Memphis has a collection of world-class museums. No matter what brings you to the city, you'll have a museum to fit your interest. Maybe you're in town to take in the famous music scene? Don't miss Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, or the Rock 'n' Soul Museum. If you're a lover of the outdoors, the Dixon Gallery & Gardens is the right place for you. The entire family will learn a lot at every institution and have a great time too.
Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, is the second most visited home in the United States. Only the White House gets more guests. You can walk in the footsteps of The King, seeing where he slept, watched television, and ate his famous fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. His gold jumpsuits, pink Cadillac, records, and private airplane are all on display. Ticket prices vary. See the choices at Graceland's official website.
National Civil Rights Museum
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Now the site is a museum that tells the story of America's struggle for civil rights from the 17th century to the present. The museum is interactive and gripping for both children and adults. You will board a segregated bus, stage a diner sit-in, and hear stories from protestors and leaders.
National Mississippi River Museum
The Mississippi River is one of the most important bodies of water in the United States. And this museum, located on a peninsula in the river, teaches you all about it. There are 18 galleries that take you through the river's 10,000 years of history. You'll meet the people who settled on the river or braved its strong currents to deliver goods. There are five galleries dedicated to the Civil War; don't miss the gunboat reproduction. The highlight of the museum is a scale model of the river—1,000 miles of it—that you can walk along outside. The museum is seasonal so check the website to see if it's open when you're in town.
Pink Palace Museum
The Pink Palace Museum has something for everybody. History buffs will love the ancient fossils and dinosaurs. Science lovers will cherish the planetarium that takes visitors into outer space. If you're into architecture, don't miss the newly renovated mansion. The building was the home of Clarence Saunders, the Founder of Piggly Wiggly, and made of pink Georgian marble. Ticket prices vary depending on which activities you want to do. The museum is free on Tuesday until 1 p.m. (not including the planetarium or theater.) Get more information on the museum's website.
Rock 'n' Soul Museum
It's only fitting that the birthplace of rock 'n' roll has an institution dedicated to the music. This Smithsonian museum tells the story of the musical geniuses who changed the world by creating uplifting, get-off-your-chair tunes. And it wasn't always easy. You'll learn how cotton pickers sang while they worked and how black performers broke through segregation to get their music to wider audiences. The museum is located on Beale Street, so after you learn all about rock 'n' roll, you can head into a bar and hear some live.
The Children's Museum of Memphis
The Children's Museum of Memphis is the ultimate play space for imaginative children. Some exhibits prepare them for the future, like a grocery store, a bank, and a garage where they can practice the activities they will be doing as an adult. There is a FedEx plane where they can climb inside and see how packages get delivered. There are rides, dance floors, a train, a light bright, and multiple other places for them to play all day. Don't miss the Grand Carousel—this 1909 carousel has been restored and offers a magical adventure for the entire family.
The Memphis Metal Museum is no ordinary art museum; Everything in it, from the jewelry to the benches, is made of metal. Families will love learning how metal is extracted from the earth and turned into all kinds of useful tools for humans. You can walk around the grounds and see elaborate artwork and sculpture. The 3.2 acres of land has excellent views of the neighboring Mississippi River and downtown Memphis. Those wishing to learn more can enroll in one of the many classes or gallery talks on offer. See the schedule on the museum's website.
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is not just the oldest art museum in the state of Tennessee; it's also the largest. The museum constantly has rotating exhibits that challenge your mind and make you re-think what art is. One month you might be browsing paper murals; the next ancient China collections. Check out the events schedule before your visit. The museum hosts numerous panels, films, children events, wine events, and more.
Dixon Gallery & Gardens
This art museum would be enough on its own. Its permanent collection includes over 2,000 pieces of art including rare Impressionist masterpieces. But this institution also has 17 acres of land full of blooming flowers, sculptures, bridges, fountains, and more. The museum is also famous for its special events and family friendly activities. Your little one can even turn into a mini master.
In the 1960s Stax Records produced the greatest number of gospel, funk, and blues recordings. The company is credited with creating the music genres. Now, its former headquarters is the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Tour a Mississippi Delta Church where gospel music started. Browse historic recording equipment. Even listen to never before released records and dance to them in the dance hall.