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  • Writer's pictureS. Parris

The Best US Destinations For Music Lovers To Add To Their Bucket Lists

Whether you are a country, indie, blues, jazz, hip-hop, or rock & roll fan, there is a destination in the U.S. for you. Across the country, there are incredible intimate venues, larger-than-life concert halls, historic theaters, spectacular outdoor spaces, and more — showcasing a world of musical talent. From local artists and chart-topping acts to star-studded festivals and impromptu concerts, if no travel adventure is complete without live musical entertainment, more than a few locales can accommodate.

Music-loving travelers actually have a plethora of options that cater to all tastes, especially in culture-rich spots on the map. As a result, travelers looking to experience it all — shows, guided tours, important historical sites, and then some — definitely have their work cut out for them. So to make planning your next music-inspired getaway a whole lot easier, here are the best destinations in the U.S. for music lovers to add to their bucket lists.


For many travelers, when contemplating domestic havens for music, Athens, Georgia, is often not the first destination that comes to mind. But Athens is brimming with talent, iconic live music venues like the fantastic 40 Watt Club, and well-known acts that are based out of this particular southern gem. Bands like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and Drive-By Truckers all call this city home. Plus, there is no shortage of wildly-talented up-and-comers.

Moreover, Athens is filled with music history, vinyl stores, and must-see fan sites, including the Athens Music Walk of Fame. And if you are looking to combine live music and history, then you definitely should stop by the historic Georgia Theatre while in town and listen to the likes of Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney. Alternatively, festival enthusiasts can buy tickets for AthFest and the North Georgia Folk Festival. Either way, if all this sounds like music to your ears, then you know what you need to do next — head on down to Athens for fascinating music history tours, the Athens Music Walk of Fame, and to watch some of the greats on stage.


Of course, the Live Music Capital of the World should be on every music fan's to-do list. This bucket-list-worthy town in Texas is a known hippie haven with more than 250 venues for live entertainment. In fact, Austin city streets are littered with music halls, record stores, and one-of-a-kind bars, clubs, and pubs with live bands. Often, there are hundreds of shows and concerts happening practically every night of the week in Austin, so there is never a bad time to make your way down to this U.S. music mecca.

In addition to all of this, the city of Austin definitely knows a thing or two about music festivals. With ample and legendary festivals happening annually, like the world-famous SXSW, which combines music, multimedia art, and film in what can only be described as a pure delight for all the senses, there is absolutely no reason not to plan a trip to this city. Other popular music events to check out here include the Austin Area Jazz Festival, Blues on the Green, Hot Summer Nights, Free Week, and the Urban Cultural Festival — just to name a few.


Yet another destination that lovers of all things music related tend to overlook is Boston, Massachusetts. Known for its wealth of American history, Beantown is indeed full of captivating sites, phenomenal museums, and more. But did you also know that the capital city of Massachusetts is listed among the top music cities in America? Well, now you know.

With an abundance of incredible live music venues, including Leader Bank Pavillion, MGM Music Hall Fenway, and the new Xfinity Center (in Mansfield), intimate ongoing concerts held throughout the city, plus must-see events like the Boston Calling Festival, Live Music Sundays, and the Levitate Music and Arts Festival, Boston might just be for music lovers after all. And even though Beantown has always been home to the Berklee College of Music, Boston Symphony Orchestra Hall, the Boch Center, and the Boston Opera House, if classic styles of music are not necessarily your cup of tea, there are plenty of other places for those who enjoy more contemporary genres of music here as well.


Known as the birthplace of quite a few styles of music, the Windy City is another music lover's delight that should be high up there on one's bucket list. That said, blues and jazz fans, in particular, will have no trouble appreciating this city. However, there are several key locations throughout Chicago where all music enthusiasts can enjoy a multitude of genres and melodic sounds, including the artsy Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Wicker Park, Logan Square, and the Subterranean (a multiple-level venue for all music tastes).

Other great live music options in the Windy City, like the Empty Bottle, Buddy Guy's Legends, Park West, Constellation, The Metro, and the City Winery, are also worth a visit. Each of these venues offers a unique experience and incorporates a variety of genres like indie rock, blues, jazz, contemporary classic, mainstream rock, electronica, and more. Besides these iconic spots, Chicago also knows how to put on a good show with events like Lollapalooza, the Chicago Blues Festival, Riot Fest, and the Chicago Jazz Festival.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is also a fantastic destination for music lovers, especially fans of pop superstars, classic rock bands, renowned hip-hop artists, and big-name groups like U2 and Maroon 5. With impressive live music venues — the House of Blues Las Vegas, MGM Grand Garden Arena, and the Brooklyn Bowl, to name a few — plus lavish hotels, countless dance clubs, and more than a few casinos, all along the famous Strip, there is no denying the fact that Sin City delivers when it comes to entertainment. Here, visitors can check out fantastic live performances and Las Vegas residencies from some of the biggest names in the music industry.

