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  • The Epicentre dining and entertainment venue in Charlotte, North Carolina
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    Sacred Sunday Mornings and Spirited Late Nights in Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Asheville, North Carolina, home of a plethora of music festivals
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    Bluegrass in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina

  • Performers at the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Bristol, Tennessee
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    In Bristol, Tennessee, Visit the Birthplace of Country Music

  • Performer at the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia
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    Abingdon, Virginia: Diverse Musical Appreciation

  • On the famous Crooked Road music trail in from Abingdon, to Wytheville, Virginia
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    Live Music and Dancing in Wytheville, Virginia

  • Blue Ridge Backroads radio show broadcasts year-round from Rex Theater in Galax, Virginia
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    Jam Sessions, Radio Shows and Festivals in Galax, Virginia

Saturday evening show at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, near Bristol, Tennessee
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Music Cradles

  • Route distance:
    519km
  • Suggested Time:
    4 days

Follow the music through three states

Trek from central and western North Carolina into southwest Virginia in search of America’s musical roots. Here, bluegrass, country and old-time string music dominate, but wait until you hear their modern variations at jams and genre-blending festivals in historic downtowns, churches and nightclubs. If at any time you’re uncertain what type of event you’re about to experience, just follow the music at The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. The scene is welcoming, and the Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop is stunning.

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The Epicentre dining and entertainment venue in Charlotte, North Carolina
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Sacred Sunday Mornings and Spirited Late Nights in Charlotte, North Carolina

Start this musical adventure by flying into Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Grab a bite to eat at the eclectic 7th Street Public Market food court or one of a number of restaurants offering Southern fare before heading to the nearby Levine Museum of the New South to get a sense of the dual influences on the city’s musical heritage, which includes acts like “Father of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe and the Shout Band, a brassy expression of African-American Pentecostal congregations. For a live dose of the old sound, check in with the Charlotte Folk Society, which hosts hour-long performances in a restored church. To hear modern riffs on the region’s musical roots, check the calendars of Charlotte’s intimate live music venues, including Double Door Inn, Visulite Theatre, Amos’ Southend, The Neighborhood Theatre and The Fillmore Charlotte.

209 km
2 hours by car
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Asheville, North Carolina, home of a plethora of music festivals
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Bluegrass in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina

Traveling west from Charlotte, foothills give way to the Blue Ridge Mountains, a visual cue to the music heritage you’re seeking. Tune your radio to WNCW at 88.7 FM for bluegrass and traditional North Carolina music. A great way to experience it live is at the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival, the oldest continuously running folk festival in the U.S., which takes place annually the first weekend in August at the city’s Diana Wortham Theatre. The festival, which dates to 1928, hosts ticketed evening performances of old-time, bluegrass and mountain string bands in addition to ballad singers and cloggers. Shindig on the Green presents more of the same in Asheville’s Pack Square Park in July and August. Bring a blanket or chair and sit amid the locals at these open-air concerts.

133 km
2 hours by car
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Performers at the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Bristol, Tennessee
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In Bristol, Tennessee, Visit the Birthplace of Country Music

Drive about 90 minutes north, with bluegrass blasting from WPAQ 740 AM on your radio, through the outdoor paradise of Cherokee National Park, to quaint Bristol, Tenn. Bristol is essential to your music heritage pilgrimage: It was the birthplace of country music. Explore this legacy at Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a 7,300-square-meter space housing an array of permanent and traveling displays, a performance area and interactive experiences. Today, downtown Bristol is full of buskers and outdoor events that take place amid retailers, galleries and restaurants. Listen to old-time music at The Pickin’ Porch weekly show or a variety of genres at the popular Full Moon Jam or Border Bash summer concert series. In addition to bluegrass and country tunes, you can hear indie music, Americana and  Southern rock. The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion brings all types of acts to town annually during the third weekend in September. On your way out of Bristol, veer west to the town of Hiltons and visit the Carter Family Fold, homestead of the famous country music family. See the old Carter cabin and stay for Saturday evening music.

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27 km
1 hour by car
04
Performer at the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia
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Abingdon, Virginia: Diverse Musical Appreciation

From Bristol, it’s just a 20-minute drive to Abingdon in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. The town features 12 months of Americana music celebrating the region’s bluegrass and traditional music. Much of Abingdon’s music scene centers on Heartwood, a showplace for southwest Virginia artisans and culture. Shop for musical souvenirs at The Crooked Road Store onsite. In the summer, try the regionally inspired brunch accompanied by gospel music the first Sunday of each month. In January, when the town’s historic Barter Theatre goes dark, live music moves in; January Jams headliners have included Marty Stuart and Jason Isbell. In summer, Thursday Jams are the thing, showcasing Americana and roots music at the Abingdon farmers’ market pavilion downtown.

90 km
1 hour by car
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On the famous Crooked Road music trail in from Abingdon, to Wytheville, Virginia
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Live Music and Dancing in Wytheville, Virginia

Head east on Interstate 81 for the one-hour ride to the small town of Wytheville, named after a signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Here’s a tip for traveling The Crooked Road whether you’re in Wytheville or another segment of the trail: Regional community colleges help to sustain southwest Virginia’s musical heritage by offering traditional music programs and hosting events, such as the ones at Wytheville Community College.  Don’t miss the Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree at 7 p.m. the third Saturday of every month excluding June. They’ll even give you room to dance. Off campus, hit the Big Walker Lookout Country Store for live bluegrass on the porch on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from May through October.

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60 km
1 hour by car
06
Blue Ridge Backroads radio show broadcasts year-round from Rex Theater in Galax, Virginia
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Jam Sessions, Radio Shows and Festivals in Galax, Virginia

Continue the listening tour with a 45-minute drive to Galax, known as the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. In summer, Galax rolls out one music festival after another: HoustonFest in early May, Galax Leaf & String Festival in June, Mountains of Music Festival in June and Old Fiddlers’ Convention in August. Galax’s Blue Ridge Music Center also hosts a summer concert series; you’ll love the outdoor amphitheater. You can find additional programming and view “The Roots of American Music” exhibit at the onsite museum. All year, the Blue Ridge Backroads radio show broadcasts live from Galax’s Rex Theater; if you can’t get there in person, tune in to WBRF 98.1 FM. As you would expect, Galax also hosts its share of jams. Try the Tuesday night gathering at Stringbean Coffee Shop or stop into Barr's Fiddle Shop to ask about periodic sessions and view traditional instruments from a family that handcrafts them. Enjoy the scenery on the two-hour drive back to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where you’ll catch a flight home.

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