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Things to do in Memphis

Things to do in  Memphis

Welcome to Memphis

Memphis serves up a feast for all the senses, as it sizzles with hip restaurants, happening bars, and rocking music venues. Visitors flock to this vibrant Tennessee city on the banks of the Mississippi River for its musical history, legendary barbecue, and classic Southern charm. Memphis boasts a proud history of elevating some of the greatest musicians of all time to immortality, and it places this history proudly on display. Book a private or small-group walking or coach tour to discover the B.B. King Blues Club; the Statue of Elvis Presley; the Stax Museum of American Soul Music; and Sun Studio, where Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash launched their rock ’n’ roll careers. Elvis aficionados won’t want to miss a guided tour of Presley’s home, Graceland, to see memorabilia and his 1955 pink Cadillac. Memphis’ heritage goes beyond the blues, though: Take a history-focused walking tour to learn about the city’s role in the Civil Rights movement; and check out the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. For relaxing ride, settle back on a riverboat tour down the Mississippi River to glide past Victorian Village and the Memphis Pyramid. Finally, investigate Beale Street’s jazz clubs in downtown Memphis with a guide; or hunt for ghosts on a group exploration across the city.

Top 15 attractions in Memphis

Sun Studio

A veritable icon of music and a Memphis landmark, Sun Studio is known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, the very first rock single (Rocket 88) was recorded here in 1951, when it was called the Memphis Recording Service. The former recording studio’s musical heritage—made famous thanks to the superstardom of artists such as Elvis and Johnny Cash—and collection of one-of-a-kind memorabilia make it an unforgettable stop in Memphis.More


The second most-visited home in the United States (behind only the White House), Graceland was home to Elvis Presley during the height of his career. Although the rock ’n’ roll singer and pop culture icon died in the white-columned mansion in 1977 at the age of 42, touring the wacky rooms of this 17,552-square-foot (1,630-square-meter) estate offers insight into the mind of The King, who is buried in the estate's Meditation Gardens.More

Beale Street

From 1920 to 1940, artists descended on Beale Street to collaborate, creating a new music style that blended smooth jazz with hard-charging rock 'n' roll. This mix eventually gave birth to the blues, a new and distinctly American genre of music that gradually made its way into the United States' pop culture mainstream. A visit to today's Beale Street, now a U.S. National Historic Landmark District, allows travelers to check out the blues clubs that served as the launching sites for some of the most famous American blues musicians of all time.More

Peabody Hotel Ducks

Peabody Hotel has some unique permanent guests in the famous "Peabody Ducks," who live on the hotel’s rooftop and perform a march toward the Grand Lobby twice daily. The tradition dates to 1933 when the general manager returned from a hunting trip and placed several live duck decoys in the hotel’s fountain. The guests’ positive response prompted their stay.More

National Civil Rights Museum

Built around the former Lorraine Motel—where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968—the National Civil Rights Museum immediately conveys its cultural and historical significance to all who visit. Exhibits chronicle some of the most important episodes of the Civil Rights Movement, including the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Little Rock Nine, Montgomery Bus Boycotts, and the famous sit-ins of the 1960s.More

Memphis Orpheum Theater

Built in 1928, the Memphis Orpheum Theater is a historic theater and one of America’s few remaining “movie palaces” from the 1920s era. Before it was the Orpheum, it was the site of the Grand Opera House and home to vaudeville performances for nearly two decades. Since then it has withstood the threat of bankruptcy, demolition and being burnt to the ground to become known as the “South’s Finest Theater.”Decorated with ornate crystal chandeliers, luxe draperies, carved moldings, and a large pipe organ, the theater was restored in 1996 to its former glory along with an expansion of the stage and backstage areas. Today, the theater hosts top Broadway shows, concerts, comedy shows, and special events year-round. Many famous faces have graced the Orpheum stage, and it continues to be a center for arts and entertainment and culture of Memphis.More

Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

No trip to Memphis, Tennessee—often called the birthplace of rock and roll—would be complete without learning about its music history, and the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum is just the place. Originally a Smithsonian Institute research project, the collection focuses not only on the music itself, but also the artists and socio-economic and racial struggles that led to its creation.More

A. Schwab

A. Schwab is a dry goods store that has become a local landmark and Memphis institution. Since being opened in 1876, the store has transformed from a men’s clothing and goods shop to a collection of seemingly every item imaginable. It is the only remaining original business on Beale Street.With two floors of displays filled with everything from regional arts and crafts to historic books, records, and artifacts, it is only fitting that the Beale Street Museum, located on a small balcony above the first floor, is also housed here. A. Schwab even has quirky memorabilia such as love potions and corn cob pipes. The store’s creaky wooden floors, dim lighting and original architectural details keep the building’s historic feel, making a visit feel like a step back in time. Their motto is “if you can’t find it at Schwab’s, you’re better off without it.”More

Court Square

The park at Court Square is a beautifully landscaped open space offering a change from the urban structures of the city. With a large fountain, gazebo, and benches, it is a popular spot for locals to enjoy a lunch break or a relaxing afternoon. In the summer months the park is home to outdoor concerts, food truck gatherings, karaoke contests, and other community events.Situated right at the center of downtown Memphis, it is considered by many to be the heart of the city and thus is also a frequent meeting place. The square is surrounded by some of the most architecturally significant buildings in Memphis, and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a great place to sit and relax in the shade while taking in some of the sights of Memphis, as the antique trolleys roll by.More

