There is no shortage of things to do in Memphis, TN. I should know best since I am an almost lifetime resident. Memphis has something for everyone no matter your age or interests. Memphis is one of those cities that really shouldn’t be forgotten when you visit Tennessee. Perched, right on the western fringes of Tennessee (on the banks of the Mississippi, no less), it’s a great city to explore some of our famous southern charm. Best of all, there are so many things to do in Memphis…especially if you love music and some of the best grub. 🎶
Whatever your reasons for visiting Memphis, Tennessee, you should know that it will live up to all of your expectations. After a lifetime of experience, here are some of my favorite things to do in Memphis, TN (in no particular order).
1 | BEALE STREET
Beale Street is the most ICONIC and vibrant street in Memphis! Home to the blues, it’s a great spot to spend an evening out and listening to some pretty good live local music. In lots of ways, Beale Street feels like the entertainment district of Memphis and you can easily sing away a good few hours here.
Not only does it host a number of shops, cafes, clubs, museums, music studios and other well-known tourist attractions, but it’s also brimming with history as a major landmark for the blues movement.
Beale Street got its start in 1841. With a prime location near the Mississippi River, it became a hub for travelers and traders, and musicians could always find an audience among the crowds coming and going from the port. This led to a particular growth in the African-American community, and blues music started to reign supreme on Beale Street.
Today, Beale Street is home to everything from cheap nightclubs to expensive restaurants, but it hasn’t forgotten its roots.
Beale Street is one of the top things to do in Memphis, Tennessee.
In terms of entertainment, there’s always cool stuff to see; in terms of relevance, there’s just no competing with its history and heritage. You’ll definitely want to make time in your schedule for a destination like this.
Secret: Beale ‘Street’ is actually an ‘Avenue’ since it runs East to West!
Address: Beale Street, Memphis, TN 38103
2 | GRACELAND
Now, there are a few spots in Memphis that really are iconic of the city. Graceland is one of them. For anyone not in the know, it’s the home of the late Elvis Presley that’s only about 15-minutes from downtown Memphis. Nowadays, his home is open to the public and can be toured almost every day. Now, tickets can be a little pricier than some of the other attractions in Memphis but honestly, it’s a great place to visit. Whether you’re an Elvis fan or not, you can haven the best time here. It really is a special place to visit.
Address: 3764 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN 38116
3 | NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM/LORRAINE MOTEL
In lots of ways, Lorraine Motel is a spot that’s very upsetting to see. After all, it’s the place where the great Martin Luther King Jr was murdered. That being said, the struggle and cause for which he lost his life is as important now and it has ever been and a must-see when in Memphis.
Memphis was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, especially after the assassination of Martin Luther King at a Memphis motel in 1968.
Now part of the National Civil Rights Museum, the Lorraine Motel is a place to learn about the importance of equality, the awful prejudices that have (and still do) exist within humanity, and the struggle to ensure that everyone is truly equal. Rather than brushing over its ugly heritage, the city decided to use the motel as a foundation for cultural and historical education, and the National Civil Rights Museum was built around it.
You’ll need several hours to take in everything at the museum, and even that might not be enough. It’s filled with photos, documents, artifacts and exhibitions that showcase the long and painful struggle for equal rights in Tennessee. There’s a life-sized replica of a bus that was destroyed by white supremacists during the Freedom Rides. There are audio listening posts that detail various boycotts and sit-ins of activists fighting for justice. It can be difficult to see and listen to these things.
However, the Civil Rights Movement is an important part of our heritage that shouldn’t be forgotten, and this Memphis museum is dedicated to the preservation of history and the education of its visitors.
Visit the National Civil Rights Museum if you’re looking for unforgettable places to see in Memphis. It’ll be a painful, but eye-opening experience, and it’ll stick with you long after you return home from Tennessee.
Just remember that the museum isn’t open on a Tuesday, so plan your visit around this.
Address: 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103
4 | CORKY’S BBQ
(See full Corky’s post HERE)
You haven’t experienced true Memphis BBQ until you’ve had Corky’s BBQ. Corky’s has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the top BBQ restaurants in Memphis.
Traditional Memphis barbecue sauce is best known for its simplicity, and does not overwhelm the wonderful smoked flavor of the traditional barbecued pork. Although sweet compared to other regional sauces, it’s not too sweet, too thick, too spicy, or too anything. Just doggone good!
Okay, so Corky’s BBQ is something of an institution in Memphis and serves up some of the best wet (and dry) ribs in all of Tennessee. Corky’s cooks its pork shoulders for 22 hours and its ribs for over 7 hours!
Not only is the food and Southern Sweet tea amazing, so is the staff! You are greeted and treated with true and home-grown Southern hospitality that can only be experienced in Memphis. You’ll love and return over and over again because of it (and the food too, of course)!
