When most people think of Memphis, Tennessee, they think of Graceland and BBQ, and with good reason- Graceland and the the BBQ are amazing! However, the fact is, Memphis Tennessee attractions are quite numerous. So much so that you may hard pressed to fit in all of the Memphis, Tennessee points of interest in just one weekend. You might need to plan several weekend getaways to Memphis because there is so much to see, do, and eat! Plus, you will have such a good time, you will want to go back! It is no wonder that Memphis made #6 on Fodor’s Go List 2018.
Top 10 Memphis Tennessee Attractions
Recently my husband mentioned something about Memphis and I asked if he wanted to take a weekend trip to explore the Memphis attractions. He said he was up for it so I did some research through Memphis Travel and I found out there are a ton of Memphis Attractions. They also have lots of ideas for where to eat in Memphis and Memphis hotels. I am going to share some of my favorite Memphis Tennessee attractions that we experienced as well as a list of things we want to do on our next trip to Memphis!
1. Bass Pro Memphis Pyramid
The Bass Pro Memphis Pyramid is a city landmark you just can’t miss. The structure itself was inspired by the ancient pyramids of Memphis, Egypt and was originally built as an arena. In 2015, it became the “Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid” and it is so much more than just shopping. I would say it is most like an amusement park because there is so much to see and do.
It is a Bass Pro Shops “megastore” complete with the Big Cypress Lodge for those that want to enjoy themed accommodations, an archery range, a pistol range, an ocean-themed bowling alley, fish and alligator ponds, restaurants, an observation deck with amazing views of the city and the world’s tallest freestanding elevator. You could easily spend hours in there and and think only a short time went by. We spent a whole evening exploring, eating (the Lookout totally worth it for the delicious food and amazing views), and bowling (Uncle Buck’s is so much fun!)
2. Pink Palace Museums
The Pink Palace Family of Museums is such a mysterious name but it basically a bunch of educational fun. The Pink Palace Museum is a Mid-South cultural and natural history museum. You can see everything from amazing dinosaur fossils to dioramas of the Civil War. They have a ton of educational stuff jam packed in here.
Want to hear a funny but true story? My son would go exhibit by exhibit reading everything if I let him. I have to keep rushing him along to try to catch up to his dad. There is just so much information in there that I feel like you would need a membership and multiple visits to be able to soak it all up. They also have a planetarium, nature center, CTI 3D giant theater, and historic houses but we didn’t even get to check all of that out. I think you could spend a whole day just at the Pink Palace Museums. Or you could do like us and save some for next time!
3. Beale Street
Beale Street is an iconic cobblestone street in Memphis that is full of history. It is said that the Blues were born in Beale’s juke joints and honky tonks a tradition that is still alive today with lots of live music venues. There are also lots of tourist shops with fun souvenirs and you will certainly want to visit the oldest store in the Mid-South, A. Schwab and check out their old school soda fountain. This is a great family street up until around 8pm at which point it is much more bar focused. Beale Street reminds me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
4. Downtown/ Mississippi River
We walked along Beale Street toward the downtown up past the Elvis Presley statue all the to S. Main Street. We then turned towards the north part of downtown and walked up S. Main Street for a ways. There was some great street art and my son loved getting to see the street cars and the Orpheum. Then we followed Union Avenue over to Riverside Drive where we had a great view of the Mississippi as we looped back around. I loved the view of the river steam boats.
5. Ride A Street Car
Piggy backing off of #4 where you just get to look, you can actually ride the street cars. They were out of service for updates but are back in order for spring 2018.
6. Take A Steam Boat Sightseeing Cruise
Piggy backing off of #4 where you just get to look, you can actually go for a sightseeing cruise aboard the steam boats!
7. National Civil Rights Museum
Wow, does this museum make history come alive. It starts out as you walk by The Lorraine Motel and you realize that you are looking at the exact place where Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. That is enough to give you goosebumps right there but the National Civil Rights Museum packed with powerful exhibits. In the Rise Of Jim Crow exhibit, I found the wall full of oral histories provided first hand to be particularly moving. You won’t get out with a dry eye and you are sure to have an even fuller appreciation of the struggle for equality. It is a top notch museum.
8. Big River Crossing
We heard that the Big River Crossing is the longest public pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi. Naturally we headed over there to check it out but the weather wasn’t really cooperating and I was afraid to be caught in a big rainstorm so we missed out on our chance to have one foot in Tennessee and one foot in Arkansas which happens about halfway across the pedestrian bridge. Next time!
9. Sun Studio
The legendary Sun Studio is known as the birthplace of rock n’ roll. It is pretty cool to be able to stand in the same place that musical legends like B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded. This was on my Memphis itinerary short list but I have to say that when traveling with family, it is just hard to fit everything in!
