There are not many countries in this world where you are able to spend 12 nights driving through five states learning about the history of the country while enjoying the vast difference in music between the states.
The Heartland’s Beat has the ability to take you through a cultural adventure like no other. Over the 12 nights you have the chance to step back in time and visit historical sites, like the home of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln and learn about his fight to issue the Emancipation Proclamation back in 1863. For literature fans, Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Museum is a must visit location in Chicago.
During the holiday, one thing noticeable is the change in the style of music. With plenty of music venues, live performances, tribute shows available in every single destination, you will be able to see the influence that the greats like Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton had on the music scene. No trip to Memphis would be complete without a visit to Graceland, though this is not the only musical must do on this itinerary, book tickets for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, witness the musical performances in Branson, take a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Start your Journey
On your arrival into Chicago O'Hare International Airport, collect your hire car and make you way to your hotel for the next couple of nights. For your first evening in Chicago, head down to Navy Pier and enjoy a casual dinner with views out across Lake Michigan.
Enjoy a complimentary cruise along the Chicago River while you gaze upon the architectural delights which make Chicago's skyline world famous. Back on land, you have time to visit as many sites within Chicago that you can. If you are feeling brave, take a ride up to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower and take a step onto the clear observation boxes which give amazing views over four states. For the literature fans, take a step back in time and visit the Ernest Hemingway's Birthplace Museum where the author was born and you can learn about his early work in literature.
Chicago to Springfield (202 miles)
It is time to leave Chicago in your rear view mirror as you drive south towards Springfield. With it's roots in presidential history, Springfield was the home of Abraham Lincoln it will be worth taking a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum which documents the life and his influence during the American Civil War.
Springfield to St. Louis (96 miles)
Today you will cross over the state border into Missouri as you arrive in to St. Louis. Head to the St. Louis Arch Gateway, a 630 feet monument signifying Thomas Jefferson's vision and St. Louis' role in the westward expansion. Take the tram to the top of the Arch and revel in the amazing views out over the city. You can always spend the afternoon taking a tour of the many microbreweries as you are home to America's first larger brewers.
St. Louis to Branson (252 miles)
As you head into Branson, prepare yourself as you are welcomed to the live entertainment capital. From over 100 shows, ranging from ABBA tributes to Broadway's Greatest Hits, there will definitely be at least one show which catches your attention.
Today will be the perfect day to take a step back from the city life that you have experienced so far and to spend a day exploring the Ozarks (also known as the Ozark Mountains). Feel free to hike the day away in the mountains, or take a tour to explore the many caves and caverns hidden within the region.
Branson to Memphis (266 miles)
Get ready for the Rock 'n' Roll to begin as you arrive in to Memphis. From the moment that you take a step on Beale Street, you you will be amazed by the sights that you will see. Make sure to eye out for the Beale Street Flippers, who’ve been wowing the crowds for the past 30 years. A perfect place to grab a drink (or two), sit back and relax as you enjoy the music which spills out onto the streets.
Memphis to Nashville (175 miles)
As you head out of the city, make sure to stop by Graceland. No trip to Memphis would be complete without stepping inside Elvis' home. We would recommend taking a VIP tour of his home, not only do you get all of the inclusions of the standard tour but you also get front of the line access to the exclusive VIP's only sections plus a cool keepsake backstage pass. it really is worth every penny. Continue the drive up to Nashville, where you will understand why it is known as the 'country music capital'. Enjoy the evening strolling along Broadway, witnessing the magic of country music.
With a full day in Nashville, you will have plenty of time to get your fill of music. Take a tour around the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium or step back in time and visit the RCA Studio Band learn about the music legends such has Dolly Parton and Elvis and the records that they recorded in these very studios. If you have not yet had your feel of music, try and purchase tickets to one of the popular venues in town, Grand Ole Opry.
Nashville to Louiseville (175 miles)
Follow the Bourbon Trail as you tour some of the Bourbon distilleries which Kentucky has become for. Baseball fans can enjoy a tour of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory learning about the production of the baseball bat and if you wish, you can even purchase your very own to bring home as a souvenir.
Louiseville to Covington (98 miles)
Take a tour of Churchill Downs, the home of the legendary Kentucky Derby. Before heading to Covington, why not take a visit to the Muhammad Ali Center, a six storey building dedicated to the life and legacy of the boxer. If you are travelling with a family, once you are in Convington, take a trip to the Newport Aquarium and witness the 70 exhibits and 14 galleries teaming with different species of fish.
Covington to Cleveland (251 miles)
With only a few more days left to enjoy on this self drive, you can slowly make your way to Cleveland. Once in Cleveland enjoy a tour around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, located on the shore of Lake Erie, taking in the history of the most influential and best known artists who have made rock and roll the way it is today. For the food lovers out there, make sure to take a break at West Side Market, a Cleveland tradition of over 100 food stalls offering a mouth-watering display of food.
Cleveland to Detroit (169 miles)
The final day as arrived and it is time to head to Detroit ready for your onward travels. If you arrive into Detroit early enough, you can always take in one final museum and head to The Henry Ford and for the final time this trip learn about the American history. Make time for a city tour of Detroit which will take you through the highs and lows of the city, from when it filed for bankruptcy to its return to how it is today.
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