If you love live music or American music history then why not make your passion part of your travels. Here are destinations in the USA where music lovers can experience live music of many genres, visit museums dedicated to music or step into historical sites made famous by the music legends who called them home.
Contributed by Disha from DishaDiscovers.com
There are so many amazing cities in the U.S. for music lovers and Nashville is one of them. Nashville’s nickname is “Music City.” With so many music venues, iconic artists, and record labels, it’s clear why Nashville earned this name. This city is built on music and it has it all from country to blues, to rock and roll, and more. Nashville is home to amazing music venues where you can catch live music like the infamous Bluebird Cafe to lesser-known yet equally great venues. Plus, Nashville is brimming with music museums.
If you’re interested in learning about the history of music, be sure to visit Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. If you’re looking for real excitement, head over to Lower Broadway, also known as Honky Tonk Highway, and pop in and out of the many honky-tonks. Whether you prefer a more laid back music environment or something more action-packed, Nashville has something great in store for every visitor!
Contributed by Leticia from Chic Travel Around The World
Chicago, the windy city is known for its music scene. It is the
birthplace of several genres such as Chicago blues, gospel, and house
music. The city continues to showcase talented musicians. Chicago has
so many places to visit to experience the diverse musical genres of the
city. In a time when many local spots for music have closed down,
Chicago is still a city where one can experience live music from both
seasoned musicians and also up and coming musicians.
The city is even known to host many music festivals. The city is also
well known for its free music summer concerts. Chicago has some of the
best music festivals in the world. Some of the most famous is the
Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Riot Fest, and
Lollapalooza just to name a few. There are so many great venues to
enjoy music all over the city. The top areas for music lovers are
Upton, Wicker Park, Logan Square, Lincoln Park, and Pilsen. Chicago is
simply a music lover’s dream.
New York City, New York
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As the birthplace of punk, new wave, alternative rock, and hip hop, New York City is a must-visit destination for music lovers. Names like the Beastie Boys, Madonna, and the Ramones spanning nearly all genres got their start on the streets and in the clubs of the Big Apple. The energy continues to draw both the biggest names and aspiring musicians.
From legendary venues like Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Radio City Music Hall, and Madison Square Garden to dozens of smaller bars and venues there is always a show to catch. To catch edgy, up and coming musicians, check out the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Crown Finish Caves, Baby’s Alright, Elsewhere, or Webster Hall. For the nostalgic lover of good tunes, spend some time basking in the history and at hangouts of musical icons. High points of a history tour include a Hip Hop Tour of Harlem and the Bronx, paying homage to John Lennon at the Strawberry Fields memorial, and grabbing a coffee next to Cafe Wha on the way to Washington Square Park. The city that never sleeps has endless musical history and energy to satisfy the most refined musical palate.
Contributed by Nicole from EatLiveTravelDrink.com
Washington, D.C. is a great city for music lovers. Sure, tourists come during the day for the museums, monuments, and history as the city is a top USA bucket list destination. But when the lights go down, the city comes alive.
You can see a show any night of the week in the city. From large scale shows at the Verizon Center or The Anthem, to medium-sized shows at places like the 9:30 Club, DC9, Union Stage, Black Cat, or even the Howard Theater. Looking for something more intimate? You could check out one of the many jazz bars in the city or even one of the free instrumental shows at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s concert series.
But it doesn’t stop there! You can see a variety of plays and Broadway shows at places like the Kennedy Center or even the National Theater.
DC is brimming with options to see music on a daily basis and there is such a large variety of shows, that there truly is something for everyone.
Los Angeles, California
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Although Los Angeles is well known for its film studios and Hollywood, it is an ideal place for music lovers also. You can catch outdoor concerts in the city’s parks or head to Sunset Strip, the iconic Capitol Records Building, or the Hollywood Bowl. From local musicians to internationally famous artists, Los Angeles attracts the crowd in large amounts. When it comes to live music concerts, you cannot skip Los Angeles. Being the hub of the entertainment industry of the country, the music scene of Los Angeles is extremely diverse. From acoustic rock, jazz-fusion to pop or heavy metal, LA has something to satisfy any musical taste.
