Whether you are visiting Memphis for the first time or just getting to know the city, here are the top ten best things to do in Memphis. There are tons of best-rated and fun things to do in Memphis, but these are the top ten best-known most essential things to do, and some of them are even free!
The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States and the largest by volume. It serves as Memphis' western border and is the reason why Memphis is known as "The River City" and "Bluff City." The banks of the Mississippi provide nearly five miles of parks which are perfect for outdoor recreation. In addition, riverboat cruises, canoe rentals, and other water activities are available.
As of October 2016, you can now walk or ride across the river on the Big River Crossing!
Beale Street is perhaps the most famous street in Memphis and is home to more than 25 clubs and shops. Whether you want to find Memphis souvenirs, enjoy authentic Memphis soul food, listen to live music, or party into the night, Beale Street has everything you need. Day or night, there is always something going on down on Beale.
Cost: Free to walk, listen to music in Handy Park, or people watch. Prices for food and drink vary.
The National Civil Rights Museum is a one-of-a-kind facility that showcases the struggle for civil rights in the United States. The museum is housed in the renovated Lorraine Motel, which is the very hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. It is the unique focus of this museum that attracts thousands of visitors every year from all over the world. In 2014, the museum reopened after a multimillion dollar renovation.
Cost: $15 adults/$14 students and seniors/$12 kids
The Peabody Ducks are one of Memphis' most unusual and best-known attractions. Each morning, a parade of five ducks marches into the fountain in the Peabody Hotel's grand lobby to the sounds of John Philip Sousa's King Cotton March. Each evening, the ceremony is reversed and the ducks return to their rooftop home. This may sound strange, but it has been a Memphis tradition since 1932.
Memphis is a city famous for its melt-in-your-mouth barbecue. Perhaps the most famous barbecue restaurant in town is the Rendezvous. In business since 1948, the Rendezvous has been featured in novels, movies, and national news stories. But locals will tell you there are plenty of other places to get your ribs, pulled pork, bbq bolgona, spaghetti, or deep-fried bbq cornish game hens.
Cost: Varies, but you can get a good bbq sandwich and side for about $10.
AutoZone Park is the baseball stadium for the Memphis Redbirds, a AAA minor league team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. This state of the art park is considered by many to be one of the finest ballparks in the nation. Check out their schedule and make a plan to enjoy great concessions, exciting ballgames, and post-game fireworks on Saturdays.
Cost: Tickets start at just $9 for "bluff" (think grassy knoll, bring-a-blanket seating)
Sun Studio was recording home to many artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash , Ike Turner, and more. Today it still functions as a recording studio, but also as a tourist attraction for music lovers from all over the world. Tours of this National Historic Landmark are given seven times each day, so there is plenty of opportunity for a visit.
Cost: $14 adults/free for kids age 5-1/kids under 5 not permitted
The Memphis Zoo has been one of the city's most popular attractions for 100 years. Its numerous and impressive renovations over the last several years have made the zoo better than ever; in fact, it was named by TripAdvisor as the top zoo in the United States. The zoo now houses more than 3,000 animals on its 70 acres, including lions, bears, elephants, and most recently, giant pandas on loan from China.
Cost: $15 adults/$14 seniors/$10 children
Parking is $5 in the Zoo lot. Street parking is available in the surrounding area.
If you want a glimpse into Memphis history, the Pink Palace Museum is the place to go. It is one of the largest museums of its kind in the southeast and houses and impressive collection of exhibits designed to teach visitors about the cultural and natural history of Memphis and the Mid-South. In addition, the museum also offers a planetarium and four story CTI Giant 3D theater.
Cost (includes exhibits and the Planetarium): $17.75 adults/$16.25 senior/$11.25 child
Without a doubt, Graceland is one of Memphis' most popular tourist attractions. Visitors to Graceland are given the opportunity to tour Elvis' mansion, visit his grave, and even view his collection of automobiles and airplanes. For fans of Elvis or even music in general, there is no doubt that a visit to Graceland is a must while in Memphis.
Cost: $38.75 adults/$34.90 seniors, students, youth/$17 children ages 7 to 12
This article was updated April 2017 by Holly Whitfield