Memphis, Tennessee is known as Bluff City, the home of the Blues, Soul, and Rock & Roll, or as the place to get face-deep in barbecue ribs, bologna, and…nachos? Our houseful spent a slow week in Memphis to start the fall season off right, and this is what we did.
Spend One Week In Memphis, Tennessee
A portion of our trip and dinners were hosted by the wonderful Memphis Travel visitors bureau in order to be able to share the very soul of the city with you. Of course, you know you’re getting the Nicholes opinion no matter what!
Central Station – 545 S. Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
The Central Station has stood watch over South Main Street in downtown Memphis for more than 100 years, a direct reflection of the success, struggle, and spirit of the city that grew up around it. It was built simply for arrivals and departures, but the life that churned through on its rails gave South Main a vitality that turned it into one of the most iconic and dynamic neighborhoods in the city. Today, Central Station Hotel lets you experience the verve of this town in ways unlike any other, just like a real Memphian would.
Check out our detailed tour of the hotel this week on the blog.
National Civil Rights Museum – 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103
Established in 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Through interactive exhibits, historic collections, dynamic speakers, and special events, the museum offers visitors a chance to walk through history and learn more about a tumultuous and inspiring period of change.
Read more about our time there this week on the blog.
Since it opened in 2002, Central Barbecue has been serving house smoked ribs, nachos, and bologna (YES, bologna) using hickory and pecan wood. Voted the #1 spot for barbecue in Memphis, their loyal following gives them an edge with tourists and locals alike.
Specializing in King Biscuits and build your own Bloody Mary’s, Sunrise is a pop of color and taste for all of your senses. Make sure to mind your time because they do tend to get packed for their breakfast, and rightly so.
During our visit to the Memphis Zoo we got a chance to get nose-to-nose with polar bears and crocodiles. We visited giant pandas “Ya Ya” and “Le Le” in CHINA, a breathtaking Asian-inspired exhibit. We took in the sights and sounds of Yellowstone National Park at the Teton Trek exhibit, featuring grizzly bears, elk, timber wolves, and trumpeter swans. It was an interactive and fun experience for the 3 generations represented during our visit.
Viewing all the exhibits requires a walk of about 2 miles, and visitors should allow three to five hours to see the entire property.
Check out our more detailed visit on the blog soon!
Voted the best tacos in Memphis by the Daily Memphian these tacos from a truck on the corner of Central & Cooper were a delight to consume. With choices like barbacoa, carnitas, Camarones, and more you’ll find something you love. Don’t forget your Consome for dipping!
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum – 826 N 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38107
The Burkle Estate was built in 1849 by Jacob Burkle, a livestock trader and bakery owner, who opened his home to help enslaved people escape to freedom. The house has 19th-century furnishings but its main feature is the secret cellar and trap doors that offered refuge to runaway slaves.
This dark cellar was their home for days as they sat silently waiting for boats that would take them to other way stations upriver on their way to freedom in the northern states. After stepping down into the cellar and kneeling on the brick floor of this cramped room, you definitely get a deeper understanding of the slaves’ plight.
The tour gives information on the slave trade, runaway enslaved folk, and the message system and travel patterns of escaping enslaved people.
Carolina Watershed – 141 E Carolina Ave, Memphis, TN 38126
Serving up stuffed turkey legs, and specialty mac n cheese from Red Bone’s this is the place to go if you’re looking to fill up. With karaoke on Tuesdays and an open patio, it’s a decent place to wind down after a long day of exploring.
Arcade Restaurant – 540 South Main Street Memphis, TN 38103
Memphis’ oldest continuously operating diner, and home to the Elvis booth. This diner is full of 50’s style nostalgia and right on the trolley path of Main St.
Memphis Botanic Garden strives to enhance lives by connecting people with nature and increasing awareness and appreciation of our environment. Our 96-acre property includes 30 specialty gardens, which provide an in-depth look into various families of plants, flowers, and trees.
The Alice in Wonderland exhibit will be featured until the end of October.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music – 926 E McLemore Ave, Memphis, TN 38126
Memphis soul music: think Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, and more. Soulsville U.S.A. “where it all happened in the ’60s and ’70s.”