Be sure to visit the legendary Hollywood Bowl. From the Beatles, Genesis to Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, this famous amphitheater is the ultimate place since 1922 for pop and rock music lovers. If you are an EDM lover and looking to get lost on a dance floor with electronic DJs, head to Exchange LA, a hub of the dance music community in LA. Los Angeles is not a cheap US city, but surprisingly there are many free live concerts. The Satellite is such a live concert venue that offers some of the best local music every Monday night for Free.
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One of the coolest cities for music lovers is Honolulu, Hawaii. Music is such a big part of Hawaii’s life. There are tons of amazing Hawaiian musical artists who perform all over town on a regular basis. Some of them are world-famous (like Jake Shimabukuro) and others are rising stars on the music scene. And you can usually listen to them play at open-air restaurants in Waikiki while sipping a tropical drink. Sometimes there are even hula dancers who perform alongside them. Oahu also hosts a lot of music events.
Honolulu is where you’ll find Hawaiian festivals like the Ukulele Festival Hawaii, the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival, and Jack Johnson’s Kokua Festival. And if Hawaiian music isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Tons of musicians (like Cardi B, Bruno Mars, and Thomas Rhett) come to Hawaii to perform at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall, Aloha Stadium, or the Hawaii Theatre.
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Detroit, Michigan, fondly known as Motor City, is a hotspot for music lovers. Detroit is the birthplace of Motown, the music sensation and movement that changed America. Visit Hitsville U.S.A. where Berry Gordy launched Motown Records in 1959. Hitsville U.S.A. is open for tours so be sure to visit! It is an incredible experience to stand where the Temptations once recorded their hits! The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and Marvin Gaye were also discovered by Mr. Gordy.
Some of the best music venues in Michigan reside in Detroit. If you love architecture, check out the Fox Theatre, located on Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit. This world-class theatre is known for bringing top notch Broadway musicals and shows to Michigan. Built in 1928, the Fox Theatre is also widely known for its stunning Art Deco architecture.
Great music can also be enjoyed at Saint Andrew’s Hall where big names such as Nirvana and Eminem have played.
Contributed by Kara from DestinationLiveLife.com
If you fancy yourself a music lover, then Denver, CO must be on your list. Why? Because just a short drive west lies one of the country’s best (if not THE best) outdoor music venues.
Yes, I am speaking of none other than Red Rocks Amphitheatre herself!
Red Rocks has been a crème de la crème type of music venue ever since opening in 1941 (the Beatles even played there). The stage and seating are nestled between two towering sandstone red rock formations. These formations are not only beautiful, but they also provide near-perfect, naturally occurring acoustics – making it a favorite venue for artists and music lovers alike! And despite being outdoors, shows run nearly year-round, rain or shine. Making it a great destination for music lovers no matter when you visit Denver.
The event calendar covers a variety of musical genres to suit every taste – including everything from EDM, country, hip hop, reggae, rock, and more (even some classical music). Red Rocks is truly a bucket list place for any music lover!
But be sure and set up your home base in the city. Pick a great area to stay in Denver, and enjoy incredible food, nightlife, and activities in the Mile High City.
Contributed by Lisa from PlanningAway.com
Austin, Texas is one of the best US cities for music lovers. Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” This is because the amount of venues hosting live music performances in this city is insane! Sometimes over 100 bands will be playing on the same night.
If you want to enjoy the music scene, head to downtown Austin where you will find over 250 live music venues. Texans like to joke that there are two types of music: country and western. But don’t let that fool you; Austin hosts a variety of music genres.