I have been holding out on you and saving Graceland for last! It is located in South Memphis so about a 15 minute drive from the other Memphis Tennessee attractions I have mentioned. This was more of country suburban area when Elvis Presley purchased the house and 13 acres surrounding it. As you may imagine it is very developed today.
We stayed at the Guest House At Graceland which I highly recommend; you can see some of my Guest House at Graceland photos on Instagram. It was a great way to get immersed in the whole Graceland experience. It is built with Elvis Presley style from its southern colonial exterior to its lavish interior suites. The art and memorabilia offers little snippets of Elvis and you are sure enjoy the lounge with live music. They offer you a free shuttle over to Graceland and you begin to understand what a magnificent and gargantuan thing you are about to explore.
Graceland, as the home of Elvis Presley, would be top of Memphis Tennessee attractions by itself, but it is so much more. You begin by touring the Graceland Mansion and they have a very thorough tour on a tablet with John Stamos guiding you through all the sights. One Elvis Presley fact that was totally new to me was that Elvis was a twin! Did you know that? His twin was still born but then along came Elvis and I can’t even imagine how much he did to mend his mother’s broken heart. He probably always knew he was a gift from God! Anyway, it was so interesting getting a peek into the home and family life of Elvis Presley. But then you get back on the bus and there is oh so much more to see.
You could easily spend a full day checking out the Graceland Mansion, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and Elvis’ Airplanes. Elvis Presley’s Memphis includes The Entertainer Career Museum, Elvis in the Army Exhibit, Presley Motors Automobile Museum, Hollywood Backlot, Elvis Fashion King Exhibit, The Influence of Elvis Presley Exhibit, and so much more. It was really fun and really inspiring to how Elvis rose from poverty to being “The King.” Of course, they have all the Elvis Presley and Graceland souvenirs you could ever want in themed gift shops too!
OK. There you have my list of the top 10 Memphis Tennessee attractions but there is really so much more you can do in Memphis so I have to share some bonus Memphis Tennessee attractions that are my list of things to do in Memphis when I go back.
Bonus Memphis Tennessee Attractions:
- Memphis Zoo- more than 3,500 animals
- Shelby Farms- one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Rent canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards for some water fun. Bring the kids to the The Woodland Discovery Playground and Water Play Sprayground.
- Go Ape treetop adventures and ziplining
- Memphis Botanic Gardens- 23 specialty gardens
- Stax Museum of American Soul Music- operated by Soulsville USA
- Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum- the complete story of Memphis music history
- Mud Island River Park- you can walk through The Riverwalk scale model of the Lower Mississippi River
- Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum- tour an actual 19th-century home that once part of the Underground Railroad
- Peabody Duck March- see the grand Peabody and watch ducks march by
- Good Eateries- hit the best restaurants in Memphis because good food is just part of the Memphis experience!
So that makes 20 things to do in Memphis!
Memphis Restaurants- Where to eat in Memphis!
If you are still with me, I have to expand on the best Memphis Restaurants because food is part of the experience.
Central BBQ Best Ribs In Memphis
My absolute favorite Memphis Restaurant was Central BBQ. It is just so iconic. I got the Brisket sandwich which comes with a slaw on it. Oh my goodness, it was packed with flavor. I was already thinking that Central BBQ deserved top scores and then I tried the BBQ ribs! I just planned to take one bite of my husband’s rib but it was good, that I kept it and ate the whole thing myself. Best ribs I have ever had. Hands down.
The Lookout At The Pyramid
Runner up was The Lookout At The Pyramid. Just amazing views with fabulous, fancy food and fun sportsman options like Elk Chops in a Red Wine Demi-Glace Sauce with Smoked Gouda Grits. My Jumbo Seared Scallops were so delicious!
Here are a few more Memphis Restaurants that I would suggest, either because we ate there and enjoyed it or because they were recommended to us by people we met on our trip.
- Uncle Buck’s Grille
- The Rendezvous
- Aldo’s Pizza
- Itta Bena
- The Second Line
- Corky’s BBQ
Breakfast in Memphis
We ate at Delta’s Kitchen because it was just so convenient since we were staying at the Guesthouse at Graceland. We ordered off the menu the first day and I really enjoyed my eggs benedict breakfast. The second day we got the buffet and I didn’t like it as much but then I never really do enjoy buffets as much as a plate made just for me! Also recommended to us were The Arcade, Sweet Grass, Sunrise Memphis, Porcellino’s Craft Butcher, and The Liquor Store (funny name for a breakfast joint, I know).
So have you ever been to Memphis? What are some of your favorite Memphis Tennessee attractions?