Memphis Things to Do Tips by Hopkid Top 5 Page for this destination
Memphis Things to Do: 256 reviews and 409 photos
When we were in Memphis there was an exhibit of Annie Leibovits photos focusing on American music called "Photography Rocks". Upon our arrival at the Brooks Museum of Art we were met at the door by a security guard who told us that they had experienced a power outage and would not reopen that day. Since we were leaving that day it was a big bummer for us. But the guard did give us free passes for our next visit. Yeah, next time.
But from their website it looks like a good museum with a diverse and eclectic collection. They also have a restaurant and gift shop. And it's in a pretty part of town. Regular admission is $8. You can get a $1 off coupon from their website.
Address: 1934 Poplar Avenue
Directions: In the Overton Park area of town
The Peabody ducks in the lobby fountain
One of the most famous traditions in Memphis are the ducks at the Peabody Hotel. If you go to the lobby and the great hall adjacent to the check-in desk, there you will find a fountain with a large floral display on top. At the base of the fountain you are likely to find the Peabody ducks, a mallard and four drakes, swimming around without a care in the world. Each day at 11:00am, the ducks are brought down from their rooftop "palace" via the elevator and across the lobby on a red carpet to the fountain. The process is repeated in reverse each evening at 5:00pm. If you would like to see the ducks walk from the fountain to the elevator (or vice versa in the morning) be sure to get there early. When we were there on a Friday afternoon enjoying drinks and conversation in the great hall, the crowd started gathering around 4:15pm. And what a spectacle it was. There is a duck master who trains the ducks and escorts them through their paces. He also provides some of the history of the ducks to the audience and has some of the children participate in pre-march activities. It's all a lot of fun for everyone!
Address: 149 Union Ave
Directions: Downtown at the Peabody Hotel
Perhaps just as important in terms of its contribution to American music in the mid-20th century, Stax Records was the center of a large number of 1960s soul and R&B greats, many of which had their records released on the Atlantic label through a distribution agreement they had with Stax. However folks like Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Booker T and the MGs, and Otis Redding lived and recorded in Memphis at the Stax studio on McLemoore Avenue in a converted theater. After years of neglect in a neglected neighborhood, Soulsville has been resurrected as a museum. They have a great introductory video and some great exhibits. We were unfortunately pressed for time and only had 45 minutes to spend there but I could have easily taken another hour or two. The exhibits start with the advent of southern gospel and its evolution into the soul sound of the 1960s including many civil rights protest songs. Of particulatar interest is the restored recording studio which visitors walk through with the audio sounds of recording sessions as if you were there yourself as Isaac Hayes or Carla Thomas did their magic. Also in the musuem is Hayes' 1972 "Superfly" Cadillac.
Lots of great history and memories are conjured up here with exhibits of old photos, album covers, and 45s. Definitely worth the trip! And not far from Interstate BBQ either! ; )
Free hourly shuttle service is available between the Stax Museum, Graceland, Sun Studios, and the Rock 'N Soul Museum!
Address: 926 E. McLemore Avenue
Phone: 901.942.SOUL or 901.942.7685
Sun Studios is where Elvis got his big break. He made his first recordings here under the tutelege of Sam Phillips. The studio has been restored to the same condition it was in during the 1950s after serving time as a barbershop among other things. And it is still used as a recording studio today. You enter in the building on the corner of Union and Marshall Avenues which used to be a restaurant and now serves as the Sun Studios gift store. It is where you can pay to take the $10 tour and also get a bite to eat. The store is filled with great shirts, hats, and of course lots of CDs. The tour is very much worth it. You are first taken upstairs to a former boarding house which is now a memorabilia musuem. The docent will describe the history of Sam Phillips and Sun Studios up to the time he meets Elvis. The great part of the tour is that they play snippets of music related to the tales being told.
Afterwards you are led downstairs into the a recreation of the actual studio front office where Elvis walked in and when asked who he sound like he supposedly said, "I don't sound like nobody." Through another door and you're in the actual studio where an X marks the spot where Elvis stood when he recorded his first tune, "Well That's Alright". At the conclusion of the tour everyone is encourage to take a turn standing on the X with a conveniently placed floor mike for photo ops.
This tour was hands down the best of the ones I took while in Memphis. I would definitely classify this as a must-see activity!
