Memphis, Tennessee, is a mecca for rock, soul and country musicians from around the world. Fantastically, its culture and attractions reflect this rich musical heritage. However, this vibrant city offers much more than just world-class music. From historical sites to natural wonders, vibrant nightclubs to quiet walking tours, this wonderfully diverse city has a little something for everyone. If you're planning a trip to Memphis, be sure to check out these must-see attractions in Memphis.
Memphis was home to the King of Rock 'n' Roll, and no visit would be complete without a visit to his famous home. Booking a tour of Graceland lets you follow in the footsteps of Elvis Presley himself - literally. Learn about his life and music while seeing the place he called home. The attached exhibition center hosts an ever-changing array of exhibits on pop culture and related subjects.
While you're seeing how Elvis lived, check out Sun Studio. This unassuming brick building is often called the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. Many famous artists got their start there, including the King himself. Today, local artists offer regular tours to educate visitors about the history of the studio as well as recording techniques and other trivia. Best of all, you can even take your turn behind the mike.
The mighty Mississippi River runs through Memphis, and it is a sight to see. One of the best ways to get a feel for the size of this mighty river is to stroll across the Big River Crossing, a mixed-use biking and walking bridge that connects Memphis to Arkansas. If you prefer to explore the river itself, book a riverboat tour from one of the operators in the area. These lively tours include dining, music, and information about the past and present of this lively city.
If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a more meditative experience, head to the Crystal Shrine Grotto. It may seem a bit morbid at first as this man-made cave in the midst of Memorial Park Cemetery, but no one is buried here. An artist named Dionicio Rodríguez created it and designed it to create a beautiful and peaceful place for visitors to enjoy. Crystal outcroppings, a vivid blue pool, and lifelike cement trees come together to create a surprisingly realistic yet surreal experience.
The Memphis Zoo, which sits on 76 acres of land in Overton Park, is home to more than 3,500 animals from over 500 different species. The zoo's 19 exhibits are housed over three zones and include Northwest Passage, Teton Trek, and China, home to the city's two giant pandas. The zoo hosts regular children's activities and special events, including educational activities, tours, and virtual zoo programs.
The Memphis Pyramid, also sometimes known as the Great American Pyramid, is a massive glass structure that towers above the surrounding landscape. It was originally built as a sports arena and concert venue, but today its a massive Bass Pro Shop and outdoor-themed hotel. In addition to shopping and dining, you can explore aviaries and aquariums full of live waterfowl and fish, take a turn at the indoor archery and shooting ranges and ride the 28-story elevator to the top for a stunning view of the Memphis skyline.
Memphis thrives thanks to its live music scene, and the best place to go to see a show is the famous Beale Street. This vibrant corridor is home to numerous venues that have a diverse range of music every night. As you stroll along the sidewalk, you may hear everything from exotic world music beats to old-fashioned blues or rocking bluegrass. Even if you don't feel like catching a show, the vintage neon signs and fantastic street performers make this a must-see attraction.
The Civil Rights Era was a volatile time, filled with both triumph and tragedy. The life of Martin Luther King, Jr., exemplified this. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, and the hotel was subsequently turned into a museum about his life and the struggle for equality. The National Civil Rights Museum features an array of exhibits about slavery, sit-ins, and African-American resistance movements during that era and beyond, as well as special events.
One of the quirkiest traditions in Memphis may be the daily Peabody duck parade, held at the luxurious Peabody Hotel. The famous ducks spend their evenings in a luxurious penthouse aviary designed especially for them. Every morning at about 11 AM, they stroll down to the hotel's ornate outdoor fountain. This parade is done with plenty of fanfare, making it a fun event for all ages. Afterward, enjoy a bite to eat at the top-notch French restaurant on the grounds, but don't order duck. It isn't on the menu out of respect to the hotel's most famous residents.
The Pink Palace Family of Museums is a group of museums located in and around Memphis, including the Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium in Memphis, Lichterman Nature Center, Mallory-Neely House, Magevney House, and Coon Creek Science Center. The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium is especially recommended for families and adults alike and features a museum of cultural and natural history, a 3D giant theater, and a planetarium.
Memphis is home to two fantastic music museums, the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Both are must-see attractions for music lovers visiting the city. The Rock 'n' Soul Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate and features permanent exhibits tracing the history of blues, rock, and soul music from its roots in African-American folk songs to its modern popularity. Conversely, the Stax Museum has detailed exhibits about recording equipment and individual artists who were represented by Stax Records.
A hidden gem in Memphis, the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art houses over 1,400 objects, including furniture, tapestries, jade carvings, and other works of historical and artistic significance. In particular, the museum features one of the finest collections of pieces from the Qing dynasty. Its extensive collection of jade sculptures has earned it the unofficial nickname The Jade Museum. The Belz Museum has five permanent exhibit galleries, including three Asian galleries, one Judaic gallery, and the Holocaust Memorial Gallery. The museum also hosts semi-annual special exhibits.
Memphis wasn't always all about music. It got its start as a cotton city, where slaves grew the crop. The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum offers a window into those times. Take a tour through the antebellum mansion, which is furnished as it would have been in those times. Learn how the antislavery movement worked towards their freedom in the years leading up to the Civil War.
See Memphis in a different light with a Haunted Memphis Walking Ghost Tour. Led by a local guide and professional storyteller, this activity will take you on a walking tour of the city with an eerie twist. Highlights include local landmarks, stately mansions, and some of the city's oldest buildings. The tour provides insight into locations reported to be haunted and some grisly tales of famous murders, making it a unique event not for the faint-hearted.
Memphis Botanic Garden comprises 23 themed gardens, including dedicated spaces for irises, conifers, herbs, roses, and plants that attract butterflies. Temporary installations, such as Alice in Wonderland sculptures, and seasonal events draw locals and tourists alike. The kids' playground is a highlight and will help little ones use up some of their boundless energy. You can take a picnic along or order some snacks at the cafe. Buy fish food on-site to feed the koi once your own belly is full.
Memphis is most famous for its music legacy, but if you're a theatre fan too, you must stop by the Orpheum, a world-class performing arts venue that dazzles visitors throughout the year. Check out the Orpheum's schedule for traveling Broadway shows, local ballet productions, and other concerts. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been beautifully maintained. There are also rumors of supernatural encounters here, so if you're in the mood to meet a ghost, look out for David, Eleanor, or little Mary.
CMoM is a winner if you want to entertain toddlers to third graders. There's loads to do, so you get value for your money, although there may be additional fees for specific activities. The indoor and outdoor areas mean you can go here in good weather or bad for arts and crafts, educational games, imaginative play, and rides. While CMoM could benefit from some upgrades, overall, it's a fun time.
How about some art with a side of horticulture? Dixon Gallery and Gardens promises just that. This fine art museum is nestled within 17 acres of public gardens and hosts various lectures and classes on subjects like knitting. You can do yoga, participate in a family scavenger hunt, or simply contemplate creativity at rotating exhibitions. The venue is closed on Mondays and some Thursdays and has limited opening hours on Sundays.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame museum has been open since 2015. It's a small attraction within walking distance of Beale Street, and you can do the rounds within an hour. You'll see memorabilia celebrating the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, and learn about other artists in the city's rich music history.
Outdoors folks can get their fix at Mud Island. If you want more than a walk or jog, you can go cycling, kayaking, or paddle boarding—equipment is available for rent in River Garden. Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton have performed at the amphitheater here, and there's a museum too. Remember to snap pics with the Memphis sign, and look out for the Mississippi River scale model.