Memphis, Tennessee... the Birthplace of Rock and Roll, the home of Elvis, Memphis-style barbecue, and the largest Bass Pro Shop in the world, and these are just a handful of reasons that millions of people visit this metropolis on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River each year. We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Memphis a few times now, and this is our perfect Memphis weekend itinerary.
For the sake of this itinerary, we’re going to assume you have a Friday evening to Sunday evening to explore. Obviously, you can shift things around to fit your schedule, but we think this will give you a good starting point at least.
*NOTICE: Covid has changed many businesses operating hours and capacity, so be sure to check with each business before planning your visit.*
6:30 p.m. - High Cotton Brewing Co.
After traveling all afternoon and getting checked in to your accommodations, it’s time to kick this trip off right, and we recommend doing that with some amazing, local craft beer and appetizers at High Cotton Brewing Co. The atmosphere is lively but relaxed with indoor and outdoor seating available. You can choose to order a flight of four to try a sampling of beers, or just order your favorite from the 10 beers on tap. For appetizers, they have a limited selection on their “Happy Hour” menu from “4 p.m. till late”.
*BONUS: If your schedule allows you to get in town a little earlier, you can go for a tour of the famous Sun Studios before you come over to High Cotton for a pint, as they are a short walk from each other. Just be sure to reserve your tickets in advance.*
8:00 p.m. - Dinner at Earnestine and Hazel’s
Now that you’ve gotten your pre-game on with some local brews, head over to Earnestine and Hazel’s for a local favorite. Before we get into it, we have to say… this is NOT a fine dining establishment. In fact, it is as far from fine dining as it gets, BUT it’s totally worth the visit. They are known for their “Soul Burger”, but you can choose any of their other amazing dishes like Chili Cheese Nachos, Barbeque Bologna Grilled Cheese, or Love and Happiness (Chicken and Waffles). Any way that you go, you won’t be disappointed! This dive bar serves up their famous “Soul Burger” and potato chips in a cardboard concession stand-esque tray, but don’t let the dinnerware (or lack thereof) turn you away. These burgers are delicious! Plus, they have live music every weekend, so put your dancing shoes on and be prepared for a good time!
10:00 p.m. - Beale Street
We know it’s been a long day already, but you can’t call it a night until you head over to one of America’s most famous streets, historic Beale Street. Beale Street is known as “Home of the Blues”. There are dozens of bars on this street and most (if not all) have live music. So, grab a drink and enjoy the talent that Memphis has to offer. Make sure to pay attention to the sidewalks where you’ll find the Brass Notes Walk of Fame that honors 127 mothers and fathers of blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll.
10:00 a.m. - Breakfast/Brunch at Arcade Restaurant
After a late night on Beale Street, an early morning probably isn’t in the plans, but you will want to start the day off right with a hearty breakfast/brunch. We recommend doing that at Memphis’ oldest diner, Arcade Restaurant. Located in the South Main Arts District, it’s as if you’ve stepped back in time as you approach the green and red neon signage that lights up the Arcade Restaurant facade. Once you’re inside, the same is true. Vinyl covered diner booths and retro table tops give you a glimpse of what life in the 50’s might have been. If you plan far enough in advance, you can reserve the Elvis booth which was where the superstar sat when he visited regularly in the 1950’s. If you want the full elvis experience, you can get the famous Peanut Butter N’Banana sandwich which was featured on the Travel Channel. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the Eggs Redneck (featured on the Travel Channel), and the Sweet Potato Pancakes (featured on the Food Network) are particularly delicious!
12:00 p.m. - Graceland
After eating at Elvis’ favorite diner, it’s time to head over to Graceland and see where the King lived! From the uber 70’s all white living room/piano room right when you enter, to the even more over-the-top mirrored ceiling tv room/bar, to the painfully 70’s “Jungle Room” or psychedelic pool table room, you will not be disappointed! Generally you don’t need to book your tickets in advance, but we recommend doing so to ensure that you get the entry time that you want. We also recommend doing the full Elvis Experience tour. This tour includes the self guided mansion tour, the car museum, the airplane museum tour, and several other exhibits. You’ll want to allow 3-4 hours for this tour.
4:30 p.m. - Rest/Freshen Up
Now that you’ve gotten your fill of all things Elvis, you’re probably ready for a little down time. Plus, you’re going to want to freshen up before dinner, so head back to the hotel/Airbnb for a well deserved break.
