When I saw TripAdvisor’s list of America’s top states and joints for barbecue, the two words that came to mind (after “I’m hungry”) were: Road Trip! I pulled up a map and saw that you can hit the nation’s three top-rated BBQ joints, and graze in three of the five best states for barbecue, on an easy 12-hour swing from Georgia through Tennessee to Missouri. If you did it in only 12 hours, though, you’d miss the colorful slices of America’s cultural heritage that connect these BBQ meccas. So here’s the road trip I’ve got in mind. Who wants to join me?
Begin in Blue Ridge, Georgia, at the #1 barbecue joint in America: Joe’s BBQ. (You can sleep off Joe’s famed hickory-smoked ribs at Reid Ridge Lodge, bookable on TripAdvisor for $135.) Head out on 76 toward Tennessee, rated the best state in the U.S. for barbecue. As you near Nashville, set your car radio to 650 AM, the official station of the Grand Ole Opry. Make a pit stop at the Opry’s longtime home, Ryman Auditorium, and check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. If you’ve got time, considering touring Music Row’s recording studios and music publishing houses. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to kick up your heels at Tootsies Orchid Lounge.
Burn rubber toward St. Louis, Missouri, home to the nation’s #3-rated barbecue joint, Bogart’s Smokehouse. (Need a bed to crash in? Consider the Hotel Ignacio, bookable on TripAdvisor for $186.) Then head west on 70, making a detour north to Arrow Rock, an antebellum town on the Santa Fe trail that is right out of Mark Twain, complete with porch swings, flower boxes, and American flags. At the Arrow Rock State Historic Site get a feel for how the region was settled—first by Native Americans, then the Spanish and French explorers, then Lewis and Clark, and then Santa Fe traders—and take an easy hike through the woodlands to the limestone bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. Catch a show at the Lyceum Theatre, and don’t leave town before stopping by the Arrow Rock Craft Shop to ogle its handmade quilts and embroidered linens.
If you’ve got time, opt for the rolling farmland of Missouri’s back roads as you head west toward Kansas City on the last leg of your trip. For the grand finale in K.C., chow down at the nation’s #2-rated barbecue spot, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.
I’ll be bringing you more Great American weekend road trip ideas—for other parts of the country—so stay tuned.
You’ll find more travel advice from Wendy at WendyPerrin.com.