Great North Music Tour: Road Trippin' USA

If your soul's craving the sweet sounds of the Great North and your feet are itchy for a toe-tapping adventure once the international borders reopen, this road trip, journeying through Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts, will certainly be one to write home about.

If your soul’s craving the sweet sounds of the Great North and your feet are itchy for a toe-tapping adventure once the international borders reopen, this road trip, journeying through Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts, will certainly be one to write home about.

The “Great North Music Tour” itinerary is a trip that will infuse your mind, body, and soul. Showcasing an eclectic mix of sights, sounds, and senses, this trip is guaranteed to have you rocking and bopping ’til the break of day.

Whether you’re into Jazz, Blues, Hip hop, Motown, Pop, Rock ‘n’ Roll, or anything in between, this road trip medley will have you fully immersed in the musical roots of Northern USA, when it’s safe to travel internationally once more.

Jump in your car and weave your way through six fascinating states on a journey filled to the brim with some of the most inspirational artists to come out of the States.

Are you ready to start planning the most epic music tour of your life, post-pandemic? Let’s go…

Explore all of Brand USA’s 31 Amazing Self Drive Road Trip itineraries here.

Great North Music Tour: Route Highlights

1. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Bean ©Brand USA
Chicago Bean ©Brand USA

Jump in and buckle up because Chicago’s music history is one not to be missed.

Firmly rooted in Jazz and Blues, yet still offering a hugely diverse music scene across a variety of genres, Chicago boasts a thriving musical theater hub and the famous annual Lollapalooza and Pitchfork festivals.

Continuing a tradition that began in 1907, take in a Jazz or Big Band performance at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy were among musicians who developed the legendary Chicago Blues style; see Guy still performing every January in his Legends club.

Big adventures in big cities also require big venues for touring shows – obviously. Top acts fill-up the United Center, Allstate Arena, and the Chicago Theatre – so make sure you check the line-up for the dates you plan to visit.

The city is a melting pot, and the pedigrees are reflected on local stages. If up-and-coming performers on small stages are more your bag, take a wander in the Wicker Park/Bucktown, Lincoln Park and Logan Square neighbourhoods and you might just get to see a star in the making.

2. Chicago, Illinois > Detroit, Michigan

Mowtown Museum, Detroit. Copyright: Brand USA
Mowtown Museum, Detroit

When you’re ready for a change of scenery, make the most out of the freedom of being on the road and follow the spectacular shoreline of Lake Michigan into Indiana to South Bend, home of the University of Notre Dame.

Continue on and you’ll enter Michigan. Take a wander around the vibrant university town of Ann Arbor, where its Main Street is considered to be one of the most picturesque in the USA. Take in the local acts performing live at The Ark or Kerrytown Concert House.

Put your foot down and dance in your car all the way to Detroit, where revitalisations in the city centre brought trendy restaurants, shops and cultural venues to a destination known both as “Motor City” and the birthplace of Motown music.

At the Motown Museum, view artifacts and see where music icons such as Stevie Wonder, the Supremes and Marvin Gaye recorded hits in the 1960s heyday. Other acts with Detroit roots include Alice Cooper, Eminem and Jack White.

Date night? Jazz lovers can book to hear live music nightly at Cliff Bell’s, a legendary, restored art-deco nightclub.

From Hip-Hop to the classic sounds of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, a variety of world-class music is on show in Detroit and you’re 100% going to love it.

  • TRAVEL TIME: 455kms: 4 hours and 30 mins drive time

3. Detroit, Michigan > Cleveland, Ohio

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland. Copyright: Brand USA
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Next up, follow the shores of Lake Erie and treat your eyes to the Toledo Museum of Art or choose to top up the adrenalin at Cedar Point Amusement Park.

Then continue on to Cleveland, where the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll” was coined by a radio disc jockey. Spot the distinct I.M. Pei-designed pyramid-shaped building on the Lake Erie waterfront and explore inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

While Cleveland has an amazing tale of musical history, it also has a vibrant music scene today at venues such as Beachland Ballroom & Tavern and the Music Box Supper Club.

Are all of your musical senses tingling yet?

  • TRAVEL TIME: 274kms: 2 hours and 45 mins drive time

4. Cleveland, Ohio > Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Penn Station, Pittsburgh. Copyright: Brand USA
Penn Station, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is where Stephen Foster was born in 1826. Known as the “father of American music,” he composed more than 200 popular songs and sold them on sheet music. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?

In the Hill District, a centre for African-American culture, Jazz performers like singers Lena Horne and Billy Eckstine and drummer Kenny Clark made their mark at places like the Belmont, Loendi Club and Crawford Grill.

The Pop, Rock, and Rap genres also have roots in the city with Christina Aguilera, Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads, Bret Michaels, and Wiz Khalifa.

Some of the best venues to see Pittsburgh’s newest up-and-comers include Brillobox, Park House, and Club Cafe. For bigger shows, check out Stage AE, Heinz Hall, or PPG Paints Arena.

  • TRAVEL TIME: 214kms: 2 hours and 15 mins drive time

5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania > Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

World Cafe Live, Philadelphia. Copyright: Brand USA
World Cafe Live, Philadelphia

From Pittsburgh, travel through the Pennsylvania Amish Country for a glimpse into the horse-and-buggy lifestyle before arriving in bustling Philadelphia, known as the birthplace of the USA.

Then, back to music again.

