Memphis is known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and the home of the blues but there is so much more to the Bluff City than a great music heritage.
For one, there is a great food scene that begins with world-class barbecue and continues with a fabulous chef-driven restaurant culture that can be found in neighborhoods from the South Main Historic Arts District to Cooper-Young, Overton Square, Broad Avenue Arts District and back to the Downtown Core.
In 2013, USA Today named Beale Street the nation’s most iconic street. Stretching east four blocks from the banks of the Mississippi River, it is filled with restaurants, blues clubs, bars, iconic shops and museums that will fill a whole day and night with fun.
A few years back, TripAdvisor named the Memphis Zoo tops in the United States. Everyone loves the pandas, but the grizzly bears, timber wolves and elk in Teton Trek are pretty cool, too.
The nearby Northwest Passage features massive polar bears, black bears, bald eagles and a fun sea lion show. And with Primate Canyon, Once Upon a Farm, Cat Country, the Tropical Bird House and many more exhibits, the zoo will keep the whole family entertained for hours.
Memphis is home to great festivals and events such as Memphis in May, Cooper-Young Festival, South Main Trolley Night, the Levitt Shell Summer Concert Series, Indie Memphis Film Festival, International Blues Challenge and Elvis Week.
Yes, Elvis – Memphis was home to the king of rock ‘n’ roll. Sure, you can visit his home at Graceland, the second-most visited private home in the United States. Also check out Sun Studio where the music was born with Elvis and other greats including B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison.
Learn about the confluence of all the genres that met in Memphis to create the great blues, rock, country and soul sounds at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.
Speaking of the Memphis sound, a visit to the city isn’t complete without getting into the groove at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Stax was a legendary recording studio in its heyday of the 1960s. It was made famous by icons such as Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas and Isaac Hayes.
It’s possible the great music of Memphis wouldn’t be possible without the role of race. It was on the city’s African-American main street of Beale where a young Elvis found music inspiration, and Stax was a place of harmony and unity for whites and blacks during the civil rights struggle.
That struggle is honored at the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The museum tells the story of the fight for civil rights through interactive exhibitions from the days of slavery through the student sit-ins, Montgomery Bus Boycotts, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and much more.
If you have time, don’t forget to get down to the river. It’s the reason Memphis was founded back in 1819. Yes, cotton was king on the bluffs, and you can learn about the role the crop played in the growth of the city at the Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange on Front Street in the old Cotton Exchange.
Also check out the views and let the kids play at Beale Street Landing, enjoy the fitness park at Tom Lee Park next to the river or even catch the best views of the Mississippi from the Metal Museum. And the city’s newest attraction, Bass Pro at the Pyramid, features an observation deck that might be the coolest vantage point of all.