Last Updated on December 6, 2023

Music brings us joy, sometimes makes us cry (not always a bad thing), and brings back precious memories of loved ones and dear friends. This year, Spotify selected a group of Sound Towns – places that fit a particular playlist or music genre.

Following up, the music-obsessed team at marketing firm Lou Hammond Group added some equally musical places ideal for playlists ranging from alt-rock and bluegrass to reggae.

Athens, GA: Indie & Alternative Rock

Known as The Classic City, Athens stands as a thriving hub for music, teeming with creative energy and representing a hidden gem of music towns.

Athens is a hotspot for indie and alternative music and one of America’s birthplaces for modern alternative rock and new wave.

Athens-based artists including R.E.M., The B-52s and the Drive-By Truckers earned their stripes playing renowned venues such as 40-Watt Club, the Morton Theatre and the Georgia Theatre. With The Athens Music Walk of Fame, visitors can tread on the same ground as these legends, tracing the evolution of Athens’ music history into the dynamic community it is today.

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame will open in summer 2024 inside The Classic Center Arena.

Baton Rouge, LA: Cajun Music

Nestled along the banks of the Mississippi, Baton Rouge is a vibrant tapestry of musical heritage and cultural resonance. From the soul-stirring rhythms of Louisiana blues to the spirited melodies of jazz and classic bluegrass, Baton Rouge’s musical scene is a lively fusion of genres.

The city’s musical roots, embedded in Creole and Cajun traditions, permeate throughout the city via soulful storytelling. Baton Rouge’s colorful narrative unfolds in the lively atmosphere of each of its many iconic live music venues, where echoes of local legends and the rhythmic pulse of the community create an immersive experience in the city’s distinct musical legacy.

Local music scenes like Boudreaux & Thibodeaux and Teddy’s Juke Joint provide smooth jams and a profound peek into the musical heritage of the region for travelers with a keen ear.

Charleston, SC: The South

Charleston Townscape
Charleston, South Carolina, USA cityscape at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. Photo by Deposit Photos.

Charmingly tucked within the heart of the Lowcountry, Charleston boasts a musical legacy as diverse and rich as its cultural history. From the soulful resonance of Southern blues and the timeless elegance of jazz to coastal tunes and gospel infusions, Charleston’s musical landscape weaves a harmonious experience.

The city’s melodies, influenced by the rich history of the region, ring through the beloved cobblestone streets and along the coastal seashore and stunning waterfront music venues. Charleston’s musical narrative stands as a testament to the city’s enduring connection between culture and music, forming a distinct imprint on American musical heritage.

Whether strolling on King Street, popping into local boutiques and restaurants, kicking back on the beach or catching a live performance at The Galliard or Riviera Theatre, Charleston’s rich music culture can be undeniably felt every step of the way.

Kentucky: Bluegrass

Music in Kentucky is more than a melody—it’s the very soul of the state’s culture. Among the blues, jazz, and country tunes, one sound defines Kentucky: the fast-paced rhythms of bluegrass music.

Originating in the Appalachian region, Owensboro serves as a vibrant hub for the genre. Home to legends like Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass and a Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, the town stands as a music lover’s mecca. Monroe’s legacy reverberates through Owensboro, celebrated through events and attractions.

The renowned ROMP Festival, an annual June gathering at Yellow Creek Park, invites families and friends to immerse themselves in bluegrass roots. Esteemed artists take center stage, delighting devoted bluegrass fans.

At the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, an international treasure dedicated to preserving bluegrass history and artifacts, visitors delve into the genre’s illustrious past.

Kentucky’s modern bluegrass scene embodies experimentation and evolution. Collaborations with other genres, incorporation of new instruments, and innovative songwriting techniques showcase the genre’s adaptability while staying true to its roots. This evolution continues to captivate audiences, forging connections between generations, ensuring the legacy of this iconic Kentucky sound endures.

New Jersey: Rock & Roll

From ‘The Boss’ Bruce Springsteen to Bon Jovi, many of the most iconic rock and roll musicians were born and bred in New Jersey. It’s hard to escape the sounds of Classic Rock while traveling the state, whether on the radio, over speakers, or from the many Springsteen cover bands found in bars and music venues.

