We spent last weekend in Memphis. Although we were there for a soccer tournament and that kept us relatively occupied, we did make some time to get out and experience the city a bit. Unfortunately, Graceland was not in our plans, but we found that a visit to Memphis can be a lot of fun, even if you don’t have time to stop by the King’s place. While I don’t think I’d plan to stay an entire week, a quick weekend trip to Memphis gives you a chance to see the sights, eat the food and experience the culture of this lively southwestern Tennessee city. If you’re wondering what to do in Memphis, come along for a look.
What to Do in Memphis
Easily the most historically significant aspect of Memphis is that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
While the hotel no longer welcomes guests, the spot where Dr. King was shot has been preserved. The National Civil Rights Museum was built around the existing motel front and now offers visitors the chance to see room 306 as it was on the evening of Mr. King’s assassination.
I’m not a history buff and though I am uneducated on Dr. King’s life (and death), as soon as I walked around the corner and saw this memorial, I recognized the building from news clips I’ve seen on TV. They have two era-appropriate cars parked in front of the room and it adds to the historical feel.
Visitors can cross the street and explore the building from which the assassin fired shots.
After we left the Lorraine Hotel (which was actually a motel) we headed to Beale Street. If you’ve heard the Marc Cohn song, “Walking in Memphis,” you might recognize the name. Unless you’re like me and you never quite deciphered that the lyric says “walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale.” Beale Street is the place to be in Memphis, apparently. The restaurants and bars that line the street feature live music almost every hour of every day. We visited on a Saturday and the street was barricaded so that pedestrians had free reign to wander. There were quite a few street performers entertaining visitors along with horse-drawn carriages providing scenic rides. We most enjoyed just wandering around and taking in the sights.
One of the things Memphis is known for is it’s plethora of murals. If we had more time, I would have liked to visit more of them. Even though our visit was quick, we did get to see several really great murals.
The mural pictured above is cleverly referred to as “high cotton.” Clearly, Memphis has a punny way with words.
If you ask Google what to do in Memphis, you’ll probably read a thing or two about the Peabody. It’s the hotel famous for it’s ducks. Twice a day every day, they roll out a red carpet and march the ducks from an elevator to a fountain in the hotel’s lobby. The lighting in the lobby didn’t allow for a photo but we did stop in and see the ducks wading in the fountain.
Where to Eat in Memphis
When you’re planning what to do in Memphis, eating is always a good bet. We hit three of the most highly-acclaimed restaurants in town during our visit. First up was lunch at the Beauty Shop. It’s a really cute little cafe that fills a space formerly used as, you guessed it, a beauty shop.
The menu features a wide variety of unique dishes. We started with a carafe of ‘Susangria’ which was the house white sangria topped with champagne.
Jeff and I shared the honey crisp, manchego and arugula salad.
We also shared the BLFGT and A (bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato and avocado) sandwich. It was absolutely delicious and came served with a side of house made chips.
Cassidy tried the daily grilled cheese, which featured cheddar, bacon, tomato and guava jam.
Later that evening we enjoyed dinner at Aldo’s Pizza Pies.
We started with the garlic knots.
They were good, but the pizza was definitely the star of this show. We opted for a pizza called ‘The Other Side’. We chose that one because we were drawn to the unique sauce: a poblano cream. They topped it with fontina, roasted tomatoes, spinach and grilled chicken. The sauce was so, so good. I’m going to try to replicate it at home.
As we like to do when visiting any new city, we had to find at least one treat. In this case, it was donuts. Gibson’s donuts is known far and wide for being the best.
I’m not sure what sets it apart to be the best, but I can confirm that indeed these were delicious donuts. We tried their ‘Samoa’ which was a raised donut topped with caramel, coconut and chocolate.
And one of their raised maple bacon donuts, too.
I’d go back to Gibson’s in a heartbeat.
Of course, we couldn’t leave Memphis without sampling some barbecue. We visited the Commissary in Germantown and did not leave disappointed. The lighting inside was terrible, so you’ll have to excuse the quality of the photos.
I’m not a huge fan of eating meat for the sake of eating meat but I did enjoy the chicken at The Commissary. The rest of the family thought the barbecue was delicious.
I hope you enjoyed this weekend getaway guide on what to do in Memphis. Have you ever visited? What was your favorite part of exploring the city?
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I love Memphis but we haven’t been in many years. This makes me want to head back!
You definitely need to make time for Graceland when you return. It’s wonderfully tacky. The admission price is hefty, but it’s worth doing once.
I was born in Memphis and live in Memphis now with a husband and children. I love my city, thanks for highlighting our city well! There is so much to do- Broad Avenue (great revitalized area/ Shelby Farms/ Trolley Stop restaurant, Arcade. Come back again!