We begin our musical journey across the south in New Orleans, LA. This city on the bayou is a port city, and as such, there has been a great diversity of visitors over the years and that is reflected in the city's diverse musical culture. The blues is big here as is jazz, funk and other styles. One of the best blues venues in town is the Maple Leaf Bar. This place is part bar, part music venue, part dance place, and all fun. Located on Oak Street on the city's west side it's a bit of a hop from the French Quarter, but the quality of the entertainment here is well worth the journey.
If you prefer to stay along Bourbon Street, try the Bourbon Street Honky Tonk. Formerly known as The Funky Pirate Blues Club, this venue now offers outstanding country and blues live performances along with great drinks and a classic Bourbon Street atmosphere.
If jazz is more your cup of tea then head out to Preservation Hall. It is located just east of Bourbon Street on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter. The beauty of this place is that it features live, intimate, acoustic jazz performances from over 50 of the top local Jazz artists on a nearly nightly basis. They have shows 350 nights a year so it is highly likely there will be some action here regardless of when you visit.
French Quarter RV Resort is the closest RV Resort to the action in downtown New Orleans. It's located just off I-10 and only a couple blocks from the French Quarter. It provides a highly-rated experience with unmatched convenience. It is pricey for an RV park, but the perks are well worth it. If you're on a tighter budget, shoot for the Bayou-Segnette State Park. It's located in Westwego on the city's south side and provides an excellent, safe, quiet and cheap place to stay. Getting to the French Quarter is only about a 30-minute drive to the Algiers Ferry Terminal followed by a 10-minute ferry trip across the river where you are dropped off at the end of Canal Street.
The trip to Memphis, TN is pretty straight forward and an easy drive. First, head west on I-10 out of New Orleans. Just outside of the city, you'll switch to I-55 North. That highway will lead through Jackson, MS and onward straight into Memphis.
Any great road trip can't be all about one topic. Here is a great non-music related stop on our tour which can be visited during the daylight hours. The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum is a living history museum modeled after a 1920's town and designed to highlight the agrarian history of the region. The museum, located outside Jackson, MS, encompasses 39 acres of land and has over 29 exhibits in the form of a small rural Mississippi town. It includes a heritage center, agricultural gardens, display gardens, a children's barn, agricultural aviation museum, a nature trail, a farmstead, and general store.
LeFleur's Bluff State Park provides a good camping spot for RVs or tents near town. They have 27 developed sites in a beautiful park setting just outside of town.
The Fondren District is the hip hotspot of the arts and entertainment in Jackson, MS. This thriving section of town makes for a great night or evening out on the town with numerous live music venues, restaurants, shops, art galleries, and other venues. Each week brings new and exciting experiences in the are including indoor and outdoor live music performances, food tasting events, and art shows.
The main entertainment areas center around the historic downtown district around Fondren Pl, Duling Ave, Old Canton Road, State Street, and Lakeland drive. Additional sections are a couple of blocks north between Meadowbrook Road and Northside Drives along State Street and Northview Drive. The third block is centered around exit 100 off I-55. All these areas are walkable and make for a great night out on the town.
The Ground Zero Blues Club is located about 45 minutes west of I-55 in Clarksdale, MS. The club is co-owned by Morgan Freeman and gets its name from the widely accepted notion that Clarksville, MS is the historical “ground zero” of blues music in the US. If you want to experience the blues where it all began in an authentic delta blues environment, you can't do much better then here. The club itself is located in an old building with tons of character. It is also home to some great food and you can even stay the night in one of the many hotel rooms located upstairs. This club has quite a following so expect top talent to be in the lineup on a nightly basis.
Isle of Capri Casino RV Park offers very affordable full hookup spaces in Lulu about a half-hour north of Ground Zero.
Memphis, TN is to the blues as Nashville is to country music. The heart of the blues in Memphis happens around Beale Street. This is one of the biggest tourist spots in Tennessee and it has quite a storied history. It was built up in the roaring '20s as a major entertainment hub featuring great live music, food, and gambling. It attracted all sorts of people from upscale players to down on their luck gamblers. Even Machine Gun Kelly worked the streets here before launching into the criminal lifestyle which made him famous.
Today, it is a walkable tourist spot that still sports its rough edges. The main action here occurs along Beale Street between South 4th Street and South November 6th Street. There is parking available one block over between Peabody Place and Gayoso Ave. During the day, the shops along Beale Street provide an excellent opportunity to find that uniquely Memphis item to memorialize your trip. At night, the neon comes on and the area comes alive with great live music, food, and drink. There are enough places here to keep even the most hardened blues aficionado entertained for a lifetime.
Of course, Memphis isn't all about the blues. This is also home to the king of rock-n-roll, Elvis Presley. His Graceland Estate is located on the south side of town and is an exceptionally popular tourist attraction. Graceland is a large complex that includes the Graceland Mansion and grounds as well as an auto museum, his airplanes, and an exhibition center. There are also a number of support complexes including an RV park, hotels, and restaurants. It's pretty easy to spend an entire day here experiencing the life of this musical legend.
Memphis is also famous for one other thing, BBQ. Here, it's all about pork and you can't come to Memphis without diving into the great BBQ controversy, wet vs dry. There are many great BBQ places here, but most people consider Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous, and Corky's to be the top swine in the dry vs wet porcine debate. It's best to try them both out and decide for yourself as they both provide excellent food with distinctly different dining experiences.
There are two good state parks in Memphis to camp at. Both offer RV and tent camping sites. T.O. Fuller State Park is on the south side of the city. It is very close to downtown and the surrounding areas are pretty urban. Even so, it's a quiet park that's easy to navigate with most RVs. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is on the north side of the city. It is further out from the city than T.O. Fuller so the surrounding areas are much quieter. The camping area is down a long narrow road and is a bit harder to navigate with a larger RV. It is a much more 'backwoods' camping setting then what you'll find at T.O. Fuller.