Friday, November 18, 2011

Musical Road Trip


I'm an 18 year old student from London (England) looking to travel around the US with a couple of friends. I'm basically aiming for a gap year style trip condensed into 8 or 10 weeks. I'm really into music and just want to experience the different American cultures.

I was hoping you could help me out with where would be best to start the trip (will be flying over from London) and where would be the best places for me to visit and which route would be best to take.

I know this may sound stupid seeing as I want to take a road trip but I really don't like the idea of travelling down long deserted roads for 500 miles at a time. I also don't wish to try and see as much of the US as I can. I'd prefer to see a variety of places and spend a couple of days exploring them.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

Thank you,



Hi Emma --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA. Music is a great theme for a US trip -- and you definitely don't need to drive to get to know the country and its people

Though I include lots of music-related places I think you'd like in Road Trip USA, there are many music festivals and clubs and events all over the country, so it's worth your while to do some web research -- whether you're looking for some down-home Appalachian bluegrass or heartfelt Zydeco. On a more practical front, renting a car when you're 18 is difficult if not impossible -- so if I were you, I'd look into getting an Amtrak train pass (something $650 for a month, I think), and seeing the country that way.

For music, I'd start my tour in Chicago, which is a lot more manageable and enjoyable than New York (which I still find overwhelming). From Chicago, you could take the train to Detroit (if you like Motown, and/or Eminem...), and maybe Cleveland (where you can see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame). Or you could head south to St Louis; again, great music -- home to Chuck Berry, who is still alive!, and explore the stomping grounds of jazz greats like Miles Davis and ragtime Scott Joplin. From Chicago (or with a bus transfer from St Louis), you can follow the Mississippi River south to Memphis (worth at least a month on its own!), and New Orleans, where music is still the lifeblood (along with great food).

In between the two cities is the great Mississippi Delta , where the Blues was born. But alas rural America is hard to enjoy without your own wheels...

If you want t head west, Portland and Seattle both have pretty lively "music scenes", as does San Francisco (which is very pretty, too). To me LA is too business-oriented, and again it's not much fun without a car. But the Sunset Strip is pretty fun, with lots of lively clubs.

Other West Coast cities with energetic music scenes -- Portland and Seattle and SF -- are more manageable without a car (they all have excellent public transport systems), and if you stay at youth hostels you'll probably meet some like-minded music loving fellow travelers.

Another thing you may able to sort out is some kind of "ride share", that would get you out onto the open road for that essential American Road Trip adventure. Websites like often have ads from people offering to drive you places, if you share the cost of gas. Sometimes these ride shares are heading to music festivals, so you may be doubly lucky.

Hope this helps -- and I hope you have a great trip.

With best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Anonymous Tyra Shortino said...

A road trip in the US is overwhelming, but yes, cutting up your trips in chunks would help you get the most of it. It also depends on what you prioritize as a traveler. I myself am crazy about food, so even NY has lots to offer!

12:47 PM  

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