When you visit Memphis, Tennessee you can’t help but become mesmerized by the unique atmosphere. Memphis offers some of the best live music, best Southern cuisine and most interesting local attractions which will leave you craving a return visit.
Planning a weekend getaway to a city like Memphis can be a daunting task. Where will we stay? What will we do? Where will we eat? How will we ever do it all in three days?
Here is a guide to some of the must-sees, must-dos, and must-stays, to make your planning a little simpler.
Beale Street Music Festival
If you want a three-day Memphis getaway full of music and fun without much planning, this is your best bet. Unlike Bonnaroo, which is practically right up the road, this festival is much more economical with three day passes just under $70. Held the first weekend in May, the Beale Street Music Festival features more than 60 acts on four stages. The festival is held in Tom Lee Park at the end of Beale Street overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. This may be the home of the blues, but acts at the festival have included George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Willie Nelson, Kid Rock, Katy Perry, and The Black Crowes, among many others. There is truly something for everyone.
Tips: Book hotels near Beale Street and book them well in advance. You will pay a higher rate during the festival, but the convenience is a big plus. Also, it usually rains before and/or during the festival, which creates lots of mud. Wear appropriate footwear, or do like many concert goers do – don’t sweat it and slide around in the mud!
Who can mention Memphis without thinking Graceland? Once the home of The King of Rock and Roll, Graceland offers three different tour options ranging from $30-$69. Patrons are able to see Elvis Presley’s grand abode in all its original extravagant glory. Plan to spend 2-3 hours depending on which tour you choose.
After Graceland, make another stop at a legendary spot in music history – Sun Studio. You can take an hour and a half tour of this iconic building for only $12. Dubbed the “Birthplace of Rock and Roll,” Sun Studio has hosted recording sessions for Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins among others. Sun Studio’s Web site boldly proclaims, “If music was a religion, then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studio its most holy shrine.”
The Peabody Ducks
No Memphis visit would be complete without a trip to the Peabody Hotel to watch the Peabody Marching Ducks. At 11 a.m. every day, the ducks make their way, led by the Duckmaster, from the Royal Duck Palace on the roof, down the elevator, across their very own red carpet into the fountain. Then at 5 p.m. the red carpet is rolled out once again, as the ducks make their ascension back to the palace.
Tips: If you would like to view either of these grand processions, make sure you claim a spot in the lobby up to an hour early. Go browse through the shops in the Peabody as a travel companion holds your spot, and make sure you take turns.
While on the subject of animals, one of the best places to spend a day is the Memphis Zoo. The Memphis Zoo was voted number one zoo in America by Tripadvisor in 2008. It is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Admission is only $13 for adults, $8 for children ages 2-11, $12 for seniors, and parking is only $3. There are concessions, face-painting, kiddie rides, plus wheelchair and stroller rentals.
Another great attraction for your Memphis weekend is Mud Island River Park. Admission is free to this attraction which features a five-block replica of the Mississippi River. The park offers bike, kayak, canoe, and pedal boat rentals, as well. You may purchase a Pay One Price Package, providing you with a roundtrip monorail ride, guided river walk tour, and Mississippi River Museum admission.
Make sure and take a nap at some point, because your nights on Beale Street are going to expend quite a bit of energy. Beale Street is officially the “Home of the Blues,” declared by an act of Congress. You can listen to live blues all day and all night – from bands in the Pepsi Pavillion to acts in any of the several bars along Beale. Carry your favorite drink around and dance around in the street. That’s okay on Beale Street! Come earlier in the day to browse through an eclectic array of shops. Experience some of the best Southern cuisine in any of the restaurants, pubs, or cafés.
Tips: Ladies, while you’ll see plenty of females wearing them, high heels are not suggested if you are going to be enjoying your libations on a cobblestone street. Also, many places have a small cover charge after a certain hour due to the live music. There are ATMs on Beale Street for your convenience.
Catch a Broadway play, concert, or movie at the opulent Orpheum theater downtown.
If you’re bringing the little ones, check out the Children’s Museum of Memphis for interactive educational exhibits and programs.
Memphis has several museums including the Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum, The Pink Palace Museum, National Civil Rights Museum, among others.
For convenience, the best hotels to stay for your weekend getaway are downtown. Many of these hotels are in a higher price range, but provide easy access to all downtown attractions. The Peabody, Madison Hotel, Crowne Plaza Memphis, and River Inn of Harbor Town are some of the luxury hotels in the downtown district. There are also less costly options such as The Doubletree and The Holiday Inn Select. For you Elvis fanatics, The Heartbreak Hotel offers easy access to Graceland, with moderately priced guest rooms. For a splurge, go for any of the themed suites.
It’s everywhere. Chances are, while walking around downtown, you will make a list of all the restaurants you want to try. Memphis is known for its barbeque, so pick a popular barbeque spot and try it out. Cozy Corner and Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous are a couple local favorites.
Tips: Get out of your comfort zone, and stay away from the national chain restaurants. Memphis has so many great local restaurants, so try something new! Look in the city guides in your hotel, in the yellow pages, or ask locals where they would recommend.