13 Best Things to Do With Kids in Memphis, Tennessee

Children's Museum of Memphis, Tennessee

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

Memphis is known for its music history, as the home of Sun Studio, the "birthplace of rock 'n' roll" where Elvis Presley recorded his first album, and Graceland, where he eventually made his home. It's also where you'll find legendary BBQ, world-class museums, and a prolific blues scene on and beyond Beale Street. But what can you do with kids in Memphis? From boat rides along the mighty Mississippi River to a hotel lobby filled with beloved ducks, Memphis offers tons of family-friendly activities perfect for visitors of all ages, whether they're learning about archaeology hands-on or hearing about the Civil Rights Movement in the very motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his last hours.

01 of 13

Enjoy a Stroll Through Memphis Botanic Gardens

Memphis Botanic Garden

Memphis Botanic Garden

750 Cherry Rd, Memphis, TN 38117, USA
Phone +1 901-636-4100

Looking for a fun place for the family to unwind? Head to Memphis Botanic Garden, where you'll have 96 acres to spread out, stroll among the flowers, and enjoy any of its 30 specialty gardens—the Rose Garden, Sculpture Garden, Japanese Garden, and Four Seasons Court are particularly stunning.

Kids, meanwhile, will love My Big Backyard, a special section with a place for children to splash, climb, build, and make their own music with drums and bells. With 16 different areas for the little ones to explore, they'll also have the chance to learn about plants, trees, birds, worms, and woodland critters, making it a learning experience as well as a beautiful place to stop and smell the roses.

02 of 13

Learn About the Civil Rights Movement Where It Happened

National Civil Rights Museum

National Civil Rights Museum

450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103-4214, USA
Phone +1 901-521-9699

If you're traveling with older kids or teenagers, visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel for an in-depth look at our country's history of slavery, Jim Crow and the issues that led to the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, and the many people who participated in sit-ins and fought for equality, voting rights, and desegregation in the South. You can also learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s final hours, which, sadly, happened at this very motel. Use your trip to Memphis as a unique opportunity to show the family where history actually happened and, depending on how old your kids are, explain it to them using the museum and its inspiring exhibits as a jumping off point.

03 of 13

Learn About Archaeology Alongside Actual Archaeologists

C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa

C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa

1987 Indian Village Dr, Memphis, TN 38109-3005, USA
Phone +1 901-785-3160

Located just 20 minutes from Downtown Memphis, the C.H. Nash Museum at the prehistoric Chucalissa archaeological site is a fascinating place for kids to learn about the area's earliest Native American residents, complete with a replica of a house the Chucalissa people would have lived in roughly 500 to 1,000 years ago.

The museum and grounds, including the prehistoric mound, nature trail, archaeology lab, and arboretum, are run by the University of Memphis as a place to train archaeologists and for kids of all ages (and those who are curious in general) to learn more about the area's history and the science of archaeology.

04 of 13

Tour the Memphis Museum of Science and History

Pink Palace Museum in Memphis

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

3050 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38111, USA
Phone +1 901-636-2362

Formerly known as the Pink Palace Museum, the Memphis Museum of Science and History (MoSH) started out as the home of Clarence Saunders, founder of Piggly Wiggly grocery stores. The sprawling pink-stone-clad mansion was later gifted to the city to become a natural and city history museum.

Permanent exhibits include a closer look at the area's natural and cultural history, as well as displays about Memphis' beginnings and the persistence of Native American stereotypes. Don't miss the Giant Screen Theater, Planetarium, Coon Creek Science Center, Lichterman Nature Center, or the Pink Palace Mansion, all of which offer interesting exhibits suitable for kids and adults of all ages.

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05 of 13

Embrace All Things Elvis at Graceland and Sun Studio

Collection of Elvis' stage outfits at Graceland museum

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

3764 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116, USA

No trip to Memphis would be complete without a visit to rock 'n' roll's most famous house. Graceland is visited by more than 500,000 people each year, and you'll see why after you go. Elvis Presley's well-preserved home is appealing to kids and adults alike; you'll be able to see plenty of memorabilia as you journey through the private life of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. The tour also includes access to the King's impressive collections of cars, private planes, and movies, as well as his final resting place.

While Elvis was born about two hours away in Tupelo, Mississippi, he recorded his first album at Sun Studio in Memphis, the same place Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and many other talented blues, jazz, and rock 'n' roll musicians also started out. Tours are available every hour on the half hour and are included with admission.

06 of 13

Visit the Children's Museum of Memphis

Children's Museum of Memphis in Tennessee

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

2525 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104-5926, USA
Phone +1 901-458-2678

The Children's Museum of Memphis is the ultimate in hands-on fun, no matter how old your children are. Here, little ones are invited to explore and interact with a variety of exhibits including art stations, real emergency vehicles, a skyscraper to climb in, a kid-sized grocery store and bank, a real-life cockpit, kitchen area, tornado experience, and a toddler area specifically designed for kids four and under, among other interesting displays. There's also an outdoor splash park in the summertime.