Music lovers can also check out fantastic museums dedicated to musicians and musical instruments or sign up for a recording studio workshop. And, of course, a Las Vegas music festival should always be on your itinerary when in Sin City. Action-packed happenings like the iHeart Radio Music Festival, the Electric Daisy Carnival, the When We Were Young Festival, and the Life Is Beautiful Festival are simply amazing and some have been going strong for a decade now.

Los Angeles

Music fans looking for the experience of a lifetime should absolutely plan a trip to Los Angeles. In general, the Golden State is where the Hollywood magic happens and thus is where you can spot numerous celebrities in their chosen habitat. The city of Los Angeles is undoubtedly where musicians flock in droves too. With recording studios aplenty, venues like the Greek Theatre, award shows, festivals like Hard Summer, and incredible talent, a music-themed trip to the City of Angels is a must on any music lover's bucket list.

As a result, the music scene here is not only robust, but it is also full of music-related adventures and activities. Here, fans can check out the Grammy Museum, marvel at the greats on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and visit the RockWalk on Sunset Boulevard (which is dedicated to legendary rock stars). You can also go on music history walkabouts, and music celeb tours, and even see the final resting spots for some former music industry icons. And while you are out and about in the City of Angels, do not forget to catch a show or two at great live music venues like the Hollywood Bowl, Troubadour, The Kia Forum, Exchange Los Angeles for mind-blowing EDM and DJ experiences, or the Walt Disney Concert Hall.


Of course, rock and roll and blues fans needn't look any further than Memphis, Tennessee. But beyond Elvis, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash, Memphis is where many other icons have honed their craft and where the famous Stax Records forever altered music with the Memphis Sound. With must-see attractions like the Memphis Rock 'N' Soul Museum, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame (MMHoF), the Blue Hall of Fame, and Elvis Presley's Graceland, visitors will have plenty to do on their music getaway here.

While enjoying the ample museums and music history sites, make sure you stop by the Beale Street Entertainment District. Here, you will find live daily performances, R&B and soul-infused nightclubs, and Handy Park outdoor concerts— popular go-to's on Beale Street such as King's Palace, Rum Boogie Café's Blues Hall and B.B. King's Blues Club should not be overlooked either. That said, a few other great spaces in Memphis for live music include Loflin Yard, Tom Lee Park, and Radians Amphitheater.


Known as the city that music calls home, Nashville, Tennessee, was always going to be on the list of bucket-worthy music destinations. With the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry House, several music museums, plus countless other concert halls and musical attractions, Nashville is definitely a haven for all music lovers. So whether you are a fan of country music or not truly doesn't matter much here.

Music City has a wealth of other genres to indulge in, including rock, jazz, bluegrass, folk, hip-hop, and classical music. Nashville also has ample venues (both songwriter venues and live music entertainment spots) worth checking out, like Honky Tonk Central, The Stage On Broadway, Wildhorse Saloon, the Analog, and the Ascend Amphitheater. Plus, with more than a few annual events happening every month, Music City — the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Make Music Nashville, CMA Fest, Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman, AMC Awards, CMA Music Awards, and more — this destination is everything and then some.

New Orleans

New Orleans is rich with music history and is home to wonderful music-infused events like Mardi Gras, the ESSENCE Festival of Culture, and Jazz Fest. So, in that respect alone, the melodic sounds of the Big Easy are definitely calling all music lovers. Specifically, traditional jazz fans are in for a real treat in this party city. With the New Orleans Jazz Museum plus iconic spots like Preservation Hall, the Snug Harbor, the Maple Leaf Bar, and The Spotted Cat Music Club, you can be sure to immerse yourself in all that jazz and then some.

What's more, if you love impromptu concerts, dueling pianos, nightclubs, and DJs, the French Quarter is a pivotal part of New Orleans that should not be overlooked. Not only can music enthusiasts expect big bands to be playing in the streets here, but they can also hear relaxing tunes flowing from beautiful courtyards like Musical Legends Park. And an added bonus here is that city of New Orleans is the perfect destination for brass bands, Creole, R&B, and Zydeco music lovers too.