Tip: They say to come early to avoid the crowds. Forget about it, it doesn’t work! Corky’s is ALWAYS crowded and rightly so. When you want good Memphis BBQ, Corky’s is where it’s at! (My mom will read this and tell me to not use ‘at’ at the end of a sentence.)
Corky’s: Serving the world’s finest hickory-smoked ribs and BBQ is more than a commitment; it’s an ongoing legacy of greatness.
Address: 5259 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38119
5 | STAX MUSEUM
Here is another music museum for your edification, and what a museum! As the only one in the world dedicated to the preservation and legacy of American soul music, it pays special tribute to the great artists who have recorded within its walls with an absolutely awesome and rare collection of over 2,000 artifacts, films, galleries and interactive exhibits, including Isaac Hayes’ shiny custom Cadillac Eldorado which is fully equipped with a television, refrigerated mini-bar, 24-carat gold exterior trim and white fur carpeting on the floorboards! Together with the company’s Wall of Sound, with floor to ceiling cases containing all albums and singles released by Stax and its subsidiary labels from 1957 – 1975 and by seeing how the studio became the true birthplace of soul music, the family will be dancing their way (literally if you wish!) through this fun location.
Address: 926 E. McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38126
6 | THE PEABODY HOTEL/DUCKS
With its large, square building looming over the downtown area, The Peabody Hotel is one of the most recognizable attractions in Memphis, and it’s known for its top tier luxury living. Not only will it provide one of the best experiences that you can have in Memphis, but it might even provide one of the best experiences that you ever have in Tennessee.
The location is highly centralized; you’ll be able to walk out the front doors and immediately head to any number of famous Memphis attractions.
The inside of the Peabody is just as fabulous as the outside, too. It has an expensive marble lobby that has been used in everything from local commercials to famous films, and its centerpiece is an ornate water fountain filled with live ducks.
Every day at 11 AM and 5PM, the ducks march down the lobby of the hotel while tourists snap photos like they’re celebrities on a red carpet. They’re known to locals as the “the Peabody ducks.”
The sight of these renowned ducks waddling along the path, performing their famous ‘Duck March’ is guaranteed to put a smile on all the family’s faces! The duckies have come a long way since their role in 1933, when the GM of Peabody, Frank Schutt, had decided it would be amusing to put them (in those days acting as live decoys) into the gorgeous Peabody fountain for a quick paddle. Well, they loved it, what can I say! With the help of Bellman Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, the start of the twice daily march to the lobby fountain at 11am and 5pm began, and still continues to this day. The Duckmaster gives a brief history talk before the show, which lasts about half an hour. Your kids will love the sight of these special ducks trotting confidently down the red carpet from the elevator to the fountain!
The Peabody ducks are just one of the cool things to see in Memphis, Tennessee, but they’re far from the last.
Address: 118 South 2nd Street, Memphis, TN 38103
7 | SUN STUDIO
Known as “the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll,” it’s where the world’s first rock song was recorded in the early 1950s, and it nurtured the careers of many young up-and-comers who would go on to become famous names. Sun Studio has seen so many famous musicians pass through its doors, it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s try! Opened in 1950 with the first rock and roll single ever (Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats’Rocket 88, in case you were wondering) and known as “The Birthplace of Rock and Roll”, Sun Studio made its awesome reputation signing artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lew Lewis and Johnny Cash to name but a few. Take a tour to see fun stuff like the microphone that Elvis used when recording his first song in 1954, the former recording booth of B.B. King, and much more, the tours conducted by enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable guides willing to take the time to chat about the musicians who have passed through the studio’s legendary doors. Afterwards, drop by the 50’s style Sun Studio Soda Shop and Record Store to pick up some awesome memorabilia!
Kids 5-11 are free, but under 5 not permitted due to the personal nature of the tour performance.
Address: 706 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103
8 | BASS PRO SHOP/PYRAMID
No, you won’t be in Egypt but you’ll certainly feel as if you’ve stepped into a different world when you visit this colossal building! The Pyramid is a fabulous and what is known as an immersive retail experience, with the family guaranteed enjoyment whether purchasing something or just simply being outdoor enthusiasts! The 535,000 sq ft Pyramid offers everything from a hotel, a 600,000 gallon water feature, an 84,000 gallon alligator water habitat, a cypress swamp complete with 100 ft tall trees, 13 lane ocean themed bowling alley, lively food outlets, a fascinating underwater ecosystem aquarium packed with over 1,800 fish as well as the country’s tallest 28 story freestanding glass elevator. And all that before you even begin to shop! Everyone is guaranteed to find something of interest in this amazing outlet!
Address: 1 Bass Pro Drive, Memphis, TN 38105
9 | CROSSTOWN CONCOURSE
It’s hard to describe the Crosstown Concourse.
Officially called an “urban village,” it’s a cross between an underground neighborhood and a giant indoor shopping complex. Its labyrinth-like corridors are packed with bars, gyms, restaurants, boutiques, offices and markets.
