Memphis may be famous for its music, barbecue, and civil rights history. But what people don't know is Memphis has some of the country's best parks. These urban oases are places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, run around, and enjoy the great outdoors. Many have exceptional facilities from interactive playgrounds to rare buffalo herds to zip lines. There are also hiking, biking, and horse trails for users of all levels and abilities, and many have sports facilities including swimming pools. When in Memphis, the great outdoors awaits!
Shelby Farms Park
Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country. At 4,500 acres, it has 40 miles of trails and 20 bodies of water. For smaller children, there are two elaborate playgrounds, one of which is a water park. Bigger kids will love the treetop adventure course and the zip lines. There are trails for horses, for dogs, and for four-wheelers, plus kayaks and paddle boats available to rent, and ponds perfect for fishing. You'll might even catch a glimpse of the thriving buffalo herd that roams over 50 acres freely. The park hosts special activities like late night hikes and star gazing.
In the heart of midtown Memphis is the 342-acre Overton Park. The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is located in the park, as is the Memphis Zoo and Levitt Shell, where a free concert series takes place every summer. The park even has a nine-hole golf course that feels like an escape from the city. Children will love the Rainbow Lake Playground where they can climb through a hollow tree tunnel and ride an old-fashioned merry-go-round. Adventurers of all ages shouldn't miss hiking through Overton Park's Old Forest where they will see 100-year-old trees and plenty of wildlife. Bikers love Overton Park because it connects the paths between downtown and Shelby Farms Park. With water, trail maps, and peaceful views, it's a great place to start your biking day.
Tom Lee Park
This park is located on the bluff of the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis. It offers stunning views of the water and hiking trails, so you can jog, bike, or walk along it. Locals head there on the weekend to throw a frisbee or have a picnic. It's popular to sit on one of the many benches to watch the sunset. There are also six fitness and exercise stations, two sand volleyball courts, and a soccer field. The park is the home of Memphis's famous festival, Memphis in May.
Wolf River Greenway
When you're on the Wolf River Greenway, you feel fully emerged in nature. On this protected piece of land along Wolf River Park, there is a paved pathway for bikers, joggers, and walkers. There are rare animals like blue herons that live in the wetlands and forests. There are places to stop, rest, and enjoy the natural beauty. The Conservancy that runs it organizes special kayaking trips, food and wine festivals, and other diverse events in the park. The Greenway has been built in stages, and while most of it is finished, the entire path will run 36 miles when it's completed.
Cameron Brown Park
This 55-acre park in Germantown, a suburb of Memphis, has everything you need for a day of friendly sports. It has five baseball or softball fields with lights, one football field, a batting cage, and two lighted tennis courts. There is a three-acre lake where kids love to feed the fish, and adults love to stroll on a beautiful day. It's also home to two playgrounds and 32 picnic sites with tables, grilles, and nearby restrooms.
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
This gigantic park, 13 miles north of Memphis, is one of the South's greatest pieces of land. It's located on the Chickasaw Bluffs, raised land that is covered in large oak and hickory trees as well as endangered and protected plants. You can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards to explore Poplar Tree Lake. The park has been designated an important birding area, and you can go on birding walks with guides. You'll find a 36-hole disc golf course, 20 miles of hiking trails, 5 miles of biking trails, and equestrian facilities. There are even six two-bedroom vacation cabins for rent if you're having so much fun you don't want to leave.
Riverdale Park is not your average neighborhood park. There is a gigantic tree house, named Everybody's Tree House, that has swings, gliders, digging machines, excavation activities, and more. Soon it will have an outdoor classroom, an elevated sandbox, and interactive gardens. The 20-acre park also has a street hockey rink, picnic areas, a batting cage, a lighted softball field, two tennis courts, and more. It's a lesser known park in Memphis and therefore not crowded.
Mississippi Greenbelt Park
On Mud Island, a peninsula that bulges out into the Mississippi River, there is a 105-acre park along the river named the Mississippi Greenbelt Park. There is a 1.5-mile paved, flat trail where you can watch the rivers' strong currents and the barges go by carrying goods all across America. It's a great place to play frisbee, rent kayaks, or have a picnic. Because it's located inside the Mississippi River, it feels more secluded than the other downtown parks, so if you're looking for peace, this is the place.
Peabody Park is a small park in midtown Memphis that has the best facility you can imagine on a hot summer day: a splash park. At first glance it looks like a regular playground with slides, bridges, and tunnels, but interspersed in them are fountains, geysers, and misters. Bring your bathing suit and a towel, because you will get wet. The park also has a field for playing sports and large metal sculptures created by local artist Yvonne Bobo. Next to it is the Raymond Skinner Center, a recreation facility for people with mental and physical disabilities.
This small parks sits on top of the river bluff at the foot of the Hernando Desota Bridge. From here, you can see the entire Memphis skyline, including the Mississippi River Bridge, the Pyramid, and the strong river down below. It's a perfect place to watch the new light show that illuminates both bridges every hour. The park honors the heroes of the yellow fever epidemic in 1878, the people who risked their lives to care for the sick. There is a big sculpture in the middle of the park that memorializes them.