4 Anderson County Museums to Visit This Winter

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Editor’s note: We’ve updated details about the American Museum of Science & Energy at the end of this story that were inaccurate in our print edition. We apologize for any confusion.

If you’ve been bitten by the travel bug but don’t want to venture far from home this winter, consider a road trip to Anderson County. Made up of the cities of Clinton, Norris, Oak Ridge, Rocky Top and Oliver Springs, Anderson County has four interesting museums to explore, all nestled in the rolling hills of East Tennessee.

Museum of Appalachia

The Museum of Appalachia

Immerse yourself in old-time Appalachian culture at The Museum of Appalachia in Clinton. Visitors can spend an entire day touring the museum’s 65 acres, which include 35 authentic log cabins, barns, farm animals, churches, schools, gardens, a gift shop and a restaurant. The three main buildings house a vast collection of 250,000 artifacts that celebrate folk art, music, baskets, quilts, Native American life and more.

“The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum – a pioneer mountain farm village that lends a voice to the people of Southern Appalachia through the artifacts and stories they left behind,” says Will Meyer, marketing manager for The Museum of Appalachia. “It’s great for kids and adults. Tens of thousands of students visit the museum each year. Kids enjoy seeing history come to life in a way they’ve never experienced. They especially enjoy the animals, stories and old-fashioned games.”

Winter is a magical time to visit, when The Museum of Appalachia hosts its annual Candlelight Christmas event, slated for Dec. 2-3. Take an evening tour of the pioneer village to discover log cabins festively lit for the season, a live nativity scene, musicians, storytelling, caroling and holiday crafts for kids. There are also demonstrations of spinning, candle-dipping, sassafras tea making, blacksmithing and weaving.

Museum of Appalachia

“Candlelight Christmas captures the beauty and simplicity of an old-fashioned Christmas,” Meyer says. “During December, the museum and its village are adorned for the holidays with simple gifts and decorations typical of early Appalachian life. Special exhibits honor the quiet beauty of Christmas in pioneer days. Guests enjoy the old-fashioned atmosphere and warmth of the season.”

It’s hard not to be impressed by the ingenuity of the Appalachian people as you wander through the museum and its grounds.

“Out of necessity, they made everything they owned, and they showcased tremendous creativity in doing so,” Meyer says. “For instance, musical instruments were made out of whatever was lying around … ham cans, toilet seats, you name it.”

Green McAdoo Cultural Center

Green McAdoo Cultural Center

February is Black History Month, and you can dive into local black history at the Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton. Dedicated to the “Clinton 12,” the museum pays respect to the first 12 black students integrated into Clinton High School in 1956, and other students and adults who abided by the law.

Read More: 10 Tennessee Stops on the National Civil Rights Trail

“Prior to entering the museum, the first thing you see is 12 life-size bronze statues of the Clinton 12,” says Marilyn Hayden, administrator of the Green McAdoo Cultural Center. “Then you see a photo of what a typical class looked like in 1952. Upon entering the museum, you will have a seat in the classroom as you listen to Ms. Blair give a lesson of the history of the school and the belief that students should have the right to attend any school they wished.”

The exhibit hall gives visitors chronological accounts of stories detailing the integration of Clinton High School, including photos from Life magazine. In the Epilogue Room, visitors can watch the movie “Clinton and the Law,” which was narrated by Edward R. Murrow and filmed in 1956. It aired on CBS in 1957 showing portions of the tumultuous time in Clinton, with an additional short video of Harry Reasoner visiting Clinton High School six years later.

Hayden’s own brother, Ronald Hayden, was one of the Clinton 12. He died at a young age in 1966.

Green McAdoo Cultural Center

“The most impressive thing for most visitors is the fact this happened at all – that even during those horrible days, people came together to abide by the law, and for the most part, without any serious injuries or deaths,” she says.

On Martin Luther King Day, the museum hosts a free prayer breakfast, where local ministers come to pray and a continental breakfast is served.

Children's Museum of Oak Ridge

Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge

Traveling with kids? Don’t miss the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, where they can tour an Amazon rainforest, board a locomotive in the World of Trains, learn about life for children in Appalachia and sample different cultures in the International Hall. Other interactive exhibits include Waterworks, where kids can run a tugboat on a river; The Bird Room, which explores birds common in East Tennessee; The Dollhouse; Native American Exhibit; The Arctic; A Century of Toys; Nature Walk; Puppet Room and more.

American Museum of Science and Energy

American Museum of Science and Energy

Also in Oak Ridge, discover how this “Secret City” was at the forefront of the Nuclear Age at the American Museum of Science & Energy. Learn about Oak Ridge’s involvement in the Manhattan Project of the 1940s when the first nuclear weapons were produced. The AMSE also explores the science behind light, color, sound, electricity, robotics, atoms and more.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park has its own offices and visitor information desk to the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, but AMSE recently moved to Main Street, a newly developed shopping center in the heart of the city. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park and AMSE will continue a partner on programming and exhibits, but the organizations will continue to operate as separate entities.

If You Go...

• The Museum of Appalachia is located at 2819 Andersonville Highway in Clinton. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for senior citizens, $10 for youth (13-18) and $6 for children (5-12). Contact them at (865) 494-7680 or visit museumofappalachia.org.

• The Green McAdoo Cultural Center is located at 101 School Street in Clinton. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free; donations are accepted. Contact them at (865) 463-6500 or visit greenmcadoo.org.

• The Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge is located at 461 West Outer Drive in Oak Ridge. It is open Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for children ages 3 and up. Contact them at (865) 482-1074 or visit childrensmuseumofoakridge.org.

• The American Museum of Science and Energy is located at 115 Main St. E. in Oak Ridge. It is currently open Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday and Monday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for seniors, active military personnel, seniors and children ages 6 to 17. Ages 5 and under get in free. Call them at (865) 294-4531 or visit amse.org.


  1. Diane Ilgner

    December 6, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Thank you for the wonderful article on museums in Anderson County, Tennessee! For more information on our area, please visit http://www.yallcome.org or call us at 865-457-4547 and we can help plan your trip!
    Anderson County Tourism Council
    Clinton, Tennessee

  2. Jim Harless

    November 16, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Thanks for helpful articles. Jim

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