With the likes of Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, and the King himself, Elvis Presley, all hailing from these exciting streets, it is safe to say that your experience in Memphis will be easy on the ears. With the limitless food options and thriving nightlife, it might not be an easy place to rest!
This bustling city finds its seat on the borders of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and was originally formed in 1826. The founders selected the name based on its significant meaning – “Place of Good Abode” – as they had recognized the incredible financial potential found within the city’s strategic location. Its riverine location allowed the city to become a center for not only the booming Cotton Industry but also the progressively rising transport industry. With workers from the cotton fields coming into the city looking for a reprieve on weekends, Memphis became a musical playground as the ‘field hollers’ were sung out and paired with music. Not only Blues but Rock n Roll and Soul music found their roots in this collaborative and expressive environment.
Meaningful murals make for mindful meandering in Memphis!
Upon touching down at Memphis International Airport, travellers are faced with a myriad of options for transport within the city. The 10.6 mile (17 KM) journey from the airport to downtown Memphis, is completed in around fifteen minutes. Ride-shares are an affordable and popular option for this trip as it averages $15 in price, but other taxi services can be used for greater convenience for an average of $30. Alternatively, the MATA City Bus can be boarded from the airport for considerably less – but it requires enduring a 45-minute trip. Once in the city, you can make use of the buses and trolleys or put on a good pair of shoes and walk. If you’re planning on heading slightly out of town to see sights such as Graceland, you can use the Memphis Hop Bus which frequents all the most popular sights Monday through Saturday.
Here’s a Pro Tip: Make sure to check the weather when heading outside. The streets can become full when it rains – so don’t wear your favourite shoes if the forecast is wet!
Though many may make the pilgrimage to Memphis purely to visit Elvis’ home ground, there is plenty more to do and see. Too many options can be overwhelming, so here is a list of some of my favourites:
- Graceland – For the Elvis fans, Graceland is a must-see. The star’s private mansion has been expertly preserved, and his life and stories are further exhibited in the newer museums and exhibits. Be sure to book in advance to avoid queues and to secure your place.
Went to a party at the county jail…!”
- Broad Avenue Arts District – Experience Memphis Art culture and pick up some truly unique items in the local stores. You can also stop for a bite to eat or a drink at one of the many cafes, bars, and restaurants along the way.
- Shelby Farms Park – While the outdoors may not be for everyone, you’ll find something to enjoy at Shelby Farms Park. From boating to climbing, to nature walks and more – there are almost endless options for a relaxing day.
- National Civil Rights Museum – Once the site of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, the Lorraine Motel has since been adapted to create a profound display of this pivotal moment in history. The museum itself shares more stories and memoirs from the movement and is truly a remarkable and memorable experience. While a sombre reminder of the need for atonement, it is an important stop on your visit.
- Mississippi River Tour – Whether you’re looking for a relaxing sunset cruise or an informative exploration of the city and its surrounding suburbs, a river tour will surely bring Memphis to life for you.
- Stax Museum of American Soul Music – The “Memphis Sound”, or Soul music, was passionately explored and celebrated in The Stax Studio. Brilliant artists, such as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, were some of the first to release songs in this genre.
Memphis offers its visitors a smorgasbord of meal options with its range of famous BBQ stands, boutique and experiential cafes, and fine-dining restaurants. I may not be selective, but here are my favourites:
- Central BBQ – This ‘local’s pick’ lives true to the promise of its southern roots and never fails to satisfy with both superb flavour and hearty portion sizes. Found in four locations across the city, Central BBQ offers an extensive menu and delivers mouth-watering meals to their customers without fail.
- The Beauty Shop – Originally Priscilla Presley’s hair salon, this venue has since been transformed into a retro and arty tribute to its former days that makes it a must-see when visiting Memphis. With the world as its inspiration, all items on the menu are bold and exciting and the “Watermelon and Wings” deliver a taste sensation.
Can you dye my roots while I eat?!
- Catherine & Mary’s –. Catherine & Mary’s offers a refined and innovative take on Italian food that is still truly authentic and scrumptious. The restaurant’s rustic building and modern detailing are perfectly paired with vibrant artwork to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Whether you’re looking to dance off dinner, meet new people, enjoy live music, or just have a good drink – Memphis offers a different venue for every mood:
- Mollie Fontaine Lounge – Venturing out into the Victorian Village, you will find a quaint house where all are welcome. Here you will find softer music, classy drinks, and a decorative and engaging environment that allows for conversation.
- Paula & Raiford’s Disco – This eclectic nightclub in downtown Memphis is known to be the place for a liberating and entertaining night of dancing with your friends. Unfortunately, the disco-themed club only opens on Friday and Saturday night from 10 PM, so be sure to keep that in mind if you’re planning on visiting.
Keep your eyes Bealed on this street!
- Beale Street – The ultimate tourist destination in Memphis most definitely lives up to its reputation. Live music streams from all cafes, bars, and restaurants no matter the day of the week. This street truly comes alive at night and you are sure to find a spot that suits you just right.
Memphis pulls out the welcome mat to all visitors, but these places stand out amongst chain hotels because of their unique and distinguished natures:
- Peabody Hotel – Arguably the most versatile hotel in Memphis, the Peabody not only provides its guests with an elegant and lavish place to stay but also various forms of entertainment. Guests can watch the famous Peabody ducks march from the rooftop to the Hotel lobby, visit the exceptional restaurant and bar, or join a festive rooftop party.
Is this the ‘House on Haunted Hill’??!!
- Hu Hotel – Hu Hotel’s promise of ‘Southern Sophistication’ is delivered in full as the tasteful décor, luxurious comfort, excellent service, and gorgeous views found on the higher floors make for a truly unforgettable stay.
- James Lee House – The night sky and blissfully peaceful neighbourhood create the perfect backdrop for this sumptuous Victorian boutique hotel which offers five extravagant yet intimate suites for your stay.
There are no half measures in Memphis – only rich culture, vibrant music, true southern hospitality, sensational foods, and entertainment all around. If it’s good enough for Elvis, it’s good enough for you and me!