Culture By Jonathan Hermann

Get Into the Groove: Best U.S. Destinations for Music Lovers

You feel the rhythm pulse through your veins. You snap your fingers, tap your toes to the beat. The singer’s voice fills your ears; her words race to your heart. You look around and feel the instant bond you have with everyone else in the elegant lounge, enjoying how you and a room full of strangers suddenly feel connected like never before. A smile covers your face. You stand up to applaud.

For some travelers, a city’s music scene is more appealing than its museums, restaurants and shops. You look forward to visiting the famous ballrooms and bars where your favorite live albums were performed, and to listen to modern music in historic venues. Whether you prefer rock, jazz or country, we like these five cities as our personal “bests.”  

Chicago at night

BEST BLUES: CHICAGO           

With all due respect to the Mississippi Delta, the Windy City is the place to hear the blues. Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf used to walk these streets. What’s more, blues legend Buddy Guy still does, holding center stage at Buddy Guy’s Legends club well into his eighties. This South Loop bar is where young pups play to see if they can make the grade, while other legends—like Clapton and Bowie—came here just to jam with Buddy.

The venues across Chicago are not only historic, but they also share that architectural flair that makes Chi-town so intriguing. Blue Chicago in the North River district is a great place to get a Chicago blues history lesson, thanks to the work of artist John Carroll-Doyle that adorns the walls. Rosa's Lounge in Logan Square is always comfortably packed with people who come to listen to a family of regular performers with the bluesiest of names, like Homesick James and Pinetop Perkins. And at Kingston Mines, which many consider to be the true center of Chicago blues, the music flows until 5 a.m. most nights.

Miami rhythm

BEST RHYTHM: MIAMI

From the spicy beats of mambo to the pulsating bass of EDM (electric dance music), no music clubs get you up on the dance floor quite like those in Miami. The scene here is an international jukebox with a healthy dose of Latin flavors. No matter which club you sashay into, be dressed to impress. Fashion statements are made here, where no color is too bright and no jewelry too flashy.

The historic, can’t-miss venue to see a show is the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater for the Performing Arts, home to up-and-coming musical talent who hit that sweet spot of being too big for clubs but not big enough for arenas. The shows at Little Havana never disappoint, especially at Hoy Como Ayer where Cuba comes alive, and the legendary Ball & Chain where salsa done right is regularly on display on the outdoor pineapple stage.

BEST COUNTRY: NASHVILLE

Country music has come a long way. From western swing and honky tonk to outlaw country and Americana, the sound of country music has changed and thrived in many forms. You’ll find all of those forms on display in Nashville, where every corner and café is packed with love-sick singers crooning about their lost dogs while picking and plucking those guitar strings.

Concert
Nashville music city


This is the epicenter of country talent, the place where all up-and-comers come to make a name for themselves. That journey often starts at the Bluebird Café, the legendary club where no-name songwriters take the stage to show off their lyrical poetry, and possibly ends at the Grand Ole Opry House, home to a weekly stage extravaganza that’s nearly a century old. 

BEST JAZZ: NEW YORK CITY

New Orleans may have the best jazz talent, but New York has the coolest clubs. It’s all about the vibe here in the Big Apple, where hole-in-the-wall bars attract talent worthy of Carnegie Hall. Most of that talent ends up in Harlem, the focal point of jazz infusion in the 1920s and home to The National Museum of Jazz. Harlem’s clubs have been attracting crowds from around the world to listen to the likes of “Fats” Waller, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington.

Today’s jazz scene has changed since the Harlem heydays, but the talent level is still mighty high. Wynton Marsalis keeps the sound tight directing Jazz at Lincoln Center, a breathtaking circular performance space where the stage is upstaged by the eye-popping view of Central Park behind it. Serious jazz aficionados flock to The Village Vanguard in the West Village, known as the "Carnegie Hall of Jazz" to see where Miles and Monk once played.

Jazz in NYC
Seattle, Washington

BEST ROCK: SEATTLE

Seattle takes its musical heritage seriously. The city’s Museum of Pop Culture currently houses several exhibits focused on homegrown rock talent, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the mythic Jimi Hendrix. Famously known as Grunge City, Seattle is more than just one early-90s rock movement: it’s a place where weird is welcomed, where unique sounds are tested and honed, and where any local band can blow up to become the next Modest Mouse or Fleet Foxes.

For those about to rock, we salute these three epic venues: The Showbox, a Pike Place Market icon where everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to the Police to Alice in Chains have performed; Columbia City Theater, a historic vaudeville theatre built in 1917 and filled with character galore; and the Tractor Tavern in Ballard, a friendly hipster bar where the area’s best folk, bluegrass and alt-country bands play.

WHERE TO STAY

Make the most of your musical journey with a stay at these hotels. Not only do they provide an exceptional place to relax after the last encore, they also include the bonus amenities of the Tzell SELECT Hotels & Resorts program.