Fans can make a pilgrimage to sites where the stars got their start including the Stone Pony in Asbury Park where Springsteen launched his career. Starland Ballroom in Sayreville hosts performances by renowned bands.

The state’s musical heritage is also celebrated at the New Jersey Hall of Fame, showcasing the contributions of influential artists.

Mississippi: The Blues

Elvis Presley statue at night in Tupelo, MS.
Elvis Presley statue at night in Tupelo, MS. Photo credit Visit Mississippi.

From smooth blues and suave R&B to toe-tappin’ country, Mississippi has had a profound influence on American music. Known as the birthplace of the blues, it is home to musical legends including Elvis, B.B. King, Faith Hill and Diplo.

Experiences throughout the state like the Mississippi Blues Trail, Ground Zero Blues Club – owned by Oscar winner, Morgan Freeman – the B.B. King Museum and the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum showcase the state’s profound music culture and provide listeners with an authentic peek into the ever-evolving landscape of music from where it all began.

Montgomery, AL: Jazz

Montgomery Whitewater.
Montgomery Whitewater Park outdoor concert. Photo credit Experience Montgomery

Smooth jazz, classic country and goosebump-giving soul echo around every street corner in Montgomery. Home to the father of country music, Hank Williams, and famed jazz pianist, Nat King Cole, Montgomery’s musical heritage is center stage.

A visit to the Hank Williams Museum and gravesite memorial, with a pit stop at the iconic local staple, Chris’ Famous Hotdogs, where he’s rumored to have written “Hey Good Lookin,’” is a must-do. As is seeing Nat King Cole’s home.

For a modern musical experience in Montgomery, visitors can catch nationally touring acts, often with roots in the region, at Montgomery Whitewater Park’s outdoor amphitheater, or at festivals at Riverfront Park.

Newnan, GA: Country

Newnan-Coweta has birthed country music stars like Alan Jackson, making it the perfect stop for those interested in exploring a town with a rich musical heritage. In the heart of downtown, a commemorative mural pays tribute to Jackson’s contributions to the country music industry.

The town celebrates its musical legacy by hosting live performances by local talent at beloved spots such as Pearl & Pine Brewery and The Basement at Redneck Gourmet.

Ogunquit, ME and Cliff House Maine: Folk Music

A trip to Maine’s southern coast can feel like the folk and bluegrass tunes we know and love. A season spent in the oceanside town of Ogunquit at the clifftop Cliff House Maine resort welcomes the sounds of a plucky guitar or banjo with a peaceful, upbeat melody.

Mellie Dunham, an iconic American fiddler from the state, helped inspire future bluegrass and folk musicians across the nation with his live performances for the public, including people like Henry Ford.

Known for a long-standing tradition of folk music, Maine continues celebrating its past musical traditions.

Cliff House Maine invites guests to enjoy year-round live music performances in its Tidemark Lounge and support local artists through various on-site programs. A walk along the rugged cliff’s edge soaking in the sunrise over the Atlantic is a sight deserving of a folk accompaniment.

Panama City Beach, FL: Coastal Country

Known for its pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, the sounds of Panama City Beach – ranging from feel-good country to laid-back beach rock, zydeco and more – evoke the authentic, carefree vibe of the coastal Florida destination.

From open-air music festivals to local bands taking the stage at beachfront restaurants, visitors will find no shortage of both country and island-inspired sounds recalling Zac Brown Band, The Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet.

Panama City Beach is home to several annual music festivals and events with an array of musical genres and styles, welcoming some of the world’s top performers along with local and regionally-known artists. A few of the destination’s notable events include Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam and the PCB Mardi Gras & Music Festival.

Florida’s Paradise Coast – Naples, Marco Island, Everglades: Yacht Rock

Embark on a captivating musical odyssey along Florida’s Paradise Coast, where the rhythmic allure of yacht rock seamlessly blends with the coastal charm of Naples, Marco Island, and the Everglades. This enchanting region exudes a musical atmosphere with smooth jazz, classic country, and soulful melodies, transporting visitors to a haven of serenity.

Naples and Marco Island provide a distinctive soundtrack inspired by the gentle lapping of waves and the whisper of palm leaves. Immerse yourself in the yacht rock experience meandering through vibrant streets and waterfront venues resonating with the musical spirit of this coastal paradise.

