Traveling on a budget without skipping out on top activities can be tough. Our suggestion? Plan to take advantage of all the free and inexpensive activities you can find! Memphis is one of the most affordable cities for living and visiting in the U.S., and there are many free and inexpensive ways to spend your time here. Here are just 10 things to do for less than $10 in Memphis.
You know Memphis as the music city and the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. Make a pilgrimage to the very spot where Elvis performed his first public show — the Levitt Shell amphitheater in Overton Park. Every year, the Levitt Shell hosts more than 50 — yes, 50! — free live music shows featuring artists and bands from around the world. Expect all kinds of genres, including rock, indie, folk and Americana, jazz, world music, pop, and more.
Check out the Shell’s spring and fall schedules on its website; most of the shows are in the evenings Thursdays through Fridays. Bring the kids, and use your extra cash to pack a picnic or grab a bite from the food trucks on site. Or, make a donation and pay it forward for more free live music in Memphis.
Memphis was named after Memphis, Egypt, another city that sits at the delta of a major world river. It's only natural, then, that Memphis would have a pyramid! Inside our enormous glass pyramid, you'll find a Bass Pro Shops outdoor store, which is more like an outdoor wonderland than a regular shop. The Pyramid is home to Big Cypress Lodge luxury hotel as well as two restaurants, a bowling alley, multiple aquariums, an archery range, a shooting range, arcade games, and more.
Spend time perusing the spectacle of the building, then take a ride up in the nation's tallest freestanding glass elevator — the fee is only $10 and affords you one of the best views of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River that you can find in Memphis.
If you want to take in both the beautiful Memphis outdoors and absorb some culture, a visit to the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in East Memphis is exactly what you need. This picturesque facility is tucked away near the University of Memphis and features multiple gardens filled with classical sculptures. Inside, you’ll find a permanent collection of world-class paintings and other art, plus rotating exhibits.
Admission to the Dixon is only $7 for adults and less for children and seniors; if you want to save a few bucks for a treat or sandwich at the delectable Park + Cherry cafe inside, head up the Dixon for pay-what-you-can Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or free Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon.
I’ll bet you never knew you could walk on water in Memphis! You can (sort of) do just that at the Big River Crossing in south downtown. This one-mile-long pedestrian and biking bridge offers a protected pathway on the historic Harahan Bridge with incredible views of the Mississippi River, Memphis’ downtown skyline, the iconic arches bridge, and the Arkansas flood plains on the other side of the bridge. Once you reach land in Arkansas (there’s a state line sign in the middle of the bridge) you can either continue your bike ride into the neighboring state or head back downtown. The Big River Crossing is open and free for public use daily from sunrise to 10 p.m.
While the special tours of Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis may cost a pretty penny (and are totally worth it for Elvis fans and first-time visitors) there is a way to pay homage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll that doesn’t cost a cent. Each morning — for one hour only — visitors can walk up the hill to the Mansion’s Meditation Garden, next to the swimming pool, where Elvis and his family are buried. Between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., it’s absolutely free to pay your respects and observe this sacred space. Be sure to leave the area before the tours begin at 9 a.m.
There are so many free and affordable things to do at Shelby Farms Park, you’ll have to pick and choose your favorites to fit it all in one day! Take a walk or hike on one of the several trails in the park, let the kids have a spin or a swing at the Woodland Discovery Playground, or have a snack (or a MEMPop!) at the Kitchenette in the First Tennessee Foundation Visitor Center. The 2.75 mile Chickasaw Trail takes you through forests, past lakes, and through the playground, while the 3.6 mile Dunnavant Trail leads you from the Wolf River Bridge to the Shelby Farms Greenline (another free amenity for Memphis visitors who want to run, bike, or walk). You can also rent a cruiser or hybrid bike to enjoy on select trails for $10 per hour. The park is open from sunrise until one hour before sunset.
Attend A Memphis Festival
Throughout the year, Memphis hosts events and festivals in various locations, and most of them are under ten dollars or free to enter; you only pay if you make purchases. The Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, hosted each Labor Day weekend by the Center for Southern Folklore, features live music, performances, and vendors. The River Arts Festival, featuring more than 180 artists and craftsman booths, is in the South Main Arts District each October and admission is only $5 for adults. Cooper Young Festival is held each September and is one of the largest one-day events in the state; the people watching is worth the trip and with free admission, you can afford a Pronto Pup! Those are only a couple of the many events each year. Check out MemphisTravel.com for more.
Enjoy A Free or Pay-What-You-Can Museum Day
While this idea requires a little bit of planning ahead, it’s worth it to enjoy a world-class Memphis museum or attraction for free. Each attraction that offers a free day or afternoon has a different schedule and rules, so be sure to visit each location’s website ahead of time. The Memphis Zoo offers free admission to Tennessee residents on Tuesday afternoons (excluding March). The National Civil Rights Museum allows Tennessee residents to enter the Museum for free on Mondays from 3 p.m. until close. You can explore the Pink Palace Museum on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to close without paying admission. The Brooks Museum offers a pay-what-you-can day on Wednesdays, too.
On the final Friday of each month, the shops and galleries in the South Main Arts District host open houses and opening receptions all along the street. When the weather is nice, there is usually live music or other performances and games outside, and best of all — many of the galleries and businesses will offer free snacks and beverages to passersby. The South Main Association usually has a tent with refreshments for $10 admission, or you can grab a Soul Burger from Earnestine & Hazel’s for about that much or less. The South Main Trolley Nights are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the last Friday of the month.
Spend an Afternoon In The Peabody Lobby
You can get away with a classy afternoon in the historic Peabody Hotel Lobby for less than $10 if you catch a Peabody Duck March (free) at 11 a.m. or 5 p.m., then hang around for people watching. If you're careful, you can have yourself a house-made dessert or a local beer for less than $10 from the Lobby Bar, too. Even if you don't have a room in the hotel, stepping into the well-appointed lobby and checking out the ducks (or riding the elevator up to the roof for watching the sunset) is absolutely a Memphis must-do