Get up to speed on Memphis’s musical past with a self-guided tour at the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, which traces the evolution of rock from the country, gospel, and blues of Mississippi sharecroppers to the heyday of Sun Studio, Stax and Hi Records, and Elvis. Later, mingle with the locals at Rum Boogie, which has live music from James Govan and the Boogie Blues Band five nights a week.
Route 61, also known as the Blues Highway, hugs the Mississippi River and winds through the heart of blues country (the intersection of 61 and 49 in Clarksdale is where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil). Stop in at Ground Zero Blues Club to hear the real deal, then take 49 East to Greenwood, where Viking has its headquarters—and, more important, a cooking school. Sign up for a hands-on lesson in southern cuisine.
Once you make it to New Orleans, skip the sloppiness of Bourbon Street and take a stroll instead through the galleries and antique stores of Chartres and Royal Streets. At Photo Works, Louis Sahuc’s black-and-white and color photographs capture the city’s architecture, iron work, cemeteries, music, and joie de vivre. Relax your road-weary muscles at the newly reopened spa at the Ritz-Carlton. Try the Café au Lait, a coffee-and-milk exfoliating scrub and detoxifying rubdown—you’ll need it after a sweaty night at the Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak St.; 504-866-9359), a live music venue in Carrollton where the ReBirth Brass Band plays sweltering sets of funk, jazz, and soul.