New York City

New York City is just one more music mecca steeped in culture, history, and talent. Of course, every hip-hop lover must visit the Big Apple at least once in their lifetime, especially since the Bronx is touted as the birthplace of this popular genre. New York City also has a thriving punk rock scene and has undoubtedly had a hand in making other musical stylings like jazz, blues, disco, indie, and folk music even more popular, if not mainstream.

Plus, with iconic venues, including the Apollo Theater, the Radio City Music Hall, The Rooftop At Pier 17, the Carnegie Music Hall, and dozens of other live music spots throughout the city, the Big Apple is pretty much the embodiment of American music. Likewise, New York City is home to many of the greatest musicians and lyricists of our time, and there is no shortage of events. In fact, annual happenings such as the Electric Zoo Music Festival, the Borderland Festival, SummerStage, and the AFROPUNK Festival — just to name a few — turn The City That Never Sleeps into an all-out music rager. Music lovers can also enjoy numerous Broadway musicals, catch most music tours, and check out important music-related sights when vacationing in the Big Apple.


The City of Brotherly Love has one of the most diverse and lively music scenes in the country. From jazz, R&B, indie, and hip-hop to EDM, classical, and rock, Philadelphia offers music fans a symphony of sound. Thanks to phenomenal venues like the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, the Franklin Music Hall, the City Winery, The Met Philadelphia, and more, this popular U.S. destination definitely does not disappoint.

Philadelphia is also another incredible place to be during the summer and early fall, as this city comes alive with festivals, outdoor concerts, and music happenings. Events that bring in the crowds here include the Sad Summer Fest, the Outlaw Music Festival, the Roots Picnic, HiJinx Festival, and the Made in America Festival. Some of these annual festivities are even so legendary that the whole city gets taken over, and you can enjoy many of the live performances from practically anywhere in town.


For travelers who truly adore all genres of music, Portland, Oregon, is another spectacular addition to your list. With indie, pop, international, electronic music, and beyond, Portland's music scene is truly legendary. The Rose City is actually a great add-on to any music bucket list, with its numerous venues ranging from intimate to mid-sized to larger to outdoor.

Charming little spots like the Doug Fir Lounge and the Polaris Hall offer music lovers front-row seats to some of the best talents on the West Coast. Likewise, Portland is full of great neighborhood bars and galleries that showcase local artists almost nightly. Bigger concert halls, on the other hand, including the Wonder Ballroom and the Moda Center, are ideal options if your goal is to rock out with the music industry's top superstars. And if you want to take your music experience to the next level, Edgefield is Portland's premier outdoor summer venue, where many of the greats put on memorable shows.

San Francisco

San Francisco has always been a hub for music, artists, and creative types. With the San Francisco Music Hall of Fame, music-themed hotels, the historic Haight-Ashbury district, plus music legends like The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Journey, and Jimi Hendrix, the Bay Area definitely has a music scene worth exploring. That said, modern rock, alternative, punk, pop, and indie music fans will still feel right at home here.

Brimming with music history, San Francisco also has quite a bit to offer music lovers, including the chance to appreciate jazz and blues royalty like Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and more. Similar to other music-rich locales, the Golden Gate City has amazing annual festivals and several renowned venues, such as the Fillmore and the larger-than-life Chase Center. Plus, other impressively-sized venues, like Oracle Park, provide fans with a superb open-air music experience with their concert series and big-name performances.


Last but definitely not least, Seattle, Washington, played an important role in changing popular music in the late 1980s and 90s. As the official birthplace of grunge music, it is actually kind of hard to pass this one up, especially when given the fabulous opportunity to experience the Seattle sound and delve deeper into American history. Plus, for fans of iconic 90s bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, a music-infused trip to Seattle shouldn't even be a question.

So, after some serious fan-girl or boy-ing, make sure to enjoy a host of live performances at famous venues in the city like The Show Box, Paramount Theater, Tractor Tavern, The Royal Room, and Neumos. And while you are at it, why not add some incredible festivals to your roster when in town too? Rave-worthy events like the Capitol Hill Block Party, Timber Music Fest, the Earshot Jazz Festival, and Wintergrass showcase music in all its forms and at its best. That said, Seattle is just one more sublime destination in the U.S. for music lovers that should absolutely be on their bucket lists.

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