Last Updated on May 19, 2023
Is Memphis on your travel wish list? Most people travel to Memphis to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home – but there’s more to the city than the massive mansion of the “King of Rock’n’Roll”. If you are curious about the best attractions and activities in Memphis, Tennessee, keep reading!
The six best things to do in Memphis:
Take a stroll down Beale Street
Beale Street is one of the most famous streets in the US, and the one place that you can’t miss on a trip to Memphis. The 1.8-mile long street is the official home of Blues music and the birthplace of Rock’n’Roll, making it a must-visit attraction for any music fan. A walk down Beale Street will introduce you to talented musicians in iconic venues that are rich in history and have hosted some of the greatest Blues musicians in our history. Officially called the “Beale Street Entertainment District”, the three blocks located in Downtown Memphis are the pulse of nightlife in the city, and you will also find great food, live music venues, distilleries, and more here.
Experience the Nightlife
Memphis’ nightlife is something you don’t want to miss! Especially the live music scene is incredible, and you don’t even need to go inside an overpriced club to listen to a live band – you’ll find them playing right on the streets. The nightlife scene in Memphis spans from Midtown to Downtown along Beale Street (see above) – and that’s where most of Memphis’ hotels are located. So you won’t have to walk far to find live music and great food.
Graceland is the famed mansion that was once owned by Rock’n’Roll star Elvis Presley. It stayed in the family after his passing and is now open to the public. Not only can you see how the King Of Rock’n’Roll lived, but you can also learn about his life and career. Half a million people from all over the world flock to Graceland every year- it is the second most famous home in the U.S. after the White House! It’s a Must-See destination for Elvis fans, but also interesting for people who aren’t very familiar with him and his music, for things such as the sometimes tacky decor, his two private airplanes and one of the first microwaves ever available – all on display at Graceland.
Tour the Museums
Memphis has a number of excellent museums, so if you consider yourself a culture vulture, you’ll want to add at least one of them to your itinerary. In addition to the obligatory pilgrimage to Elvis Presley’s Graceland (mentioned above), music lovers will love the Rock ‘N Soul Museum (one of the few Smithsonian Museums outside of Washington D.C.), the Memphis Music Hall of Fame as well as the Blues Hall of Fame Museum, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. History buffs can’t miss the Lorraine Motel, part of the National Civil Rights Museum complex, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968 and the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, a small museum dedicated to telling the story of the Underground Railroad and how it helped slaves escape to freedom.
Art aficionados will love the Brooks Museum, the largest art museum in Tennessee. Dixon Gallery & Gardens is another fabulous art museum, merging a fine art museum with a 17-acre garden. In addition to art, you’ll be able to enjoy sculpture gardens, English Gardens and horticulture exhibits. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the Mississippi River Museum and Mud Island Nature Park, where you can learn more about the history of the Mississippi River and how it helped shape the history of Memphis. (Note that this museum is only open from April till October). Then there’s the Pink Palace Museum, the largest science and technology museum in the mid-South. Even if you’re not a huge museum fan, if there’s a rainy day during your trip to Memphis, I guarantee you that there’s at least one museum you will enjoy. If you’re traveling with children, the Children’s Museum is a great activity with kids.
If you’re not a city dweller, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are plenty of outdoorsy things to do in Memphis. There are hundreds of miles of walking and biking trails along the Mississippi River, and if you don’t want to travel with your own bicycle, you can take advantage of Memphis’ “Explore Bike Share” which has around 80 bike pick-up an drop-off locations and costs only $12 per week.
Memphis was also named one of the best paddling towns in the United States, and you can kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle on the Mississippi River right from Downtown Memphis. Mud Island in the Mississippi River is home to the Greenbelt Park, which has a lovely 1.5-mile trail and is a popular spot for picnics. The Memphis Botanic Garden is also a beautiful destination for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Any of these places and activities are fantastic during the warmer months of the year. At night, there are plenty of outdoors events, for example at Levitt Shell, an outdoor amphitheater where you can enjoy free live music concerts in the fall and spring.
Go to the Zoo
The Memphis Zoo was vote one of the top ten zoos in the entire US, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It is home to more than 4,500 animals, including rare species such as the Giant Panda and hippos and grizzly bears. In total, around 500 species from all over the world can be seen. The zoo is open year-round, so you can add it to your list regardless of what time of year you’re planning to visit Tennessee. If you’re traveling with kids, check out the various programs that the zoo offers especially for children. The zoo is open daily from 9am to 6pm between mid-March and mid-October and from 9am to 5pm between mid-October and mid-March.