This long running annual jazz extravaganza gets a makeover in 2009, with a new weekend in May and a new location in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. The festival boasts a street party atmosphere, and most of the music is presented on four stages in the Laura Street Corridor. Roberta Flack and Dave Brubeck are the classic jazz headliners, but there's also Dr. John, the B.B. King All Star Band, the Stanley Clarke Trio and Bill Frisell's 858 Quartet.
Admission: Performances are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.
Accommodations: Located within walking distance of the festival stages, The Omni Jacksonville is the official host hotel and offers a special weekend package deal.
Around town: The Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, Wine Down Tasting Experience, 'Round Midnight Jazz Jam, and Sunday Jazz Brunches are some of the ticketed events that have become Jazz Festival traditions.
More fun: Chops, an award-winning documentary about Jacksonville jazz students, has two free screenings May 23 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.
Drive time: 5 hours, 20 minutes
Information: Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Visit Jacksonville
Chattanooga Riverbend Festival
Celebrating its 28th year, Chattanooga's eclectic nine-day music festival takes place on the lovely 21st Century Waterfront, with five stages, some 150 performers and a grand fireworks finale. This year's top acts include Willie Nelson, Little Richard, The B-52's, Montgomery Gentry, The Commodores, Train, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Wailers, Adrian Belew and Wayne Henderson's Jazz Crusaders.
Admission: Access pins for all nine days are $28, available in advance online and at all area Mapco Marts and Fast, Food and Fuel convenience stores; $37 at the gate; $23 single day wristbands, (seniors 60 and older half price, and children 10 and under free).
Accommodations: At least 10 area hotels are offering Riverbend specials, including the Chattanooga Choo Choo and three Marriott properties.
Around town: The Tennessee Aquarium and Hunter Museum remain the star attractions, but a walk through the Bluff View Art District and Sculpture Garden is a wonderful way to relax.
More fun: On June 8, the Chattanooga-born Empress of the Blues is honored again at the annual Bessie Smith Strut, a free block party-style event, featuring barbecue and three music stages along Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Drive time: 2 hours
Information: Riverbend Festival, Chattanooga
Nashville CMA Music Festival
A country music fan's ultimate dream weekend, this year's multi-venue Country Music Association Music Festival offers four days of free performances on the Daytime Stage at Riverfront Park. Artists include Bellamy Brothers, Diamond Rio, John Anderson, Aaron Tippin, Tracy Byrd, Jo Dee Messina and Lorrie Morgan. Nightly ticketed concerts at LP Field feature the likes of Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Lee Ann Womack, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert and Trace Adkins.
Admission: Four-day ticket packages range from $78 (general admission) to $300 (gold circle); single concert tickets are $40 reserved; $30 general admission.
Accommodations: Downtown hotels convenient to the festival include, The Hermitage, Holiday Inn Express and Courtyard Nashville Downtown.
Around town: Nashville's most popular attractions are the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, but a host of clubs and music venues offer all kinds of evening entertainment.
More fun: The Daytime Stage is just one of several free areas at the festival. Check out the Dr Pepper-McDonald's Family Zone in Hilton Park; Chevy Music Stage at the Sommet Center; Chevy Sports Zone; and the new Music City Zone in the Public Square.
Drive time: 4 hours
Information: Country Music Association Music Festival, Country Music Association Music Festival, CMA Festival Fan Fair
Birmingham City Stages
Going since 1989, City Stages has struggled financially in recent years. But the three-day music fest, located around Linn Park in the middle of downtown Birmingham, still draws big crowds with a broad range of acts. This year's lineup ranges from Jane's Addiction, Young Jeezy and the Indigo Girls to En Vogue, the Neville Brothers and Jonny Lang, plus classic rockers REO Speedwagon, STYX and 38 Special.
Admission: Advance tickets for all three days are $37.50 (until May 4), $40 (until June 2), and $45 (until June 18); $55 at the gate; $28 single-day passes online or at the gate. Children 12 and younger free when accompanied by an adult.
Accommodations: City Stages' hotel partner, the Sheraton Birmingham, sells out quickly. But other well-located options include the Tutwiler, the Redmont and Embassy Suites. Check these and other hotels: City Stages hotel information
Around town: Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is more or less where the city of Birmingham was born, and it's close enough to explore before the festival.
More fun: Other nearby attractions include Vulcan Park, Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Birmingham Zoo.
Drive time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Information: City Stages Birmingham Convention Center
Asheville Bele Chere
The scene: Asheville's annual three-day music and arts gathering is billed as the largest free street festival in the Southeast. The ancient Scottish name means "beautiful living." And Asheville's mountain scenery and laid-back downtown area easily echo that. The 2009 music schedule is still being finalized, but Travis Tritt, Cowboy Mouth, Edwin McCain, The Lee Boys and Doyle Larson and Quicksilver were among the 2008 performers.
Admission: Free for the street festival and most events.
Accommodations: The Renaissance Asheville is within walking distance of all the downtown action, as well as the Asheville Civic Center.
Around town: Asheville's compact and inviting downtown area is loaded with bars, restaurants, galleries and music venues, but Biltmore Estate, and its mansion, gardens, winery, and luxury inn, is a major draw.
More fun: The Bele Chere Children's Area will be located in the Civic Center this year, offering free crafts and activities, plus ticketed rides.
Drive time: 3 hours, 40 minutes
Information: Bele Chere Festival, Explore Asheville.