20 Reasons To Visit Memphis This December

Whether you need a holiday getaway or just a weekend of early winter fun, Memphis is the perfect destination for a December trip because there is so much going on. Here’s a roundup of things to do and places to go in Memphis, including insider tips so you can experience the holidays in the Bluff City like a local.

  • 01 of 20

    Starry Nights

    Starry Nights at Shelby Farms
    Photo courtesy of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy

    Where: Shelby Farms Park
    When: Nightly through December 27
    Cost: $20 per car

    Pro tip: On Monday, December 6, Shelby Farms will allow visitors to travel through the Starry Nights display on foot or by bicycle.

    Thousands of LEDs light up this enormous urban park in one of the largest displays in the Mid-South. Every year brings new light designs, so families making their annual drive through always have something new to look for. Stop at Mistletoe Village for holiday shopping, camel rides, s’mores roasting, and visits with Santa (for an additional fee).

  • 02 of 20

    Zoo Lights

    Memphis Zoo Lights Ferris Wheel

    Where: Memphis Zoo
    When: Select nights through December 30
    Cost: $7 members/$9 members

    The Memphis Zoo turns into a winter wonderland every year with thousands of lights on display on select evenings. After you see the lights (on foot or by tram), you can take a spin on the brightly colored Ferris Wheel, meet some real-life reindeer, enjoy a magic show, and even try out ice skating at one of Memphis’ few ice skating rinks. Additional fees may apply.

     

  • 03 of 20

    Memphis Grizzlies NBA Home Games

    Memphis Grizzlies FedExForum Game

    Where: FedExForum in downtown Memphis
    When: Throughout December
    Cost: Varies

    Pro tip: If you get to the Grindhouse early enough, you could get a Grizz giveaway at select games.

    Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, and the rest of the Memphis Grizzlies continue their 2016-2017 NBA season with a whopping 9 home games in December. They play the Magic on December 1, the Lakers on December 3, then the 76ers, Trail Blazers, and Warriors on December 6, 8, and 10, respectively. A four-game home streak begins on December 14 against the Cavaliers, followed by the Kings on December 16, the Jazz on December 18, and the Celtics on Tuesday, December 20.

  • 04 of 20

    Holiday Trivia from Cerrito Trivia

    Where: Various Locations
    When: Throughout December
    Cost: free to play

    Test your holiday (and holiday movie) knowledge all month long while you get in the Christmas spirit with Cerrito Trivia's holiday-themed trivia nights at half-a-dozen bars across Memphis. Check out the full schedule and reserve your team’s spot ahead of time. Theme night highlights include Love Actually Trivia on December 7 at Bleu Restaurant, Home Alone Trivia on December 19 at the Casual Pint, or Seinfeld Trivia Festivus Eve on December 20 at the Rec Room. 

    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • 05 of 20

    Soulsville USA Christmas Bazaar

    Where: 915 E. McLemore    
    When: December 2 (3 p.m. - 9 p.m.) and December 3 (10 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
    Cost: free

    The inaugural Bazaar is a chance to shop, enjoy live music, and delicious food, all with a Soulsville USA slant. Support neighborhood entrepreneurs as you shop, eat, and listen local. Bring the kids and take a picture with an African American Santa, too!

  • 06 of 20

    St. Jude Memphis Marathon

    St. Jude Memphis Marathon

    Where: Downtown and Midtown Memphis
    When: December 3, 7 a.m. - afternoon
    Cost: price varies

    Pro tip: Expect major traffic delays throughout downtown and midtown areas of Memphis until well into the afternoon. Take a look at the race route and plan ahead.

    Every year, more than 20,000 runners travel to Memphis to run 26.2 miles (or 13.1 miles, or 10K or 5K) raising millions of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The route goes through the heart of downtown, through St. Jude’s campus, through the tree-lined parkways of midtown, and ends at AutoZone Park. Not running the race? You can still participate by joining a volunteer Cheering Section - there’s one at each mile marker.

  • 07 of 20

    Downtown Memphis Holiday Parade

    Photo by David Wilmot

    Where: Beale Street  
    When: December 3, 4 p.m.
    Cost: free

    Pro tip: The best views for parades on Beale Streetare obviously on the balconies and second floors of bars on the street. Try Jerry Lee Lewis’ or Alfred’s.

    After foot and car traffic from the St. Jude Marathon clears out, it’s time to head down to the Home of the Blues (Beale Street) to celebrate a traditional holiday parade. Expect marching bands, vintage cars, dancers, floats, and of course, Kris Kringle himself.

  • 08 of 20

    Magic of Memphis Holiday Spectacular

    Where: Cannon Center for Performing Arts
    When: December 4, 3 p.m.
    Cost: $10 (students) up to $88

    The Magic of Memphis Holiday Spectacular is part of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s POPs series. For this performance, hear the Symphony play holiday favorites while the Cirque de la Symphonie group amazes the whole family with lyrical acrobatics. 

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    ​Party Under The Tree

    Where: Peabody Place and Main Street in downtown Memphis
    When: December 9, 6 p.m.
    Cost: free

    Pro tip: Downtown’s enormous holiday tree makes for a great backdrop for family photos.

    Downtown businesses will compete for the best decorated storefront, and the public gets to party during judging on Friday, December 9. Head to the huge holiday tree for live music from The MDs featuring Steve Selvidge, plus refreshments, caroling, food, and more.