Victorian Village

Victorian Village, an historic neighborhood once known as Millionaire’s Row, is lined with grand mansions dating back to the mid to late 1800s. Some of these Victorian-era estates, including the Mallory Neely House, James Lee House, and Woodruff-Fontaine House, have been converted into museums, inns, and even a nightlife hot spot.More

Handy Park

Handy Park is a large public park known for its wide, open fields and stage, making it a great outdoor concert and event space in Memphis. The park was named for W.C. Handy, the “Father of Blues.” A large statue of W.C. Handy stands tall in the park.Events that take place in Handy Park are always free and open to the public, often attracting large crowds. With an outdoor amphitheater that seats 2,000, it is a favorite local spot to enjoy a cold beverage and the great outdoors. There is also a small stage that often is home to impromptu blues performances on afternoons! The park is right off of the famous Beale Street, also home to a vibrant music culture and known as the “home of the Blues.” The local Memphis music scene often comes to life in Handy Park.More

Overton Park

Music, art, wildlife, and outdoor recreation collide at Overton Park, Memphis’ 342-acre (138-hectare public park. It draws both locals and visitors looking to relax, explore, picnic, or see where Elvis Presley performed in 1954 in what is considered to be the first ever rock ‘n’ roll show.More

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Discover the story of soul music at the historic home of Stax Records, now the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum lays out the legacy of one of soul music’s top record labels while also unraveling the evolution of soul music in America. Along the way, discover the backstory of artists ranging from Otis Redding to Aretha Franklin.More

Memphis Music Hall of Fame

Arguably America’s musical heart, a cultural melting pot that created the rhythm and blues sound, Memphis has a number of tourist attractions dedicated to the craft. Local favorites—some well-known, some more obscure—are celebrated in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, a small upstairs Smithsonian-branded museum, which shares a building with the Hard Rock Café Memphis and a retail outlet of Memphis clothier Lansky Bros. The museum is the headquarters for an off-site annual induction ceremony that adds new note-worthy blues, soul, and rock musicians from the city to its ranks—among its honored acts Al Green, Justin Timberlake, Johnny Cash, David Porter, Elvis Presley, and B.B. King.Visitors can read about the perfect storm that led to a burgeoning music scene in Memphis, and browse interactive displays offering information about inductees’ and their discographies. There’s also videos and large glass cases housing prized possessions including a playbill and guitar used by Johnny Cash; Isaac Hayes’ white, electric organ; Elvis Presley’s briefcase telephone; and one of Al Green’s green suits. There’s also a bevvy of outlandish, shiny and ostentatious costumes worn by inductees (including one ornamented with a stuffed snake), an Oscar from the movie Hustle and Flow, and ½ of Jerry Lee Lewis’ baby blue Cadillac protruding from a wall.More

Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum

Built in 1871, this iconic home was a top attraction on what was once known as Millionaire’s Row. Today, it draws visitors from across the country eager to see how the wealthy set once lived.Visitors who tour the grounds will learn about the life of Amos Woodruff—a famous carriage maker, president of the city council and candidate for mayor who first owned this stunning home. They will also hear about the life and times of Noland Fontaine, who ran the largest cotton business in the US and owned the Woodruff-Fontaine house between 1861 and the late 1920s. Travelers can step back in time as they explore the French Victorian architecture and family heirlooms that line the halls and rooms of this iconic home.More
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All about Memphis

When to visit

Summer temperatures in Memphis are high, reaching nearly 100°F (37.7°C), and the summer humidity can be rough to deal with, too. If you aren’t interested in the city’s annual Elvis Week activities that run for nine days in August, then it’s best to pick spring or fall for your visit.

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People Also Ask

What is Memphis known for?

Hailed as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and blues, Memphis helped launch the careers of a rollcall of iconic artists―including Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash. This Tennessee city is also known for its civil rights history and many BBQ joints, serving the famous Memphis-style barbecued pork ribs.

What should I see in Memphis?

Music fans will be in their element in Memphis, and some of the must-see attractions are Elvis Presley’s Graceland; the Memphis Rock’ n’ Soul Museum; and Beale Street, the so-called "Home of the Blues." For history buffs, the National Civil Rights Museum marks the site of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

How can I spend 2 days in Memphis?

Two days is enough time to dive into Memphis’ musical legacy at the many museums, visit the National Civil Rights Museum, and soak up the nightlife along Beale Street, with its blues bars and BBQ joints. The next day, tour Elvis Presley’s Graceland and take a Mississippi River cruise.

What attractions are there in Memphis?

The most visited attractions in Memphis are all must-do's for music fans—Elvis Presley’s Graceland, the legendary Sun Studio, and Memphis Rock’ n’ Soul Museum. This Mississippi River city is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the Beale Street entertainment district.

What is there to do in Memphis at night?

Memphis’ most famous nightlife is downtown—hit the blues bars and BBQ joints along Beale Street, then swing by the legendary B.B. King’s Blues Club or Wild Bill’s. For a more local vibe, Midtown neighborhoods Cooper-Young and Overton Square have everything from cocktail bars and microbreweries to live music venues.

Is Memphis a safe city?

No. Memphis is not considered one of the safer US cities. However, it’s still possible to travel safely in Memphis if you stick to tourist areas, watch out for pickpocketing, and take care after dark.


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