A Road Trip inspired by Music
In the Deep South, there’s something in the air. From the Delta blues to New Orleans jazz, music has always played a big part in the region’s identity. It’s also somewhere full of classic American heritage – you’ll find paddle-steamers, Civil War battlefields and “down home” Southern food. All of which means this 375-mile journey from Mississippi down to The Big Easy is a US road trip of real character. Relaxed stop-offs at the likes of Gulfport and Baton Rouge only add to the appeal.
“I’m goin’ to Jackson – look out Jackson Town.” So sang Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1967, and Mississippi’s state capital remains a destination worth exploring. It’s known as the “City with Soul”, partly in reference to its reputation for gospel and blues. Robert Johnson, BB King and Muddy Waters were all born close to the city. Music aside, today’s visitors can explore the Civil Rights Movement at the Smith Robertson Museum, tour meeting chambers at the State Capitol or eat at CHAR for rib eye and fried green tomatoes. From Jackson, Hattiesburg sits 90 miles south along the highway.
Named after Hattie, the wife of the civil engineer who founded the city in the 1880s, Hattiesburg offers an authentic slice of Mississippi life. Music fans can catch regular live concerts at The Thirsty Hippo, then calm things down the next day with a visit to the nearby Paul B. Johnson State Park. Fishing, hiking and cycling are all on offer. Back in the city, Mississippi Music Inc has a great range of instruments and memorabilia for sale. Hattiesburg is well connected for car-hire drivers too – no less than six highways converge on the town, giving it the nickname “Hub City”. Gulfport, your next stop, is 75 minutes away.
Known for its beaches and casinos, the city of Gulfport is the largest settlement along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. As a result, there’s plenty going on. Check out the classic cars and motorbikes on show at the Busted Wrench Garage Museum, try Southern-style seafood at the Half Shell Oyster House or catch the musical entertainment at Island View Casino. Quick tip – if you’re here in May, head along to the city’s annual rock festival. Driving west, Baton Rouge is two hours away.
Despite its size – and its fondness for Mardi Gras season – Louisiana’s state capital remains an easy-going city. As elsewhere, however, it takes its music seriously. Blues, country and even ballet are regularly performed, with the modern Shaw Center for the Arts a natural focal point. Around town, head to the LSU Rural Life Museum for a look at the plantation era or join the market queues at Tony’s Seafood & Deli to sample wild-caught shrimp. Moving on, New Orleans sits 80 miles away.
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From its brass bands and Creole cuisine to its jazz bars and Cajun festivals, New Orleans is one of America’s most vibrant and unique cities. Home to everyone from Louis Armstrong to Fats Domino, it’s an essential visit for music fans. Catch traditional jazz at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter, check out the nightly concerts at the Maple Leaf or sample the party atmosphere along Bourbon Street. And don’t miss the chance to eat at Napoleon House, where Creole staples are served up in a century-old courtyard.
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