Southern Music Destinations

Once this quarantine is behind us, plan a road trip to experience the great music of the South.

By Michaela Satterfield

While there’s a great music scene close to home, you never know what you may find by branching out to other cities in the South. Plan a weekend trip, pack your bags and catch a plane to immerse yourself in the music. If you’re up for a drive, make it a road trip so you can pepper the experience with pit stops. You’ll find streets teeming with performers, charming local haunts with personalities all their own and famous venues everyone must visit at least once. These cities are rich with musical history you can still feel today. You’re certain to find variety – headliners and newbies share the scenes, as well as country artists, rock artists and blues artists. Each city has its trademark, so you’ll want to add them all to your bucket list. Get cultured by visiting these six iconic music scenes:

The Continental Club
Stevie Ray Vaughan statue

Austin, Texas

Why the music scene is great: Austin’s motto is “Live Music Capital of the World,” so you better believe you’re going to find a happening music scene here. Live music at the airport means your first impression of the city will include music. There are over 250 live music venues, so skim through the city’s website to find one that suits your taste. Catch it at the right time of year for a music festival, such as Austin City Limits.

Top spots for live music: The Continental Club is called the granddaddy of live music venues. Tap your toes at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, listen to great blues at Antone’s or discover one of the many hidden gems tucked into the Red River district.

Get there: A 1,161-mile drive will take you a little over 17 hours. If you’re not up for the road trip, fly from Savannah and you’ll be in the air less than five hours with only one stop.

The Bluebird Café
Third Man Records

Nashville, Tennessee

Why the music scene is great: Music lovers will feel right at home in Nashville, known as “Music City.” You’ll find every genre of music here. If you’re lucky, you may bump into a famous musician – lots of stars call the city home. At the end of the summer, the Live on the Green music festival is a must. Press a phonograph disc in the Third Man Record Booth at Jack White’s Third Man Records or check out the Johnny Cash Museum.

Top spots for live music: The Grand Ole Opry, Bluebird Café and the Cannery Row complex in SoBro (Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom, The High Watt). The 5 Spot was the first stop on Lady Gaga’s dive bar tour in 2016 and is featured on the hit show Nashville.

Get there: The 529-mile drive is about eight hours or fly directly from Savannah – it’ll only take an hour and a half.

Silky O’Sullivan’s
Sun Studio

Memphis, Tennessee

Why the music scene is great: As the “Home of Blues, Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll,” you’ll find live music somewhere in the city every day of the week. You’ll want to grab some of Memphis’ world-famous barbecue while you enjoy the shows. Music legends Elvis Presley, B.B. King and Johnny Cash were discovered in Memphis, so the city is rich with musical history. Beale Street in downtown is lined with blues clubs and restaurants.

Top spots for live music: Add the original B.B. King’s Blues Club, Lafayette’s Music Room and Young Avenue Deli to your itinerary. Silky O’Sullivan’s is always a fun experience.

Get there: Take a 10-hour, 670-mile drive or hop on a plane out of Savannah for a four-hour flight with one stop.

Georgia Theatre
Weaver D’s

Athens, Georgia

Why the music scene is great: Bands such as R.E.M., The B-52s and Widespread Panic were born in Athens. Take a music history walking tour, catch a headliner stopping by or hear one of the hundreds of bands currently based in the city. Stop by a brewery in between shows, too, as Athens is home to a thriving craft beer scene. If you’re hungry, grab a bite at Weaver D’s. Its slogan “Automatic for the People” was made famous after R.E.M. used it for an album title. Be sure to stop in Wuxtry Records.

Top spots for live music: You can’t go wrong with 40 Watt Club, Georgia Theatre or Little Kings Shuffle Club. The World Famous is a great spot for late-night fun.

Get there: The 230-mile drive is only about four hours. Take a quick, hour-long flight with no stops from Savannah to save some time.

Maison Bourbon
The Spotted Cat Music Club

New Orleans, Louisiana

Why the music scene is great: New Orleans is known for taking its music to the streets. The swirl of street performers gives this city personality. The music scene is diverse from one street to the next – Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street, Royal Street and others all have their own feel.

Top spots for live music: Favorites include Blue Nile, Maison Bourbon, Dragon’s Den and One Eyed Jacks. Check out The Soul Rebels on Thursday nights at Le Bon Temps Rouler or Smoking Time Jazz Club on Tuesdays at The Spotted Cat Music Club.

Get there: The 675-mile road trip takes 10 hours, but you can fly out of Savannah and be there in around four hours with only one stop.

Variety Playhouse
The Roxy

Atlanta, Georgia

Why the music scene is great: Hip-hop fans will be right at home in Atlanta, the capital of modern rap. Other genres are represented too, and the best part is, you’ll find genre mixing. For example, the popular song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, an Atlanta native, combined hip hop and country to create something new.

Top spots for live music: See great live performances at Terminal West, The Roxy, Variety Playhouse and The Tabernacle, a church-turned-concert hall.

Get there: It’ll only take about 4 1/2 hours to drive the 280 miles to the city. Alternatively, take a direct flight from Savannah and you’ll only be in the air for about an hour.

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