If you've got vacation time coming up and are looking for a great getaway, put Memphis on your list. Experience culture, music, soul and some of the best food you’ll ever tasted. Check out the four-day itinerary below.
Kick off your trip in an unexpected way by making your first stop the Metal Museum. Nestled on the bank of the Mississippi River, this is the only museum in the country dedicated to the craft of artisan metalwork. Experience a variety of temporary exhibits, as well as the permanent collection that features hand-crafted pieces of art. The Metal Museum boasts a functioning blacksmith and, in Mark Twain’s opinion, one of the most spectacular views of Ol’ Man River in existence.
Get wild and crazy at the Memphis Zoo, a fantastic attraction for kids of all ages, with more than 3,500 animals representing 500 different species. Check out the Zambezi Hippo Camp - home to the hippos, Nile crocodiles, flamingos and more. Grab a schedule so you can catch all the zookeeper chats, and give yourself 3-4 hours so you can see everything.
Finish out your day with dinner and drinks in the South Main Arts District in Downtown Memphis. Savor ribs at Central BBQ or book a reservation for amazing cocktails, pasta, steak and sharing plates at Catherine & Mary's.
Save room for dessert from The Cheesecake Corner. This popular after-dinner spot is the perfect place to settle in with a nice glass of wine and a slice of decadent cheesecake. There are at least a dozen flavors to choose from, like caramel apple, butter crème, coconut pecan, strawberry daiquiri and cookie dough., the servings are enormous – plenty to share.
Cap off the evening with a drink and live music at Earnestine and Hazel’s. Touted as one of the country’s top dive bars, this mainstay is a popular hangout for locals and visitors.
There’s no better way to start the day than consuming a hearty breakfast at Arcade Restaurant. Dig into a stack of sweet potato pancakes or devour a freshly made omelet at this South Main eatery. This was one of Elvis’ favorite hangouts, and he would often sit at his favorite spot (last booth on the left), grab a bite to eat and jot down song ideas.
You can’t come to Memphis without making the trek to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Explore the personal side of Elvis Presley with an interactive iPad tour of the Graceland Mansion. Hosted by John Stamos and Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie, you'll hear personal stories and accounts as you make your way through the living room, his parents' bedroom, TV room, pool room and the famous Jungle Room. After your tour, check out Elvis Presley's Memphis Entertainment Complex, full of 10 Elvis exhibits and attractions celebrating his life and career including Presley Motors & Presley Cycles, immersive experiences and Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum.
See where Elvis made history – Sun Studio. This is the place where music greats like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and, of course, the King himself, got their start. Local musicians make excellent tour guides as visitors peruse a large collection of memorabilia and artifacts, including original recordings, a replica of Sam Phillip’s tape machine and handbills. The tour concludes in the studio itself, which still looks much like it did on that fateful day in 1954 when Elvis recorded his version of “That’s All Right” and rock ‘n’ roll was born. If you’re careful, you can even take your picture with one of the microphones that Elvis used during his recording sessions.
Get dressed up for a marvelous dinner at Fancy's Fish House. They serve daily caught fish and seafood and lavish seafood towers as well as stunning views of the Mississippi River. Start your meal off right with oysters Rockefeller or the catfish sliders topped with a remoulade sauce, pickled jalapenos and sliced cabbage. The sweet corn hushpuppies and the crab cakes with its lemon zest and creamy mustard sauce are also crowd favorites. Choose from entrees like Louisiana redfish, crab stuffed starry flounder, salmon and lobster rolls. The food is so good, you'll want to check out Fancy's brunch which includes popover eggs Benedict, red eye gravy shrimp and grits and baked French toast bananas foster.
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
Memphis was one of the country’s largest slave-trading cities in the 1800s, and because of its location, it was a critical point along the Underground Railroad. German immigrant and abolitionist Jacob Burkle offered his home as one of the resting points for slaves escaping to freedom. The Burkle Estate, known today as Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, gives an in-depth look at how slaves lived during that time. Visitors can even go down into the basement where the slaves hid, sometimes for up to weeks at a time until it was safe for them to move to the next location.
See artifacts and learn the history of the Civil Rights Movement and human rights movements worldwide at the National Civil Rights Museum. The Museum has memorialized the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was murdered, and also preserved Room 306 where Dr. King stayed the night before his assassination. History dating from 1619 to 2000 is shared through videos, text, images, and multimedia elements.
Ernest Withers was a prolific photographer during the 1950s and '60s. He was able to capture moments that no other photographer could at that time, going behind the scenes of the Negro baseball leagues, up close and personal with Dr. Martin Luther King, and covering the Emmett Till murder trial. See his firsthand account of the Civil Rights Movement from behind the lens at the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery.
We’ve got two options for dinner to round out day three. If you want a rockin’ good time, head down to Beale Street and check out B.B. King’s Blues Club for live bands and casual Southern fare like corn and jalapeño fritters, shrimp Louie salad and black-eyed pea hummus. For a more relaxed time, go upstairs (using the unmarked entrance on 2nd Street) and settle in at Itta Bena. Named for B. B. King’s hometown in Mississippi, this upscale eatery's menu focuses on Low Country classics like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup and Gulf snapper with andouille hash.
The Memphis Botanic Garden, a 96-acre retreat, offers 23 specialty gardens and is open all year long. Memphis’ temperate climate allows for a variety of species throughout this magical space. Kids will love My Big Backyard, an educational play area with a tree house, classroom, picnic tables and a wading creek. For adults, check out the Live at the Garden concert series which has featured headliners like Earth, Wind and Fire; Pat Benatar; Seal; and Duran Duran.
The picturesque Dixon Gallery and Gardens is part art gallery, part botanic garden and all splendid. The interior space showcases visiting exhibitions covering everything from modern works from local Memphis artists to famed expressionists, while the exterior area boasts vast gardens, an arboretum and numerous sculptures. The Dixon also features weekly educational programs and family days.
Keep enjoying the sights and sounds of East Memphis by dining on the patio at one of many popular restaurants. Hog & Hominy is a casual hangout that features a bocce ball court and rustic Italian cuisine. Chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman have filled the menu with wood-fired pizzas, creamy gelato and handcrafted cocktails.
Spend the afternoon browsing the many art exhibits hosted by Brooks Museum of Art. From contemporary to traditional and even ancient art, Brooks has a widespread catalog of sculptures, paintings, wood carvings and more on rotation. The museum also plays host to a wealth of traveling exhibitions as well.
At Acre, Chef Wally Joe fuses his Chinese background with classic Southern ingredients and techniques. This labor of love took almost five years of design and construction and features Koji chicken with Brussels sprouts, grilled octopus and even a whole suckling pig with all the fixings (with advance notice). Either way you go, you’ll get a delicious taste of Memphis in a trendy, up-and-coming part of town.
Herald in the autumn months by experiencing these Made in Tennessee fall festivals.