Music-lovers looking for a unique travel destination need look no further than these 15 locales to experience live music in a variety of genres. From New Orleans (the birthplace of jazz!) to Liverpool (home of The Beatles!), these destinations combine music and travel in a way that hits all the right notes.
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Austin, Texas, bills itself as the "Live Music Capital of the World," and it's tough to argue with that designation from a college town that's home to more live music venues per capita than New York, L.A. and Nashville. For music lovers who are also interested in the confluence of film, TV and digital media, the annual South by Southwest conference is a must, with bands from all over the world congregating at the annual event.
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KISS said it best in their hit "Detroit Rock City", and there's no denying the Motor City has a rich musical heritage, home to such artists as Bob Seger, Ted Nugent and proto-punk pioneers The MC5. Most famously, though, Detroit brought us Motown, with such acts as The Supremes, The Temptations and many more. A highlight of any music-lover's trip to Detroit is a stop at Motown's iconic studio, Hitsville U.S.A., which is now a museum/tourist attraction.
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We can thank musician Ry Cooder and his 1999 album/documentary The Buena Vista Social Club for turning listeners on to the infectious grooves of Cuban music. As U.S. investment begins seeping into the country after a half-century of embargoes that have kept Cuba lost in time, there's still a chance to walk the city's streets and hear the sounds of Latin Jazz, timba and rumba music, while a tour called Jazz in Havana is designed to help visitors experience the diverse array of music in Cuba, while meeting many of the musicians who make it.
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Music-themed cruises are becoming increasingly popular, the perfect vacation solution for those who want to visit a tropical beach during the day and get their grooves on at night. Bands ranging from KISS to Backstreet Boys regularly host fan cruises, while fans of more freewheeling, improvisational fare can hop aboard the annual Jam Cruise, which has hosted such jam bands as Umphrey's McGee and members of The Grateful Dead. Meanwhile, there are also live-music cruises devoted to country music, '80s music, rhythm and blues, smooth jazz and even a cruise hosted by Pitbull.
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As the hometown of John, Paul, George and Ringo, Liverpool is ground zero for Beatlemaniacs. You can visit The Beatles Story (a museum-style exhibition), stop in for a drink at the Cavern Club — where the Fab Four got their start — and take the Fab Four Taxi Tour, which takes fans to such locales as the childhood homes of The Beatles, the actual Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, and even a stop at the grave of Eleanor Rigby. Every July, the city hosts the Liverpool International Musical Festival, while International Beatleweek is held in August.
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Milan is the top spot in the world for opera lovers, home to the iconic Teatro alla Scala (rated by National Geographic as the world's top classical music venue). In addition, the city is also home to numerous performance venues for a wide range of musical genres, ranging from pop to indie rock to jazz to classical.
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In the City of Angels, a music lover's first stop should be the famed Sunset Strip, home to iconic rock clubs including the Whisky-a-Go-Go (where bands ranging from The Doors to Guns 'N' Roses got their start), The Roxy and The Viper Room, opened by Johnny Depp and infamous as the club where actor River Phoenix OD'd back in the day. Other stops include the famed Troubador club and the Capital Records building, shaped like a giant stack of vinyl LPs, while it's always a good idea to take in a show at the Hollywood Bowl if the opportunity presents itself.
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You can bet that a town that calls itself "Music City" takes its music seriously, and Nashville is the travel destination for country music fans, whether it's taking in a show at the famed Grand Ol' Opry or carousing in one of the numerous honky tonks on the city's main entertainment strip (all of which feature live music day and night). Visitors can also visit museums dedicated to such stars as Johnny Cash and George Jones, while the Country Music Hall of Fame museum hosts a dizzying array of memorabilia (everything from Elvis's tricked-out Cadillac to Taylor Swift's stage outfits). Music fans with more alternative tastes will want to make a stop at White Stripes' front man Jack White's Third Man Records, a super-cool record store that also boasts a recording studio and live-music performance venue.
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The Big Easy is the birthplace of jazz, and the city remains a musical melting pot that's home to world-class musicians from many genres. Forget Bourbon Street — that's where the drunk tourists go — and head for Frenchman Street, just outside the French Quarter, where an array of clubs host live music seven nights a week. Best time for a music lover to visit is during the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival (AKA Jazz Fest) in late April/early May, a two-weekend, seven-day music festival with performances going on simultaneously on 10 different stages, covering such genres as jazz, blues, soul, gospel and rock; 2017 headliners run the gamut from Tom Petty to Snoop Dogg to Lorde. For fans of traditional New Orleans-style jazz, there's always Preservation Hall (pictured), where the city's musical heritage is kept alive.
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New York City
There's so much going on in the Big Apple at any one moment it's almost dizzying trying to keep track, but music lovers will find plenty to keep them occupied. Fans of Bob Dylan will want to head to Greenwich Village, where many of the same clubs where Dylan got his start during the folk boom of the early '60s still exist, while jazz lovers will want to catch a show at such iconic venues as the Blue Note club and the Village Vanguard. For more modern fare, venues like the Knitting Factory (pictured) showcase an array of music, while venues such as Lincoln Center, the Beacon Theatre, Music Hall of Williamsburg likewise provide a sampling of the diverse array of live music that can be enjoyed pretty much every night of the week in the city that never sleeps.
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If indie rock is more your thing, then Portland, Oregon should be at the top of your travel bucket list. Bands such as The Decemberists and Blitzen Trapper cut their teeth on the Portland music scene, and still perform regularly at some of the city's numerous live music venues.
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For fans whose musical tastes veer toward the psychedelic sounds of the late 1960s, visiting San Francisco offers the opportunity to tread the streets where such acts as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and Santana all spent their formative years. Whether you're taking a stroll through the still-groovy streets of Haight-Ashbury or catching a show at the iconic Fillmore, San Francisco is a town steeped in its musical culture. No trip to San Fran is complete without a stop at Amoeba Music, one of the world's most impressive record stores, which also serves as a live-music venue.
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The birthplace of grunge, the Seattle music scene of the early '90s set the tone for the rest of the decade — there's even a Sub Pop Records store in the SeaTac airport! Live music venues abound throughout the city, and rock fans will want to check out the EMP Museum (originally known as the Experience Music Project), a passion project from rock-loving software billionaire Paul Allen that includes interactive displays and all manner of rock music memorabilia.
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Lovers of classical music will find Vienna to be a musical Mecca that's been home to the likes of Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Strauss, Mahler, Haydn and Schubert, to name a few. Vienna hosts an impressive nine music festivals each year, and one of the highlights of the city is catching a performance of the Vienna Philharmonic at the iconic Vienna State Opera House.
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The birthplace of the blues, Memphis is home to iconic Sun Studio, where a young Elvis Presley cut his first world-changing, hip-swivelling recordings. These days, Sun Studio is a museum (as is the famed Stax Records studio), but a trip to Memphis wouldn't be complete without a visit to Beale Street, home to numerous blues clubs and performance venues.