AMERICANA MUSIC CIRCLE TOUR
Note: For travelers using Atlanta as the gateway airport, they can start this circle tour in either Birmingham or Montgomery, both of which are only at 2.5 hour drive from the Atlanta airport.
From the music industry in Nashville to the unlikely rural studios that recorded world hits, the contrast between Nashville and Muscle Shoals, the beginning of this adventure, gives you a fascinating look into American music.
DAY 1 & 2 Arrive in Nashville. It’s where the Grand Ole Opry put country music on the map. Visit the downtown Broadway Street district for live music. See the Country Music Hall of Fame and Ryman Auditorium.
DAY 3 & 4 Head south to see the birthplace of the funky Muscle Shoals sound (2 ¼ hours, 120 miles / 193 km). Tour the studios where Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and other artist turned music into gold and platinum. See the home where the “Father of the Blues”, W.C. Handy, was born and record your own song at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Dance in the woods at Rattlesnake Saloon.
DAY 5 & 6 Continue south to Birmingham (2 hours, 120 miles / 193 km). In Sweet Home Alabama’s largest city you can find music and dance clubs. The Saturday night only Gips Place is an authentic backyard juke joint that has been in existence since 1952. Tour the historic 16th Street Baptist Church Tuesday – Saturday or go to their Sunday service and hear hand-clapping, toe-tapping Gospel music. Visit multiple downtown entertainment disticts with live music and great food.
DAY 7 & 8 Continuing south to Montgomery (1.5 hours, 93 miles / 150 km) to see where the father of contemporary country music, Hank Williams, became a superstar. Enjoy Hank’s favorite meal of a chili dog and bottled Coke-Cola at Chris’ Hot Dogs and then continue to the Hank Williams Museum where you can see his famous Blue Cadillac. His gravesite is in Montgomery at Oakwood Cemetery Annex. Enjoy the bars and music venues in the downtown Alley Entertainment District. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks also made history in this city where American civil rights sites are found.
DAY 9 & 10 As you continue south to Mobile (2:20, 168 miles/270 km) look for the “Lost Highway” signs along I-65. These signs honor Hank and his song of that title. Just off this highway at exit 114 in Georgiana is the Hank Williams Boyhood Home & Museum. In Mobile, discover the New Orleans style town that was the birthplace of Mardi Gras in America. Nearby are the coastal resort towns of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach with their beach bars, music halls and music festivals. You may want to extend your days in this area if you are a beach lover.
DAY 11 & 12 Travel west to New Orleans (2.5 hours, 150 miles / 241 km), where jazz was officially born. This city operates non-stop. Walk the French Quarter and enjoy live music along Bourbon Street.
DAY 13 Travel north to Natchez (3 hours, 170 miles / 273 km) to visit the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River. Here you can discover the Under the Hill Saloon, an out-of-way spot that draws visitors from around the globe as well as plantations.
DAY 14 & 15 Travel north to Clarksdale ( 4 hours, 216 miles / 350 km). Along the way, take a short detour to Indianola to see the B.B. King Museum. When you arrive in Clarksdale, you will be at the unofficial capital of the blues. Here it is said Robert Johnston traded his soul for his talents. Hear live music at Ground Zero and see music history at the Delta Blues and Rock and Blues museums.
DAY 16 & 17 Travel north to Memphis for Elvis (1 ½ hours, 76 miles / 122 km). Visit Graceland Mansion, Elvis Presley’s home. Later see Beale Street in downtown Memphis and visit both Sun and Stax Records museums. The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel the site of Martin Luther King’s assassination.
DAY 18 Travel back to Nashville to complete the tour (3 hours, 212 miles / 341 km) for you trip back home.
18 DAY / 17 NIGHT ITINERARY
Nashville: 2 nights Muscle Shoals/Florence: 2 nights
Birmingham: 2 nights Montgomery: 2 nights
Mobile/Gulf Shores: 2 nights
New Orleans: 2 nights Natchez: 1 night Clarksdale: 2 nights Memphis: 2 nights Nashville: Fly Home