If you like music, food, culture and everything in between, Memphis is the place to include on your next US visit.
This vibrant destination offers everything from museums and galleries to sports, theater and nightlife. The city is easy to navigate by riverboat, trolley car or on foot.
National Civil Rights Museum
As soon as I arrived in Memphis, I set off for the National Civil Rights Museum. For quite some time, I had looked forward to seeing the many exhibits that cover five centuries of civil rights history. Unfortunately, it was nearing 5 p.m. by the time I arrived and the museum was about to close.
Feeling disappointed, I walked along the length of the Lorraine Motel, which is now part of the museum. Tears filled my eyes and goose bumps covered my arms as I looked up at the balcony where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968. I stopped by the listening posts outside the museum and got a small taste of what I was missing inside. Surely this is a must-see when you visit Memphis, and I will definitely return.
The World-Famous Peabody Ducks
I suddenly recalled my guidebook research and remembered that the world-famous Peabody ducks would be doing their afternoon parade at 5 p.m. Upon my arrival, the grand lobby of The Peabody Memphis was packed with people waiting for the chime of 5.
As the story goes, the hotel’s general manager in the 1930s, Frank Schutt, and his friend returned from a hunting weekend with some live decoy ducks. They thought it would fun to place the ducks into the marble lobby fountain overnight. The ducks made themselves right at home and were still in the fountain the next morning.
More than 80 years later, ducks march to and from the fountain at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. When they’re not in the lobby, they’re living the life of luxury in the Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop.
Music: The Heart and Soul of Memphis
Picture Memphis 1953: Marion Keisker, Sam Phillips’ assistant at Sun Studio, was sitting at her desk when a teenager named Elvis Presley walked in and paid $4 to record his first demo. When Marion asked him whom he sounded like, he said, “Well ma’am, I don’t sound like nobody.” He cut his first record and left.
It was a year later before Elvis was invited back to play for Phillips. After a couple of hours, Phillips hadn’t heard anything he liked, so he stepped out for a break. Then it happened! Elvis picked up his guitar and started fooling around, singing the blues song “That’s All Right.” It was like nothing Phillips had heard before. He hit the record button, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I couldn’t quite believe I touched the microphone that had been held by the likes of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash even recorded “Walk the Line” in this very studio.
I continued to soak up the music history of Memphis with a visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Music played in the parking lot as I arrived, and interactive exhibits, a dance floor and Isaac Hayes’ 1972 gold-plated Cadillac awaited me inside.
There are so many attractions that will rock your world in Memphis. From Elvis' Graceland estate to the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum, “The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is an unforgettable destination for music history.
Fine Dining and Nightlife
Known for its culinary scene, Memphis is has more than 100 barbecue restaurants. While in town, I was lucky enough to squeeze in two, Cozy Corner and Central BBQ. Other dining options to include on your itinerary are Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous and Restaurant Iris in historic Overton Square.
After an amazing day, I got ready for a night on the town on Beale Street, the heart and soul of entertainment in Memphis. Restaurants, bars, live music and the tumbling Beale Street Flippers await you.
Be sure to include magical Memphis on your next US-bound holiday.
More experiences nearby
Memphis: Why You Want to Get Outdoors Here
The Soul and Magic of Memphis, Tennessee
5 Hikes Where You Have to Hold on Tight
USA Party Cities
Townsend: The Peaceful Side of the Smokies
Chattanooga: Culture, Nature and Fun
3 Days in Chattanooga, Tennessee