In October of 2020 Gene and I was able to finally visit Memphis Tennessee on a birthday road trip. We had a blast and had a whole list of things we wanted to see and do. Of course, we never have time to do everything on one trip. Added to that, we met with friends who live in a different part of Tennessee and they had a list of their own, lol. With that in mind, I decided to create a list of some of the most exciting things to see and do in Memphis so you can plan your next trip. These are not in any particular order. Except Graceland is first as I grew up loving Elvis and couldn’t wait to visit his home.
Graceland is the most-visited privately owned home in the United States, attracting more than 650,000 visitors annually. As stated above, it was once owned by popular singer and actor Elvis Presley and is now owned by his daughter Lisa Marie Presley after his death in 1977. This house, which is really a mansion at 17,5552 square feet, has two floors and a basement. The first floor contains 23 rooms, including 8 bedrooms and bathrooms. The second floor is closed off to guests but holds Elvis’ bedroom, bathroom, and dressing room. Lisa Marie’s bedroom, and another room used as an office, are also on this floor. Let me tell you, I did not have enough time at Graceland and can’t wait to visit again on a future trip.
Since I am talking about Elvis and music, I have to share an attraction that was also high on our to-do list, Sun Studio. This place is where 18-year-old Elvis Presley recorded his first song. It’s well-known in the music industry as “The Birthplace of Rock ‘N’ Roll”. It is the most famous recording studio in the world and was opened by rock pioneer Sam Phillips in 1950. Besides Elvis Presley, this national Historic Landmark is where superstar musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and countless others started their recording careers. Today, Sun Studio still serves as a recording studio in the evenings while hosting public tours during the daytime hours. We also toured this museum and it was so amazing to hear some of the stores and listen to some recordings from the 50s. It is definitely worth the time to visit and learn more history about the birthplace of Rock N Roll.
Home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 different species is the huge Memphis Zoo which is approximately 55 acres. It was created in 1906 and has been a major tenant of Overton Park for more than 100 years. The zoo is divided into three zones that showcase a total of 19 different exhibits. These modern exhibits mimic the animals’ natural habitats such as Once Upon A Farm, Cat Country, Primate Canyon, Dragon’s Lair, Animals of the Night, Tropical Bird House, Herpetarium, Aquarium, African Veldt, Zambezi River Hippo Camp, China, Northwest Passage, and Teton Trek. As I said earlier, it is huge and requires a walk of about 2 miles. However, during certain seasons they do have trams with guided tours of some of the exhibits for a small fee.
The Lorraine Motel is the place of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death in 1968. Today it is the location of the National Civil Rights Museum and is a renowned educational and cultural institution. The Museum chronicles the American Civil Rights Movement with compelling presentations of iconic exhibits and oral histories of lesser-known civil rights foot soldiers. When you visit the museum, you will learn through emotionally charged, multi-user, multi-touch interactives, and a visually engaging, contemporary exhibit design that guides you through five centuries of history.
This rock ‘n’ soul museum was the “firstborn” of the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution and was developed by the National Museum of American History (NMAH) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution. As such, the Rock n Soul Museum tells the critical story of the musical pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic obstacles to create music that changed the cultural complexion of the world. It was first opened on April 29, 2000, and has since welcomed over 1,000,000 visitors from all over the world. We were also lucky enough to tour this museum and it was incredible, and filled with a lot of history.
The Dixon Gallery and Garden museum focuses on French and American impressionism and features works by Monet, Degas, and Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Marc Chagall, Honoré Daumier, Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Berthe Morisot, Edvard Munch, Auguste Rodin, and Alfred Sisley, as well as an extensive collection of works by French Impressionist artist Jean-Louis Forain. The museum also houses the Stout Collection of 18th-century German porcelain. With nearly 600 pieces of tableware and figures, it is one of the finest such collections in the United States. I am SO bummed that I didn’t know about this attraction until after our visit as I LOVE Monet and would definitely have added this to our list. It is for sure a highlight for our next trip to the area.
This is one of the largest urban parks in the US and the world, at 4,500 acres, and covers more than five times the area of Central Park in New York City with 843 acres. That is HUGE. Shelby Farms Park is home to a bison herd, beavers, deer, turtles, and different species of birds. There are also many lakes, natural forests, and wetlands that provide natural habitats for many smaller species. There are many hiking and biking trails meandering through the park allowing visitors to observe wildlife and nature. One of these trails is a 1.67-mile paved trail around Patriot Lake. Another paved trail is the 2.75-mile-long Chickasaw Trail. Off-leash dog activities are designated in a 120-acre area that includes meadows, lakes, and hiking trails. There is something for everyone in the family to enjoy, including Fido, lol.
The Burkle Estate is a historic home at 826 North Second Street in Memphis and it is also been known as the Slavehaven. Although disputed by some historians, the Burkle Estate is claimed by some to have been part of the Underground Railroad- a secret network of way stations to help slaves escape to freedom in the northern states. The house was constructed in 1849 by a German immigrant named Jacob Burkle. Since 1997 the estate is home to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum.
This American Soul Museum is a 17,000-square-foot museum offering interactive exhibits, videos, and vintage musical instruments. These are used to create the Stax sound, stage costumes, photographs, and records. There are approximately 3,000 other items of memorabilia that tell the unique story, from beginning to present, of American soul music, particularly that of Stax Records and the Memphis Sound. Some of the artists highlighted include Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, the Bar-Kays, Booker T. & the MGs, Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and hundreds of others. We were able to tour this museum and it was very interesting.
No visit to Memphis would be complete unless you take a walk along famous Beale Street. We met some friends and walked around and had dinner while enjoying people-watching. For those that do know much about Beale Street, it runs from the Mississippi River to East Street which is about 1.8 miles long. It has been known as the heart of blues music and holds many attractions and restaurants. This, along with Graceland, is a definite must-see while in Memphis.
We had a great time while exploring the Memphis area and hearing a lot of blues and soul music. The highlight of course was Graceland and experiencing the atmosphere on Beale Street. The city is so unique and so full of history. I hope to be able to visit again in the near future and explore some more areas and museums that we didn’t get to explore on our last trip. If you are from the area or know of something I missed, please leave me and comment to let me know and I will add it to this list. Thanks again, and happy travels.
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