Snacks, maps, and music are three things that should be on every road trip essentials list. We can’t help you with cramming your car’s cup holders with chips and candy, but we got you when it comes to music. We’ve put together a list inspired by many of the best cities for music in the United States. These playlists will get you and your car rolling as you check out these tuned-in towns.
What else can be said about the city that inspired countless artists, writers, and musicians? This playlist taps into some of the incredible creativity that comes from New York. Whether you want to listen to the birth of the punk scene with the Ramones or imagine Central Park in all its autumn splendor with a Billie Holiday ballad, there is something here for everyone.
It’s not easy creating a noteworthy playlist about Music City. Fortunately, Nashville has tons of incredible musicians hailing from this hot bed of honky-tonk, as well as heaps of songs written about Tennessee’s capital. This list could go on forever, but here is a small sampling of some of the best songs and artists, like Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton.
Of course, we have to represent the City of Angels. Los Angeles’s easy, breezy West Coast vibes have been inspiring artists and musicians of all types since it was placed on the map. These songs, like the ones by The Doors and Murs, will get you swaying like a palm tree on a sunny California day.
The Motor City isn’t just about auto manufacturing plants and break-your-heart sports teams. Detroit’s music scene deserves a coveted spot when discussing cities that have changed the music landscape. From the birth of Motown legends like Marvin Gaye, to its continued influence on pop, punk, soul, hip-hop, electronica, and rock (like The White Stripes)—there isn’t a music genre this city hasn’t influenced. Fifteen songs can’t do this city justice, but it’s a start.
Nashville isn’t the only music joint in Tennessee. Memphis has been dishing out fantastic tunes as it has barbeque for decades. What other city can claim both The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, and the King of Blues, B.B. King? On any given night, Bluff City’s famed Beale Street can be heard belting out unbelievable music. From blues, rockabilly, country, and more, Memphis is a music-lover’s oasis.
This Pacific Northwest city blasted onto the scene in the ’90s with grunge music and hasn’t let up since. Jet City still has a strong underground music culture, but what else can you expect when you have all those rainy days to inspire song writing? Cruising through the streets, you’re bound to hear everything from jazz to rock to hip-hop to alternative and everything in between—like Baby Gramps and Nirvana, who are Seattle institutions.
The Windy City is home to some of the most influential musicians of all time. Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, and countless others helped develop and popularize soft soul. And before that, musicians like Benny Goodman and Bud Freeman put Chicago on the map as a jazz destination. However, it isn’t just soul and jazz that made Chicago famous. In the ’70s and ’80s, it became home to some of the biggest acts in rock and roll like Styx and of course, Chicago.
If you’re heading to one these fine cities, or you are even thinking about it, listen to one or all of these playlists to get you in the rambling mood. Better yet, create your own playlist and pick a point on the map. You might be surprised where a road and great music will take you.