By Linda Paull
Memphis is often called the “Cradle of American Music.” But there’s more to Memphis than Graceland and Elvis impersonators. Memphis also is also home to Civil Rights Movement, friendly locals, and some great entertainment venues. Plus it serves up some tasty barbecue. Come to historic Memphis, and you’ll be amazed at how much there is to do.
Music Lover’s Mecca
Image via Trover by Dustin Chadwick
The birthplace of rock & roll is a real mecca for music fans and there are plenty of places to explore Memphis’ musical past. Elvis is still very much alive in Memphis, or at least his legacy is. Even if you don’t make it to the home of “The King” (Graceland), there are plenty of other places to immerse yourself in the roots of rock & roll.
Don’t leave town without checking out Stax Museum, a replica of the original Stax recording studio which gives a fascinating insight into the social and cultural factors that brought about the birth of rock music. There’s also a massive, classic Cadillac on display that once belonged to Otis Redding. Another must-see is Sun Studios, where Elvis cut his first record in 1954. The label also claims representation of such acts as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and B.B. King.
Beale Street Blues
Image via Trover by Hillary Gayle
Beale Street is really the heart and soul of Memphis. It’s still home to music stores and live venues, and many are pumping well into the wee hours of the morning. One place you should definitely visit while you’re there is Schwab’s, the oldest remaining original shop on Beale Street. If feather boas and voodoo supplies are on your shopping list, you’re in the right store. Once you’re done shopping for souvenirs, go up to the second floor landing and see the historical artifacts in the Beale Street Museum.
If Beale Street is too rowdy for you, you can also try nearby Overton Square, which has a slightly more relaxed vibe. Memphis also has its own NBA stadium, FedEx Forum, which is home to the Memphis Grizzlies. In addition to sporting events, it hosts a variety of concerts and shows that are suitable for most crowds.
The World’s Best Barbecue
Image via Trover by Joe Duncan
Tennessee is part of the “Barbecue Belt” of America, and Memphis is famous for its smoked pork shoulder. If you’re planning to visit Memphis in May, be sure to include the city’s annual barbecue competition on your itinerary. It’s held on the banks of the Mississippi River just off Beale Street and is a meat lover’s dream.
If you can’t visit in May, no problem. Begin your barbecue odyssey with a pork sandwich at Payne’s Bar-B-Que. Satisfy your craving for ribs at A&R Bar-B-Que. It serves tender meat that slides right off the bone. Or you can choose from a range of other barbecued items including barbecued Cornish hen. True to his Greek roots, the late Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous serves up barbecue with a Greek influence when you’re ready to try something truly unique.
Some of the Country’s Most Unique Local Museums
Image via Flickr by Ross Glasson
Memphis is home to some of the country’s most interesting museums. The Pink Palace is the creation of the founder of the Piggly Wiggly grocery store chain, the world’s first self-service grocery store. Its rather eclectic collection includes a replica of the grocery store, a model circus, and a shrunken head. On a more serious note, The National Civil Rights Museum provides a glimpse into the civil rights movement.
Live performances, folk art, cornbread, and peach cobbler are just some of the things you’ll find at the Center for Southern Folklore. The center collects stories and artifacts of the South and is the authority on regional music, food, and crafts. Visit the Mud Island Mississippi River Park and Museum and explore the 10,000-year history of the Mississippi.
Affordable Hotels in Memphis
Image via Trover by Ron V.
Memphis is one of the country’s most affordable cities, and there are plenty of budget hotels to choose from. However, you may need to venture out of midtown to really find a bargain. Good places to look for value hotels include East Memphis, Cordova, and Germantown. If you’re hoping to be closer to Graceland, the Days Inn at Graceland with the famous guitar-shaped pool is a great option. If the action of Beale Street is calling you, you’ll need to book in advance, but the Econo Lodge Downtown, Exchange Suites, and Comfort Inn Downtown are worth a try.
Now that you know what awaits you in Memphis, finalize your plans with Hipmunk. You can find some great deals on cheap hotels in Memphis from $84, including the Courtyard Memphis Airport, as well as flights from almost any city in the world.
About the Writer
Linda is an Australian who has been living in and loving Istanbul for the last ten years. So she knows just about every nook and cranny of this city and loves to write about the sites, smells, food, people and any other fascinating tidbit she can find.
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