Our current travel feature is focused on the music tour routes of southern USA.
Let us put together a tailor made American trip for you, with a focus on these famous musical cities, so you can experience the major music festivals that make these places so unique.
New Orleans, LA
This is a place like no other. You are in the USA but it offers such a different atmosphere to most American cities.New Orleans is best visited in April/May, when one of the biggest and longest running music festivals “Jazzfest” kicks off.
The event is held just outside the French Quarter at the racecourse, and runs for a total of 7 days across 2 weekends. A total of 11 stages present every style of music covering jazz, blues, gospel, rock, cajun, zydeco, country and Americana roots. The city is alive with gigs taking place every evening at venues in and around the French Quarter. The intimate nature of the local clubs allows you to get up close and personal with the local artists, an experience not to be missed for any music lover.
To take a timeout from the festival between the two weekends and take in other attractions like the Mississippi river boats, Congo Square, Louis Armstrong Park, the historic cemeteries and the Garden District. Make sure you visit the House of Blues for a gospel brunch.Go to the Rock and Bowl which combines ten pin bowling and music. Now that’s different. Day trips out of the city include a Plantation tour and a swamp trip to see some alligators.
With over 200 music venues in and around the city, it’s no wonder Austin is called the live music capital of the world – with quintessential clubs like Antione’s, The Continental Club and Thredgills just to name a few.
Two major festivals occur annually: the Austin City Limits Festival in October (over 3 days), with a diverse range of music and over 100 bands across 8 stages, and SXSW (South by Southwest), which is held in March and showcases both Indie music and film.
Given it’s close proximity to Mexico, Austin gives you a great blend of texmex, with loads of Mexican food options in some great dinning establishments. Top music attractions to visit are the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial, Collings Guitar Factory, the Texas Music Museum and the Cosmic Cowboy Tour.
Memphis, TN & Clarksdale, MS
These cities go hand in hand for the best experience of Southern Rock and Roll and Blues.
In Memphis, be sure to take the tour of Elvis’s home ‘Graceland’, then visit Sun Studios, the place that launched the famous four: Jerry Lee Louis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. Pop by Stax, the studio that gave the world the soul music of Otis Redding, Booker T and the MG’s and the Staple Singers. Make sure to also visit the National Civil Rights Museum built around the Lorraine Motel. This was the location of Martin Luther King’s fateful shooting and is an important and emotional place to see.
124km south of Memphis via the highway is Clarksdale, Mississippi – the birthplace of the blues. Famous American artists to come out of this region were Muddy Waters, BB King, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson.
Make sure you stay at the Shack Up Inn, a unique and charismatic abode that consists of weathered shacks and a cotton gin.This was originally part of the Hopsons Cotton Plantation.The location is full of history and those train tracks run right by the Shack Up.Take a tour of the Delta Blues Museum, dine at Morgan Freeman’s restaurant Madidi’s, visit the crossroads site and see a gig at Ground Zero. Like New Orleans, the best time to visit Clarksdale is in April during the Juke Joint Festival.
Nashville is the home of country music, and a must on any music tour of the US as it just oozes music history. Many musicans travel to Nashville to stake their claim, hoping to be the next big thing.
Be sure to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, Music Row, the Walk of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry and The Ryman Auditorium. Top venues in town for live music include The Station Inn,The Wheel and Cannery Ballroom.
If you’re heading out of the city, take a drive to experience some of the southern stately mansions and sites of the Civil War battles. The best time to visit Nashville is in June during their major festival: The Country Music Association Fan Fair.