Adapted from Moon USA State by State
There are nearly 200 sites included as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, and visiting all of them is a considerable undertaking. Must-see stops delve into the history and influence of blues greats, while others are mere markers or plaques about artists from the town or what happened on that spot. The Blues Trail app gives details on them all.
A selective tour of the Blues Trail travels through the Mississippi Delta and hits sights in the towns of Tunica, Clarksdale, Cleveland, Indianola, and Leland in about 170 miles (273 kilometers) of driving.
Where to start: Memphis is a great jumping-off point for the Mississippi Blues Trail. Take Highway 61 south to Clarksdale, stopping in Tunica on the way. In the morning, hit a couple more Blues Trail towns, Cleveland and Leland, on your way to Jackson.
Top Stops on the Mississippi Blues Trail
The must-stop 3,500-square-foot (325-square-meter) Gateway to the Blues Museum (13625 U.S. 61 N., Tunica; 888/488-6422) has six different galleries, where you can learn about the history of the blues and how the geography contributed to the genre. There’s even an exhibition where you can record your own blues song (which will be emailed to you).
Created in 1979, the Delta Blues Museum (1 Blues Alley Ln., Clarksdale; 662/627-6820) is the state’s oldest music museum. The cabin where Muddy Waters was born has been relocated here from its original site a few miles northwest.
Juke joints, lively, no-frills places with great music and cheap drinks, have long been associated with the blues but tend to come and go. An authentic juke joint with an erratic schedule, Red’s Blues Club (390 Sunflower Ave., Clarksdale; 662/627-3166) offers live blues by some of the best local musicians behind a hard-to-find entrance—it’s the door to your right as you approach the building.
The spectacular Grammy Museum Mississippi (800 W. Sunflower Rd., Cleveland; 662/441-0100) is the institution’s first outside Los Angeles and has more than 12 different interactive exhibits that do an excellent job of linking the blues to other genres.
The impressive B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center (400 2nd St., Indianola; 662/887-9539) chronicles the legend’s rise to fame. In addition to showing his importance as a musician, it also lets his personality shine through (and if you don’t know why he named his guitars Lucille, you’ll find out).
The Highway 61 Blues Museum (307 N. Broad St., Leland; 662/686-7646) is a labor of love, jam-packed with blues artifacts and info compiled by local enthusiasts. This particular museum has more visual art, including paintings and photography by Delta artists, than most music museums. If you call ahead, they’ll do their best to have some musicians show up to play while you peruse, an experience no blues fan should miss.
Mississippi Road Trip: 5-Day Itinerary
If you’re looking to extend your trip, this 5-day road trip itinerary covers a portion of the Mississippi Blues Trail and explores local history, both ancient and recent.
Start in Jackson, and head to the Two Mississippi Museums, one devoted to the state’s civil rights history and the other covering the state’s 200-year history. Check to see if the Eudora Welty House is open, and take a tour to see the home the way the writer set it up.
From Jackson, embark on a brief jaunt on the Natchez Trace Parkway heading north, heading to the Bill Waller Mississippi Craft Center, just east of Jackson, and browse the items made by local artisans.
Stop for lunch in Starkville, home to Mississippi State University. While you’re there, be sure to pick up a cowbell to show you’re a true fan.
After lunch, go to Bynum Mounds to see 2,000-year-old Indigenous burial mounds. From there, hop back on the Trace to Tupelo, where you’ll spend the night
This morning is devoted to Elvis, with a tour of his birthplace home. Afterward, drive west 2 hours to Clarksdale, your first stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Check out the Delta Blues Museum, and hit Red’s Blues Club, an authentic juke joint, for live music.
It’s more blues today: Drive south to Cleveland, home of the Grammy Museum Mississippi, and then to Indianola for the B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. Make sure to try some Delta tamales while you’re in the area.
If you can squeeze in one more museum, head to Leland’s Highway 61 Blues Museum, before calling it a day in nearby Greenville.
From Greenville, take the Great River Road along the Mississippi to Vicksburg, where there is a famous Civil War battlefield. From there, turn east to go inland back to Jackson.