Family Days & Date Nights at Memphis Museums
Fact: I love visiting museums.
Fact: I have a four-year-old.
These realities can clash. Memphis museums do a nice job of making sure they don’t. Here are my recommendations on making museum visits that will inspire the entire family – plus after-hours enticements just for the adults:
For the kids: The first Saturday of every month, drop in for Family Studio (10:30-12:30). Museum staffers greet you with direction on a creative project and all the necessary materials (we’ve created collages, painted self portraits and pieced together paper dragons in the past). Bonus: Saturday mornings at the Dixon are free between 10 a.m. and noon. We also love the Dixon’s periodic (and free) Family Days that correspond with exhibits or the seasons – the next one, with a gardening theme, is scheduled for June 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For the adults: The third Thursday evening of every month brings Art After Dark, a grab bag of performances, tours, films and live music set in the galleries and/or gardens. The next event, a meet-and-greet with artist Lee Littlefield and music by Sibella, is set for April 19. Hint: Now’s a good time to reserve your tickets for Symphony in the Gardens (May 12) and Shakespeare in the Gardens (May 23-June 3), when the Tennessee Shakespeare Co. will present The Glass Menagerie.
For the kids: Drop in to “Creation Station,” free with museum admission one Saturday a month (the next is scheduled for April 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Like the Dixon, museum staffers will direct kids in an art-making project (all materials included). Ready for your freebies? Visit for free on “Wacky Wednesdays” between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. throughout June and July, when kids can engage in art-making or view films. And on June 23, The Brooks will host its next (free) Family Day – themed around the coming exhibition Soul of a City (opening June 9, it’s a Brooks-curated display of African-American art gathered around town).
For the adults: The Brooks stays open late every third Thursday – here too you’ll find a kaleidoscope of activities from tours and artist talks to films and musical performances. Bonus: The museum’s restaurant, Brushmark, stays open ‘til 9 p.m. Thursday evenings. The food is refined but my favorite take-away is the view of surrounding Overton Park. The next Third Thursday happens April 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. Memphis’ Argentine Tango Society will be dancing – and giving free lessons. You know you want to go.
National Ornamental Metal Museum
For the kids: This museum, the only one in the U.S. where metalwork is both curated and created, is probably best known for its annual Repair Days (in the fall), but if you watch the calendar, you can take advantage of periodic free admission events. It’s worth it just to take the family and walk the grounds – trees and outdoor sculptures (oversized and colorful) punctuate the grassy landscape that opens to one amazing view of the Mississippi. My strategy: We’ll be there May 26 for International Blacksmith Day (10 a.m.-5 p.m.), a free day full of blacksmith demonstrations, hands-on activities and museum admission.
For the adults: There’s always something going on here after-hours – primarily, artist receptions and concerts. Next up: a reception on May 4 from 6-9 p.m. illuminating two museum exhibits (the enamel work presented in the exhibit Alchemy and the multi-genre creations of artist Lauren Kalman) – plus entertainment by fire dancers. Yes, I said fire dancers. See you there.
What’s your favorite Memphis museum?