To blues fans, Beale Street is the most important street in America. The musical form known as the blues -- with roots that stretch back to the African musical heritage of slaves brought to the United States -- was born here. W. C. Handy was performing on Beale Street when he penned "Memphis Blues," the first published blues song. Shortly after the Civil War, Beale Street became one of the most important streets in the South for African Americans. Many of the most famous musicians in the blues world got their starts here; besides Handy, other greats include B. B. King, Furry Lewis, Alberta Hunter, Rufus Thomas, and Isaac Hayes.

And the blues continues to thrive here. While most of the blues you’ll find today on Beale will be covers, that’s kind of awesome if you think about it. Do you like it when you go to a concert and they play all new music and no hits? Heck no. And since most of us never got to see “Soul Man” or “These Arms of Mine” performed live, it’s pretty cool to get to hear modern local musicians pay tribute to the local legends who paved their way. (Bonus: If you like an act, you can always ask the band where else they perform and go hear their original music.) Take your blues education to the next level by reading historic markers up and down the street and stopping at the statues that commemorate two of the city’s most important musicians: W. C. Handy and Elvis Presley. Check out nightly music at B.B. King’s Blues Club, stop in the tiny W. C. Handy House, or have a milkshake at A. Schwab Dry Goods Store. The street isn’t very big—just a few blocks long—so you can explore it in a few hours, or you can make a whole night of it.