Home of the Blues and the birthplace of Rock n’ Roll, Memphis is an excellent attraction for any music lover. Rivaling Nashville and New Orleans as a Southern music mecca, Memphis is home to amazing attractions such as the home of Elvis Presley in Graceland, the marching of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel, to the rich history of blues and jazz on Beal Street. The streets are filled with memories of the past and array of museums, such as Memphis Rock n’ Soul and Sun Studio, where you can get a real feel of music history.
If arriving in the morning, your first stop should be the Peabody Hotel to see the marching of the ducks. Every day (at 11AM) the ducks waddle into the elevators from the rooftop penthouse, down several floors, before flip flopping their way down the red carpet into the fountain for a quick dip. This daily tradition started way back in the 1930’s and the ducks have enjoyed splashing water at each other, making adorable quacking noises, ever since. It’s such a magical experience.
From neon flashing lights, music pumping from inside the dozens of bars and nightclubs, it’s no wonder Beale Street is one of America’s most iconic street. While strolling the cobblestone walkways, enjoying the smell of barbecue wafting from the restaurants and watching the array of street performers, Beale Street is in the heart of Memphis and you’ll immediately feel right at home. Although it tends to be extremely crowed, everyone is drinking and having an amazing time.
Just down from Beale Street you’ll find the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. This fairly new, interactive museum pays tribute to the music legends of Memphis, Elvis being the most famous of course. Although it’s less than 5,000 square feet, offers a little something for everyone. Not only will you learn about the King of Rock n’ Roll, you’ll also get insight to other Memphis musicians who were inspired by the King. From Elvis’s stage jumpsuit to Johnny Cash’s black power suit to B.B. King’s guitar, the museum offers a ton of never-seen before memorabilia. There’s also rare video performances and interviews, along with an interactive exhibit to test your rock n roll knowledge.
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the complete story behind both sides of Memphis music, rock n’ roll and soul. It provides an excellent overview of the history, while telling you the story behind music pioneers who’s love of music shook the entire world. The self-guided tour is packed full of information, taking you through the Great Depression, to how gospel and country music came together, to the birth of rock n’ roll and soul music. While scrolling the museum you’ll hear over 100 songs, see over 40 costumes, 30 instruments and other magical music treasures.
Sun Studio is where rock legends, like Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis were born. This independent record label was founded in 1952, by Sam Philips, and was the birthplace of rock n’ roll. When 18-year-old Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studio for the first time, he was asked who he sounds like, and his reply was… “I don’t sound like nobody.” On July 5, 1954, Elvis recorded his first single, “That’s All Right,” at Sun Studio and an icon was born.
Sun Studio must be the most famous recording studio in the world, and even though it changed hands a few times (including being a hair salon and laundromat), it still has the same acoustic ceiling, the original lights and even the old floor that so many legends once stood on. On the tour you can take a peek inside the control room and stand behind the same microphone that Elvis used. You’ll find the same black X painted on the floor where he stood and sang. You’ll find old instruments, including Johnny Cash’s guitar with a dollar bill stuffed between the strings, in which he used to produce that “chuffing” sound that imitates the trains and drums sound on his recordings. Hanging on the wall, you’ll see the iconic “Million Dollar Quartet” photo, which was an impromptu jam session on December 4, 1956. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash spent hours in the recording studio that evening, jamming out to their favourite songs until the wee early morning.
Speaking of Elvis, I think it’s safe to say, you can’t come to Memphis without visiting Graceland. It’s the most popular attraction, with over 600,000 people visiting it each year. From the moment you enter the grand mansion, you’re taken on a journey into the private life of The King. I highly suggest investing in the Entourage VIP Package (and adding in his airplanes for $5), as that not only includes access to the mansion, but the newly opened Entertainment Complex which includes his automobiles, an entertainment career museum and an exclusive VIP exhibit. From his iconic jumpsuits, to his famous pink Cadillac, to his hundreds of gold records, to the Lisa Marie Plane, spend hours getting lost in Elvis’s world. I will have an entire Graceland blog post coming soon.
For all my animal lovers, Memphis Zoo is a must. It’s home to over 4500 animals, and 500 different species, including the oldest African elephant in North America. Although the zoo is quite large, it’s well laid out. It features an array of unique and intricate habitats and displays, with each area setup into different parts of the world. It doesn’t get any cuter than fur babies, and the zoo has 3 youngsters right now, Winnie the hippo, Lua the sloth and Rowan the orangutan. I’d have to say my favourite area was the China exhibit, especially the pandas. The giant pandas are the smallest species of the bear family, but Le Le and Ya Ya have no problem eating upwards of 80lbs worth of bamboo a day. I instantly fell in love with their large white with black ears and soft fluffy bodies. The zoo also has a large petting area with plenty of educational games and exhibits to enjoy.
I’m not going to lie, I’m not into hunting or fishing, so when everyone kept telling me to visit the Bass Pro Shop, I wasn’t sure why. Turns out, it features the world’s tallest freestanding elevator. You can take the 28-story ride to the top and walk outside to the glass floor observation deck. The amazing 300-foot view gives you the perfect view of all of Memphis, including the Mississippi River. The top of the Memphis Pyramid is absolutely breathtaking and totally worth the visit. The Brass Pro Shop also houses the largest collection of hunting equipment in the world, if that’s your thing. It also offers a shooting range, archery range, laser tag, saltwater aquarium, bowling alley, several restaurants and bars, and even a hotel.
If you’re looking for an American treat, with a twist, head to Jerry’s Sno Cones. Be prepared for a lineup, as it’s the hottest spot in town. Be sure to get the popular supreme version, as it’s not only a yummy flavoured snow cone, there’s delicious soft served ice cream throughout the entire middle. It’s also the most Instagrammable place in Memphis, thanks to its candy coloured building.
Even wanted to be in two places at the same time… take a stroll across the Big River Crossing Bridge. It’s the longest public bridge across the Mississippi River, and in the centre of the bridge you’ll be able to stand in both Memphis TN and West Memphis AR. Plus, lets just take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is the Memphis skyline.
Be sure to catch a Redbirds Baseball game while you’re in town. For less than $20 a ticket, you’ll get the chance to sit right behind the dugout and maybe even catch a foul ball (like Derek did). This minor league baseball team is full of energy, keeps the audience entertained the entire time and serves some of the best ball food I’ve ever had.
Overton Square and Overton Park is the perfect way to spend the afternoon. Whether you’re looking to do a little shopping, grab a bite to eat or just stroll over 300 acres of public park, this midtown park is full of adventure.
Looking for a place to lay your head in Memphis, check into the Madison Hotel. Its was actually under a major transformation while we were there, and still being, but that doesn’t interfere with the beauty of the hotel. Its just steps away from Beale Street and other major attractions, yet its luxurious lobby, chic interior and quiet street is the perfect place to relax after a busy day of sight-seeing. I’m not going to lie, the King One Bedroom Suite has to be the fanciest and most luxe room I’ve ever stayed in. Its cool urban, yet sophisticated designs feature a separate bedroom, a generous seating area with a large flat-screen TV, a curated private bar, a separate working desk area and a large enough bathroom to accommodate 10 people.