Southern Soul Road Trip: Dance And Eat Your Heart Out Part 1: New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville

Southern Soul Road Trip: Dance And Eat Your Heart Out Part 1: New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville

If you like free live music and hearty soul food, this road trip is for you! Explore the origins of jazz, blues and bluegrass where it all began. We moved quickly across the south with only a night in each city so here are budget-friendly attractions suggested by locals. We tried to keep admission prices under $5 and meals under $10 so you can have fun without breaking the bank. I’ve included a few things that we didn’t get to see but were highly recommended to us. Much of what we decided to do depended on the day of the week so I highly suggest you check out event calendars for each city you visit.

Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisana

Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans:
I wrote a whole post about this city back when I was feeling ambitious.  Find the detailed itinerary here!

Indianapolis, MS: You’ll feel like you’re the Deep South with this stop because there’s not much going on in this town beyond cotton fields. We stopped here to break up our drive with an amazing museum visit.
B.B. King Museum and Mississippi Delta Interpretive Center (400 Second St, Indianola, MS, ): Fantastic, interactive exhibits that provide an overview of Mississippi Delta region, B.B. King’s life and the beginning of Blues. We debated this museum or the Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MS. There’s probably more to see in Clarksdale (especially if you can go to Ground Blues restaurant and live music venue, opened by) but after comparing our options and experiencing this, I’d highly recommend you chose the same!  Tickets for students are a steal for just $5.
Blue Biscuit Café (501-503 Second Street): good southern soul food and authentic, live blues right across the street from the B.B. King museum. Apparently, you can even spend the night in one of their two villas!

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, TN: Although there’s not much shaking on Sundays (when we arrived), Memphis had a surprising number of things going on and could have easily spent a second day.
• Explore an Egyptian obsession: Apparently, the people of Memphis love to compare themselves to Egypt, the country who houses Memphis’ namesake city. Both Memphis and Egypt strongly depend on their rivers (The Mississippi and the Nile respectively) and the city is dotted with tributes to this ancient nation. The University of Memphis has an impressive Egyptology Gallery (142 Communication & Fine Arts Bldg.
The University of Memphis) and a giant Ramses II statue on a lawn. The city’s skyline includes a giant pyramid that will house the world’s second largest Bass Pro Shop. It wasn’t opened when we visited but they expect to open December 2014 and the building will include climbing walls, laser galleries, bowling alley archery range and fitness facility.
• Riverfront: The city has built paths along the Mississippi with beautiful views of the skyline and the river. Check out the Steamboats at Beale Street landing.
Mud Island: Right near the riverside visitor center, there’s a monorail station that will take you to Mud Island (by monorail $4 or by walking). At Mud Island, you can walk along and get your feet wet in the giant sidewalk scaled model of the Lower Mississippi. It’s a good place to go to spend time outside and learn more about America’s biggest river at their Mississippi River Museum.

Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN

Motel room where MLK was assassinated. Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN

Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry St): We didn’t have time to visit but everyone raved about this museum and we checked out the interesting exterior. Partially housed in the Lorraine Motel where MLK was assassinated, you can stand where the assassin shot him and see the room he was staying the day he died.
Central BBQ (147 E. Butler): “Go where the locals go” for Memphis-style barbeque. Here you can taste the slow-cooked pork served wet with the sweet, tangy, molasses/tomato/vinegar-based sauce that the city is known for.
• Cheesecake Corner (113 GE Patterson Ave): This unassuming cheesecake, quiche and wine bar doesn’t look like much from the outside but all the locals know it as the best place to get dessert in town so you will probably have to wait in line. $10 buys you a mighty slice of delicious cheesecake and you can chose from dozens of flavors.
Duck Parade at Peabody Hotel (149 Union Ave): What began as a joke after a hunting trip has become a true tradition at the fancy Peabody Hotel. Each day at 11 AM, a red carpet is unrolled for the hotel’s ducks to march from their penthouse on the top floor to the fountain in the lobby. At 5 PM, the ceremony is reversed as they march back to their home for the night. Each of these parades is accompanied by an announcement about the history of the hotel and this tradition. If you miss the march, you can still stop by the hotel’s rooftop for views of the city and a peek in the duck’s penthouse.
• Beale Street: The center of Memphis nightlife with three blocks of live music and restaurants. There’s plenty of places to chose from but people recommended BB King’s (143 Beale St) for live blues. Out of all the live music on this trip, this was my favorite stop- $4 beers and a ridiculously charismatic band, whose lead singer played the guitar with his mouth
Earnestine & Hazels (531 South Main Street): If you’re more into jazz, check out the free Jazz Sundays (free!) at 8:30 PM at this juke joint, just a few blocks from Beale Street. It began as a brothel and blues club and has been featured in at least nine movies.
Graceland (3717 Elvis Presley Blvd): If you know anything about Memphis, you probably realize that I have failed to mention its top attraction: Elvis Presley’s mansion. We decided to forgo this famous rock ‘n’ roll residence because of its $30+ admission fee but if you’re a fan of the King. Basic admission allows you to tour his mansion and the grounds but an upgrade will allow you to see Elvis’ custom jets and car collection.

