From the songs of old school legend Elvis Presley to King of Pop MJ, from Queen Bey to grunge lords Nirvana, America is without doubt home to the biggest, the best and most iconic jams ever to reverb around Planet Earth.

If you’re secretly harbouring a Thelma & Louise style road trip dream to hit up the best music cities around the land of free and the home of the brave, here’s a little inspo to kickstart your journey.


Memphis, Tennessee


Elvis Presley’s Graceland

As the epic Marc Cohn song goes, put on your blue suede shoes and go walking in Memphis, Tennessee. Spiritual home of the blues, the Memphis music action is largely centred around the clubs of iconic Beale Street, including B.B. King’s Blues Club and the Blues Hall Juke Joint.

Elvis Presley’s birthplace Graceland offers a holy pilgrimage point nearby, while Southern soul music outfit Stax Records is now home to a museum celebrating the legacy of epic artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and The Staple Singers.

Playlist tracks

  • Walking In Memphis – Marc Cohn
  • Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
  • Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay


Nashville, Tennessee


The ‘Songwriting Capital of the World’, cowboy hats are mandatory in country music haven Nashville, Tennessee. Famed venue Ryman Auditorium, traditional home of America’s longest running radio show the Grand Ole Opry, is a mandatory must-see, while fangirl-boying over the likes of Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum should be top of the agenda.  Cut loose at a dirty dive-bar honky tonk joint while you’re there, or banjo it out hard at the Station Inn, the home of American bluegrass.

Playlist tracks

  • Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line
  • Dolly Parton – Jolene
  • On The Road Again – Willie Nelson


New Orleans, Louisiana

Welcome to New Orleans, the actual birthplace of the jazz genre and the home of America’s biggest Mardi Gras celebration. Feel the spirit in a baptism of musical fire in the French Quarter’s Bourbon and Frenchmen streets, where the bars pump all night with live gigs that spill out into the streets. Walk in the footsteps of local jazz giants Fats Domino and Louis Armstrong, or explore the legacy of native gospel treasure Mahalia Jackson. If visiting in February or March, go wild and dress mad at the annual Mardi Gras celebration, one of the biggest and boldest in the world.


  • Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald  – Dream A Little Dream Of Me
  • Fats Domino – Walking To New Orleans
  • Al Johnson – Mardi Gras Strut (Mambo)


Austin, Texas


Officially branded the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin’s 100 live music performances per night, every night, make this city’s claim to fame completely legit. In March, check out Austin’s mammoth music, film and interactive media festival South By Southwest, while music-only Austin City Limits hosts the biggest names in the biz across two huge weekends in October – catch Sir Paul McCartney himself headlining the 2018 incarnation. With a history of nurturing punk, rock and indie sounds, notable Austin acts include The Skunks, Spoon, White Denim, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr.


  • The Skunks – Earthquake Shake
  • White Denim – A Night At Dreams
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood


Seattle, Washington


The 90s would never have sounded so good without Seattle. Birthplace of grunge, the Pacific Northwestern city nurtured the dark alt-rock sounds of huge grunge outfits Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden via legendary local label Sub Pop Records.  Kurt Cobain fans – go straight to Viretta Park and graffiti a tribute on the park bench that doubles as the late singer’s unofficial memorial site. Not just all about grunge though, Seattle is now famous for cult indie bands such as Fleet Foxes and The Shins. To sample the city’s music vibe live after dark, head to popular local venues including The Showbox, The Crocodile and Neumos.


  • Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Pearl Jam – Alive
  • Fleet Foxes – Your Protector


Discover USA with Adventure World Travel

And that’s only five of the best American music cities. Watch these videos by BrandUSA for more music city tips, and when you’re ready to rock and roll, discover USA music and heritage packages with Adventure World Travel.


Have you been influenced by any of these music icons?

Written by Annelise Ball, KARRYON contributor

This article is brought to you by Adventure World

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