Updated: Sep 28
On the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, Memphis is Tennessee's largest city and home to the historic birthplace of blues, barbecue, and rock ‘n’ roll. Memphis just doesn't attract tourists, it creates pilgrimages from all over the world.
You will often find tourists stating they are on their third, 10th or even 100th visit to Memphis and who can blame them? – fantastic BBQ pulled pork, spicy dry rubbed ribs, exceptional live blues entertainment, often free, and the home of the king of rock n roll himself – The big E. --- Elvis Presley.
And as much as Memphis is about Elvis, there is a lot more going on there culturally and historically that can be explored. Don't worry, we'll cover the Elvis attractions, but we will also go more in depth in a special episode giving you tips and information on visiting Graceland.
One of the great things about Memphis is that it is relatively affordable to visit if you know when and where to go. In these next few episodes we will cover tourist attractions, where to stay and where to eat. We'll also give tips on how to stay on budget, and ideas for families and solo travelers.
Let's start off with some recommended attractions. Even though Memphis is a large city, there are a great number of attractions situated in relatively small geographical location making it easy to see and do a lot of things in a short amount of time. One of the biggest draws to Memphis is because of its rich history in music so let's start here.
Depending on when you arrive in Memphis the first stop on anyone's list should be historic Beale Street and the home of the blues. The main drag is lined up and down for several blocks of blues joints, honkytonks, great restaurants bars and tourists shops. In the evening, almost every venue hosts free live music, from Mississippi Blues to Jerry Lee Lewis tribute bands. Also at dusk, the lights turn on to the many wonderfully designed neon lights and makes for iconic photos. Drinks and food are priced moderately, even though this is a top tourist attraction. We recommend the Beale Street Tap Room and The King's Palace Restaurant where not only you can get a good beer but also some great BBQ including ribs, Voodoo Chicken and Cajun Faire.
Now a lot of the action may be happening inside, but there is a lot going on outside. Street performers, acrobats and magicians sometimes perform down the main strip to the delight of onlookers. Handy Park, is usually a great place to listen to a blues band or solo artist, while enjoying the historical significance of the park.
Even though Beale St. Is lined wall to wall with drinks and individuals drinking walking down the street, it is totally safe. The Memphis police department controls the entranceway's into the thoroughfare and actively patrol the street keeping everyone in check. Police monitor those underage as well and anyone under 21 is not permitted on Beale Street after 10pm – when things get a little wilder.
Now if you prefer it a little slower, you can go during the day or into the evening and still enjoy Beale Street, especially if you enjoy visiting museums and historic attractions.
WC Handy is considered to be the "Father of the Blues" and is one of America's most influential songwriters ever and you can take a tour of WC Handy's humble beginnings at his turn-of-the-century home on Beale Street. Admission is $6 but be aware they run a limited schedule of Tues-Sat from 10-5 in the summer months and 11-4pm in the winter months. You can find the museum at the corner of Beale St. And 4th.
Another great museum to learn about Memphis' Music past is the RocknSoul Museum. The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is at the corner of historic Beale Street, and legendary Highway 61 (Third Street), also known as the “Blues Highway”. The museum is located on the plaza of the FedExForum, Memphis’ premier sports and entertainment complex, and home to blockbuster concerts and the NBA Memphis Grizzlies.
The museum tells tells the story of musical pioneers who, for the love of music, overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create the music that shook the entire world. The museum offers a comprehensive Memphis music experience from the rural field hollers and sharecroppers of the 1930s, through the explosion of Sun, Stax and Hi Records and Memphis’ musical heyday in the 70s, to its global musical influence. The museum’s digital audio tour guide is packed with over 300 minutes of information, including over 100 songs, and takes visitors at their own pace through seven galleries featuring 3 audio visual programs, more than 30 instruments, 40 costumes and other musical treasures.
The museum is open daily, 9:30 a.m. - 7 p.m. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $9.50 for youth age 5-17.
Getting to Beale Street is pretty easy from anywhere in Memphis. Good Parking, however, can quickly fill up. But the good news is that Memphis has the lowest parking rates in the United States. There are 12 main lots near Beale Street and a number of smaller lots. Prices range from $10 to $20 per day, depending on distance and security.
But, here is an inside tip. There is a lot located at 110 Peabody Place, between Main St. And 2nd St. South that offers an incredibly low rate of only $3.
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