Journey with Kileen: Having been a Tour Manager for the last fourteen years and being in thirty-five to forty states a year, there are not too many places I haven't visited in the U.S. I love traveling and meeting so many wonderful people from all over. The purpose of this column is to share with you some of my favorite places and different means of travel whether you go by car, boat, train or motorcoach (bus).
AMERICA'S MUSIC CITIES
This is a tour for people who love their music. For our tours we either motorcoach from Chicago to St. Louis or you can fly to St. Louis. Whichever way you choose, the tour begins with a city tour of St. Louis before continuing on to Branson, MO in the heart of the Ozarks.
This particular tour highlights two other cities, Memphis and Nashville. If you only want to go to Branson, you can go by many different tour companies or you can drive on your own. An escorted tour is a good choice because Branson gets so crowded and when you are on tour you can avoid many of the traffic snarls and have all of your shows lined up for you in advance.
Branson is a tiny little town of roughly 7,000 people that attracts seven million travelers to one hundred glitzy shows in forty-nine theaters every year. The theaters are located on a neon lit road that is referred to as the "Strip." So as I said before you can tour here for several days seeing many shows but this particular article is going to concentrate on a tour that does three different music cities, so you can have a little taste of each of them.
The evening we arrive, we see Branson's "First Family of Entertainment," the Presleys, which features four generations of family members. You really can't miss by going to any show in town. They are all very professional staged with wonderful entertainers.
The next day it's off to see a very unique attraction, the Titanic museum. This ship marks its 100th anniversary in 2012 and the museum allows you to experience what it was like to walk the halls, see the cabins and even touch a real iceberg. There are over four hundred artifacts from the ship and its passengers in this museum. After that attraction, there is a little free time before boarding the Branson Belle showboat which cruises Table Rock Lake. This is another fun filled evening of entertainment and dinner.
The next morning we sadly leave Branson, knowing there is so much more to see. We make a stop at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR before continuing on to our next stop, Memphis, TN.
Memphis is a fun city with much to see, including Beale St. and the famed Peabody hotel where the ducks march from the rooftop to the lobby twice a day to the music of John Phillip Sousa. We also see the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated. Naturally we visit Graceland, Elvis' home, but a special treat is the city tour. The first time I did this particular city tour, I was shocked. We went by all the famous sites, including St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and the guide never pointed out any of these places. Instead we are taken on a musical tour, including early homes of Elvis, Johnny Cash, BB King, along with Sun Studios and Stax Records. And wherever we stop, our guide, who has a guitar, sings a song famous to that area or person.
As we bid Memphis adieu we are now off to our last music city, Nashville. There is time that evening to have dinner and explore the Opryland Resort. And, the next morning the fun continues. A local guide shows us all the sites of the city including the Ryman Auditorium, Music Row, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Centennial and Bi-Centennial parks, including an exact replica of the Parthenon in Greece. That evening features "The Show That Made Country Music Famous," the granddaddy of all shows, The Grand Ole Opry.
Sadly our tour ends, all too soon, as most tours do. But then you can always go back to one or more of these cities to sample more things.
So, if you are a fan of country, gospel, blues and/or rock n roll music, this is a must trip for you.
If you have any ideas that you would like me to include, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. They can be places, like national parks, or cities, or special attractions.
Editor's Note: To read more in depth about this area, check out Kileen's book "Journey Beckons". You can order through her website: www.kileenprather.com or at Amazon either in book format or the Kindle edition. Her latest, "Journey To Port" now also on Kindle.