One of the most popular venues or areas in Austin is Sixth Street. This is the center of nightlife. There is an infinite supply of clubs, dance halls, and live music venues. The college crowd in particular will love the insanity on Sixth Street. AKA “Dirty Sixth” or “The Zoo,”
There is an eight-block stretch of this downtown area that is barricaded off every Friday and Saturday night. This allows people to congregate and chill in the middle of the street. Different clubs and venues will blast music allowing pub crawlers to round out and enjoy the fun atmosphere.
Beyond the usual scene, Austin hosts the Austin City Limits festival every year and the SXSW music festival, but bringing in the biggest names in the music industry and small up and coming artists.
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The City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the birthplace of Philly Soul and has long been known for its music scene. But in recent years, the sound has grown far beyond just soul music to include jazz, soul, hip-hop, rock, rap, R&B, opera, zydeco, and classical. The city’s enviable mid-Atlantic location makes it a perfect East Coast weekend getaway destination for live music.
Philadelphia hosts an amazing diversity in music and annually hosts Jay Z’s Made in America festival, an event personally curated by Jay Z himself. Every year, a lineup of both established and up-and-coming musicians are selected to perform and sometimes, you can even find Jay-Z singing along in the crowd.
Two of the best venues for live music in Philadelphia — Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown and Union Transfer in Center City — are known for featuring local up-and-coming talents and live indie music, Both are excellent spaces for larger acts and also smaller, more intimate shows. At the University of Pennsylvania, the World Cafe hosts a variety of unique world music artists.
Larger venues like The Fillmore and the Franklin Music Hall draw some of the country’s best local and international musicians. And of course, the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Philly Pops, and Opera Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Wells Fargo Center for world renowned artists like U2, Bruce Springsteen, and Beyoncé are at your doorstep.
These musical hotspots are but a few of what can be experienced in Philadelphia, one of the hottest music scenes in the country.
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Tupelo, Mississippi is best known for being the hometown of the one and only Elvis Presley. The two-room house where Elvis was born is toured daily by visitors from all over the world. The birthplace grounds also include Elvis’ church, a museum, statues of Elvis through the years, and more. It’s a great place to learn about the country kid behind the larger-than-life icon. At Tupelo Hardware, Elvis’ mom bought his first guitar. It is still in business as a hardware store today (and, yes, still sells guitars!). Johnnie’s Drive-In was one of Elvis’ hangouts, and visitors can still visit this burger joint, sit in the Elvis booth, and try a doughburger (a regional specialty).
The Tupelo Elvis Festival is one of the most unique festivals in the USA, centering around a competition of Elvis tribute artists (don’t call them impersonators!). The festival kicks off with a parade, and former winners take the stage at Tupelo’s Fairpark (home to Elvis’ homecoming concert in 1956). Current “ETA” competitors sing their hearts out vying for the next title in a weeklong competition. This is one event that Elvis fans simply can’t miss!
Because music-lovers flock to Tupelo, it’s no wonder that the local music scene is great as well, with performances many nights and most weekends at local restaurants like Blue Canoe, Romie’s Grocery, and The Stables Downtown Grill. Tupelo is also a stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
New Orleans, Louisiana
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New Orleans is a perfect city to visit for music lovers. Music is in the heart and soul of New Orleans. While you will find rock music, R&B, zydeco, and country music in the city, it is most famous as the birthplace of jazz.
It was here in Congo Square of Armstrong Park that jazz is said to have begun, so make sure to add it to your New Orleans itinerary. Take a stroll around the park and see statues of Louis Armstrong and Buddy Bolden. Other places to visit for jazz lovers include New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Center, Preservation Hall, and the Jazz Museum.
There are plenty of other ways to enjoy music in the city. Enjoy a jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace in the Garden District or take a jazz cruise down the river. During the day, enjoy the buskers perform in Jackson Square and watch the bands play in the French Quarter. At night, visit Frenchmen Street and enjoy a stunning performance at the Spotted Cat.