Adding a touch of sophistication, Artis—Naples, a prominent cultural complex, hosts diverse performances from classical to popular music, standing as a beacon of cultural enrichment.

Burn by Rocky Patel Naples, an upscale cigar lounge, contributes to the eclectic soundscape by featuring live music. In downtown Naples, The Bevy, a trendy restaurant and lounge, enhances the experience by hosting live music events, offering a stylish setting for those seeking good food and captivating entertainment.

Providence, RI: Musical Theater

Providence boasts a dynamic and thriving musical theater scene captivating locals and visitors alike. The city’s cultural landscape is enriched by a diverse array of productions, from Broadway hits to avant-garde performances.

The Providence Performing Arts Center stands as a cornerstone of the musical theater community, hosting top-tier productions like “Funny Girl” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” and showcasing the talents of seasoned performers.

Local theaters, such as Trinity Repertory Company, contribute to the vibrancy of the scene by staging innovative and thought-provoking musicals. Trinity Rep, celebrating its 60th season through 2024, is one of the oldest regional theatres in the country.

Providence’s commitment to the arts is evident in its numerous festivals and events dedicated to musical theater, fostering an environment that nurtures emerging talents and pushes the boundaries of the art form. With its historic venues, passionate community of artists, and commitment to artistic excellence, Providence’s musical theater scene stands as a testament to the city’s cultural richness and creative spirit.

Santa Fe, NM: Opera

Santa Fe is one of America’s most historic, artistic and fascinating cities.

Known as “The City Different,” the nation’s oldest state capital city is unlike anywhere else in the world. Santa Fe is 400-plus years of cultural fusion with echoes of the past alive in the present. While history is an ever-powerful presence, there is also a thriving and progressive contemporary sophistication.

There’s no better way to experience the sound of Santa Fe than at the Santa Fe Opera. Every summer since 1957, opera lovers have been drawn to the magnificent northern New Mexico mountains to enjoy productions of new, rarely performed, and standard works at The Crosby Theatre at The Santa Fe Opera.

Here, the company’s dramatic adobe theater blends harmoniously with the landscape. It’s the fusion of nature and art that leaves such an enduring impression on all who visit. The company’s 2024 Season runs June 28 through August 24.

The 67th Festival Season features 38 performances of four new productions plus a beloved revival, and two special evenings of Apprentice Scenes.

Sonoma County California: Acoustic & Unplugged

A stroll through Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley Vineyards provides a peaceful environment for guests to connect with the natural world around them, similar to how acoustic musicians connect with their instruments.

Known as the most sustainable wine region in the world, Sonoma County’s Winegrowers are eager to connect visitors with the process and natural elements. The natural sound of a guitar string, violin chord or acapella voice often brings a winery visit to life, and a tasting of the nation’s finest wines seems even better with the sweet sounds of live music.  

Jamaica: Reggae

Music Kingston JARumFestival.
Music Kingston JARumFestival. Photo credit JTB Creative

The easy, laid-back rhythms of reggae are synonymous with Jamaica, the little Caribbean island that birthed the genre of ska and the blues. Originating in the capital city of Kingston shortly after its independence, the music spreads a message of peace, unity and love reflecting the island’s good-natured and resilient people.

It’s the ultimate destination for reggae fans with attractions from the Bob Marley Museum to Trench Town Culture Yard where folks can learn about the birth of Jamaican music and its continuing influence on the world.

Head to the island in July to catch the annual Reggae Sumfest, featuring top reggae artists from Jamaica and internationally. If you can’t swing the trip, for just the price of a movie ticket you can experience the magic of Bob Marley and Jamaica with Paramount’s “Bob Marley: One Love” biopic, in theaters February 14, 2024.

Dubai: Electronic Music

Come February 15-18, 2024, UNTOLD, one of the world’s largest electronic music festivals will make its Middle Eastern debut at the iconic and futuristic Expo City, bringing a wide range of artists including Ellie Goulding, G-Eazy, Major Lazer and many other internationally recognized artists.

The blended and forward-thinking “sounds” of Dubai will be on full display during and beyond the event.

Author

  • Noreen Kompanik

    Noreen Kompanik is a retired registered nurse, legal nurse consultant and military spouse turned travel writer. She launched her travel writing career in 2014 and has over 1,000 published articles in a variety of digital and print publications.