rock ’n’ roll legends who set stages and hearts ablaze, these extraordinary musicians left their mark on American culture and the music of today. 

Because of their lasting influence, it’s no wonder travelers flock to the museums that celebrate the lives and crafts of timeless performers. These museums, often found in places of significance to each artist, give travelers the chance to discover the spirit that drove some of their favorite musicians. 

Paisley Park

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Paisley Park was once the personal estate and recording studio of Prince, the Minneapolis-born musician who skyrocketed to fame in the 1980s and ’90s with hits such as “Little Red Corvette” and “Purple Rain.” The talented artist was as renowned for his larger-than-life personality as he was for his wide vocal range and signature style. He worked ceaselessly on his music, produced his own albums and played most of the instruments in each song, creating tracks with influences of pop, funk and rock. 

Following the artist’s death in 2016, Paisley Park was turned into a museum and concert venue, just as Prince intended. The 65,000-square-foot complex was built in 1987 and rests on nine acres in Chanhassen, a suburb outside of Minneapolis. Inside the museum, groups will find exhibits dedicated to Prince’s influence on both the music and fashion industry, including an exhibit featuring over 300 pairs of Prince’s custom shoes. They can view other Prince memorabilia, such as his outfits, cars and motorcycles, as well as photos and footage of Prince during performances and interviews throughout his life.

Elvis Presley’s Graceland

Memphis, Tennessee

The King of Rock ’n’ Roll needs little introduction, which is what makes Graceland one of the top attractions in Elvis Presley’s hometown of Memphis. After his famously provocative performance at the Overton Park Shell, Presley’s status was cemented as both an impressive performer and a heartthrob. His music, which combined a strong back beat with a blend of country and blues, was as much of a revolution within the music industry as his dancing was to the public. 

Presley purchased Graceland in 1957, and it opened to the public as a museum in 1982, five years after his death. Groups can take audio tours of the Graceland Mansion, which has 23 rooms and over 17,000 square feet. In addition to the original nearly 14-acre estate, a 200,000-square-foot entertainment complex, known as Elvis Presley’s Memphis, has been added to the Graceland experience. This complex includes museums where visitors will find exhibits dedicated to Presley’s awards, records, stage outfits, movie memorabilia, custom jets and automobiles. Multiple group-friendly restaurants are located throughout the complex. Vernon’s Smokehouse offers authentic Memphis barbecue, while Gladys’ Diner, a 1950s-themed diner, serves up classic diner fare.

Loretta Lynn’s Home

Van Lear, Kentucky

Known for hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” Loretta Lynn was a prolific country singer and songwriter often called “the Queen of Country Music.” Born the second of eight children, Lynn lived in the coal mining town of Butcher Hollow. She was married at 15 and a mother to four children by the time she rose to stardom in 1960. Her status as a woman and a mother from rural Appalachia who advanced into the music industry was almost unheard of, but it was also one of her defining strengths as a songwriter. Lynn’s songs often touched on the joys and sorrows of those in the region, particularly women in its communities. 

Loretta Lynn’s Homeplace, the one-room log cabin where she was born, is a testament to her modest beginnings and the way of life that inspired her music. The tour of Lynn’s homeplace begins at Webb’s General Store, once a coal mining camp store that is now a grocery store where visitors can learn about the Butcher Hollow of Lynn’s childhood and purchase keepsakes and snacks.

Woody Guthrie Center

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Woody Guthrie, the Oklahoma native whose music ignited a spark of political and social change in the American public, wrote powerful folk songs like “This Land is Your Land” and inspired generations of artists to come. The singer-songwriter used music to express his perspectives on American culture, social issues and activism. 

At the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, which opened in 2013, groups learn about not only his expansive musical portfolio but also his legacy in activism. The center features an archive of 10,000 artifacts and exhibits dedicated to Guthrie, such as a documentary film about Guthrie’s life, his guitar, his journals and some of his original song lyrics. Groups can also view rotating exhibits that explore and celebrate other artists and musical movements aligned with Guthrie’s guiding principles.

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Queens, New York

Louis Armstrong, the pivotal jazz musician behind the hit ballad “What a Wonderful World,” emerged from humble beginnings in New Orleans to become a standout trumpeter and vocalist in Chicago, and later, New York. From band member to front man in his own band, Louis Armstrong broke barriers during an important time in the civil rights era. His talent made him a household name, and he toured internationally through much of the mid-1900s. 

Eventually, Armstrong settled down in the Corona neighborhood of Queens in a home groups can tour today. Collections at the Louis Armstrong House Museum include Armstrong’s personal recordings, scrapbooks and photographs; some instruments and instrument cases; and materials donated by fans and collectors alike. The house still contains much of the furniture and décor left behind after Armstrong’s death, giving visitors insight into the way this extraordinary musician and activist lived.

The Big House Museum

Macon, Georgia

One of the pioneering sounds of Southern rock, the Allman Brothers Band was formed in 1969 in Jacksonville, Florida. They relocated to Macon, Georgia, shortly afterward, and began to produce music with a unique blend of jazz, blues, country and rock. Hits released by the band include familiar tracks like “Ramblin’ Man” and “Midnight Rider.”  

For three years in the early 1970s, the Allman Brothers Band and their families lived in a large Tudor-style home in Macon dubbed “the Big House.” Today, this 18-room home is a museum where groups can walk in the steps of the band and where they will find a large collection of memorabilia. Groups can tour the home’s many rooms, some of which still contain original furniture from the time the band lived there. Each room features a selection of different instruments, outfits, posters and some of the band’s handwritten song lyrics.

Mississippi John Hurt Museum

Avalon, Mississippi

John Smith Hurt, better known throughout his life as Mississippi John Hurt, was a blues singer and guitarist who grew up in the small town of Avalon, Mississippi. He taught himself to play the guitar at an early age and soon became known for his three-finger guitar picking. For much of his life, Hurt performed at small venues or local gatherings while he worked as a farmer and raised a large family. His music was rediscovered during the American folk music revival in the 1960s. Hurt spent the last few years of his life performing and recording music and was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. 

 The three-room shack where Hurt lived and raised his family is now the site of the Mississippi John Hurt Museum. The tiny tin-roof wooden structure was moved from its original plot just down the road. Groups can visit the home, which is filled with donated items and memorabilia.

Buddy Holly Center

Lubbock, Texas

Charles Holley, better known as Buddy Holly, was born in Lubbock, Texas, during the Great Depression. During his short career, which spanned the 1950s, Holly’s stints as a solo artist and as the front man in multiple groups had an influence on rock ’n’ roll on par with that of Elvis Presley. Holly opened for Presley on multiple occasions. His hit “That’ll Be The Day” was a breakthrough and cemented his status in the music industry shortly before his untimely death cut his burgeoning career short. 

Groups will find the world’s most extensive collection of artifacts related to Buddy Holly and exploring his legacy at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock. Holly’s guitar, personal record collection and signature glasses, recovered from the wreckage of the plane crash that took his life, can be found among the exhibits. The center also explores Holly’s rise to fame and the lasting effect he had on the music industry.