America’s Best Music Cities

Where can you find the best jazz, rock, folk, or symphony? From Austin to Nashville, Chicago to Branson, here are top ten music cities in North America.

Jazz band in the streets of New Orleans

Jazz Band on a street corner in New Orleans

1. New Orleans, Louisiana,

“New Orleans bleeds music – it’s in the air, in the water, in the people. You can’t go to New Orleans without the music swallowing you whole.” One of North America’s “Top 10” destinations for live music.

2. New York City,

“Where else can you “Rent” a seat next to some “Guys and Dolls,” let down your “Hair” and be transported anywhere from the “South Pacific” to “Chicago,” and leave the theatre thinking, “Mamma Mia!” that was some enchanted evening!” Evelyn Kanter, freelance travel writer/photographer.


Trumpet Player

Austin, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau Photo 

3. Austin, Texas,

I love Austin, Texas for it’s “character” and live music everywhere, from the arrival hall at the airport to roof-top bars with views of the city.

“Only in Austin, Texas can you go for super-delicious and inexpensive barbecue, sit outdoors at a picnic table and hear decent live rock at no additional charge.” Carole Terwillger Meyers, travel writer

“Austin is home to the yearly South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, where nearly the entire city becomes a music venue for a week. There are hundreds of live shows a day, making it just as fun for locals as for industry executives.” Joshua Hinsdale, freelance travel writer.

4. Nashville, Tennessee,

“Nashville isn’t just the ‘home’ of country music. It’s the heart and soul of country music.” Steve Winston, freelance travel writer

5. Chicago, Illinois,

“Chicago’s reputation as home of the blues can’t be understated, with live shows available at clubs every night.  The diverse neighborhoods and city-sponsored events also offer live music, from Old Town School of Folk Music to Lollapalooza in Grant Park and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  It’s all here, all the time.” Laurie Borman, freelance travel writer

6. Memphis, Tennessee,

“Barbecue and blues, blues and barbecue. Memphis is a foot-tapping, sensory delight.”

“Doesn’t get any better than Memphis, Beale St. and barbecue, wow, what a concerto. Plus the ghost of old Elvis is always hanging around somewhere, munching on a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich and strumming his guitar.”

7. Montreal, Canada,

“Montreal has anything you might want, with a European accent.”

“Montreal is a hotbed of world music, and free music festivals!”

8. Las Vegas, Nevada,

“From Elvis and Frank through Barbra and Barry to Celine and Bette, Vegas has been THE venue every great act hopes to get booked into. And with all the smaller lounges at the major hotels, you can catch talent on the way up, too.’’

9. Branson, Missouri,

“Where do top sidemen go when they tire of  the LA lifestyle? To Branson where they can play their music at any of its 52 live performance theaters, enjoy life on three pristine lakes and 12 championship golf courses. Every day’s a musical high, but the Christmas scene is fabulous!” Lorraine O’Donnell Williams, travel writer.

By the way, don’t miss the most extravagant ladies powder room in town at the Shoji Tabuchi Theater. It is reminiscent of a New Orleans 1920’s courtyard and boudoir, with chandeliers, marble fireplaces, purple ceiling and more fake flowers than at WalMart. Marybeth Bond, travel expert.

10. Denver, Colorado,

“Red Rocks is the most visually stunning outdoor amphitheatre in the country, maybe the world. “ “A concert at Red Rocks should be on everyone’s bucket list…Red Rocks is one of a kind.”

Travel writers and PR professionals at The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the world’s largest organization of professional travel journalists and photographers, came up with the “Top 10” best North American cities for live music.

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Category: Chicago, Colorado, Montreal, Nashville, New Orleans, Texas

About the Author ()

Marybeth Bond, National Geographic author, writer. Twelve books, explored overed 100 countries on 7 continents. Featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and founder of She has been featured over 1,000 times on TV, radio and print. She is a Contributor to National Geographic, Yahoo Travel, Travelgirl Magazine, CNN, CNN Airport Network. Speaker, spokesperson, author, travel expert, Marybeth, the Gutsy Traveler walks the talk. She's an adventurer; biked 3,200 miles, two months across the USA, traveler to over 100 countries. Media travel expert for CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, NPR and National Geographic.

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