Being the second-largest city in the southern state of Tennessee, there’s a wide range of top attractions and cool things to do in Memphis. The city has a population of around 652,000 people and lies along the Mississippi River. Memphis lies close to the borders of Mississippi and Arkansas and has decent year-round weather. The city takes its name from Memphis in Egypt. Memphis is famous as the home of blues music and played a pivotal role in some of the USA’s sadder historical moments. The downtown area has been revived in recent years and has a great mix of old and new. Let’s delve a little deeper into the city and explore all the great things to do in Memphis on your visit.
Graceland is the former home of legendary singer, Elvis Presley. The mansion and grounds cover almost 14 acres of land, at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard. When Elvis died, the ownership of Graceland transferred to his daughter, Lisa Marie. It’s now the second most-visited home in the US after the White House. It’s not difficult to spend a full day at Graceland, as there’s so much to see. The mansion house is not fully open (you cannot access the top floor), but you can visit the lounge, dining, and Jungle rooms. Elvis’s remains are in the grounds of Graceland, along with his parents and his younger brother. His grandmother’s remains also lie in the estate. Across the road from the main house and grounds are Presley’s airplanes, a car museum, a gift shop, and an original sixties diner. Visiting Graceland is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Memphis.
Tickets required, available online or at the box office, from $41, depending on the package.
The Lorraine Motel/National Civil Rights Museum
The Lorraine Motel was the location of the fatal shooting of Civil Rights Leader, Martin Luther King, Jnr in 1968. As he stood on the balcony of his hotel room on Mulberry Street, a shot rang out, and the legendary activist was assassinated. The hotel hasn’t changed, and the balcony where Dr. King stood is the same as it was on the day of his death. The Lorraine Motel now forms part of a complex, which includes the National Civil Rights Museum. The NCR tells the story of the struggle for civil rights and dates from the 17th century to modern-day. From a history and education point of view, a visit to the NCR and Lorraine Motel is one of the best things to do in Memphis.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $10-$16
Sam Phillips opened Sun Studios in downtown Memphis in 1950. The first rock n roll single recording took place at Sun Studio during a session with Jackie Brenton and the Delta Cats. From here, the studio began developing a collection of new artists looking to record at their location. The artists included Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. As the studio built its reputation as the place to record, it garnered more and more fame. Despite the tiny size of the recording studio itself, it hasn’t stopped world-famous artists from wanting to lay down tracks there. In later years, it attracted Ringo Starr, Def Leppard, and U2. Although the studio is now a museum, it still offers recording space. Getting your photos taken at Sun Studios is one of the coolest things to do in Memphis!
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $12
The Pink Palace
The Pink Palace is a complex of museums under the direction of the city of Memphis. The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium is the highlight of the collection. The mansion house, built from pink marble, was acquired by the city when the founder of Piggly Wiggly, – Clarence Saunders – went broke. The house now contains a variety of exhibits. These include the history of black Memphis, the World Wars, and the role that music plays in the city’s history and legacy. The Planetarium has 145 seats and a four-story moveable screen. The Planetarium allows visitors to understand the solar system and does so by projecting star shows and graphics on its domed roof. There’s also a series of unique features, such as a laser showing of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ and ‘Legends of the Night Sky.’ A visit to the Pink Palace is one of the best things to do in Memphis for all the family.
Tickets required (Planetarium) available online or from the ticket office, $6-$30, depending on the package. Pink Palace, tickets available online or from the ticket office, $10-$15.
Beale Street, Memphis
No visit or night out in Memphis can be complete without a visit to Beale Street. The legendary downtown area is home to bars, live music club, and restaurants and is the liveliest area in the city. The stretch of downtown streets runs for 1.8 miles and is the birthplace of Blues music. It has hosted names, such as BB King, Louis Armstrong, and Muddy Waters and is always alive with the sounds of brass and guitars. Some of the most notable clubs and bars today are Coyote Ugly, BB King’s Blues Club, and Miss Polly’s Soul City Café. An evening out, soaking up the atmosphere and music of Beal Street is one of the best things to do in Memphis at night.
Mud Island River Park
Mud Island is a 52-acre park on a small peninsula, which is surrounded by the Mississippi River. The island is accessible on foot across the sky bridge and has a range of attractions. The Island Park is a great thing to do in Memphis with kids, as you can tire them out by letting them run around. Mud Island River Park also has a large amphitheater and is home to the Mississippi River Museum. Taking a stroll along the Mud Island River Terrace is also a great free thing to do in Memphis. The area offers fantastic views across the Memphis skyline.
Tickets required for Mississippi River Museum, available at the entrance, $8-$10
Off-beat things to do in Memphis
If you’re a fan of ducks, head to the Peabody Hotel and watch them march through the lobby. The duck march has been a feature in the Peabody Hotel for the past 90 years and has made the Memphis hotel internationally famous. The ducks take their waddle past the lobby fountain each day at 11 am and 5 pm. Not only do the ducks take a walk to a marble fountain, but they do so with their little feet on a specially rolled out red carpet. If you’re up for a truly unique and cool thing to do in Memphis, this is undoubtedly it.
Frequently Asked Questions by Travelers About Memphis
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Memphis. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this beautiful Tennessean city has to offer during your visit.
What is there to do in Memphis besides Graceland?
Where should we start? If you’re looking for things to do in Memphis with kids, head to the Memphis Zoo and Aquarium for a fun day out. Alternatively, you can take them to the Children’s Museum of Memphis or for a trip to the Fire Museum of Memphis. If you’re looking for things to do in Memphis at night with your SO, book a cruise on the American Queen Steamboat or take them to Beale Street for dinner and drinks.
What is Memphis best known for?
Memphis is known for being the home of Blues music and Elvis’ home, Graceland. The city is also famous for its barbeque. It’s so renowned for its cooked meat that it hosts an annual festival dedicated to it. Memphis is also famous as the city where Martin Luther King Jnr was shot and killed. The assassination took place on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in April of 1968.
Is Memphis, Tennessee safe?
If you keep your wits about you and your valuables out of sight, Memphis is a reasonably safe place to be. Like all major cities, there are safe and unsafe neighborhoods. The violent crime rate in Memphis is higher than the national average for similarly-sized cities, so it’s sensible not to venture out on your own after dark and stay in busy, well-lit areas. Take a cab or an Uber to get around if you’re unsure about where you’re going and don’t know the neighborhoods.
Does Memphis get snow?
Yes, but only very occasionally. The average snowfall in Memphis is three inches per year, while the average for the rest of the United States is 26 inches. The last time it snowed in Memphis was way back in 2014.
Memphis is an exciting city, which has experienced a real revival over recent years. There’s an excellent range of cool things to do in Memphis to suit all budgets and ages. Memphis is proud of its association with Elvis Presley and the birth blues music. Although its history is inextricably linked to the death of Martin Luther King, it has embraced and sought to educate visitors and residents on the events that led to up to his assassination. Memphis has an excellent choice of accommodation for visitors and is served by Memphis International Airport. We hope we’ve convinced you of all the best things to do in Memphis on your visit.