Sometimes you want to sit on a beach, sometimes you want to relax in a spa or go on a shopping spree… and sometimes you just want to listen to good music. While you can find pockets of great music if you check out the local scene wherever you are travelling, there are some vacation destinations that offer some of the best music in the world.
From rich histories in specific genres to great acoustics and hidden gems to find great live music, here are five places to check out if you want to experience great music on your next trip.
Nashville is known for hot chicken – and as the home of country music. From music row featuring famous recording studios and record labels, to historical landmarks that tell country music’s history in the world, to the can’t-miss honky tonks on Broadway where you can tip the band and they’ll play your favourite song – the local music scene is on fire.
If Nashville is the home of country music, the Country Music Hall of Fame is the keeper of its history. With various multi-use spaces within the building, there is often live music shows to take in. The Musicians Spotlight Series Presented by Hilton is a great weekly interactive experience where musicians perform and answer audience questions. The Country Music Hall of Fame also happens to be at the heart of all the action in the city. After you learn all about the history of country music, walk a block over to take in the honky tonks on Broadway to find out what is happening in the modern country music scene. Or check out a show at Bridgestone Arena. Home of the Nashville Predators, Bridgestone Arena also brings a variety of some the most well-known performers to the city – artists like Post Malone, Grammy Award-winning Billie Eilish, Pearl Jam, and the Zac Brown Band.
Another stop for your history tour of country music – and a great live performance? The Grand Ole Opry, of course! This legendary live radio program and venue has hosted some of the most famous musicians of our time. And you can even take a backstage tour – if these walls could talk!
Country music not your thing? While it is home to many different genres of music, Atlanta is one of the best places to immerse yourself into rap and R&B. Some of the biggest names in the industry have made their way in the city – T.I., Ludacris, OutKast, and soul legend Gladys Knight are just a few who call Atlanta home.
Because of its rich history and incredible local music scene, there are so many festivals that happen in the city – especially in the fall. Since 2005, Atlanta has been home to AC3 Hip-Hop Festival and Conference. With 150 sessions, 250 speakers, and 50 shows, AC3 brings together some of the best in the industry for education and entertainment. Expect artists like Wu-Tang Clan, Talib Kweli, and Lil Wayne to perform. Music Midtown in September is another well-known festival that has been happening in Atlanta since 1994. Bringing in top acts like ZZ Top, Coldplay, and Tom Petty, there are over 30 artists from a variety of genres that perform across four different stages.
It’s not just about the music festivals though. From concert venues to dive bars, Atlanta has some incredible live music venues. To show the city’s transformation over the years, there are some concert venues that have been converted from one use into another. Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points and Buckhead Theatre both opened as movie theatres in the 1940s and 30s respectively, and now they are intimate venues where artists launch their careers. Opened in 1910, The Tabernacle used to be a church until it was converted to a House of Blues club in 1996 (oh, the irony).
While the landmark festivals and concert venues are important, sometimes, the small venues are what defines a city’s music scene. Blind Willie’s is the oldest blues club in Atlanta and they focus on bringing older, experienced musicians to the stage – both national and local. For some they don’t often travel anymore, so it might be your last chance to catch them live. You can also check out Northside Tavern – the city’s best dive bar – for great blues seven days a week from legendary and up and coming artists. Eddie’s Attic is known as a legendary listening room in Decatur where you can catch a mix of local, up and coming artists and internationally acclaimed acts. Its open mic night has even helped to launch many careers.
Chicago, the Windy City, is so much more than home of the deep dish pizza and the birth place of the Twinkie. You might be in the city for one of the many music festivals like Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, or the popular Millennium Park Summer Music Series. Palmer House a Hilton Hotel is blocks away from many of these summer festivals and free concerts in Millennium Park. The city also has so many legendary music venues featuring a variety of genres – especially some incredible jazz and blues venues.
Like other cities, the concert venues tell a story of Chicago’s past – many of them restored to mix modern luxuries within a historical context. The Chicago Theatre, with its iconic marquee and sign that stretches six stories high, was the first large movie palace in the country before becoming one of the most iconic live music venues. If you are staying at TheWit, it is only a couple of blocks away. Hosting artists from all genres, you can even take a tour of the venue. If you are a Hilton Honors member, ask about your tour discount. The Aragon Ballroom, with it’s own glitzy marquee, and The Metro are two other great concert venues showcasing incredible, acclaimed artists. Opened in 1892 as an opera house, Thalia Hall is one of the city’s oldest venues and also hosts musicians from various modern music genres. Thalia Hall closed in 1960’s and has been undergoing a restoration to bring it back as a must-see venue in Chicagoland.
