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Cool Road Trips to Take With New York Music in Mind

Music lovers in the New York City metro area will find fascinating stops on these cool road trips to take with buddies or by yourself.

cool road trips to take

The Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park.

Music can be a big part of any cool road trip to take by providing a soundtrack for your journey. But music can also inspire cool road trips to take. New York and other states across the U.S. feature numerous spots made legend by rock ‘n’ roll, blues, jazz, country, hip hop and other genres.

We’ve put together a list of cool road trips to take in the New York region that inspired songs, appeared on album covers or acted as childhood homes of famed rock ‘n’ roll icons. Music lovers will love the fascinating stops on these cool road trips to take with the whole band.

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Great Road Trips in the Northeast

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Strawberry Fields and The Dakota
The former, located in Central Park, is a memorial to John Lennon that is named after The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The site was officially dedicated in 1985, which was the 45th anniversary of Lennon’s birth. And The Dakota – which has appeared in a number of movies, most famously “Rosemary’s Baby” – is a cooperative building at the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West where Lennon lived with Yoko Ono. It was also the location where he was shot and killed.

Louis Armstrong House
This house, located at 34-56 107th St. in Corona, was the home of the jazz legend and his wife, Lucille Wilson, from 1943 to 1971. Its archives include writings, books, recordings and memorabilia relative to Armstrong’s work, which included the iconic songs “What a Wonderful World” and “Hello, Dolly!”

Hotel Chelsea
Dylan Thomas was staying at this iconic hotel at the time of his death in 1953. By the 1960s and 1970s, it had become a haven for a number of rock ‘n’ roll legends, including Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Madonna and, most notoriously, Sid Vicious, whose girlfriend – Nancy Spungen – was found stabbed to death there. A must for music fans that have a list of cool road trips to take.

CBGB
Founded in 1973, the site hosting the music club had previously been a biker bar. Its name stood for “country, bluegrass and blues,” although the spot eventually become a launching pad for punk rock and new wave bands, including the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith, Blondie and Talking Heads. The club hosted its final concert and closed in 2006, but the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places seven years later.

The Apollo Theater
The legendary Harlem theater’s importance to the world of music cannot be overstated. First established in 1914 as a spot for swing dancing and vaudeville, the theater became known for its vocal crowd, who’d often boo artists off stage. In the 1960s, it hosted performances by Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson and, later, Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye. James Brown’s 1962 concert at the spot is frequently hailed as the greatest live album of all time.

BirdlandBlue NoteVillage Vanguard and Café Wha?
Birdland, the landmark jazz club founded in 1949 and named after Charlie Parker, is known for being one of the best spots in New York City to hear jazz and snack on its Cajun-influenced food, while the Blue Note is a place where visitors can hear jazz greats and upcoming artists and the Village Vanguard once hosted Miles Davis, Bill Evans and many others. And Café Wha? was once the hangout of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

Electric Lady Studios
Built in 1970 by Jimi Hendrix and designed by John Storyk, the recording studio in Greenwich Village was utilized by a number of artists across various genres, including Guns N’ Roses, The Clash, D’Angelo, The Roots, The Strokes, U2, Gwen Stefani, Daft Punk and Bob Dylan.

cool road trips to take

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on the historic site of the original Woodstock Music Festival. (Photo: Liz Van Steenburgh / Shutterstock)

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Although this spot is located in Bethel, it was the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival. The three-day concert was held on a parcel of the original Max Yasgur’s dairy farm and the site has since been transformed into a performing arts center that hosts concerts, community programs, an annual harvest festival and museum, where visitors can learn about the iconic concert that included everyone from Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead to Creedence Clearwater Revival and Sly and the Family Stone. For any hardcore music fan, the cool road trip to take has to include the original Woodstock site.

But that’s not all of the great landmark music spots in the New York region. You’ll also find Montauk’s Memory Motel, immortalized in song by The Rolling Stones, as well as Forest Hills High School, which counts Simon and Garfunkel, Burt Bacharach and the Ramones among its alumni.

Hip hop fans will want to check out the Bronx’s 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, which is credited as the birthplace of the genre, as well as Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses, which once housed Jay-Z and is frequently cited in his songs, and Adam Yauch Park, which is named after one of the Beastie Boys’ founding members. In Staten Island, you’ll find Park Hill Houses, where the Wu-Tang Clan was formed and at 10th Street and 41st Avenue in Long Island City, you can spot the backdrop for the cover of Nas’ debut, “Illmatic.”

And there’s also 96 and 98 St. Marks Place, which was immortalized on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” album and popped up in The Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend” video,” as well as 99 Rivington Street, which graced the cover of the Beastie Boys’ 1988 album “Paul’s Boutique,” and Jones Street, a spot in Manhattan’s NoHo district that was the backdrop on the cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.”

If you drive over to New Jersey, you can see the eight-foot replica of Bruce Springsteen’s Fender Esquire guitar at the corner of 10th Avenue and E. Street in Belmar. And you can not only spot the famed house in New York’s upstate West Saugerties where The Band recorded the classic “Music from Big Pink,” you can also rent it!

Do you have any ideas for cool road trips to take? Share them with us here!

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