To me, Memphis is synonymous with music. It’s the place where the blues was born and B.B. King still reigns supreme. The home of Elvis’ Graceland and an integral location for the Civil Rights Movement. Memphis is a must-see destination and I’m excited to share my Memphis City Guide. During my first visit, I learned so much about my history traced the roots of blues, soul & rock ‘n’ roll, and ate ALL the BBQ.
I can’t be the only one who thinks “…walking in Memphis” every time the city is mentioned! To say the city is rich in music history, would be putting it lightly. Music from local legends B.B. and JT is the soundtrack as you wait to claim your baggage. Some things need to be experienced instead of discussed. So I created a Memphis Playlist featuring many of the icons you’ve already heard of. As well as some unsung sheroes.
What to Do:
Like most people, the first thing that comes to mind when Memphis is mentioned is Beale Street! Its reputation precedes it, and let me just tell you, it’s worth the $5 entrance fee. It has a Bourbon Street vibe with a little bit more of a country twang. It was the perfect place for a middle of the street twerk session.
Something you might not consider doing while in Memphis is kayaking on the Mississippi River. But that would be a mistake! Kayak Memphis took me out on the water and it was a magical way to spend my day. There’s something special about seeing the city from the Mississippi River.
I visited Memphis during Gay Pride, so you already know I had to turn up and turn out! Spectrum definitely lived up to the hype. The music was incredible, the drag show was fun and the vibe made it hard to leave.
I had a great time learning about the amazing Memphis musicians and radio stations at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. I followed the musical journey and heard the transition from songs sung in the country by slaves and in churches. To blues, soul and rock songs performed by the greatest musicians to ever live. I learned the difference between “Race Records” and “Hillbilly Music” and how the music was integral to racial integration.
Racial integration and the Civil Rights Movement have deep roots here. A visit to the National Civil Rights Museum was heavy, yet necessary. I’ve only learned about the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the comfort of a classroom. Never from the seat on the front of a bus. I made a somber yet important walk down memory lane, revisiting The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. The museum is built around the former Lorraine Motel, the place civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
I always ask my Uber driver for recommendations. They hear all the best and worst reviews. They are also generally locals who know their way around town. My driver from the airport recommended Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum and although I didn’t have a chance to visit a few friends did. I would have loved to visit this Underground Railroad stop and see a different side of Memphis’ history.
My driver also mentioned that one of the best BBQ joints in town is at the airport! I didn’t get a chance to try the meat at Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ (Near Gate C7) but here are a few other places I would recommend;
Where to Eat:
Central BBQ : If you only try one BBQ joint in Memphis make it Central. The food will bring you in but the service will make you come back. Each time I visited (there were several, don’t judge!) The staff was so warm and welcoming, patient with an out-of-towner and ready with the suggestions. There are sauce options so your food can be as saucy and spicy as you like.
Meal Suggestion: Pork Ribs, Mac & Cheese, Sweet Tea, and Banana Pudding. Don’t skip the pudding!
The Rendezvous: This place has been serving up smoked ribs with dry rub spices since the ’40s. So it’s earned a spot in my Memphis City Guide. The secret and secluded vibe makes finding this spot fun. Head downstairs and be transported into another era. If the photo-filled walls and checkered tablecloths don’t impress you, the delicious smokey smell will. The distinct difference between Rendezvous ribs and others is the lack of sauce and vinegar base.
Meal Suggestion: Pork Ribs and Brisket Combination with Slaw and Beans.
Puck Food Hall: Puck’s was LIT! There was a young, fresh, hipster vibe here. The best thing about food halls is all the options. This place reminded me of Foodhallen in Amsterdam but was less overwhelming and more familiar, in a way.
One place I wish I’d had a chance to visit is Earnestine & Hazels! Not only is it a historic dive bar that’s hosted the likes of B.B. King, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles. Once a popular brothel it’s now considered haunted. They even offer ghost tours! Would it even be a Memphis City Guide without a ghost tour?
Where to Stay:
Hotel Napoleon: I was excited to stay in a historic hotel walking distance to all the places I wanted to see. My room at Hotel Napoleon was big and spacious with classic touches of Southern Charm in the decor. There is a restaurant conveniently located downstairs and some of the best eateries in the city just a few blocks away. Memphis was surprisingly a really walkable city, I suggest walking or jumping on a scooter to explore.
The Peabody Memphis: This Memphis icon, opened in 1869, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is world-famous for its five resident ducks, who march daily through the lobby at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. I’m bummed I didn’t get the opportunity to catch what I could only describe as the cutest fashion show ever! This is just reason number 271 that I need to visit Memphis again.
I would be remiss not to mention The Guest House at Graceland in my Memphis City Guide. Elvis plays such an important role in pop culture and for some, visiting The King’s home is a priceless opportunity. Visiting Graceland will cost you from $40-$70 and staying there is an investment of $130 per night.
I want to send a special thanks to Memphis Tourism for inviting me to their iconic city and showing why it’s so special to so many. I hope you enjoyed my Memphis City Guide. Did I miss anything? Tell me about your favorite Memphis places in the comments.