Road Trip: Route 61, Minnesota to New Orleans

The “road trip” lies at the heart of American culture and has come to be a metaphor for freedom, and so it may come as no surprise that the internet is awash with recommended road trips across the US. The second most famous trip—pipped only by Route 66—is Route 61. If you’re going for the full route, it’s a 1400 mile stretch between New Orleans and Wyoming, Minnesota, following the Mississippi River. The route is sometimes referred to as the “Blues Highway” as it passes through areas where the musical genre evolved and is also the route taken by many African American jazz and blues pioneers as they migrated north from the Mississippi Delta throughout the first half of the twentieth century. This route meanders alongside the Mississippi river and is not only packed with history and entertainment, but also beauty.

There isn’t one prescribed way to do this road trip. Although almost all who partake are music lovers, it’s a highly personal adventure. Some go from south to north and some go from north to south, and everyone stops off at different places and spends a different amounts of time at each. That isn’t to say that there aren’t certain wide-spread favourite destinations. Though there are many great places along the complete route, not everyone has the money or time to visit them all. If this is the case, we recommend a route that has four main locations as its highlights.

Begin in Nashville, where you can sample some of the city’s hundreds of live music venues, perhaps listening to some country music. Then go to Memphis and check out the impressive Stax Museum of American Soul Music and get in touch with some soul and rock ’n’ roll history. Next on to Tunica, in Mississippi, where you can try some southern culinary treats in the many affordable cafes and visit the Blues Visitors Center & Museum as well as any of the impressive blues clubs in the area. Finally, your last major stop will be New Orleans, one of America’s most culturally diverse and vibrant cities. Grab some delicious food at Café du Monde and then head on down to Bourbon Street for some live jazz—there’s no where better in the world for jazz than here!

Image credit: “Bourbon Street Wakes Up at Dusk” by Lars Ploughman on Flickr.

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