The Southern United States is the birthplace of so many types of American music—blues, soul, gospel, country and more. A trip through Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana will take visitors on a voyage through time, where they’ll learn about the legendary history of this music and the musicians that played it while seeing the present-day influences of these iconic figures in today’s artists. This six-day trip will take music fans from Elvis’ home in Memphis to a legendary town in the Mississippi Delta to the raucous fusion of culture and music in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Day 1 – Memphis, TN
Morning: Fly into Memphis International Airport
Afternoon: Visit Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis
What’s a music-themed trip without a visit to the home of the most famous musician in history? Elvis Presley’s legacy looms large over the city of Memphis and especially Graceland, the musician’s former home. What was once simply a musician’s mansion on the outskirts of town has now become an entire entertainment complex, including a car museum, vast warehouses of Elvis’ memorabilia and much more.
Evening: Dine and take in live music on Beale Street
Once you’re done celebrating the King, pay a visit to America’s most iconic street. Beale Street is known as the home of the blues, and it’s easy to see why—you’ll be able to find live music pretty much everywhere you go on this lively boulevard. Plus, you’ll find great souvenir shopping, dining and nightlife, too.
Other ideas: The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, which was created by the Smithsonian Institution, leads visitors through the story of Memphis’ musical pioneers like Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
Day 2 – Memphis, TN
Morning: Visit the Peabody Memphis to see the march of the famous Peabody Ducks
Spend your first morning in Memphis by witnessing one of the city’s grandest traditions—the march of the ducks to the fountain in the lobby of the Peabody. The ducks have been entertaining generations of guests since the first set of ducks made their debut at the hotel in the 1930s.
Afternoon: Bask in music history at Sun Studio
Music history was made at the tiny Sun Studio on Union Avenue in Memphis. It’s been the recording home of the “Million Dollar Quartet”—Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash—as well as iconic artists like BB King and U2. The studio is open for guided 45-minute tours every day from 10am to 6pm.
Evening: Sample some delicious Memphis barbecue
As famous as Memphis is for music, it might be equally as famous a destination for delicious barbecue. You’ll be able to find your fill at restaurants throughout the city, from the classic flavors of Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous to newer local chains like Central BBQ.
Other ideas: Any traveler interested in history or American culture should pay a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the Lorraine Motel, where Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The museum tells not only King’s story but the overall story of the nation’s Civil Rights struggle.
Day 3 – Memphis, TN, to Clarksdale, MS
Morning: Drive to Clarksdale, MS (1 hour, 30 minutes)
Explore the Delta Blues Museum
Every blues lover should visit the Delta Blues Museum, which showcases this uniquely American form of music. Learn about iconic musicians like Muddy Waters—the museum features the remains of the cabin he lived in as a sharecropper—and others. The Delta Blues Museum recently received a $460,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a major expansion that’s expected to be completed in 2019.
Afternoon: Visit Mississippi Blues Trail markers and “the Devil’s Crossroads”
Clarksdale is home to music history, and you’ll find markers highlighting important figures and occasions throughout the city that are part of the Mississippi Blues Trail. More than 100 markers can be found throughout the state, including 11 in Clarksdale. Another important site: the crossroads of Highway 61 and Highway 49, where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil to obtain his musical talent.
Evening: Enjoy live music in Clarksdale
Fittingly for a place with so much blues history, Clarksdale is also a great place to take in some live music. Visit Ground Zero Blues Club, co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, which hosts musicians from throughout the Mississippi Delta every day Wednesday through Saturday. Head to Red’s Blues Club in downtown Clarksdale for the true juke joint experience, or visit Bluesberry Café to grab a bite and take in some great blues music.
Other ideas: In downtown Clarksdale, head to Cathead Delta Blues & Folk Art, a combination record store-art gallery-souvenir shop-welcome center. Every spring, Clarksdale hosts the Juke Joint Festival, which welcomes dozens of musicians, artisans, craftspeople and food vendors for an extended weekend of blues music and fun.
Day 4 – Clarksdale, MS, to Natchez, MS
Morning: Drive to Cleveland, MS (40 minutes)
Explore the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
One of the newest music attractions in the Mississippi Delta, the GRAMMY Museum opened its doors in 2016 and shares the past, present and future of music with fun, interactive exhibits, historical memorabilia and more.
Afternoon: Drive to Indianola, MS (35 minutes)
This museum is dedicated to the life and times of BB King, who was born in the nearby town of Berclair in 1925. Visitors will discover exhibits that shed light on King’s early years as a sharecropper and truck driver, his initial success in Memphis and his worldwide stardom in the 1960s.
Evening: Drive to Natchez, MS (3 hours)
Natchez is a historic Southern city located on the banks of the Mississippi River and was once home to the most millionaires per capita in the United States. Many of these residents’ impressive antebellum homes are still open today for tours.
Other ideas: In Cleveland, pay a visit to Dockery Farms, a former plantation that’s considered the birthplace of the blues. If you’re looking to catch some live music when you arrive in Natchez, head to the historic Under-the-Hill Saloon, which once catered to flatboat operators making their way north on the Mississippi River.
Day 5 – Natchez, MS to New Orleans, LA
Morning: Drive to New Orleans, LA (3 hours)
Afternoon: Explore the French Quarter
The oldest section of the city of New Orleans, the French Quarter is filled with restaurants, shops, music clubs and much more. Stroll along world-famous Bourbon Street, where you’ll find entertainment options any day of the year. Sample beignets at Café du Monde and explore the shops of the French Market. There’s a good chance you’ll encounter some live performances—musical, artistic or otherwise—while you’re out walking.
Evening: Take in live music on Frenchmen Street
The French Quarter has its fair share of music venues, but if you’re looking for a funkier vibe, head to Frenchmen Street just outside of the French Quarter. There you’ll find venues like The Spotted Cat Music Club and Maison.
Other ideas: Music lovers will find plenty to love in New Orleans, including performances at classic venues like Preservation Hall or the Royal Sonesta New Orleans’ Jazz Playhouse. If you’re visiting in spring, don’t miss fun events like the French Quarter Festival or the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest.
Day 6 – New Orleans, LA
Morning: Depart from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport