Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum

This Owensboro, Kentucky, institution is the only one dedicated to the history and preservation of the musical genre rooted in the driving sounds of banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass.

Owensboro, Kentucky, is ground zero for bluegrass music, and the star attraction is the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum. It is the only facility dedicated to the history and preservation of the musical genre rooted in the driving sounds of banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass. Bill Monroe, creator of bluegrass music, was born 45 minutes away in Rosine, Kentucky, and the hall of fame and museum enshrine his legacy, one that now spans the globe.

The hall of fame and museum have impressive exhibits, but everything is designed for visitors to experience live music. That happens several ways. The most joyful is in the Picking Parlor, a space packed with about 25 instruments. Patrons are totally welcome — make that encouraged — to pick up a guitar, fiddle, dobro or other instrument and start picking. 

Casual, but slightly more structured, are the open bluegrass jams hosted every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Jam sessions are free and open to all, and every skill level is welcome. A third way to get baptized in bluegrass is through a concert in the 450-seat Woodward Theater or outdoors, where a permanent stage has the wide Ohio River as a backdrop.

With about 60,000 residents, Owensboro is a compact, attraction-filled destination. Western Kentucky’s distinctive barbecue is hugely popular, and Green River Distillery is the westernmost stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Bluegrass, barbecue and bourbon add up to a full itinerary. 311 W. Second St., Owensboro, Kentucky 42301, 270/926-7891, bluegrasshall.org