Whether you’re a longtime resident of the region who wants to do some exploring, or a visitor from abroad hoping to absorb the land of the Blues, this plan for a road trip from Memphis to New Orleans offers the full, rich experience of the route. Through sites that showcase the area’s history, culture, music, and food, you’ll get a deeper understanding of what makes the Mississippi Delta and these two major Southern cities such an integral part of the American South.
While you could drive your car straight down I-55 for a 6 hour trip, you’ll have a much better experience if you take some extra time to explore the Mississippi Delta, mostly on US 61 South. The drive for this particular road trip plan is about 10 hours, not including time that you spend at each of the 9 stops.
The following is a general description of the route; using your GPS is recommended during your journey. Head south from Memphis on US-61 S towards Clarksdale with a stop in Tunica. Take US-278 W from... Clarksdale to Cleveland, then US-49E and back on US-61 through Greenwood and Vicksburg. For the final leg of your journey, travel on I-110 S to Acadian Thruway in Louisiana to Baton Rouge and then take I-10 E to New Orleans.
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Before you head south from Memphis, stop by the Blues Hall of Fame downtown to get some context and build a foundation for the music sites you’ll visit on your trip. The gallery-like museum, which opened in 2015, honors the 400 blues musicians, composers, and producers who have been inducted into the official Blues Hall of Fame over the years.
You’ll be able to see one-of-a-kind artifacts, clothing, notes, and instruments from blues legends and best of all, you’ll have access to the unbelievably extensive catalog of recorded music to listen to while you’re there. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students, and free for children under 12 with purchase of an adult ticket.
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Leave the city of Memphis and head south on US 61 to Tunica, Mississippi and take your pick from nine casinos and resorts for your first stop. Take a turn at the tables or slot machines for a world-class gaming experience, have a cocktail at the bar (only if you’re staying the night, of course, as there are plenty of luxury accommodations) or catch some live music.
If casinos aren’t your speed, stop in to Tunica’s Gateway To The Blues Museum & Visitors Center to continue your musical journey to the Big Easy. Built in a rustic train depot, this attraction gives you even more context on the birth of the blues and Delta culture. The Museum is open daily and is $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
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GRAMMY Museum in Cleveland, Mississippi
Cleveland, Mississippi is every bit a small Delta town, but it’s also packed with more culture than you’d expect and should be your next stop. It’s home to Delta State University (fun fact: their school’s unofficial mascot is the “Fighting Okra”) and plenty of creative restaurants and shops, but the must-see attraction is the GRAMMY Museum, located on the Delta State campus. This breathtaking museum opened in 2015 and is one of only two GRAMMY museums in the world (the other is in Los Angeles).
Take your time exploring the countless artifacts that tell the story and share the songs of GRAMMY winners, with a special focus on artists with ties to Mississippi. More than just relics, this museum stands out with its interactive exhibits and innovative technology. Tickets to the GRAMMY Museum are $12.95 for adults, $11.95 for students and seniors, and $10.95 for children and active military.
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Dockery Farms Near Cleveland, Mississippi
Before you leave the area, you’ll want to go back to the beginning and stop at the quaint Dockery Farms, the site where the blues were born. What appears to be a simple farm was once a crossroads for musicians traveling between New Orleans and Memphis where songs and musical styles were exchanged. There’s an historical narration, a Blues Trail sign, and a chance for a photo opp before you swing back into town (Cleveland) for a meal at the Delta Meat Market to refuel for the next leg of your trip. Dockery Farms is free to visit.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi
Known throughout the Delta as “Morgan Freeman’s club”, the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi is the next place to stop on your road trip. Get a relatively authentic juke joint experience with live music every Wednesday through Saturday night. Expect plenty of danceable blues tunes, a lively crowd, and great Southern food like fried green tomatoes. If you want, you can stay the night in Clarksdale. Ground Zero offers rooms, and the Shack Up Inn is another popular place for folks who appreciate a certain rustic experience.
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Greenwood, Mississippi is another small Delta city that’s bursting with cultural significance. Take your time perusing the Blues Trail markers or the Civil Rights markers, or take a different approach to this stop by booking a spa treatment of your choice at the luxurious Alluvian Spa & Hotel. They offer facials, massages, body wraps, therapeutic baths, manicures, and pedicures. If you like, take a cooking class at the world-renowned Viking Cooking School. They offer classes most Friday and Saturdays and have an upscale retail store for kitchen and cooking supplies open Tuesday through Saturday.
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Head farther south to Vicksburg, Mississippi, a river town with great historical significance and an absolute must-stop on your road trip from Memphis to New Orleans. History and Civil War buffs will appreciate the immersion possible at the Vicksburg National Military Park on the site of the Siege of Vicksburg. Drive through the Park at your own pace for a $15 fee per car, or arrange to take a two-hour guided tour for an additional fee. Access to the U.S.S. Cairo Museum is included and is the delight of the Military Park tour. The Cairo is one of seven ironclad gunboats used on the Mississippi River during the Civil War, and one of the first boats ever sunk by torpedo; you can explore this boat and learn more about its history and construction.
For more fun in Vicksburg, check out the Lower Mississippi River Museum to learn about the world’s fourth longest river. The museum is open 7 days a week and is free. Then, grab a bite to eat at the historic Walnut Hills Restaurant. If you need... to stretch your legs, this area is full of antebellum homes and historic properties.
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Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Welcome to Louisiana! Take a detour to the state capitol, Baton Rouge, for a dose of Louisiana history and the outdoors. Tour Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, an interesting castle-like building with stained glass overlooking the river. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday and there is no fee for admission, though special events or exhibits may have additional costs. The U.S.S. Kidd is another Baton Rouge attraction; it is a destroyer battleship that is now a Louisiana World War II Veterans Memorial and Museum. Admission inside the ship is $10 for adults, $8 for veterans, and $6 for children.