Last week we began counting down the top destinations for musical travel that are right here in the United States. This week we complete that list by presenting you with our top 5!
5) Chicago, Illinois
Chicago boasts an impressive collection of performing arts groups, events, and venues. Not only is the city well known for its theater scene, but it is also home to one of the most well-known ballet companies in the world: The Joffrey Ballet, and one of the “big 5” best orchestras in the country: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra’s main stomping ground in the summer is The Ravinia Festival, the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States, offering performances by musical acts of all kinds (it has seen the likes of classical orchestras and ballet companies, along with Louis Armstrong, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Maroon 5, and many many more). And for all you fellow nerds out there: for the past two years, Ravinia has put on a Lord of the Rings event where attendees picnic on the grass and watch the movies on a big screen while the Chicago Symphony Orchestra accompanies the film by playing its soundtrack live! In Summer 2012, they showed the first film in the trilogy, this past summer they put on Two Towers – 8 more months and it’ll be time for a fantastic Return of the King Ravinia event!
4) Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, most popularly known as the home of country music, hosts a variety of performing arts genres. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the major performing arts center in the city, is home to the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, the Nashville Opera, the Music City Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Nashville Ballet. If you’re looking for classical instrumental music, look no further than the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which opened in 2006 as the home of the Nashville Symphony. While in Nashville, you can visit many famous music sites such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Belcourt Theatre, and Ryman Auditorium (the original stomping ground of the famed Grand Ole Opry, the world’s longest-running live radio show). Maybe you’ll even get a chance to take a day trip to Memphis and explore Elvis’ one-time residence, Graceland mansion. In your free time, you can stroll around Nashville’s Music Valley, check out Music Row, where many prominent music companies are located, or square-dance the night away to live country music in the numerous clubs and bars in “the District”!
3) Austin, Texas
Deemed “The Live Music Capital of the World”, Austin will certainly keep the avid performing arts fan very entertained. Austin has more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city, meaning you’ll never have a shortage of places to perform or view live music. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get away from music in this city altogether, as Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and many Austin grocery stores feature live music. This isn’t too surprising, as Austin does have a reputation for being a place where struggling musicians could launch their careers in front of receptive audiences at a wide range of informal live venues. When in Austin, you must be sure to check out East 6th Street, a historic street and Austin’s entertainment district. The street was even added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975! The area offers bars, clubs, music venues, shopping destinations, and a pleasant architectural aesthetic – most of the structures in this area were built before the 1880s. On weekend evenings and during special events, traffic is often blocked to these roads to allow people to walk freely through the street from venue to venue, or just enjoy the live music from outside in the warm Texan evening air. The city is also home to the renowned South by Southwest Festival, featuring both film and music, as well as Austin City Limits, the longest-running concert music program on American television. Fun fact: Every Thursday, Austin’s City Council honors a local musician at its meeting in City Hall.
2) New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, also referred to as “The Big Easy”, is well-known for being the birthplace of one of the most popular and influential music genres of the 20th and 21st centuries – Jazz. To see where the Jazz movement began, you could start your tour off by visiting Congo Square. Back in days of slavery, New Orleans was the sole city in North America that allowed slaves to gather in public and play their native music, and Congo Square was their gathering place of choice. The city offers a wealth of opportunities to both see live music performances, as well as perform yourself. Some great venues in the city include (but are not limited to) the classic 1961 venue Preservation Hall (often referred to as the “holy grail of jazz venues”), Frenchmen Street and Magazine Street with their conglomeration of venues, and Rock N’ Bowl, a venue offering visitors the chance to bowl while listening to live music since 1941! Jazz music isn’t the only popular creative form floating around New Orleans, however. The city is also home to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and was not long ago dubbed both “Hollywood South” and “Broadway South” due to being a popular spot for theater and the filming of many prominent movies. If you’re lucky enough to visit The Big Easy on the last Tuesday before Lent, throw on some colorful beads and join the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the world!
1) New York, New York
Last but certainly not least, the Big Apple comes in at #1 on our list of top 10 places to visit in the U.S. if you’re searching for a comprehensive and entertaining musical (and all-around creative arts) experience. Not only does the city have a wealth of small live music venues (clubs, bars, and the like), the city also boasts a handsome collection of world-renowned groups and venues. You won’t find a better place to experience classical music and performance – from opera to the NY Philharmonic to ballet and more – than Lincoln Center with its 16.3 acres-worth of performance space (the entire facility contains an impressive 29 indoor and outdoor performance spaces). Every few months, craftsmen and artisans gather at the center for a large craft show, and in the summer months, Lincoln Center hosts outdoor opera showings and an annual festival of swing and ballroom dance entitled “Midsummer Night Swing”. Still not enough music for you? Check out the historic Carnegie Hall, the classic Radio City Music Hall, the Apollo Theater in Harlem, or the vast array of talented street and subway performers. If you’re lucky enough to come to the Big Apple in the summer, you certainly will have your fair share of options when it comes to outdoor entertainment: Aside from various free outdoor concerts offered by big television network morning programs, such as NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America, you can also catch performances of Shakespeare in the Park (known for its impressive performances and guest appearances of well-respected actors), enjoy a picnic under the stars while listening to the NY Philharmonic play merely yards in front of your blanket, or attend one of the many Central Park SummerStage concerts. On your way out of the park after these concerts, be sure to check out the section of the park dedicated to John Lennon: Strawberry Fields and the often-visited Imagine circle, and join NY residents and tourists in dropping a rose, singing a Beatles tune, or simply taking a moment to admire the site, before getting a glimpse of the Dakota, home to John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and many other well-known artists. Add to all that NY’s rich musical history, movie and television sets every few blocks, beautiful cathedrals in stunning locations, and the most renowned collection of theater (both musical and non) you could possibly hope to find – there’s no way this could not hold the #1 spot!
So pack your bags – your next destination is a merely a stone’s throw away!
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