It’s one of those places where you’ll wish that you had more than one pair of eyes to take everything in.
The good news is that there’s no curfew for Crosstown Concourse, so you can take your time and explore everything that the village has to offer. Whether you’re interested in dining, shopping or just sightseeing, you can indulge to your heart’s content.
You might not be able to categorize Crosstown Concourse, but even without a label, it’s definitely one of the most fun things to do in Memphis. It’s a unique attraction to begin with, and its amenities only add to its strange and wonderful atmosphere. There are always new things to see. There are always fun things to explore.
Drop by Crosstown Concourse today and experience the magic for yourself!
Address: 1350 Concourse Ave, Memphis, TN 38104
10 | ARCADE RESTAURANT
You can see the Arcade Restaurant long before you reach it. Its colorful neon signs are a vintage throwback to the diner era of the 1950s, and they flash like a beacon to hungry travelers in downtown Memphis. The retro look continues inside of the restaurant. Old-fashioned photos and posters line the walls; plush seats will make you think of ponytails and poodle skirts. An “Elvis booth” commemorates where the king used to take his bacon and eggs every morning. If you’re looking for prodigious Tennessee attractions, it doesn’t get much better than Elvis’s hot spots. As for the food, there’s plenty to fill your belly at the Arcade. Its menu has everything that you’d expect from a southern restaurant, including ham, grits, biscuits and gravy, country fried steak and sweet potato pancakes. It might be one of the oldest restaurants in Memphis, but the menu is always fresh and the lights are always bright and buzzing. Stop by the Arcade if you’re looking for good food in a great setting in Memphis, Tennessee!
Address: 540 S Main St, Memphis, TN 38103
11 | ORPHEUM THEATER
Located in the heart of downtown Memphis, the Orpheum Theatre is one of the most prestigious and longest-running theaters in the entire state of Tennessee. It’s the place to catch all of the latest Broadway shows, and it’s also the home of everything from ballet performances to international jazz festivals.You’ll need to check the schedule of the Orpheum Theatre to figure out what will be playing during your vacation.
You should also know that the Orpheum Theatre is haunted! The theater is reportedly haunted by seven spirits, the most famous of whom is an 11-year-old named Mary who’s been watching over the artists and patrons since the 1920s. But don’t worry…she’s a friendly ghost.
Consider the Orpheum Theatre if you’re wondering what to see in Memphis.
Whether you’re into music, comedy, theater or paranormal sightings, it’s sure to give you goosebumps during your visit.
Address: 203 S Main St, Memphis, TN 38103
Shelby Farms is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the US.It stretches for thousands of acres across the Tennessee countryside with hills, forests and lakes as far as the eye can see, and it’s home to everything from rare birds to a wild bison herd. It’s a top tier destination for both nature lovers and animal enthusiasts.
You don’t have to be a hippie to enjoy Shelby Farms, however. There’s fun stuff for visitors of all types. If you like working up a sweat, you can go hiking, rowing or horseback riding; if you prefer more leisurely activities, you can enjoy the golf course or act as a spectator at the BMX park.
Even pets can enjoy themselves at Shelby Farms! There’s an off-leash area where your fluffy companions can run in circles and sneeze in flowers to their heart’s content.
If you’re looking for things to do in Memphis this weekend, pack a bag and head to Shelby Farms. You don’t need a permit. You don’t need an RV vamper. You can just drive right into the park and make your own adventure.
Address: 6903 Great View Dr N, Memphis, TN 38134
14 | MEMPHIS BOTANIC GARDEN
Located on Cherry Road, the Memphis Botanic Garden is just as sweet as it sounds. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place where you can escape the grind of the city by walking among the wildflowers and listening to the songs of the brooks and streams.
Despite the singular name, there are multiple gardens at the Memphis Botanic Garden. Some are filled with roses, ferns or herbs; others have bamboo plants and water wheels to mimic a zen garden. The most spectacular is the butterfly garden where you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of colorful, ever-fluttering butterflies that might just land on you if you sit still enough.
The Memphis Botanic Garden is also a must do if you’re traveling with kids. They offer lots of fun weekend activities like brunches, egg hunts, daffodil races and educational nature walks, and these can be great bonding experiences with the little ones.
Put the Memphis Botanic Garden on your shortlist. The scenery is beautiful; the activities are fun and engaging. It’s definitely a destination worth visiting.
Address: 750 Cherry Rd, Memphis, TN 38117
Gus’s Fried Chicken
Tom Lee Park
Memphis in May
Jerry’s Sno Cones
South Main Arts District
Pink Palace Family of Museums
Memphis Music Hall of Fame
I known the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt on travel these days. But once it is completely safe to resume travel, I hope you will consider Memphis as one of your stops. Not only will you fall in love with our culture, food, sights, and sounds, you will also be surprised at how affordable it is the travel or live here.
Thank you so much for reading. And as always, ave a beautiful day. XOXO, Candy