Don’t miss the smaller venues in the city – each with a unique story and many playing host to music legends. Opened in 1968, Kingston Mines is the largest and oldest blues club in the city – and it’s always open late. From iconic venues to icons, Buddy Guy’s Legends is owned by Buddy Guy and has been voted best blues club in Chicago since 2005. Buddy even plays a series of shows each January if you’re lucky enough to get tickets. Green Mill Cocktail Lounge dates all the way back to 1907 when it was a speakeasy and is the oldest continuously running jazz club in the country. While it doesn’t have the lengthy history, Andy’s Jazz Club serves up four nightly shows featuring local artists. Not technically a live music venue, but Kuma’s Corner is a unique burger joint that celebrates all things heavy metal – “a lover for meat and heavy metal” as they say. How often do you see a restaurant supporting the local heavy metal scene? Check out the original location in Avondale.
With the highest number of live music venues per capita, Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” It’s also unique in that you can take a dip in one of many swimming holes in the city, go on a nature hike, see the bats at sunset off the Congress Bridge, and then experience nightlife on Rainey Street. There are so many things to do in Austin, but live music makes the city stand out.
Because it’s known as the Live Music Capital of the World, it makes sense that Austin hosts two major music festivals during the year. SXSW Conference & Festival brings interactive, film, and music industries together in March while the ACL Festival features more than 125 performances over two weekends in October. If you can’t make it to either festival, you can still check out ACL Live at the legendary Moody Theatre throughout the year.
There are a few music venues in Austin that have reached legendary status. Continental Club opened in 1955 and it has since been restored to its 1950s glory, from the murals on the walls, to the rockabilly and traditional country and blues artist that grace the stage. Playing jazz 365 nights of the year, The Elephant Room is another local favourite. While it has moved locations since it’s storied past, Stubb’s BBQ is a great place to grab a delicious meal and take in live music at an intimate venue who’s name has been connected with some of the great musicians who have passed through town. For a truly unique Austin experience, check out Austin’s legendary honky tonk The Broken Spoke where you can even learn to 2-step with on-site lessons.
Hilton has you covered in Austin, stay at Hilton Austin to be within walking distance to countless live music venues and more.
From delicious beignets to swamp tours, and everything in between, New Orleans is a great place to visit. One of the things that really makes the city unique is its musical roots. Jazz is the heartbeat of this city with hundreds of street performers and venues hosting some of the most talented musicians in the country.
Coming up in April, French Quarter Festival puts on the largest showcase of Louisiana Music in the world. Be sure to check out the Hilton Jackson Square Stage during all four days of the festival. French Quarter Fest is also one of the largest free festivals in market. And, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside is right around the corner so you won’t miss a thing. Satchmo Summer Fest is another New Orleans music festival, celebrating the birthday of musical legend Louis Armstrong. Oprah Magazine says it’s one of the most “interesting things to experience in Louisiana” and Hilton thinks so too because they will be sponsoring the Legacy Stage inside the New Orleans Jazz Museum.
While there are other festivals that happen year-round, the star of New Orleans are the smaller venues showcasing artists from all over. Preservation Hall is a unique cornerstone of the New Orleans Jazz culture whose story dates back to the 1950s. It has grown into a celebration of local music, featuring local master musicians. With its beginnings as a neighbourhood juke joint in 1977, Tipitina’s is dedicated to influential New Orleans R&B musician Professor Longhair and you can even take a tour through the iconic venue. You absolutely need to visit Frenchmen Street if you’re looking for great live music. From impromptu curbside concerts to rows of great live music venues, it stands for everything that makes New Orleans New Orleans. You’ll find great clubs like internationally recognized The Spotted Cat, d.b.a, and relative newcomer The Maison.
To continue your tour of New Orleans’ iconic history, why not stay at The Roosevelt. For 125 years, it has been a part of the city’s story and it can be a part of yours.
This is just a sampling of what makes each of these cities incredible music destinations for your next vacation. Which one will you visit?