San Francisco, California
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If you are really into a diverse music scene where the city celebrates a variety of music from different genres then you have to visit San Francisco. With such a wide area of music that celebrates everything from classical opera, symphony, the city’s vibrant Jazz and nightclub scene, live performances in many large scale venues to a crazy Gay and club music scene all around the city.
Large music festivals and events with a variety of music performances are always popular year-round in the city and mostly free venues or a small donation to enter. Even the neighborhoods cater to special music and venues like the Mission with Salsa and a variety of Latin vibes, the Filmore and a vibrant jazz club scene to South of Market with so many little clubs, bars, and other venues that offer music and live performances, and even Japan Town with the slew of clubs and karaoke bars that are a popular gathering place.
You definitely can keep busy and active with the music and night club scene in the city. If you are looking to explore more of the city, check out my post on the fun, quirky and fun things to do in San Francisco here for more inspiration and really cool places to explore around the city along with the amazing music scenes and events that draw visitors from around the world.
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The Musical Instrument Museum is located in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the perfect place for music lovers to visit. The museum has one of the largest collections of musical instruments in the world. There are more than 13,600 instruments in the collection but only around 7,000 are on display at any time.
One of the most unique and oldest instruments in the collection is a drum originating from China. The drum is called a Paigu and it was found near Xian, China. The drum is made from snakeskin and dates back to 4000 BC. They also have one of the oldest guitars in the world that is originally from Portugal and dates back to the 1400s.
There is also a theatre at the museum where you can attend concerts. The museum does a great job of curating different artists and has jazz, blues, and folk singers throughout the year.
You could easily spend a few days in Phoenix exploring the metro area. There are several affordable places to stay in Phoenix so you can enjoy your trip.
Contributed by Amanda of Cleveland Traveler
When it comes to iconic music cities, not a lot of people think of the Midwestern city of Cleveland, Ohio. But did you know that Cleveland is actually home to rock and roll?
Okay, okay, Cleveland didn’t “invent” rock music – but it did invent the term to describe it! Back in the 1950s, the term “rock and roll” was coined by local disc jockey Alan Freed on his Moondog Rock and Roll Radio Hour. The very first rock concert, the “Moondog Coronation Ball,” was held in Cleveland in 1952, and soon after the city became an important tour stop for countless musical acts.
It was because of all this rock history that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation ultimately chose Cleveland over other cities as the home for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Along with being home to the Rock Hall (which is a must-visit!), Cleveland’s music scene still thrives today with live music venues like the House of Blues, Grog Shop, and Beachland Ballroom, and several annual music festivals like WonderStruck and the Tri-C Jazzfest.
The city is also home to the incredible Cleveland Orchestra, one of the “Big Five” orchestras in America. So no matter what kind of music you’re into, chances are you’ll find it in Cleveland.
Contributed by Karen from Some Where Down South
Memphis, Tennessee is considered the drawing-room for the Mississippi River delta region. The delta is where “the blues” were born. The promise of money and musical stardom began luring musicians from the small and impoverished Delta towns to the bright lights of Beale Street as early as the 1900s. This music eventually became known as the Memphis Blues. In the decades around and following WWII musicians from all over the south came to Memphis. New sounds mixed with the old blues to become R&B and rock and roll.
Memphis is still a mecca for music lovers. In Memphis, you can walk with your feet “10 feet off of Beale” and hear a variety of genres of live music. Beale Street was officially declared the Home of the Blues in 1977 by an act of Congress and is the heart of Memphis.
Just a block off of Beale Street you can visit the Gibson Guitar factory and take a tour of the place that has created guitars for some of the best musicians in the world. You will definitely want to visit Graceland, the famous and surprisingly modest home of Elvis Presley. Graceland is a mix of kitsch and sentiment and is oddly moving. Sun Studios is another must for music lovers. This is the studio where an impressively wide array of talent was recorded including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, of course, Elvis.
Memphis is a must-visit destination for music lovers.