Address: 706 Union Avenue
Directions: About a mile east of downtown on Union Avenue
Gibson is known world-wide as one of the premier makers of high end guitars. B.B. King, Les Paul, and Jeff Beck are among the artists who use Gibson guitars to ply their trade. The Gibson Guitar Factory offers guided tours where you are taken into the production area where they do the final assembly of Gibson's various guitar models. A guide explains the entire process and you can see guitars in various steps of the assembly process.
TIP: Take the tour before 2:00pm as the workers leave work at 2:30pm. We took the tour around 4:00pm and while it was cool to go through the factory, it would have been better if we had actually seen folks working on the guitars.
There is also a gift shop which contains all sorts of Gibson memorabilia and of course lots of beautiful guitars. Call ahead or email (email@example.com) for our reservations if you're going on a busy weekend, like during the BBQ Festival. The tour costs $10 and tickets can also be purchased at the gift shop.
Address: 145 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue
Directions: One block south of Beale Street at the corner of S 2nd Street and Lt Lee Avenue. Directly across from the FedEx Forum and the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
A visit to Memphis would simply not be complete without a pilgrammage to the former home of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. A Memphis native, Elvis purchased this home which was built in 1939 and originally named Graceland. Elvis liked the name so much he kept it after he moved in.
Park in the visitor's lot across the street and get tickets to one of three tours. From there you catch a shuttle bus that takes you across the street and drops you off right at the front door. You can purchase a very good audio tour which is helpful because the tours are not guided. There are staff in the rooms who are available to answer questions however. The rooms on the tour have been maintained as they were when Elvis lived there. Overall the rooms are not as garish or tacky as one may have built up in their mind over the years. They certainly weren't to me anyway! Also, the house is much smaller than one would expect considering the crazy-sized mansions a lot of celebrities build these days.
Of particular interest are the Trophy Room and the Racquetball Court which have been convetered to shrines to the King complete with framed gold records, movie memorabilila, video displays, and actual costumes the King wore in movies and during concerts. Lastly there is a visit to the graves of the King, his parents, and his grandmother on the other side of the smallish swimming pool.
Expect to spend 1.5 hours for the basic tour when going to Graceland. It is certainly worth the visit and definitely a must-see for anyone with an interest in rock and roll.
Address: 3734 Elvis Presley Blvd
Directions: Take I-55 south and take Exit 5B for Elvis Presley Blvd. The Graceland visitor's parking lot will be on the right. Look for the signs.
Recently started this year (2006), Memphis now has a weekly Farmer's Market held behind the train station just west of Main Street in the South Main Arts District. It's held under the canopy of the Memphis Transportation Pavilion which is basically the bus station at the train station. Lots of locally produced flowers, produce, cheeses, and crafts are brought in from the surrounding area including Arkansas and Mississippi. I really love farmer's markets because you can often find things that you can't get anywhere else. At the MFM one vendor had a tasty homemade granola. Another had great pecans in different flavors (my favorite was the praline pecans). Each week they also feature live local musicians, cooking demos, and heath education programs.
Address: Front Street at GE Patterson
Directions: It's just a short street car ride away from the main downtown area.
The Lorraine Motel, the scene of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has fittingly been made into a museum that chronicles the fight for civil rights for African-Americans beginning in the 17th century. The motel has been preserved and looks just as it does in the famous B&W photo of King collegues pointing towards the direction of the gunshot from the second floor balcony. The exhibits are very well done with wonderful displays including a bus with a figure of Rosa Parks sitting near the front and a recording of a threatening bus driver; a Woolworth's counter that was the scene of sit-ins, and stirring TV footage related to the integration of Central High School in Little Rock. It's amazing and sad to me that these events happened during my lifetime. There is also a very well-done audio tour narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. The walk through the exhibits culminates in a viewing of the motel room from where Dr. King emerged moments before he was shot.
The second part of the tour takes you across the street and examines the investigation that followed with timelines, actual evidence, and the bathroom in the boarding house from which James Earl Ray allgeedly fired the fatal shot. Also presented are various conspiracy theories and the evidence that supports them
A very well-done museum and a must-see for any visitor to Memphis.
Address: 450 Mulberry Street
Directions: Just a block from Main Street in the South Main Street Arts District
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