When you think of Memphis, a few things probably come to mind… iconic music, legendary barbecue, and of course, Elvis! And if any of those things interest you, then you have to make a visit to this incredible city! We’ve had the pleasure to spend a couple of weekends in Memphis and have put together what we think are the 10 best things to do in Memphis, and yes, they almost all revolve around those three things we talked about earlier… iconic music, legendary barbecue, and of course, Elvis!
*Be sure to check out our “One Day in Memphis” vlog for a closer look at some of these experiences!
Now, let’s get into the top 10 things to do in Memphis (in no particular order)...
1. Graceland (3764 Elvis Presley Blvd)
Purchased in 1957 by “The King of Rock ‘n Roll” himself at the age of 22, Elvis Presley called Graceland “Home” until his passing in 1977. In 2006, Graceland was named a National Historic Landmark and is second only to the White House as the most visited home in the United States with over 700,000 visitors each year. To this day, the Graceland Mansion and its 13-acre grounds is owned by Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. In addition to the 13-acre original grounds, there’s the Elvis Presley's Memphis Entertainment Complex located directly across the street from the Graceland Mansion where you’ll find many of Elvis’ cars, costumes, and even airplanes! While tickets for the entire experience (Graceland Mansion and Entertainment Complex) are a little pricey in our opinion (tickets start at $44 for ages 5-10, $77 for ages 11 and up, 4 and under are free), but if you’re a fan of Elvis or just music in general, Graceland is worth experiencing at least once! Be sure to check the Graceland website for the most up-to-date prices, ticket packages, and hours of operation.
2. National Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry St)
We can not stress enough how incredibly powerful this museum is. Yes, the subject matter is heavy and a lot to process, but it’s important that this information be remembered so that we don’t make the same mistakes moving forward. The museum’s exhibits trace the history of the civil rights movement in the United States from the 17th century to the present. The museum itself is located partially in the Lorraine Motel which is the site of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination. In 2016, the museum was honored by becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate museum. Needless to say, this is a must-see when visiting Memphis. At the time of writing this, admission to the museum is $15-$18 depending on age (4 and under is free), but be sure to check their website for up-to-date prices and hours of operation.
3. Sun Studio (706 Union Ave)
Known worldwide as “The Birthplace of Rock ’n Roll”, any music loving traveler should have Sun Studio on their bucket list! Legends such as B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more were discovered right in this very building! Today, Sun Studio stands as a music recording museum by day where their goal is to spread the story of Memphis’ history and culture through the music that put Memphis on the map. By night, it is still a fully functional recording studio where sessions can be booked for $200/hr. Along with being able to stand in the very same spot that Elvis first recorded and hearing inside stories of B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and Ike Turner before Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison who were all drawn to the new Sun Sound, you’ll also get to see priceless memorabilia from the musical legends recorded here and listen to some of the iconic songs that were created here. The studio is open for 45 minute guided tours every day from 10am to 6pm and costs $15 for adults, $13 for students, and $10 for kids ages 5-11. As always though, be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date prices and operating hours.
4. Beale Street
Stretching three blocks through the heart of downtown Memphis, Beale Street is one of the most iconic streets in America where you’ll find nightclubs, restaurants, and shops, all oozing with Memphis character and charm. And if it’s music that you’re looking for, then Beale Street is the place to be! Whether you’re looking for blues, jazz, rock, R&B, soul, country or anything in between, you’re almost sure to find it here. No trip to Memphis is complete without a stop at Beale Street! Just know that after 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, visitors will have to pay a $5 “security fee” to get on Beale Street.
Bonus Tip: Grab a burger, fries, and milkshake at Dyer's Burgers while you're on Beale Street! Your tastebuds will thank you, but your heart might not.