Among the most iconic of the city’s performance venues is the Academy of Music, established in 1857. Since 1924, composers and performers from throughout the world, including Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber, have trained at the Curtis Institute of Music in Rittenhouse Square.

When you enjoy a Philadelphia Orchestra concert, take note that half of its musicians graduated from Curtis.

Hum the melody of Elton John’s 1975 song “Philadelphia Freedom” as you view some of the 4,000 murals throughout the city, then attend a free concert at the outdoor Piazza at Schmidt’s in the Northern Liberties downtown neighbourhood near the Delaware River.

Immerse yourself in local culture at one of the many outdoor festivals, including the summer concert series at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing on the riverfront, or the Made in America Festival the first weekend in September on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

  • TRAVEL TIME: 489kms: 4 hours and 45 mins

6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania > New York City, New York

New York City, New York. Copyright: Brand USA
New York City, New York

Turn up tunes and sing along to Frank Sinatra as you put your foot down and journey north to the Big Apple, New York City, where some of the most iconic American music originated.

Brooklyn native Aaron Copland composed some of the most famous film scores, operas, ballets and band music of the 20th century, and other legendary musicians followed to forge the city’s music history.

Whether you prefer dimly lit underground clubs in Greenwich Village, the elegance of Carnegie Hall or Radio City Music Hall, or mainstream venues like Madison Square Garden or Broadway theaters, you can find it in New York City.

Credited for being the origin of genres like Punk, Hip-Hop and Disco as well the legacies of Jay-Z, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Lady Gaga, the Talking Heads and Burt Bacharach, people the world over go to New York City to sample the variety of the music scene whether it is for Blues, Jazz, Salsa, Rap or Electronic beats.

You’ll never find yourself lacking in live music options at places like the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Beacon Theatre and The Town Hall.

Before you leave town, pay homage to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields near the Dakota Apartments, where he died in 1980, and visit the Apollo Theater, the world-famous venue in Harlem that opened in 1914 for African-American patrons and continues to draw fans eager to hear the next big star.

  • TRAVEL TIME: 151kms: 1 hour and 45 mins

7. New York City, New York > Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Symphony Orchestra. Copyright: Brand USA
Boston Symphony Orchestra

Say hello to the city that played a prominent role in the birth of the USA in the 1700s. Not into 1700’s tunes? Don’t stress, because there is nothing old-fashioned about the modern music scene in Boston.

Look to the power era of the 1960s through the 1990s that set the pace with several Boston acts creeping to national prominence – James Taylor, Joan Baez, Donna Summer, Boston, The Cars, Aerosmith, New Edition and New Kids on the Block.

With 35 colleges, universities and community colleges in Boston, there’s always a youthful audience to hear emerging new artists in a variety of genres. Some of those musicians might be students at Berklee College of Music performing at intimate venues like Atwood’s Tavern, Great Scott or the Lizard Lounge.

Venture to the waterfront Seaport District for dining, lodging, breweries and a plethora of bars and pubs featuring live music. Catch big-name touring acts at the Leader Bank Pavilion at the Boston Harbor or The Xfinity Center in Mansfield.

Tone it down with a classy night enjoying the Boston Symphony Orchestra or Boston Lyric Opera.

Kick it up a notch and head to the Hatch Shell along the Charles River for Fourth of July festivities and to see fireworks synchronised to the music of the Boston Pops Orchestra.

  • TRAVEL TIME: 346kms: 3 hours and 45 mins

Download the complete Great North Music Tour‘ itinerary here!

Get the Road Trip Playlist

This is the ultimate music lovers’ playlist.

From Broadways’ “Defying Gravity”, TayTay, and Xtina, to Elton John, Talking Heads and The White Stripes, these epic vibes will have you tapping your toes and singing as loud as you can whether you’re on your sofa or on the road.

Great North Music Tour… here you come.

Agents: Download, Escape and Explore GoUSA TV

GoUSA TV is a free premier travel entertainment channel. Watch full episodes, documentaries and films, told from the diverse perspectives of real people across America. 

Discover the Queens area of New York City through the diversity of the Latinx diaspora in the series, Americanos, available on GoUSA TV. Explore how Latinx culture brings American cities to life through the stories of those who embrace their roots and shape the future.

With more than 400 authentic and short format videos featuring destinations from all 50 states, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia, there’s never been a better time to get online and enjoy some incredible travel entertainment!

Available for download in the App or Play store and on Apple TV.

More info here.

Agents: Join the USA Discovery Program

The USA Discovery Program is Brand USA’s official trade training platform for the USA. The Great North Music Tour itinerary features seven training badges.

Get clicking and complete your Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts badges and skill up in a fun and interactive way.

Click here to register and get all the knowledge for the USA.

PLUS! Design your own Road Trip with the USA TRIP PLANNER

The Visit USA Trip Planner is an amazing (and free!) tool that matches your personal travel preferences and style.

With over 230 million data points including the best places & times to visit, reviews and hidden gems, this is one smart piece of travel tech.

This little travel genius optimises your itinerary to minimise travel time, checks when attractions are open and even recommends how much time to spend at each stop off. Brilliant!

Finally, it lets you share & collaborate with your fellow road trippers and is easy to add or revise points of interest as you go.

Find out more:

Get all the tools on Brand USA’s TRAVEL TRADE SITE


From Trip Planners to Itineraries and the USA Discovery Program and Destination information, Brand USA’s Travel Trade Site for agents has you covered.

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