Your Trip to Memphis: The Complete Guide

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Memphis has something for everybody. Foodies will delight in the Memphis-style ribs available in old-school joints. Music lovers can go to live shows seven nights a week or visit Graceland and Sun Studios, where rock legends recorded their songs. Families will love the Memphis Zoo (one of the only four zoos in the United States with pandas!), the Pink Palace Museum, and the Children's Museum with a historically protected carousel. There are hikes, biking trails, mighty rivers, and even buffalo.

There is so much to do, it can be hard to pack it all in one vacation. This guide will help you plan your ultimate adventure.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: The weather is moderate and sunny, and there are many fun festivals and events in April and May.
  • Getting Around: You'll need to rent a car or download a rideshare app - public transit is sparse and unreliable.
  • Travel Tip: While Memphis has many tourist attractions and historical sights, one of the best things to do in the city is hike and ride bikes. There are bike rental places all over the city, and you can explore Downtown, Shelby Farms Park, and midtown all on wheels.

Things to Do

No trip to Memphis is complete without checking out the live music scene and the places where history was made in the genre of blues and rock 'n' roll. Memphis also has some phenomenal museums that take visitors through the history of the south, its people, and its civil rights heroes. Memphis is also home to some rare animal sightings that you can't see anywhere else.

  • Music: To see live music head to Beale Street or Lafayette's Music Room in midtown. There is live music in both places seven days a week. Elvis lived in Memphis, and you can tour his home, Graceland. You can also walk in his footsteps at Sun Studio where you can hear never released versions of his songs.
  • Museums: The Civil Rights Museum is located at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated. It tells the story of the past and current civil rights struggle in America. The Mississippi River Museum has a replica of the river that you can walk along, learning how it ebbs and flows.
  • Rare animals: The Memphis Zoo is one of the four zoos in the United States that has pandas; watch the 24-hours-a-day PandaCam to get excited before you go. Shelby Farms Park is home to a buffalo herd, one of the only ones in the country.

What to Eat and Drink

Memphis is known for its barbecue food. Rendezvous, one of the oldest joints, is credited for having invented Memphis-style meat which involves slow cooking it in a pit and then covering it with salt and spices. Non-meat eaters should head to Cooper Young and Broad Street where there are an array of farm to table restaurants like Bounty on Broad. In every neighborhood you can find delicious pizza, tacos, burgers, and more. There is a wide array of fine dining and casual eateries.

Memphis is also becoming more known for its beer. The city has over a dozen craft breweries like High Cotton Brewing Co. that make everything from hazy IPAs to sours. They have their own tap rooms where you can try them all and enjoy food and live music at the same time. The city also has sprawling bars, some that take up over an acre of land like Railgarten. They are filled with fun things to do from sand pits to absinthe dens to concert stages.

Where to Stay

In Memphis a lot of the main tourist attractions, bars, restaurants, and great views are located downtown. If you stay in a hotel there you can walk to many places you want to be. There are chain hotels as well as boutiques. On the other hand, downtown can be loud, crowded, and dark, and you might not feel safe walking around at night. Another convenient place to stay is in East Memphis. There are a lot of family-friendly brands like the DoubleTree based there, and you will be close to the art museums, the zoo, many parks, and artsy neighborhoods like Cooper-Young and Midtown.

Explore the different neighborhoods you can stay in and our recommendations on the best hotels.

Getting There

The best way to get into the city is flying into the Memphis International Airport. While Memphis has Uber and Lyft, the best way to get around (including getting to and from the airport) is by renting a car. Memphis is served by two bus services - Greyhound and Miller Transporation - but it's far from most other destinations, so the bus ride will be long.

Learn more about the Memphis Airport with our comprehensive guide.

Money Saving Tips

  • Memphis has incredible parks that are free to access. Many have playgrounds, sports fields, hiking paths, and bike paths that are available to the public. The top ones include the Mississippi River Park, Overton Park, and Shelby Farms Park.
  • In the summer Memphis holds free concerts at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park.
  • Memphis museums can be expensive, but many have free days or select activities that don't cost anything. For example, you can explore the grounds of Graceland without paying a dime. The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has pay what you want days every Wednesday. The Dixon Gallery & Gardens is free every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.
  • Some of Memphis's greatest activities are free of charge. Walking down Beale Street costs nothing. So does sitting on a bench and watching the sunset over the Mississippi River.
  • There is a free shuttle that goes between Graceland, Sun Studio, and the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum. While admission is not free to the attractions, transport between them is.
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