Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio
This one hardly needs an introduction, being the best-known rock destination in the world. However, the museum’s rapidly rotating menu of exhibits and special events make it a stop worth adding. Cliché or not, no self-respecting rock aficionado could pass up a chance to see special exhibits on everything from The Grateful Dead to the music of Cleveland, Ohio. For just over US $20, you can walk halls of The Hall, not just gawking at memorabilia (not just that), but learning how rock and roll helped to drive the larger trends in cultural development. With implications for everything from the power slide to constitutional reform, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is both an enlightening and nostalgic spot for any rock fan.
Woodstock – White Lake, New York
Woodstock changed music. It was the first large-scale implementation of the pacifist resistance that typified 60’s music. The grassroots mega-concert showed the sheer number of young Americans who ascribed to the movement, and it is credited with inspiring any number of songs, albums, and musical careers. Today, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts occupies the 325 hectares of preserved pasture that held Woodstock those 43 years ago. The Center still runs concerts off the land, and to this day music-lovers come from far and wide to watch music on the famous fields of Woodstock ‘69.
As befits the home of the biggest rock band of all time, Liverpool has a whole industry related to celebrating and displaying the long history and significant present of The Beatles. The Beatles Story Museum, started more than 20 years ago, has now expanded to two locations, in addition to an audio tour narrated by John Lennon’s sister. The Cavern Club leads a pack of establishments that hosted the band in their early days, and many of them function as impromptu Beatles museums. The city is suffused with Beatles-mania, and no tour of rock icons would be complete without a stop.
Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee
Elvis obsession has unusually long legs; in 1997, the 20-year anniversary of the death of The King,over 50,000 people converged on his old Memphis mansion to celebrate his life and works. Elvis was a cultural industry unto himself, a force in music as well as film, a walking political controversy. Little wonder that he captured the world’s attention so powerfully. Gracelance is open to tours, with audio commentary or human tour-guides.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Here’s how it works: Jazz changed music, New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, thus New Orleans changed music. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival certainly argues for that conclusion, flooding the city’s streets with revelry and the city’s unique form of musical expression. Big-band brass ensembles and smoke-filled jazz halls typify the odd mixture of styles that define music in The Big Easy. The city is teeming with musical venues, from celebrity landmarks like the French Quarter Bar to bars like Fritzels for newer local talent. As much as any city in the world, New Orleans in a town build on music.
The Apollo Theater – Harlem, New York
Despite humble aesthetics, The Apollo Theater is one of the premiere music venues in the United States, one of America’s iconic cultural locations. Its history was so strong that it was revived and restored after two decades in disrepair, and was immediately embraced by musicians and fans alike. Today The Apollo hosts regular shows from headliners and local talent alike. For most genres of New York music and performance art, The Apollo is a necessary stop on any quest for national prominence. And since New York also happens to be one of the century’s primary producers of musical talent, that makes The Apollo something of a gateway to musical celebrity and greatness.
South by Southwest – Austin, Texas
South By Southwest (SXSW) is more a collection of festivals than an event in itself. There are three main events featuring movies, music and games, respectively. Last year’s music festival was six days long and hosted over 1,300 bands in total – that’s right, one thousand, three hundred bands and artists took to the stage in 6 days, spread across much of the city of Austin. Austin is a music-lover’s dream even at the deadest of times, teeming with venues that attract new musical talent from half the country away. But during SXSW, it’s a truly heavenly experience. The only downside is that simultaneous shows mean you’ll have to choose which of your favourite acts to see; ultimately, these are good problems to have.
Berlin is known primarily for two types of music: Metal and techno, and perhaps a third in the form of techno-metal. The reality is that Berlin is as diverse as any world city, but it does have a powerful culture of dawn-greeting music parties, especially when it . When the Berlin Wall fell, the young, music-obsessed citizens on both sides began using abandoned buildings to host all-night techno parties. That tradition has evolved and survives today, albeit in a more structured environment. Whether you’re looking for Berlin’s world-leading club scene or its more cerebral musical offerings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single city better suited to musical exploration.
Motown Museum - Detroit, Michigan
The Motown Museum chronicles the rise of Detroit-style music via the ground-breaking record label Motown Records. Motown, a portmanteau of "motor town" (one of Detroit's many nicknames), was one of the most influential forces in 20th century music, producing music by everyone from Michael Jackson to Lionel Richie. Motown's headquarters became so famous for producing musical sensations that it earned the nickname "Hitstown USA". The Motown Museum, along with Hitstown itself, is a major Detroit attraction, and gets first crack at any Motown history that happens to become available. As a result, this is the definitive Motown experience, and thus one of the most important musical landmarks in the world.
Shinjuku District - Tokyo, Japan
The Shinjuku District in Tokyo is a famously elaborate warren of back alley vendors and cramped shops, dizzying stacks of products and packaging. Nobody would call it organized – but as with anything, Shinjuku rewards effort and diligence. Buried throughout the district are collectors shops, vinyl stores, collectible traders galore. Music fanatics (along with movie, videogame, and literary fans) come from around the world to scour its depths. The most dedicated cordon off multiple days for the retail adventure, and emerge loaded down with rare records, priceless memorabilia and a sense of having found some real treasures.