From 1959 – 1974, a tiny movie-theater-turned-recording-studio in South Memphis produced a string of hits that stirs souls today. Jim STewart and Estelle AXton, a brother and sister duo, purchased the old Capitol Theater on McLemore Avenue to relocate their recording equipment. Without knowing they would soon be part of a worldwide sensation dubbed American soul music.
This move placed them in an area rich with talent. Many of the artists and musicians who recorded at Stax were from the surrounding neighborhood, local churches, and schools. In a time when racial tension was high, this studio never saw race but rather focused on producing its own sound. A Memphis sound that would be heard around the world.
Loflin Yard is a bar, restaurant, and event space, but above all else, it’s a haven in the heart of downtown. Grab a bottle from the wine rack, order food from the patio window, and settle inside or out. No matter which house you pick, you’ll feel right at home in the Yard.
Beale Street runs from the Mississippi River to East Street, a distance of approximately 1.8 miles. It is a significant location in the city’s history, as well as in the history of blues music.
Beale Street is one of the most iconic streets in America. It is three blocks of nightclubs, restaurants, and shops in the heart of downtown Memphis, and a melting pot of delta blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and gospel. This National Historic Landmark district shares its rich history of legendary live music (think Memphis Minnie, B.B. King, and Rufus Thomas, to start) through museums, photo ops, and clubs where you can still hear who’s making music in Memphis today. With cold beer and hot music, Beale Street is one of the coolest places in Memphis.
Hotel Indigo – 22 N B.B. King Blvd, Memphis, TN 38103
Live like a local at Hotel Indigo® Memphis Downtown, an urban home base surrounded by the pulsating beat of the blues. Once a cutting-edge hotel developed by Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson in 1963, Hotel Indigo Memphis Downtown brings the city’s heritage and history to light and life. The building at 22 North B.B. King Boulevard pops with color, local art, and memorabilia from regional blues, rock, and soul legends. Ideally located between the Renasant Convention Center and Beale Street Entertainment, the hotel offers a sterling guest experience, with 118 rooms featuring hardwood floors, spa-inspired showers, Aveda bath amenities, and Frette linens. The boutique hotel’s signature restaurant spotlights a modern American menu of seasonal, locally sourced dishes. Relax by our unique outdoor pool and soak in the soul of Memphis.
This was our second hotel stay of the week, and we were treated very well. Two blocks from the Main Street Trolley and only a stroll from dozens of restaurants and shops, it’s centrally located and convenient.
Dollar for dollar, there is no better way to get a nostalgic view of Downtown Memphis than by trolley.
Speaking of cash, make sure you bring along a couple of greenbacks for the ride. Base trolley fares are $1 per ride and daily passes can be purchased for $2.00. The 2.5-mile Riverfront Loop route is a relief for tired feet and offers a picturesque view of the Mississippi River. The Madison Avenue trolley line gives you access to Midtown Memphis.
Looking for something particular or need a recommendation? Just ask the trolley driver, they’ve seen and heard them all and will surely point you in the right direction. Don’t miss the last Friday of every month when the galleries and shops of the South Main Arts District throw open the doors for a unique event from 6 – 9 p.m. Trolley rides are free between the Beale Street Station and Central Station during this time.
Visit Mud Island River Park
Take the Skybridge, accessible from the public parking lot at Front Street and Poplar Avenue. You could walk the bridge; it’s only a half-mile to the park (plus some stairs) and you’ll get to really savor those river views as you stroll above it. You can also bike over as well!
You’ll be rewarded for all of that walking with the perfect photo op in front of a massive Memphis sign.
If you prefer to drive, the best access point is paid parking in the North Lot, accessible from the A. W. Willis Bridge. Keep in mind, the elevators and escalators leading to Skybridge are currently under construction, so if you have a stroller or use a wheelchair or other mobility device, driving is probably best.
Liquor Store – 2655 Broad Ave, Memphis, TN 38112
Housed in the former Broad Ave Liquor Store, this fun and cozy diner + bar is a MUST on a visit to Memphis!
As you can see, from our visit, there’s a TON to do in this city named after another Memphis on a mighty river – Memphis, Egypt which sat on the Nile River. Whether you’re here for a week or a couple of days, you won’t be bored or hungry, but you will be back!