Published Online: Sept/Oct 2003

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American rhythms
Visit Nashville and New Orleans to note the deep musical roots in these cities

The French Quarter in New Orleans is a jazz cornerstone./©Harry Costner, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Music is a part of American culture, including the American driving experience. That is why you should follow the music in your soul and take a drive to these cradles of American song.

Nashville is Music City, U.S.A. The world of country music, as well as several other styles, originates from Nashville’s “Music Row." A trip to Nashville would not be complete without experiencing the phenomenon of the world-famous 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry, the centerpiece of the Gaylord Opryland Resort. This 120-acre entertainment complex also offers other entertainment venues, including the Grand Ole Opry’s original Ryman auditorium, the General Jackson Showboat, two broadcasting studios, and the 4.5-acre atrium lobby of the Opryland hotel. This 3,000-room hotel also features a garden conservatory, water park, indoor river complete with riverboats, and a 30-store shopping arcade. Although the Gaylord Opryland Resort is Nashville’s largest tourist attraction, be sure to leave time for the Country Music Hall of Fame, Hank Williams Jr. Museum, the Loretta Lynn Ranch, and the Willie Nelson and Family General Store.

Just a little more than 200 miles to the west is Memphis and Graceland, the home and monument to Elvis Presley. Memphis has a dual musical heritage. Elvis launched the rock ‘n’ roll revolution from here, and the music of the Mississippi Delta, known as the blues, emanated from the saloons of Beale Street. Beale Street restaurants and clubs will capture your soulful side, while a tour of Graceland will put you in touch with the life of one of America’s most famous stars.

Located at the mouth of the Mississippi, New Orleans is a cornerstone of both the country’s history and its musical heritage. Added to America through the Louisiana Purchase, the country gained more than the lands and rivers, it got the birthplace of jazz. Considered the most unique of American music, you can experience this mood and attitude in its purest form at Preservation Hall. Each night, this small venue presents traditional jazz performed by musicians of the French Quarter. New Orleans has much to offer visitors — food, entertainment, museums, swamp tours, even a shop that sells supplies for voodoo spells. It’s truly a city with everything.

You can listen to these musical styles on your radio. But a visit to the origins of these rhythms will enable you to understand the spirit of these truly American creations.

If you decide to go, be sure to check out the DriveAmerica tour packages offered through TripAmerica on your local AAA Web site, With hotel rates that frequently beat the Internet giants, DriveAmerica tours features preplanned self-drive itineraries, including hotel selections for an American Rhythms tour, which will guide you through the cities in the story above, plus part of the antebellum South.

City and resort packages offer great weekend getaways tailored to AAA members who only have time for one destination.

TripAmerica offers vacation itineraries for destinations throughout the United States. For more information on TripAmerica packages, contact your local AAA office or visit online at

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