Caution: reading this story may cause cravings for a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.
Packed with history, amazing music, and ridiculously delicious food, Memphis truly has something for everyone. If you’re planning a trip to this soulful city (lucky you!), the toughest part is narrowing down the many attractions and activity options. Need some guidance? Check out our top 10 things to do in Memphis, Tennessee.
1. Visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel
Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum at the preserved Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Coming face-to-face with such a dark moment in American history is an emotional experience for many visitors. The rest of the museum provides a crucial and deeply impactful education in civil rights and racism in the United States. Permanent exhibits explore the origins of slavery and delve into the civil rights movement of the 20th century and the resistance efforts that continue today. Our country is lucky to have this resource, and if you’re in Memphis, it’s a must-visit.
2. Tour the Stax Museum
Listen to the original sounds of Memphis as you tour the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum includes a recreated Mississippi Delta church from 1906, tons of vintage recording equipment, a Soul Train dance floor and even Isaac Hayes’ sparkly Cadillac.
3. Experience the Magic of Graceland
The iconic home of Elvis Presley, Graceland is one of the most well-known places to visit in Memphis. Giggle over the ornate decorations (nothing less for The King himself!) as you learn more about Elvis’ life and career and check out one-of-a-kind memorabilia. Just keep in mind that possible side effects of a visit to Graceland include craving a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich and Googling, “How much would it cost to install a stained glass peacock in my living room?”
4. See the Peabody Ducks
Whether or not you stay at the Peabody Hotel, you should visit at precisely 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. to watch the twice-daily parade of mallards, known as the “great Peabody Ducks.” You get to be the paparazzi as you watch the procession of ducks waddle down a red carpet to the grand hotel fountain.
5. Ride the Sun Studio Shuttle
Sun Studio was once used by legends like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B. King and is still in use as a recording studio by artists such as U2 and Def Leppard. Tour the studio, then jump aboard the free Sun Studio shuttle that travels from Graceland to Sun Studio, the Heartbreak Hotel and the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum. The shuttle picks up hourly and runs seven days a week. It’s a great way to get around to some of the top spots in Memphis.
6. Meander Down Beale Street
Dubbed “Home of the Blues,” Beale Street is a great place to grab a beer and a plate of barbecue and revel in the soulful sounds of local Memphis musicians. Here, you’ll find three blocks of eateries, watering holes, live music, museums and other local highlights.
7. Listen Your Way Through the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
Established by the Smithsonian Institution, the Rock ’n’ Soul Museum showcases a span of music across many genres and generations. As Sun Studio, Stax and Hi Records began to grow rapidly, Memphis became a hotbed of musical influence, and this museum delves into the history of that sound. Music lovers will be in heaven.
8. Explore the Memphis Zoo
Rated as one of the best zoos in America and home to over 3,500 animals, the Memphis Zoo is one of only four zoos in the country to house the endangered panda. Review the zoo’s daily schedule so you can be sure to get a front row seat for feedings and events that showcase the amazing and diverse animals that live here.
9. Tour the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
This antebellum home has become a museum and monument dedicated to telling the untold stories of America’s past. You will not only learn about the history of the slave trade, but you will get an up-close look at the secretive workings of the underground railroad. The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is an education and affecting experience that’s not to be missed.
10. Take a Walk on the Riverfront
Memphis isn’t just a city rich in history, music, and culture, it’s also a beautiful place. Take in some of the best views of the city with a walk on the Memphis Riverfront. Start at Beale Street Landing and take in the stunning views of the Mississippi River on the walk to nearby Tom Lee Park. Then reward yourself with more barbecue, because hey, you’re in Memphis.