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Nashville knows how to pull the big crowds. For years it’s been one of the most popular destinations in the United States. But the fact is, Tennessee has so much more to offer beyond Nashville — specifically, the cultural landmark of Memphis.
Like Nashville, Memphis is one of the most important cities in American music history. It’s the place where Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash cut records at the legendary Sun Studio. Not to mention being the home of Presley’s iconic Graceland mansion, which was made a national historic landmark after he passed away in 1977. Presley once famously said of the city, “I’ll stay in Memphis.” After visiting, we had the same thought.
If you find yourself getting a little tired of battling bachelorette parties for bar space on Nashville’s Main Street, then make a move for Memphis’ historic Beale Street. As Nashville and Memphis are a pretty easy drive away from each other, it can easily be a weekend or overnight adventure. To help you out, we’ve built the perfect road trip itinerary to use for your drive along Tennessee’s Music Highway.
The Ride: A Camper Van
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Nouvelle vie !! 😄👨🏻🔧🚌🌈 Il revient de loin.. Il n’y a plus qu’à passer à l’aménagement intérieur.. 😅 It’s time to build something inside!! 😅 #vwt3 #vanlife #vanmag #instavan #westfalia #vwcombi #vw #transporter #t25 #t3 #customvan #workinprogress #engineering #grosmoteur #mecatechnic #mecano #pint #reimo #westfaliacampervan #westfaliacamper #t3 #engineering #vaninterior #vaninteriordesign #vaninteriors #
This trip is all about having the right vibes, and a classic VW Westfalia Camper Van is stocked with good mojo. This vehicle was built back in the time when Elvis was still alive, and musicians, not computers, wrote music. The engine has been switched out, so you don’t have to worry about being stranded on the side of the road.
Even if you are, this is a sleeper van, so you can pull over to catch zzz’s whenever the need arises. Or you can’t find a hotel room.
The Playlist: Country, Blues & Rock N’ Roll
We realize that not everybody loves country, blues, and rock n’ roll, but also… those people are trash. And ask yourself, do really want to be riding around with that kind of person? Ditch them before driving another inch.
Cruise while playing some Memphis artists like Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Booker T. Jones, and Al Green. Should you get tired of the “oldies,” crank one of the more contemporary artists from the city like Justin Timberlake and Three 6 Mafia. And yeah, you’re probably getting some angry break-up texts right now, but just throw the phone on airplane mode and cruise on. A solo trip is just what you needed.
First Stop: Loretta Lynn’s Ranch
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The steps in front of my home @lorettalynnranchofficial. Fans from all over come and get their picture here. We left the "Big House" just like it was when I lived there and y'all can take the tour when you visit! — #lorettalynn #country #countrymusic #nashville #musiccity #lorettalynnsranch #tnvacation #soundtrackofamerica #madeintn
The beloved country singer’s ranch has become one of the biggest attractions in Tennessee. Park the van to roam the expansive grounds, plantation home, and even a simulated coal mine. Check out the few museums on the property, one of which may house Lynn’s doll collection. Everyone likes a room full of glass-eyed dolls just staring at them, right? Maybe you’ll even get lucky and stumble into one of the annual concerts that take place there.
Second Stop: Log Cabin
This family-owned spot is the perfect place to fuel back up before getting back on the Music Highway. For decades they’ve been doing comfort food right — with headlining dishes featuring pork chops and their mile-high meringue pies.
Third Stop: Patsy Cline Crash Site Memorial
Not far from Lynn’s ranch you’ll find the site of the private plane crash that claimed the lives of country musicians Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas back in 1963. The area has been marked by fans who engraved a boulder with their names and leave other tokens of respect.
Fourth Stop: Casey Jones Village
Serving as the crossroads of I-40 Music Highway and the Highway 45 Rock-a-billy Highway, this destination is a must stop. Named in honor of a heroic train engineer who died while trying to prevent his locomotive from barreling into a passenger train, the area features plenty of activities for everyone. Drop into the railroad museum, then grab some sweets at the country store and ice cream parlor.
Fifth Stop: Home of Sleepy John Estes
Get a real taste of the 1920s by stopping at the humble home of brilliant bluesman Sleepy John Estes at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Museum. The singer, who sang with a unique crying effect, was famous for hits like “Drop Down Mama” and “Someday Baby Blues.”
Sixth Stop: Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Now that you are in Memphis, it is time to start scoping out the studios where music history was made. The first is Stax Records, which was busy in the 1960s — producing tracks with Booker T., Otis Redding, Albert King, and the MG’s. Be sure to lay your eyes on the custom Cadillac housed there, once owned by Isaac Hayes, and then make a move to the Soul Train dance floor.
Seventh Stop: Sun Studio
This is the spot that music producer Sam Phillips launched the careers of many musicians, including an unknown (at the time) named Elvis Presley. They won’t make you the biggest star in rock n’ roll anymore, but you can still walk through the doors to check out where legends like Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash played.
Eight Stop: Graceland
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A dream came true today, when I got to go to Graceland, the home of the rock‘n‘roll legend Elvis Presley. Since I‘m named after his daughter Lisa Marie, it means something really special to me, so I was even more excited to see this place. I hope that one day, I can come back here with my parents, because I know right know they‘re (especially my dad) probably really jealous, because I visited Graceland without them lol. #graceland #elvispresley #rocknrolllegend
Elvis’ old digs are the ideal place to end a trip down the Music Highway. Come during visitor hours to see everything from the indoor waterfall in the Jungle Room to the late crooner’s jumpsuit collection. Step into the Meditation Garden to see where Elvis and his family are buried.
Base Camp: Big Cypress Lodge
This unique lodging is suspended among hundred-foot cypress trees planted in the newly designed Pyramid; with some of the rooms designed to resemble tree houses. They get bonus points for the fact that every room has a fireplace and handcrafted furniture. Try to book early to snag one of the rooms that have porches or balconies.
The next morning it’s time to turn around the van. You can hit the same spots or see where all those other roads lead. There is also plenty to see in Memphis, so the journey doesn’t have to end yet. Walk around the city and stop in one of the many music venues. Who knows, you just may catch a set by the next King Of Rock N’ Roll.