A mecca for music lovers and the barbecue-obsessed, this soulful Southern city manages to preserve tradition while maintaining a forward-looking spirit.
Memphis is a city forever associated with music. Elvis fans flock here to see the King’s over-the-top mansion, and the recording studio where he, together with the likes of Johnny Cash and B.B. King, all made music. When you’re not paying homage to Memphis’ musical greats, visit the city’s historic sites, explore top-notch museums and feast on succulent smoked meats.
Start your musical pilgrimage at Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley. Examine his record collection, view the animal print and plant-dotted Jungle Room and pay your respects at his grave, which is located on the grounds. Music fans can also peek inside the venerable Sun Studio, where the likes of Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and others all recorded their tracks. Browse the exhibits at the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Educate yourself on Memphis’s history at a range of key locations. Top of any traveler’s list should be the National Civil Rights Museum, which is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Also worth a look is the family-friendly Pink Palace Museum, where exhibits are devoted to history, culture and science. The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum educates visitors on life in the pre-Civil War South.
For kids, Memphis offers a couple of superb animal-oriented attractions. Bring little ones to see the fountain-splashing ducks at the famous Peabody Hotel and the giant pandas at the Memphis Zoo. For adults hoping to experience the city’s legendary nightlife, take a stroll down the bar and blues club-lined Beale Street in downtown Memphis.
Memphis is located near the Mississippi River on the southwestern border of Tennessee. To get to Memphis, fly into Memphis International Airport. Use the trolley and public buses to navigate Downtown and Midtown. If you plan on exploring outside these neighborhoods, it’s advisable to rent a car. Plan your visit for spring or fall when the weather is warm but has yet to reach the sizzling summer highs of July and August.