It's not unusual for travelers to create a vacation based on activities that tickle their fancy. From wine tasting, to golfing, to spa-oriented trips, they run the gamut. But what if you're an audiophile who would rather rock out than putter around the green in funny pants? Across the U.S. are a myriad of towns -- big and small -- that will fill your need to hear pop, noise-rock, jazz, bluegrass or whatever else strikes your aural fixation.
Music Town, U.S.A: Austin, TX
Every March Austin hosts one of the largest -- and most influential -- music conferences/festivals in the country, South by Southwest (SXSW), but you can venture out anytime during the year to experience the city commonly referred to as the "Live Music Capital of the World." This is a town that prides -- and markets -- itself on its musical offerings from rock to country to the blues and a plethora of Latin based sounds, I mean it did spawn Janis Joplin, the Dixie Chicks, Alejandro Escovado, indie faves Spoon and thousands (yes, thousands) of other beloved acts. You can see more live music than you shake a stick at each and every night in the various enterta25inment districts (Sixth Street, Warehouse District, South Austin) -- which is very easy since Austin boasts the most concentrated amount of clubs in the world. You can also take a free tour of the Austin City Limits studio (www.pbs.org/klru/austin), the site of the long-running PBS concert series that has hosted artists from B.B. King to Beck. Once you get your fill of the cacophony of sounds head to Hotel San Jose, a stylish boutique hotel that is a music lovers dream. Make sure to check out their weekly event "Rock N' Reel" where a band is invited to perform and then selects a film to be played after the hootenanny. Standard rooms start at only $150 and hey, if you are a musician playing in Austin you get 10% off. This town really does support the arts.
Sounds of the South: Memphis, TN
Besides being famous for their BBQ, Memphis, Tennessee is credited for being the birthplace of rock and roll, so it's no surprise to find a bevy of institutions that offer a heaping of musical history. First take a guided tour through Sun Studio, the place where a young Elvis Presley launched his career along with other legends such as Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. If you are still on a King kick you will definitely want to explore Graceland to see where the hip-swiveler laid his head at night. If touring his manor is not enough -- romantics can inquire about their on-site wedding package. And for those who just want to skip the ceremony to the honeymoon you can reserve an Elvis themed room at the kitschy Heartbreak Hotel located across the street from Graceland. Now for those that are looking to get into the more soulful side of Memphis, venture to the amazing Stax Museum of American Soul Music which celebrates the legacy of artists such as Otis Reading, the Staple Singers, Issac Hayes, Booker T. & the MG's and many more. And if you are really feeling the spirit, visit the Reverend Al Green -- yes, Al "I'm-still-in-love-with-you" Green -- at his house of worship, the Full Gospel Tabernacle. When he's not on tour he spreads the gospel by turning the church into one of the finest "music venues" you'll ever set foot in.
The Originals: Providence, Rhode Island
Word on the street is that Providence, Rhode Island has the most artists per capita than any other city in the U.S. That might be a little hard to prove, but with a huge per centage of Rhode Island's institutions of higher learning located in this one city -- including the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) -- it's not odd that there would be an influx of young talent. And a lot of that talent is steeped in music. For those that enjoy a more underground -- and independent -- vibe Providence is the town for you. One of the premiere venues to engage in this is the AS220 (www.as220.org), a non-profit community arts center that focuses on giving Rhode Island talent their own spotlight. Various artists -- working in all mediums -- live and work on site and have the fruits of their labor showcased within these creative confines. Also, musicians must perform only original material. So if you are adverse to cover bands this is the place for you. Depending on what night you show up, you could hear a little hip-hop, Klezmer, or polka -- it just depends on how the muses have moved the talent of Rhode Island.
A Northwest Noise: Portland, Oregon
Considered one of the most eco-friendly cities in the U.S. and a great place for outdoor enthusiasts, Portland, Oregon has a lot to offer. So if you like a little outdoor activity mixed with your music this is the place for you. Before you narrow down the endless musical opportunities in this indie-rock haven hit Forest Park, which on its 5,000 acres of land offers over 75 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and runners. When you are ready to wash up and take a disco nap head to the burgeoning Lower Burnside (LoBu) neighborhood and the Jupiter Hotel (www.jupiterhotel.com), a former motel turned hip (and affordable) boutique hotel. If you don't want to venture too far for your live music, head to the Doug Fir Lounge. This music venue/bar/restaurant boasts an updated "Twin Peaks" décor that might make you feel like you are still in the great outdoors. With Doug Fir located right on the corner of the Jupiter Hotel property there is a good chance you might end up partying like and with a rock star in no time.
Off the Beaten Path: Arcata, CA
If road-tripping is your bag -- and you love small towns -- consider rolling through Arcata, California. Located 275 north of San Francisco this coastal town of around 16,000 is surrounded by mountains and redwoods, which matches its hippie vibe perfectly. If you don't OD on the tie-dye you can hit one of the many coffeehouses that host live music and get a taste of the local flavor. When you work up an appetite hit Jambalaya Restaurant (915 H Street, Arcata; tel. 707/822-4766) for some hearty grub in this homey hamlet. You can also jam out here or head over to the popular Alibi Restaurant and Lounge (www.thealibi.com) for one of their 60 signature martinis and more music. Drinking and driving don't mix so rest up a few steps away at the historic Hotel Arcata (www.hotelarcata.com). With rooms starting at only $84 a night you'll be ready to continue with the "touring life" in no time.