World's Largest Treehouse, Crossville, TN

World’s Largest Treehouse, Crossville, TN

Crossville, TN: Home of the world’s largest tree house
Minister’s tree house (Beehive Lane, Crossville, TN ): Supposedly, one day while praying, local minister Horace Burgess got a divine message from God that if he built a tree house, he would not run out of material. Since then, he’s continued to expand the structure to be the world’s largest and include countless rooms, an altar, basketball court, swing and more. It was closed to the public because it doesn’t follow fire code. For that reason, I guess I can’t officially advise you to go there but if you do, it’s one of the coolest things you’ll ever see!

Honky Tonks and Boot Shops on Broadway, Nashville, TN

Honky Tonks and Boot Shops on Broadway, Nashville, TN. Photo courtesy of Chuck Kramer.

Nashville, TN: Music City is undoubtably one of my favorite places in the world! Since we didn’t need to revisit the city’s major attractions, we mostly shopped for cowboy boots on Broadway and window-shopped some of the city’s fun neighbors. We spent our evening at a free Jake Owen concert but you can’t go wrong with a Nashville night spent honky-tonkin’ on Broadway.

Live music at The Stage, Nashville, TN

Live music at The Stage, Nashville, TN

• 5 Corners: Visit Nashville’s ultimate hipster haven for everything you need: bars, restaurants, a coffee shop, bike shop and the location for events such as yoga and Grassy Knoll outdoor movie nights. Check out the silly, renovated hippie bus hot-dog stand “I Dream of Weenie”.

Ice Cream at Jeni's!

Ice Cream at Jeni’s!

• 12South: One of Nashville’s hottest neighborhoods, home to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (2312 12th Avenue South) which serves up the tastiest scoops of home made ice cream I’ve ever eaten. Chose from exquisite locally inspired flavors such as Yazoo Sue With Rosemary Bar Nuts (using the local Yazoo beer), Whisky and Pecan or Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam. You won’t be sorry! While you’re in the neighborhood, go shopping at Katy K Designs (whose vintage clothes supposedly outfit some country stars), grab an artisan latte at the Frothy Monkey or sit down with a beer at 12South Taproom.
Hatchshow Print (224 5th Ave. South): This old-school print shop, now located in the basement of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has been printing show posters for decades. Now, you need tickets for the official tour of the print show but a visit to their gift shop will allow you to see old posters and the printers for free. The posters or postcards printed in-house make a fun, Nashville souvenir.
The Southern (150 3rd St. South): Part sports bar, part classy restaurant (specializing in steak and oysters), part live music venue, the Southern should please any personality. Whether you want shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, steak & biscuit benedict or house made granola (for vegetarians like me), this place serves up one of the best brunches I’ve consumed.  Especially when you’re munching away to the pluncking sounds of a classy bassist and a twangy banjo.

Song of the Moment: B.B. King- The Thrill is Gone

If YOU want to go on a road trip of the Southern United States’ most cultural and musical cities: Get a car, rent a car and go.  Here’s our basic Google Map itinerary for this segment.  Bring your appetite!  If you want to skip Memphis, I’d recommend taking the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway that diagonally connects Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, TN through Alabama.  Obviously, we didn’t take this route but you should be able to find a lot of good hiking, old Indian burial grounds and Mississippi craft collections.

Southern Road Trip Part 1

Southern Road Trip Part 1

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