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Grand Ole Music Road Trip

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1141.3 miles: 19 hours, 27 minutes
This road trip covers four states and more than 1,000 miles. There’s a musical theme—Tennessee all but gave birth to rock ‘n roll, the blues and country, while Branson is a major live entertainment center boasting a slew of name performers. But it’s not just about guitar pickin’; the Ozark Mountains region in Arkansas and Missouri also offers outstanding scenery.
1
Nashville, TN to Memphis, TN
228.9 miles: 3 hours, 55 minutes
It's a straight shot on I-40 to Memphis, but en route stop and explore the roots of rockabilly, an early American rock ‘n roll style that was especially popular in the South. Memphis produced two musical trailblazers, “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy and Elvis Presley, the swivel-hipped King of Rock ‘n Roll. Beale Street—the city’s musical soul—is a must-visit.
2
Memphis, TN to Little Rock, AR
137.3 miles: 2 hours, 15 minutes
I-40 crosses the Mississippi River via the Hernando de Soto Bridge. The interstate continues west, passing through rural countryside on the way to the Arkansas state capital. In spring and summer you’ll see plenty of blooms in the “City of Roses,” particularly if you explore the older in-town residential neighborhoods that make up Little Rock’s Quapaw Quarter.
3
Little Rock, AR to Branson, MO
191.4 miles: 4 hours, 2 minutes
This leg along US 65 is arguably the trip's most scenic. Ozark Mountain rivers, sparking lakes, caverns and lush forests are a backdrop for world-class trout fishing as well as hiking, ziplining and other recreation. Branson also offers good fishing and boating courtesy of man-made Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Dam, but live musical entertainment is the big draw.
4
Branson, MO to St. Louis, MO
262.7 miles: 4 hours, 17 minutes
Leave country jamborees and all-you-can-eat buffets behind and head for another all-American cultural touchstone, Route 66 (I-44 follows the “Mother Road” route from Springfield to St. Louis). The verdant Missouri countryside is scenic, although many former Route 66 landmarks no longer exist. In St. Louis, check out one of the live music venues on Delmar Boulevard.
5
St. Louis, MO to Nashville, TN
320.9 miles: 4 hours, 56 minutes
It's a hefty slog to Nashville via I-64, I-57 and I-24, so take a short detour en route (I-24 exit 31) to the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area on the Kentucky-Tennessee border; The Trace, a scenic drive, extends the length of this woodsy sanctuary. Thus rejuvenated, you’ll be ready to appreciate all the attractions that “Music City, USA” has to offer.