In 2017, the Children's Museum restored its 1909 Dentzel Memphis Grand Carousel, a beautiful, glass-enclosed historic carousel that the whole family can ride and enjoy, though it does require an additional $3 ticket.

07 of 13

See Animals at the Memphis Zoo

Memphis Zoo and Aquarium, Tennessee

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

2000 Prentiss Pl, Memphis, TN 38112, USA
Phone +1 901-333-6500

The Memphis Zoo has been one of the city's most popular attractions since its beginnings in 1906 and is now bigger and better than ever. With over 3,500 animals housed on its 70 acres, the zoo offers hours of entertainment and education for kids and adults alike. Enjoy exhibits like the Northwest Passage (polar bears), China (panda bears), Zambezi River (hippos), Cat Country (lions), and Teton Trek (grizzly bears), or sign up for an early morning zoo stroll or twilight tour to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes.

Check the website to see when zookeepers will be doing educational demonstrations and talks about all your favorite animals, including penguins, sea lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, hippos, and pandas, among other interesting creatures.

08 of 13

Learn About Fire Safety and History at the Fire Museum

The Fire Museum of Memphis in Tennessee

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

118 Adams Ave, Memphis, TN 38103, USA
Phone +1 901-636-5650

The Fire Museum of Memphis is a fun and unique place for both kids and adults to visit, with exhibits highlighting the area's fire history as well as general fire safety and prevention. View educational displays about African American firefighters, an original fire alarm bell dating back to 1865, a model of a firehouse, and several fire trucks and emergency vehicles, among other interesting exhibits.

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09 of 13

Play Outside at Shelby Farms Park

Bison at Shelby Farms in Memphis

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

6903 Great View Dr N, Memphis, TN 38134, USA
Phone +1 901-222-7275

One of the largest urban parks in the country at 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms Park offers 10.65 miles of trails, an off-leash dog park, horseback riding areas, the fabulous Woodland Discovery Playground, and the Go Ape Zip Line and Adventure Park, a ropes course geared more toward older kids and teens.

Seasonal events and activities—and a herd of about 15 buffalo that calls the park home—mean there's plenty to keep children occupied outdoors all year long. If time and weather allow, rent a bike, boat, or board and hit the water or treat the kids to a friendly game of laser tag or paintball at the outdoor battlefield.

10 of 13

Visit the Famous Peabody Ducks

Peabody Ducks

Peabody Hotels & Resorts

149 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103, USA
Phone +1 901-529-4000

Kids will absolutely love these seeing the fine feathered friends that march their way through the legendary Peabody Memphis hotel daily. At 11 a.m., a Peabody duck master leads the ducks in the elevator from their rooftop Penthouse, at which point they proceed down the red carpet into the fountain, where they then spend the day splashing away. At 5 p.m., the red-coated duck master returns to send them back upstairs for the evening. It's free and fun to watch, and the reactions are priceless.

11 of 13

Sip Milkshakes on Beale Street

outside of A. Schwab on Beale street in Memphis

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

2102 Trimble Pl, Memphis, TN 38104, USA
Phone +1 901-529-7017

The city's food scene is one of the most compelling reasons for adults to visit Memphis, and it should be no different for the kids! Take them to Belly Acres for burgers in an elaborate farm-fun atmosphere (there's even an airplane and a tractor to keep them entertained), or pick up some milkshakes, made with an old-timey soda fountain, at the A. Schwab general store on Beale Street.

12 of 13

Feast On Memphis BBQ

Central BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee

TripSavvy / Ivey Redding

2249 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104, USA
Phone +1 901-272-9377

Eat where the Memphis locals eat: at Central BBQ. This casual, low-key chain has three locations throughout the city, and while it's nothing fancy, the BBQ served here is a must-try for anyone visiting Memphis. Kids will love getting their hands dirty with a plate of ribs, brisket, or BBQ nachos—and who are we kidding, so will adults.

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13 of 13

Cruise Down the Mississippi River

Memphis Riverboat sailing down the Mississippi River

Memphis Riverboats

45 Riverside Dr, Memphis, TN 38103, USA
Phone +1 901-527-2628

One of the best ways to see a new city is from the water, and Memphis is no exception. Situated along the mighty Mississippi River, the third-longest in the world, a cruise gives you the opportunity to take some close-up photos of the Memphis skyline and the many bridges that traverse the river. A 90-minute cruise with ​Memphis River Boats also includes historical commentary.

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13 Best Things to Do With Kids in Memphis, Tennessee