5. The Peabody Hotel (149 Union Ave)
The Historic Peabody Hotel exudes charm, elegance, gracious hospitality, and rich history. The Memphis icon opened in 1869, and has become known as the “South’s Grand Hotel”. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is world-famous for the “Peabody Ducks”... Five resident ducks who march daily at 11 a.m. from their $200,000 rooftop duck mansion down to the lobby for a red carpet entrance to the lobby fountain where they then spend the next 6 hours before a red carpet exit back to their rooftop mansion at 5 p.m. Yes, it’s quirky, bizarre, strange… All of the above, but it’s a must-see when visiting Memphis. And the best part… It’s FREE!
Bonus Tip: If you have the time and money to spare, we totally recommend doing the Afternoon Tea experience at Chez Philippe (the Peabody’s main dining room).
6. Stax Museum of American Soul Music (926 E McLemore Ave)
Originally the location of Stax Records, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music pays homage to one of the most iconic music in American history, Soul. From the museum’s real, circa-1906 Mississippi Delta church that has been carefully reassembled inside of the building to the exact replica of Studio A (the legendary converted movie theater where Stax artists cut records) the Stax Museum of American Soul Music takes on a musical journey… From birth to international notoriety. Admission to the museum ranges from $10-$13 depending on the age (children 8 and under are free) but we always recommend checking their website for the most up-to-date prices and operating hours.
7. The Bass Pro Shop Pyramid (1 Bass Pro Dr)
Arguably the most bizarre attraction in Memphis, the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid is a 535,000-square-foot basketball arena turned outdoorsman wonderland. The store features 100-foot tall cypress trees, two floors of immersive retail space, 600,000+ gallons of water features, 36 varieties of fish, and the country’s tallest free-standing elevator, the “Sky High Ride”! It will cost you $8 ($5 for children) to ride the 300 feet up to the observation deck, but we think that it’s totally worth it! Once you’re at the top, there’s a full restaurant and bar where you can purchase drinks for a beautiful sunset happy hour, or you can just hang out on the glass-floored observation decks and take in the sunset overlooking the Memphis skyline and the Mississippi River.
8. Historical Tour/Backbeat Tours
In a city so rich in history and culture, you should definitely consider taking a historic tour while in Memphis. We took the “Memphis Mojo Tour” with Backbeat Tours and can’t recommend it enough! It’s a 90-minute city tour aboard the nation’s only music bus. All of the guides are professional Beale Street musicians who play and sing selections from the city’s rich musical heritage, while entertaining you with comedy, history, and behind-the-scenes stories of your favorite Memphis personalities. Along the tour you’ll pass by and hear stories about iconic sites such as Sun Studio, Beale Street, Stax Museum, The Lorraine Motel, and many more! The tour cost ranges from $15-$30 depending on age (children under 4 are free), but be sure to check the Backbeat Tours website for up-to-date prices and availability.
9. Barbecue/Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous (52 S 2nd St)
Memphis is world renowned for its pork barbecue and for good reason. You can find world class smoked meats in every nook and cranny of the city, but if you can only pick one, Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous is one worth experiencing. It first opened its doors in the basement of Charles’ meat and three restaurant in 1948 and has been serving up hot plates of barbecue out of its Downtown Memphis Alley location ever since. Of course, it has since taken over all 3 floors of the building and the building next to it since its humble 1948 beginnings and is now a Memphis staple! Pro Tip: Order the ribs! Other barbecue joints to make note of on your visit are Central BBQ, The Bar-B-Q Shop, Corky’s, and Cozy Corner just to name a few.
10. Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum (191 Beale St)
Out of all of the sites/experiences on this list, this is the only one that we haven’t had the opportunity to experience first hand, but it’s at the top of our list for our next visit. The museum’s exhibition about the birth of rock and soul music was created by the Smithsonian Institution and tells the story of the musical pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create music that impacted the entire world. Admission ranges from $10-$13 depending on age (children under 4 are free). Of course, we recommend checking the museum’s website for the most up-to-date prices and operating hours.
We hope that this has helped you plan your visit and make the most of your time in Memphis! If you did find it helpful, please consider subscribing to our YouTube Channel for more travel content, and following us on Instagram. It would mean the world to us!