  • 10 of 20

    Bobby Rush Storyteller’s Edition

    Where: Historic Clayborn Temple
    When: December 9, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
    Cost: $28

    The legendary bluesman Bobby Rush will perform an acoustic show while telling his stories of the civil rights movement in Memphis. The historic Clayborn Temple, site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Mountaintop” speech and other civil rights events, is undergoing a revitalization and this event is a part of a series of cultural and musical evenings designed to show the potential for the stunning space. 

  • 11 of 20

    Brennan Villines Holiday Block Party

    Where: Playhouse on the Square
    When: December 10, 7 p.m. - 11 p.m.
    Cost: $20

    One of Memphis’ hottest entertainers hosts an evening of amazing local music. If you want to experience current Memphis music, this is the event for you. There will be performances by Brennan Villines (accompanied by a full orchestra), Juju Bushman, Jana Misener, Marcella and Her Lovers, and Susan Marshall; hip hop artist PreauXX will lead the after party.

  • 12 of 20

    Grilled Cheese Fest

    Where: Hi-Tone Cafe
    When: December 11, 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.

    Pro tip: Dress for the weather and arrive early for the best selection and shortest wait times for grilled cheese sammie samples.

    Dozens of local cooking teams will prepare their stoves, griddles, and grills to see who can make the Cheesiest, Most Ridiculous, and Fan Favorite grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soups. Teams will offer samples to attendees and all the proceeds go towards Memphis ALIVE Rescue.

    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • 13 of 20

    Memphis Indie Market

    Where: Muddy’s Midtown
    When: December 10, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Cost: free to attend

    The annual Memphis Indie Holiday Market is the perfect spot for design lovers and indie craft aficionados looking to complete their holiday shopping. The juried events brings together 20 Midsouth makers, plus provides live music and food trucks. The market takes place in the lawn adjacent to Memphis’ favorite cupcake (and coffee) shop, Muddy’s.

  • 14 of 20

    Annie The Musical

    Where: The Orpheum Theatre
    When: December 13 - 18
    Cost: $25 - $125

    Pro tip: For a truly special evening take the family to the Majestic Grille before a Broadway show at the Orpheum; the Art Deco restaurant serves a special three-course pre-theatre menu.

    The classic musical is in Memphis as part of the Orpheum Theatre’s Broadway series. Join the beloved, be-freckled, big-hearted Annie as she learns about the hard knocks of life while keeping up the endless positivity of “Tomorrow” with an excellent cast of child and adult actors.

  • 15 of 20

    Take The Soul Train To Christmas

    Where: Cannon Center for Performing Arts
    When: December 17 at 7 p.m., December 18 at 3 p.m.
    Cost: $30

    The Hattiloo Theatre is one of the nation’s few black repertory theaters, producing well-known and new dramatic and musical works throughout the year. Their holiday show, Take The Soul Train To Christmas, is about a grandfather teaching young people about the black Christmas experience through the years, from slavery to the Harlem Renaissance through the Civil Rights era to today.

  • 16 of 20

    Lucero Family Christmas Party

    Where: Minglewood Hall
    When: December 17, 8 p.m.
    Cost: $23 at the door

    Pro tip: Purchase tickets online ahead of time to save a few bucks (advance tickets are $21).

    Memphis rockers return to their home base every year for an annual Christmas concert and throwdown. Opening for the Southern rock band is Nikki Hill, an artist with a soul-gospel-rockabilly mashup sound.

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    Mannheim Steamroller Christmas

    Where: The Orpheum Theatre
    When: December 23, 8 p.m.
    Cost: $39 - $89

    Experience the magic of modern American holiday music with Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis. Enjoy distinctive instrumental Mannheim arrangements along with a visual effects show, as the beloved group celebrates 30 years since the first Christmas album. The show is 2 hours long with a 20 minute intermission. 

  • 18 of 20

    New Year’s Eve on Beale Street

    Where: Beale Street
    When: December 31, all night
    Cost: varies

    Pro tip: Make your dinner (or hotel!) reservations now before everything fills up. New Year’s Eve is one of the most popular nights to be on Beale Street.

    Ring in 2017 as only Memphis can, on the iconic Beale Street surrounded by thousands of revelers. At the stroke of midnight, the Hard Rock Cafe will drop a giant guitar, marking the end of one year and the start of a fresh new one. Expect lively entertainment at every bar and plenty of V.I.P. options.  

  • 19 of 20

    New Year’s Eve at Lafayette’s

    Where: Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square
    When: December 31, 6 p.m. through January 1, 2017 at 2 a.m.
    Cost: $60 or $99

    Welcome 2017 in midtown at Overton Square’s largest music venue. Choose a 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. three-course dinner ($60, includes access after dinner and a champagne toast at midnight, plus favors) or a 9 p.m. - ‘til VIP package with a three-course dinner, midnight champagne toast, party favors, and reserved seating. There will be live music from multiple bands throughout the night and plenty of dancing. 

  • 20 of 20

    Peabody New Year’s Eve Party

    Where: Peabody Hotel
    When: December 31, 2016
    Cost: $40 general / $150 VIP

    The whole Peabody Hotel turns into one big celebration for New Year’s Eve, with the party taking place in the Grand Lobby, the Mezzanine, the Continental Ballroom, and the Corner Bar. Expect performances from Hollywood, Seeing Red, and the Renee Koopman Trio, plus DJ Mark Anderson. A VIP pass gets you valet parking, admission to the Stella Artois Lounge with unlimited champagne and Stella and hors d’oeuvres.