American Movie And Music Trails
Location: Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky
Distance: 3,370 kilometres
This exciting 14 day road trip puts the best of film and music on the centre stage with an itinerary that visits many significant music and movie locations. Focusing on the southern portion of the country, you will hit the road to travel through such major cities as Chicago, New Orleans and more.
You'll not only have the opportunity to get a first hand glimpse of many iconic film settings, but you'll also head into the heartland of some of music's most loved genres. In the midst of it all, you'll get to see a spread of vibrant big cities, charming small towns and a wide breadth of American landscapes.
- The St Louis Arch is a famous landmark in the city, but don't be content to just view it from the ground. Hop aboard the tram to the top panoramic city views.
- Head to Beale Street in Memphis to experience some of the city's best restaurants, clubs and bars.
- When travelling to Vicksburg, make a stop at Clarkston to check out the Delta Blues Museum – home to significant Blues memorabilia from such greats as Muddy Waters and Sam Cooke.
- Movie lovers can search for the original Whistle Stop Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama, which was made famous by Fried Green Tomatoes.
- Churchill Downs in Louisville not only plays host to the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, but it has also played a part in such racing films as Sea Biscuit.
Days 1 & 2 – Chicago
Arrive in Chicago and enjoy the first couple of days at leisure. While exploring this vibrant city located on the shores of Lake Michigan, you'll notice many famous landmarks and buildings from films such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, While You Were Sleeping, and The Road to Perdition, not to mention The Blues Brothers. Try to locate the Blues Brothers Soul Food restaurant on Maxwell Street and pay a visit to the original House of Blues jazz club.
Day 3 – Chicago to St Louis
Three days in, you will hit the road for a 290 mile (460km) driving stint. "Meet Me in St. Louis" is an apt summary of the day's journey. Upon arrival, take a tram ride to the top of the famous St. Louis Arch and get a city view from 630 feet (192m). Take time to view Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West – a movie produced by the National Geographic Society that can be viewed on a giant four-story screen at the Gateway Arch Riverfront.
Day 4 – St Louis to Memphis
After spending some time in St Louis, you will drive 280 miles (451km) to Memphis. This Tennessee epicentre offers a multitude of musical and movie moments and you will have two nights to explore your favourite spots. Start with a visit to Graceland, home of the late Elvis Presley. Then, choose between the Rock & Soul Museum, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Gibson Guitar Factory or Sun Studio where musicians such as BB King, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded many rock 'n' roll hits.
Day 5 – Memphis
Day five is yours to delve further into 'Blues City'. During your stay, you may want to check for any outdoor concerts at the Mud Island outdoor amphitheatre located on the banks of the Mississippi River. Or, dine in BB King's restaurant on famous Beale Street.
Day 6 – Memphis to Vicksburg
Travel from Memphis to Clarksdale, heart of the Delta Blues. Stop to tour the Delta Blues Museum filled with memorabilia from BB King and Muddy Waters. You'll then follow the banks of the Mississippi River along Highway 1. Be sure to stop off to try your luck rolling the dice at one of the many Mississippi casinos; they never close! 146 miles (234kms) later, Vicksburg is your final stop for the day. Spend the evening scouting out the city, taking in such highlights as the historic downtown area and Coca-Cola Museum.
Day 7 – Vicksburg to New Orleans
On to the 'Big Easy'! New Orleans sits 294 miles (470kms) away from Vicksburg and is a jazz lover's paradise. It is also the familiar backdrop in a string of successful movies. This includes The Client, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, JFK and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Day 8 – New Orleans
A city as vibrant as New Orleans warrants a full day of exploration, and day eight is that day. Continue to discover this city of riverboats, jazz, and Creole cuisine. Take time to visit the beautiful botanical garden or journey out to the levees to see how they protect the city from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This evening why not board a paddle steamer for a dinner cruise on the mighty Mississippi River? There are also countless jazz clubs and bars to cap the night off.
Day 9 – New Orleans to Birmingham
Sweet Home Alabama! Today, you will drive 340 miles (544kms) to Birmingham, Alabama. For music fans, the highlight may just be a visit to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Entrance to this exhibition is free and inside you will find a wonderful tribute to jazz greats with ties to Alabama.
For movie lovers, try to locate the original Whistle Stop Cafe, which provided the setting for the novel and film, Fried Green Tomatoes. Although scenes in the movie were actually filmed in Atlanta, the original cafe is located in North Irondale, outside of Birmingham.
Day 10 – Birmingham to Chattanooga
Returning to Tennessee today, set forth 148 miles (238kms)to Chattanooga. Summer travellers should check the dates of the annual Chattanooga Riverbend Festival. While in Tennessee, don't miss the opportunity to try a 'moon pie', a favourite Southern snack since the early 1900s.
Day 11 – Chattanooga to Nashville
Nashville, 'Music City USA', is the final destination for day 11. Travelling a short 133 miles (213kms), you will arrive in this eclectic southern city. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame – a multimedia music shrine including movie theatres, costumes, instruments and other artefacts that detail country music's colourful history. Don't miss a visit to the Ryman Auditorium or a night at the Grand Ole Opry.
Day 12 – Nashville to Louisville
From Blue Grass to brass bands, Kentucky has popular music for every listener. Drive 175 miles (280kms) north to Louisville. The city is arguably most famous for being the home of the Kentucky Derby, which takes place at Churchill Downs the first Saturday of every May. Recently featured in the movie Sea Biscuit, Churchill Downs is the mecca of American horse racing and home of the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Take a short side trip to Bardstown and visit My Old Kentucky Home State Park, which was the inspiration for Stephen Foster's anthem of the same name. It is sung by the crowds every year at the Derby. No visit to Kentucky would be complete without a visit to a bourbon distillery, but remember that many Kentucky counties are 'dry', so there are often no tastings. Baseball fans should ensure they fit in a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum – an interactive museum honouring many of baseball's greats.
Day 13 – Louisville to Chicago
Today, the road returns you to the Windy City. This 300 mile journey finishes in Chicago, having visited seven different states and their movie locations. The trail was also brimming with musical experiences, ranging from blues, jazz and soul, to gospel , country and bluegrass. Don't forget rock 'n' roll. The evening is yours to wind down and count your stories from the road.
Day 14 – Chicago
Enjoy your final day in Chicago before your departure.