I visited Memphis numerous times for Graceland but was excited to explore more of this vibrant city. My husband and I took a memorable day trip from our RV park in Tunica, MS, immersing ourselves in the local culture, savoring delectable cuisine, visiting historic Civil Rights sites, and shopping where The King once did. Here are 9 impressive things to do in Memphis, Tennessee, that we enjoyed and hope you will, too.
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1. Tour Graceland
Memphis is home to Graceland, the sole residence of Elvis Presley. Preserved with care, this modest abode remains brimming with the King’s personal belongings, drawing visitors from all corners of the globe. The expansive tour of Graceland unveils room after room of remarkable memorabilia, including gold and platinum records, striking jumpsuits, and artifacts from Elvis’s iconic concerts and films.
Not to be missed is the Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum, now housed in what was once the awards room. The Jungle Room, adorned with green shag carpeting and a Polynesian flair, is a delightful detour.
Additionally, visitors can glimpse “Lisa Marie,” the aircraft named after Elvis’s cherished daughter, and the Meditation Garden where Elvis and his family (including Lisa Marie) are interred.
2. Shop at the Clothier to the King
During our visit to Memphis, we were excited to stumble upon the renowned Lansky Brothers store at the Peabody Hotel. As the preferred clothier to the King himself, the Lansky Brothers crafted numerous iconic and glamorous outfits for him. As I marveled at the guitars and memorabilia adorning the walls, I couldn’t help but admire their fashionable apparel.
Established in 1946, Lansky Brothers has remained a fixture in Memphis, offering stylish attire for men and women for over 75 years. Their merchandise caters to customers of all budgets with a diverse range of options. I scored a fantastic new pair of sneakers and some potential Christmas gifts during my visit.
3. Visit a National Civil Rights Site
I was emotionally overcome when I reached downtown Memphis and set foot on the National Civil Rights Museum site. The site where Dr. Martin Luther King’s life was tragically taken on April 4th, 1968, holds immense power and significance.
The meticulously preserved Lorraine Motel and its surroundings are staged to resemble that fateful day, which creates an awe-inspiring scene. Inside the National Civil Rights Museum, you can explore the historic buildings and the museum with an $18 ticket ($15 for ages 5 to 17). Visitors can purchase timed tickets online or take their chances by walking up to the museum entrance.
Plan to spend about 90 minutes here as the museum presents compelling stories of African Americans who faced and fought against discrimination. Please be aware that the content may be sensitive to some individuals. This museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate and is closed on Tuesdays.
FYI: Free parking is available for museum guests. Enter the lot by turning north on Mulberry Street from G.E. Patterson Avenue.
4. Have a Fabulous Sunday Brunch
I carefully review menus when visiting new places, seeking the best local and tourist food experiences. So, you can imagine my excitement when we snagged a Sunday brunch reservation at Automatic Slim’s, a fantastic restaurant downtown.
This spot boasts a killer menu and fun decor. Automatic Slim’s was my top choice for dining in Memphis, and landing a Sunday brunch reservation there in the South felt like pure luck.
Both my husband and I love Benedicts, so naturally, we gravitated towards that section of the menu. He ordered the Crab Cake Benedict, and I opted for the BBQ Brisket Benedict—a dish I hadn’t seen anywhere before. The tender and flavorful brisket arrived on an open-faced biscuit, topped with perfectly poached eggs and BBQ hollandaise. While a touch more hollandaise would have been perfect, the taste was impeccable. I savored every single bite.
If Benedicts aren’t your thing, Automatic Slim’s offers frittatas, casseroles, chicken and waffles, and various delicious pancake and waffle combinations.
5. See a Show at the Orpheum Theatre
The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee, is a renowned performing arts venue. With 2,308 seats, it presents a diverse lineup of off-Broadway shows, musicals, dramas, dance performances, movies, and special events. As an iconic landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, the theater boasts a striking appearance, especially at night when its neon Orpheum sign illuminates the town.
Once acclaimed as one of the most beautiful theaters beyond New York City, it continues to enchant visitors. The remarkable decor, crystal chandeliers, gilded molding, and exquisite draperies will leave visitors in awe. And don’t miss the mighty Wurlitzer organ that still graces this magnificent theater.
Upcoming performances at the Orpheum in 2023-24 include “Six,” “Bluey’s Big Play,” “Beetlejuice,” “Wicked,” “The Nutcracker,” and “Les Miserables.”
6. Stroll Beale Street
Beale Street, a National Historic Landmark in Memphis, is a legendary attraction famous for its live music, vibrant nightlife, and mouthwatering BBQ. This pedestrian-only area, known as the “Home of the Blues,” offers countless activities and sights for visitors.
As you wander the streets, you’ll find a few shops, some filled with Western wear and quirky souvenirs, while others offer high-quality merchandise. Two of my favorites are Memphis Music, where you can find vinyl records and music-themed purses, and A. Schwab, an iconic general store established in 1876. This charming spot provides fabulous t-shirts and collectible items. It features a small museum on the second floor and a delightful ice cream parlor on the first floor, serving gelato.
Keep an eye out for the talented street performers that add to the vibrant atmosphere of this legendary street. Of course, a trip to Beale Street wouldn’t be complete without indulging in its delectable cuisine. Whether you prefer BB King’s Blues Club, Dyer’s Burgers, Hard Rock Cafe, or Blues City Cafe, you’ll find these and many more dining options.
Please note that to access Beale Street after 11 PM, you must be 21 years old and carry a valid ID.
7. Find the Historic Markers and Colorful Murals
Memphis boasts an impressive collection of historical markers, murals, and sculptures that enhance its renowned landscape. Handy Park is where you can find the W.C. Handy sculpture and the park’s frequent free performances. The hand-painted guitars throughout the city feature captivating artwork and tribute to beloved musicians.
Among these are twenty giant replicas of B.B. King’s iconic “Lucille” style guitars, featured in the Gibson GuitarTown Public Art Display. Each marker tells a unique story, often accompanied by famous quotes. The vibrant murals throughout the city never fail to brighten one’s day.
Don’t miss the opportunity to capture selfies in front of these incredible, original art pieces—a lasting reminder of your journey and a delightful addition to your social media feed.
8. See the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel
The Peabody Ducks, a cherished Memphis tradition, captivate young and old as they showcase their magic. This century-old performance takes place daily in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, where the ducks, guided by a red carpet, make their way to the exquisite Italian travertine marble fountain.
This iconic scene boasts not only the splashing and bathing of the ducks, but also presents a stunning display of historical architecture in the hotel lobby. Curious about the ducks’ leisure time? The Royal Duck Palace on the hotel rooftop offers a 12×24 foot glass and marble enclosure with cooling ceiling fans and granite floors.
An expansive window lets guests glimpse these feathered stars during their well-deserved breaks.
The Peabody is a proud Historic Hotels of America member, further highlighting the significance of preserving our architectural heritage.
9. See a Sporting Event
I was thrilled when my daughters saw a Memphis Redbirds game with their grandparents some 20 years ago. It’s incredible how the team continues to captivate fans.
The Redbirds are a Minor League Baseball team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, playing in the Triple-A East league. Their games occur at AutoZone Park, the priciest minor league venue in the nation, with a seating capacity of 10,000.
Another fantastic sporting event to attend is a Memphis Grizzlies game held at FedExForum. The Grizzlies, an NBA team, relocated from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001 and have made ten playoff appearances. Notable players include Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph.
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