LISTEN TO THE STORY HERE
This “bluff city” has everything you need for a weekend filled with food and fun. From its musical heritage and its history tied to the mighty Mississippi River to some of the most tender and tastiest renditions of barbecue, Memphis is a must-visit.
- Pink Palace
Built to be a private residence, Memphis’s Pink Palace has instead always functioned as a city museum (photo by Thomas R. Machnitzki)
This museum was going to be the home of wealthy entrepreneur Clarence Saunders, founder of Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, and the mansion’s pink Georgian marble façade earned it its nickname. Saunders began building the house in the early 1920’s, but after a legal dispute drained his fortune, he was forced to declare bankruptcy mid-project. The unfinished house was given to the city, which turned it into a museum. You can explore the cultural and natural history of the mid-South area via its multiple exhibits, dioramas, and audio-visuals.
- Mud Island
There’s so much to see and do at Mud Island, but don’t miss the Riverwalk (photo by Dan Ball, courtesy of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau)
The name doesn’t make it sound like much, but Mud Island includes the Mississippi River Museum, a monorail ride, an amphitheater (that often hosts today’s hottest bands), and more. But the most interesting component of this attraction is the Riverwalk, an exact scale replica of the Lower Mississippi River, the section that flows alongside the city. While not as large as the river itself, it’s still big, covering almost five city blocks. At the river’s end in the one-acre “Gulf of Mexico” body of water, you can take a leisurely pedal boat ride.
- Sun Studio
Visit Sun Studios and see the place where some of America’s most influential music was recorded (photo by Mr. Littlehand)
Many claim Memphis is the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll. If that’s the case, then Sun Studio, opened in 1950, was definitely the daddy. In the tiny, unassuming space, the first rock single, “Rocket 88,” was recorded in 1951 by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. There’s a story that says three years later, in 1954, a young man walked in off the street and asked if he could make a record for his mama. That eighteen-year-old raven-haired crooner was Elvis Presley. In the years following, hits by superstars like B.B. King, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Roy Orbison, and of course, the King himself were put on vinyl there. Today Sun Studio is a designated national historic landmark.
Follow in Elvis’s footsteps at his home, Graceland (photo by Andrea Zucker, courtesy of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Possibly the most famous residence in the world and a “can’t miss” on any rock ’n’ roll pilgrimage, the King’s personal playground honors his legacy as well as highlights the city’s wider contributions to music. Commune with the spirit of Elvis by touring his bedroom, living room, kitchen, meditation garden, and the basement-level Jungle Room, most known for its exotic, Hawaii-themed décor.
- Beale Street
Located in the heart of downtown Memphis, with three blocks packed with bars, restaurants, and shops, this iconic stretch of asphalt is also lined with clubs that have hosted and inspired blues, jazz, and rock legends, the places where they poured passion, energy, and soul into sound. You can feel its musical past hanging in the air while listening to live music today at spots like B.B. King’s, Lew’s Blew Note, and Silky O’ Sullivan’s.
Savor a plate of succulent pork ribs at Rendezvous in downtown Memphis (photo by Craig Thompson, courtesy of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Memphis is home to some of the most storied and acclaimed barbecue institutions in America, places like Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous. Tucked in an alleyway around the corner from The Peabody, this is the place to sample Memphis-style pork ’cue. Start with an appetizer: a plate mounded high with thick rounds of hickory smoked sausage, planks of sharp cheddar and dill pickles all doused with this spot’s spicy dry rub. Next, order a slab of tender pork ribs, seasoned with the dry rub before being cooked low and slow. There’s some sauce on the table if you want it, but you won’t need it. The meat is moist and flavorful all on its own.
The Peabody’s ducks are some of the country’s most famous feathered friends (photo courtesy of The Peabody and the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau)
The Peabody is not just a place to lay your head; it’s an experience unto itself. Featuring luxury laced with whimsy—courtesy of its marching ducks—the hotel was built in 1869. But the property’s signature ducks started as a practical joke. In the 1930’s, the general manager and a buddy returned from duck hunting in Arkansas, and due to the major amounts of Tennessee whiskey they’d imbibed, thought it was a fine idea to put a few of their live decoy ducks into the lobby’s fountain. They did it, everyone loved it, and thus the Peabody duck tradition began. Today a group of the feathered friends live at the hotel and march to and from their living quarters to the fountain (on a red carpet) twice each day. They may be one of the main attractions, but they’re not the only reason to book a room here. This grand Southern hotel’s hospitality and opulence have garnered numerous awards, including the AAA Four Diamond, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you decide to make your way to the Bluff City in the springtime, check the schedule of festivities going on all month long during the annual celebration, Memphis in May. With its diverse offerings, including The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, this event draws thousands of visitors and residents each year and was recently named the top festival in the Southern United States in a nationwide readers’ poll by USA Today.
SEE ALL “7 ABSOLUTELY-MUST-SEE-N-DO IN MEMPHIS” PHOTOS HERE