Take a virtual trip (for now anyway!) down musical memory land with this epic multi-state road trip through Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, and march to your own beat with your own set of wheels.
The “Rhythms of the River” itinerary is the ultimate American music road trip.
From visiting the historic homes of Prince, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, to exploring the birthplace of Blues and Country music, this classic American road trip will have you singing and dancing like there’s no tomorrow – as you’ll see below.
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30 Amazing Self Drive Road Trip itineraries here.
Rhythms Of The River: Route Highlights
- Option 1: Start your trip in Chicago, Illinois
1. Chicago, Illinois > Springfield, Illinois
After ticking off iconic Chicago sites such as the Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, jump in your car and rev your engines: your road trip begins!
Then, head along the historic Route 66 to the birthplace of the one and only Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, and visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.
Make sure you stop at the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac on the way for a coffee or milkshake, as well as some quirky souvenirs to take back home.
- DRIVE DETAILS: 325kms: 3 hours 11 mins drive time
2. Springfield, Illinois > St. Louis, Missouri
After a visit to the Old State Capitol, get back in the driver’s seat and travel 30 minutes to Doc’s Soda Fountain along Route 66 in Girard for an American classic: a root beer float.
Then continue on to St. Louis, visiting the iconic Gateway Arch (the tallest man-made monument in the country) as well as wandering around the cultural hub of Soulard with its live music, tasty restaurants and boutiques. You’ll also want to check out the National Blues Museum and Blueberry Hill, which is where Chuck Berry used to ply his trade on a regular basis.
- DRIVE TIME: 155kms: 1 hour 30 mins drive time
OPTION 2: Start your trip in Minneapolis & Bloomington, Minnesota
3. Minneapolis & Bloomington, Minnesota > Dubuque, Iowa
If you’ve opted to start this classic American road trip in Minneapolis, you’ll want to spend a couple of days (at least) here.
First up, check out some live music at First Avenue, where the one-and-only Prince regularly performed.
Then, visit Paisley Park where Prince had his recording studio and home. You can join a tour of the grounds here, and set your eyes on some of his classic outfits and other memorabilia.
If you’re also a Bob Dylan fan, extend your stay here and join a Bob Dylan Tour along Highway 61 to his birthplace home of Duluth, Minnesota and the University of Minnesota, where the Nobel prize-winning songwriter developed his unique sound.
Once you’ve gotten your music fix, hit the road and drive along the Mississippi River through beautiful prairies and past prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans to Iowa’s oldest city, Dubuque.
- DRIVE TIME: 406kms: 4 hours 39 mins drive time
4. Dubuque, Iowa > Hannibal, Missouri
If you hadn’t already wandered around the lively Mississippi Riverwalk area or visited the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, do so now. Else, continue south to the historic river town of Hannibal, Missouri, where the famous American writer Mark Twain was born and raised.
Visit the Mark Twain Cave and The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, and then jump on a riverboat for a dinner cruise along the mighty Mississippi. Go to sleep that night reciting some of Twain’s most famous quotes.
- DRIVE TIME: 392kms: 3 hours 48 mins drive time
5. Hannibal, Missouri > St. Louis, Missouri
Explore the unique art galleries in town before driving just under two hours to bustling St. Louis, Missouri. Take a selfie in front of the 192-metre-tall Gateway Arch, and check out some live music at one of the many venues inside the entertainment hub of Loop. Then, spend some time learning about the history and development of three born-and-bred American musical genres – Blues, Soul and R&B – at the National Blues Museum.
- DRIVE TIME: 188kms: 1 hour 54 mins drive time
- Both Option 1 and Option 2 continue from St. Louis, Missouri
6. St. Louis, Missouri > Nashville, Tennessee
If there ever was a city synonymous with music, it would definitely be Nashville. Not only is this charming city the home of Country music, but it’s also a musical hub that jives to all styles of music, including, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Soul, Pop, Blue Grass – even Classical!
A must-visit is the Country Music Hall, where you can jump on a tour of the historic RCA Studio B (where Dolly Parton recorded), as well as learn about the development of Country music through the decades. Finish off your stay in Nashville with some live music (of course) by checking out shows at Grand Ole Opry or the Ryman Auditorium.
- DRIVE TIME: 497kms: 4 hours 35 mins drive time
7. Nashville, Tennessee > Memphis, Tennessee
Next up, visit the Frist Center for the Visual Arts to see some impressive works of art before getting back in the car and driving to Memphis, Tennessee, along the Great River Road, where you’ll immerse yourself in the world of another American musical icon: Elvis Presley!
Visit the former home of The King at the Graceland estate, and learn about his life on a guided tour. Then visit Sun Studio to see where Elvis and other musical greats, such as B.B. King, recorded some of their greatest hits.
Before checking out the current musical landscape by attending a show (or three) along Beale Street, visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which pays homage to Soul and Gospel music, and features memorabilia from the likes of Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes.
- DRIVE TIME: 341kms: 3 hours 12 mins drive time
8. Memphis, Tennessee > Cleveland, Mississipi
The trip down musical memory lane continues today as you drive along the Mississippi Blues Trail down to Clarksdale, Mississippi – the birthplace of Blues.
Here, visit the Delta Blues Museum to gain an understanding of how “the Blues” came to be, before getting back in the car and driving to Cleveland, Mississippi.
Along the way, stop at Dockery Farms to learn about Charley Patton and his role in inspiring the development of this iconic American musical style.
- DRIVE TIME: 185kms: 2 hours drive time
9. Cleveland Mississipi > Natchez, Mississipi
Pay a visit to the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland before driving past old plantations, restored antebellum mansions and other iconic elements of the American south to Natchez, Mississippi – the oldest settlement in the state.
Make sure you stop at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola en route to learn how this American musical pioneer changed the shape of modern music forever.
- DRIVE TIME: 290kms: 3 hours 13 mins drive time
10. Natchez, Mississipi > New Orleans, Louisiana
All great American road trips must eventually come to an end. On this last leg of the itinerary, travel to vibrant and colourful New Orleans – aka, the home of Mardi Gras.
En route, drive along the Mississippi River and have lunch in Baton Rouge, the 300-year-old capital city of the state and the epicentre of all things Louisiana. Admire the old, distinctive architecture that line the city’s streets, before continuing on to New Orleans.
Once in NOLA, wander the historic French Quarter, learn about the city’s penchant for voodoo on a guided tour, or just people watch along Frenchmen Street.
Then feast yourself silly on aromatic jambalaya, sugar-dusted beignets, smoked Andouille sausage and other southern favourites in this tasty enclave of the American culinary landscape. In the evening, return here for some excellent live music – definitely make a beeline for The Spotted Cat Music Club.
- DRIVE TIME: 283kms: 2 hours 50 mins drive time
Download the complete ‘Rhythms of the River itinerary here!‘
Get the Road Trip Playlist
From the funky tunes of Prince to the country twang in classic Dolly Parton, from the hip-moving rhythms of Elvis to the blue notes of B.B. King, this Spotify playlist is the perfect soundtrack to accompany you on the “Rhythms of the River” road trip through Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.
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For more information about the competition, please click here.
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Agents: Join the USA Discovery Program
The USA Discovery Program is Brand USA’s official trade training platform for the USA. The Rhythms of the River itinerary features four destinations with training badges. Get clicking and complete your Illinois, Chicago, Minnesota and New Orleans badges and get all the knowledge 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: Trip-Planner.VisitTheUSA.com
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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