Best Musical Attraction (2015)


Beyond music festivals and live concerts, the world is filled with attractions deserving of a spot on any music lover's bucket list. We asked USA TODAY 10Best readers to vote for their favorite musical attractions from a pool of 20 museums, memorials, historic studios and epic record stores.

  • Graceland


    Graceland is one of the most-visited private homes in the nation. Every year, more than 600,000 people go to Elvis Presley’s former estate in Memphis. This revival-style mansion on nearly 14 acres is more than just an inside look at the famous musician’s life; it’s a symbol to fans of the American Dream. Elvis lived in Graceland for more than 20 years, and he died here, too. Today, Graceland is a National Historic Landmark and museum that is open to the public. Take a guided iPad tour, walk through the meditation garden or even rent the space here for special events, like weddings.
    Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

  • Sun Studio

    Sun Studio

    Sun Studio in Memphis calls itself the most famous recording studio in the world, and it’s hard to dispute that it’s earned the bragging rights. After all, it was here that a young Elvis Presley recorded his first song – supposedly as a gift for his mom. The first rock and roll single by Jackie Brenston was also said to have been recorded here. Other famous voices that graced these walls in the ‘50s: Johnny Cash, Roy Robison and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name just a few.
    Photo courtesy of Brand USA / Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved.

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

    Yes, this is the hall of fame for rock stars. The hall of fame foundation launched 25 years ago, and the museum on the Lake Erie shores in Cleveland opened shop in 1995. Today, visitors can experience four different theaters, seven floors of exhibits, all kinds of interactive stations and more, while learning about some of the most influential rock musicians in history. More than 8 million visitors from around the world have walked through these halls.
    Photo courtesy of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

  • Grand Ole Opry

    Grand Ole Opry

    The Grand Ole Opry is easily considered the most esteemed stage for country music on the planet. Some even call it the home for “American music,” overall. The Opry, located in Nashville, started in the ‘20s as a radio broadcast of live music. Visitors can still hear Opry broadcasts online or join the many other fans who come to the stage to see the top country musicians perform live. The Opry claims it's Tennessee’s top attraction.
    Photo courtesy of Grand Ole Opry

  • Stax Museum of American Soul Music

    Stax Museum of American Soul Music

    The Stax Museum is one of only a few museums in the world dedicated to soul music, and it claims to be the only museum that focuses specifically on American soul. This Memphis-based museum is stationed at the original location of the Stax Records studio, where legendary musicians recorded, such as Isaac Hayes, Booker T and Otis Redding. Visitors see more than 2,000 related artifacts, browse soul music museums and check out exhibits. Don’t miss the films that feature other influential soul artists, such as Al Green and Patti LaBelle.
    Photo courtesy of Dan Ball / Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved

  • Dollywood

    Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

    Country star Dolly Parton owns this 150-acre, family-friendly theme park in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, where visitors can watch shows, go on rides, make crafts and celebrate various festivals throughout the year. But Dollywood goes even beyond the park – with on-site cabins and a resort – to make it a full vacation destination.
    Photo courtesy of Dollywood

  • Motown Museum

    Motown Museum

    The Motown Museum in Detroit, a.k.a. Hitsville USA, is the home and heart of Motown. Tens of thousands of people visit this location, one of the region’s most bustling tourist hot spots, to can see historical memorabilia, photos and learn more about the history of Motown Record Company. Make sure you visit Studio A, where some of the most popular Motown music was recorded.
    Photo courtesy of Dig Downtown Detroit / Flickr

  • EMP Museum

    EMP Museum

    The EMP Museum (short for Experience Music Project) in Seattle is a nonprofit that aims to recognize modern pop culture and the groundbreaking ideas that helped shape it. Rock and roll is the heart at this museum, which has featured exhibits on the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. Even the Frank Gehry-designed building is musically inspired; the original model was built from chopped up pieces of electric guitars.
    Photo courtesy of EMP Museum

  • Joshua Tree National Park

    Joshua Tree National Park

    The Joshua Tree National Park in California is the home to a unique, independent, annual music festival. You won’t recognize the artists who perform here from the radio, as many are emerging and new, but highly esteemed. But the park's true place in musical history comes thanks to U2, whose fifth studio album "Joshua Tree" features a cover shot in the park; today fans from around the globe make a musical pilgrimage to Joshua Tree, though the tree from the album cover died in 2000.
    Photo courtesy of NPS/Brad Sutton

  • Hansa Studios

    Hansa Studios

    History was made in this German recording studio. The building itself has roots back to 1912, but it became famous in the ‘60s and ‘70s as the studio of choice for a variety musicians, from Depeche Mode to David Bowie to U2. Today, one studio is still active to record music. The Hansa Tonstudio is stationed right on Potsdamer Platz in the middle of Berlin, and it is the oldest recording studio in Germany.
    Photo courtesy of In3s / Wikimedia Commons

After four weeks of voting, one legendary attraction won the title of Best Musical Attraction by a landslide: Graceland. Each year some 600,000 people visit the former home of Elvis in Memphis, making it one of the most-visited private homes in the country and a clear favorite with our music-loving readers.

The Elvis love continues in the number two finisher. Sun Studio, also in Memphis, snagged the runner-up spot for Best Musical Attraction, likely because it's one of the most famous recording studios on the planet and the place where The King recorded his first song.

Tennessee proved its place as a bucket list destination for music lovers with four out of the top five winners.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Musical Attraction are as follows:

  1. Graceland - Memphis
  2. Sun Studio - Memphis
  3. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum - Cleveland
  4. Grand Ole Opry - Nashville
  5. Stax Museum of American Soul Music - Memphis
  6. Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  7. Motown Museum - Detroit
  8. EMP Museum - Seattle
  9. Joshua Tree National Park - California
  10. Hansa Studios - Berlin

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Ben Kaye and Adam Kivel (Consequences of Sound) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of America's live music scene.

Additional nominees for Best Musical Attraction included Abbey Road in London, Amoeba Music in Hollywood, Apollo Theater in New York, Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica, The Dakota/Strawberry Fields in New York, Elliott Smith Memorial Wall in Los Angeles, Hotel Chelsea in New York, Kurt Cobain House/Viretta Park in Seattle, Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts in Georgia.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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Ben Kaye

Ben Kaye

Ben Kaye

Adam Kivel

Adam Kivel

Adam Kivel