7:30 p.m. - Dinner at Flight
Since last night's dinner wasn’t exactly a white table cloth experience, we’re going to go for a little more upscale experience tonight with dinner at Flight. The unique thing about Flight is that you have the option to order “flights” of food rather than one full entree. For example the “Steak Flight” which consists of Boursin Stuffed Filet with Red Bliss Potato Purée, and Red Wine Bordelaise; Elk Tenderloin with Truffle White Macaroni, Local Mushrooms, and Kahlúa Glaze; and Bison Ribeye with Loaded Potato Croquette and Asparagus. There is also a Fish Flight, Seafood Flight, Butcher’s Flight, Farm and Field Flight, Vegetarian Flight, Chef’s Flight, and a seasonal flight along with MANY other entree options. These “Flight” style options are offered for all courses of the meal including dessert. We had the Deviled Egg appetizer, Steak Flight and the Chef’s Flight, and a complimentary Crème Brûlée for dessert since we were celebrating Natalie’s birthday, and we honestly loved everything that we had. We will definitely be visiting again on our next trip to Memphis!
9:30 p.m. - Beale Street Bars
The best nightlife and entertainment in Memphis is Beale Street, so why not enjoy one more night of it? Did you know that Beale Street is the only place in Tennessee you can legally walk around with booze? So, grab a drink and walk around and enjoy the sounds coming from each bar as you pass. You can also find the exact store that Elvis used to buy his snazzy suits from called Lanksy Bros. Clothing.
11:30 p.m. - Late Night Snack
If dinner is starting to wear off or you’re just needing to fill that late night craving, we’ve got you covered! Dyer’s Burgers on Beale Street serves up some of the best burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, and all kinds of other greasy goodness! (They cook the burgers in 100 year old grease!) And, if it’s a sweet tooth you’re needing to satisfy, they’ve got ice cream, milkshakes, floats, deep fried twinkies, and deep fried P.B. and J’s! We hope you didn’t plan on sticking to your diet this trip!
9:00 a.m. - Breakfast at The Beauty Shop
Another late night on Beale Street may not have been conducive to an early-ish morning, but there’s still so much to do before you head home this afternoon, and first up on today's itinerary is breakfast at The Beauty Shop. This former 1940’s beauty/barbershop turned hipster restaurant is the place to go for breakfast/brunch in Memphis. They’ve got a modern menu full of new and classic dishes that they haveour their spin on. From Chicken and Waffles served with sunny side up eggs and a pecan waffle, to Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with coconut cream, to any of their unique and delicious cocktails, it’s sure to please. *Fun Fact: This is the beauty shop that Priscilla Presley used to get her hair done*
10:30 a.m. - National Civil Rights Museum
This is an absolute must on your trip to Memphis. The museum is located in what used to be the Lorraine Motel, which was where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated back in 1968. The museum does an amazing job of chronologically walking you through the human/civil rights movement starting in the 17th century. The museum tour ends in the exact motel room that Martin Luther King Jr. was staying in moments before he was assassinated on the balcony just outside his door. It truly is a somber and moving experience. In 2016 the museum received the honor of being named a Smithsonian Institute affiliate. You’ll want to allow 2.5-3 hours for this museum and suggest buying tickets ahead of time. Be sure to check the website for their days and hours of operation before planning your visit. Here is their website with the updated information and ticket prices.
2:00 p.m. - Late lunch at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken or Central BBQ
We’ve listed two options for lunch because there’s just too many good options to choose, so we’ll let you decide. Central BBQ is right across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum, so if convenience plays a large part in your decision, this might be the best option since you’ll just be leaving the museum, but we promise, it won’t disappoint. Plus, if this is your first time in Memphis, we highly recommend getting some good Memphis barbecue, but if barbeque isn’t your thing or you’re just in the mood for some good fried chicken, then it’s less than a half mile drive or walk over to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. Gus’s is a staple in Memphis, and it lives up to the hype. It’s exactly what you expect out of a fried chicken joint in the south… fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, pecan pie… what else could you ask for!?
3:30 p.m. - Worlds Largest Bass Pro
Formerly a 20,000 seat sports and entertainment arena, this Bass Pro Shop is more of a resort than retail store, and definitely worth stopping in for a visit. In addition to the impressive retail store with gigantic fireplaces, mini pond with ducks and fish, and a massive aquarium, once inside you’ll also find the 103 room Big Cypress Lodge, with a full-service spa, a 24 hour fitness center, 2 restaurants, and 3 bars/lounges… one of which is The Lookout at the Pyramid. A restaurant/bar located in the peak of the pyramid, 300 feet above the Mississippi River with a glass floor observation deck. If you’re not dining in the restaurant and just want to go up for the views, the ride up America's tallest free standing elevator will cost you $10/person. When we were there, it was super foggy, so we didn’t venture up, but we hear nothing but great things, so we definitely plan to take the ride up next time.
If you are like us and find that you have some extra time in between plans on this itinerary, here is a list of bonus items you can hit while in Memphis.