The legendary Blues Highway, U.S. Route 61, is an unforgettable journey from Nashville, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana, with music around every corner. From the birthplaces of celebrated artists and vinyl record shops to recording venues and southern culinary delights, every stop has a story to tell.
Your drive begins in Nashville, Tennessee, also known as “Music City,” with a homegrown cultural scene and over 120 live music venues. Catch a glimpse of country music history with a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, home to the world’s longest running live radio programme and country music’s most famous stage. Between watching live music, try some of the amazing local restaurants like Swetts, famous for its fried chicken served cafeteria style.
Head southwest to Memphis where you’ll find the not-to-be-missed Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The former home of Stax Records was rebuilt to resemble its storied former glory. Celebrated artists like Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin recorded songs at this legendary venue.
Even the King of Rock & Roll Elvis Presley had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was Sun Studio. Dubbed the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, this famous studio was also the launch pad for music greats Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. As you dance your way through this toe-tapping bit of musical history you’re bound to get hungry. Stop at Tops Bar-B-Q, which has been serving up pulled-pork sandwiches and beef brisket for more than 60 years. In the evening, stroll down bustling Beale Street to watch live street performers.
Onto Tunica, Mississippi, nicknamed “The Gateway to the Blues.” A stop at the Blues Visitors Center & Museum will help unlock the best Delta Blues landmarks. Make a lunchtime trip to the Blue & White Restaurant to sample the homestyle noon buffet with Southern treats like country ham, fried chicken and catfish. In Clarksdale, pay a visit to the colorful Ground Zero Blues Club, owned by Academy Award-winning celebrities and featuring a rotating list of today’s hottest musicians.
Next on the itinerary is New Orleans, Louisiana, a culturally diverse city of French, Spanish, Cuban and Creole influences. Hop on a streetcar to shop on Magazine Street or visit the famed, ornate Garden District. The streets are covered with stately mansions and lush oak trees. The action takes place in New Orleans’ French Quarter, a cultural mainstay that has long inspired musicians, writers and artists.
A New Orleans institution, Café du Monde is the perfect spot for fresh beignets, fried dough eaten hot sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Slowly sip a cafe au lait or cup of chicory coffee with subtle hints of chocolate. Later, take to the vibrant streets and visit the famed Bourbon Street to take in a live jazz band.
What to bring: a harmonica to play along with the blues, your favorite playlists and an appetite for southern culinary delights.
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