You can find adventure in untouched nature, music icons, and even an earthquake simulator at attractions in and within a few hours' drive of Memphis. Easily start planning your family vacation with the suggested stops below.
Discovery Park of America is a world-class museum that offers entertainment in an educational setting located about 113 miles from Memphis. With 50 acres and 70,000 square feet of exhibits ranging from nature to technology to science, the museum is home to a Human Slide, Earthquake Simulator, The Tower and the Starship Theater. Outside, enjoy gardens, 100 year-old buildings and a train station from the 1800s.
One of the largest facilities of its kind in the Southeast, the Memphis Museum of Science and History showcases cultural and natural history, science and more through immersive exhibits, history and architecture at the Pink Palace Mansion and wetlands, native flowers and woodlands education at the Lichterman Nature Center. Travel through space at the AutoZone Dome at the Sharpe Planetarium and catch an immersive film in the CTI 3D Giant Theater.
Kids can strengthen their minds and bodies with fun and exciting activities at Ninja Warrior Hangout. Find your inner ninja through obstacle courses, rope climbs, balance challenges and more. Toddlers can get in on the fun at Toddler Town, a space designed for curious toddler minds in mind.
Ghost Section of Wolf River
If you and your family are avid kayakers or know your way around a canoe paddle, take in some fresh West Tennessee air along the Ghost Section of the Wolf River, home to some of the last natural landscape of its kind. An untouched forest ecosystem and tranquil waters wait as the cypress trees live in a shadowy pool. The trail is marked for those paddling along, discovering the natural beauty of this Tennessee location. It is advised that only skilled paddlers embark on this trail as there are branches, tree stumps and slow waters to maneuver. The whole trip can last around 4-6 hours.
The restoration of Flagg Grove School transformed Tina Turner's childhood one-room schoolhouse into a museum of the globally-known singer's accomplishments. An authentic chalkboard, desks and benches were also preserved to tell the story of education for African-American students in the 1940s and 1950s. The Queen of Rock's memorabilia is vast complete with costumes, gold records and her high school yearbook.
Your kids will love playing at Battlezone Park, 10 acres of indoor and outdoor fun including axe throwing, paintball, laser tag, Nerf wars, Gellyball courses for younger kids and low impact paintball. Several courses are available as well as concessions and a hang out area with free Wi-Fi.
The Mud Island River Park tells the story of the Lower Mississippi River. It served as transportation during the Civil War, influenced songs and served as a guide for early settlers and Europeans. The Mud Island River Park is an exact model of the River and features 20 cities, concrete wedges that locate the main rivers that flow into the Mississippi, and a one-acre dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico that serves a pedal boat ride around the Gulf area.
Did you know Memphis was home to a herd of buffalo? Get a peek at these creatures when you visit Shelby Farms Park. You can easily spend a full day at the park, participating in age-friendly activities for everyone in the family. Miles of paved and natural trails for walking and biking, BMX trails, half-hour to two-hour trail rides, a treetop course and so much more will have you laughing and enjoying West Tennessee's great outdoors. Have lunch at Cheffie's at Shelby Farms Park or Coastal Fish Company and curb cravings with snacks, cold drinks and frozen treats at the Lake's Edge Gift Shop and the Pine Lake Boat House + General Store.
You don't have to travel far for a safari. One of the largest collections of zoo animals in the state, Tennessee Safari Park is home to primates, exotic birds, cranes, tapirs, kangaroos and buffalo. Take a tour to see ostrich, emu, a reticulated giraffe, African warthog and axis deer.
Learn about fire safety, the history of fire departments and more at the Memphis Fire Museum. Kids will love climbing up into the firetruck, seeing the horse-drawn fire wagons, seeing firefighters fight the simulated flames and more.
The National Civil Rights Museum is a must-visit when in Memphis. Bring your family to this immersive museum that offers 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films, interactive media and exhibits that guide you through 500 years of history from the beginning of slavery to important events of the late 20th century that inspire people around the world to stand up for equality. Learn of Civil Rights Movement leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and changemakers like Rosa Parks, students who participated in the 1960 sit-ins and more.
Children ages 2-10 will love the exhibits that encourage learning through play at Children’s Museum of Memphis. They can explore a variety of activities from rock climbing to making digital art, play in a bank, grocery store and farm. They’ll learn how the body works, electricity is conducted and how planes fly. In warmer months, explore water wonders in the H2Oh! Splash Park and make larger-than-life bubbles in the new Bubble Gardens (both are open Memorial Day through Labor Day).
Bundle up for a visit to Memphis Botanic Garden to see winter flowers and plants like Quince, witch hazel, Japanese camellias, hellebores and daffodils. Children will love exploring, creating and discovering nature around them at My Big Backyard. This kid-friendly space has 16 different themed areas including artistic play spaces along Playhouse Lane, the Backyard Bluff stage where kids can create rhythms on the drums, bells and marimbas, get a bird’s eye view in Treetop Adventure and learn about the important roles of plants in our homes in the Home Sweet Home area.
Do something unique with your kids and take an eagle tour in January and February at Reelfoot Lake State Park. The two-hour tours include an experienced park naturalist who shares about the natural and cultural history of the area. During the tours, you can see eagles flying, snatching a fish from the lake, perching and soaring. In the warmer months, you can reserve a spot on the scenic pontoon boat tours (May through September), take a lily pad canoe tours in July and attend the Pelican Festival in October featuring pelican canoe floats, pelican pontoon boat tours, wildlife photography programs and more.
Memphis Music Museums
Introduce your kids to Memphis’ rich music history by touring some of the music museums around the city. Learn about the King of Rock n’ Roll at Elvis Presley’s Graceland; hear music from legends Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and others at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music; spend some time diving into the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum to learn about the birth of rock and soul music; and see where Elvis got his start at Sun Studio and where Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and more record iconic songs.
Have a family-friendly afternoon of music on famous Beale Street. You can hear a wide range of genres from blues, rock n’ roll and soul. Beale Street also has shops filled with sweets, galleries, restaurants and more.
Be apart of the excitement of a Memphis Grizzlies NBA game with your older kids. Cheer on Ja Morant and the Grizzlies as they take on NBA teams at FedExForum close to Beale Street. Get home game tickets and swing by the Grizz Den for your Memphis gear before the game.
Explore even more family-friendly stops near Memphis.