Memphis, Tennessee is the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and the home of the Blues. It is also very popular for the barbecue, amongst other notorious things which is why in May they host the World Championship Barbecue Contest. The city is also home to Graceland, the residence of the legendary Elvis Presley.
The mansion sits on a 13.8-acre estate where Elvis lived for over 20 years. You have to take a bus across the road and up the hill to the house itself. The house is beautiful and you are given an audio guide upon boarding the bus. The audio guide comes with an interactive iPad that is hosted by John Stamos and features commentary and stories by Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie that helps you tour the mansion. In total the building consists of twenty-three rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms, and was renovated by the Presley’s. Most of the rooms are decorated out it in a very 70’s style.
During the self-guided tour you are able to see the living room, kitchen, dining room, tv room, pool room, the famous Jungle Room, his father’s office, trophy building, racquetball building, and the meditation garden. Elvis Aaron Presley, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and grandmother Minnie Mae are all buried there. There is also a memorial of Elvis’ twin brother Jesse Garon who died at birth.
Elvis loved cars and the Car Museum displays some of his favorites. You can also enjoy viewing the outside and inside of two Elvis’ private planes. The Lisa Marie, named after his daughter, includes a living room, conference room, and private bedroom. It also had very unique features such as gold seat belts and sinks.
Now after a long day at Graceland, the place you want to go to experience great food, nightlife and music, all on one street – is Beale Street. It is full of shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. You will find just about everything you need here.
Memphis has several fascinating museums where you can learn about the music history of the city. There are many different styles that became popular and emerged. The museums will give you an inside look at the start to present day of many musical icons.
One museum that is a bit different than the rest is the Gibson Guitar Factory. They offer daily tours showing you exactly how they make guitars and all the steps in the process.
You can’t miss a visit to Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Stax Records was founded in 1959 by two siblings, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. They combined the first two letters of their last names in order to form the company Stax, one of the most popular soul music record labels of all time. It launched the careers of many great artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. and the M.G.s. Other artists to record at Stax were Isaac Hayes, The Stale Singers, the Mar-Keys, the Bar-Kays, William Bell, Johnnie Taylor and Albert King. Stax Records is to soul, what Sun Records is to rock ’n’ roll.
Sun Studios was founded by Sam Phillips in 1952 when he rented a small studio space for himself. The label Sun Records, started to gain momentum in Memphis because of how respectful and non-judgmental they would treat local artists. Sun Studios is where legends like Elvis Presley, Johnnie Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded their music.
From Sun Studios you cantake a free shuttle to the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. This museum is one of the few Smithsonian museums that is outside of Washington DC. Upon arrival you are presented with an audio guide so that you can go at your own pace. You will learn about the complete story of the music scene in Memphis.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame is another wonderful museum. It honors many of the greatest musicians of all time, who created the city’s music legacy. It began as a trbute to legendary musicians and then transformed into a museum. You can see a lot memorabilia, rare video performances, and there are area to answer some trivia questions.
The Peabody Hotel is a grand old hotel in downtown Memphis and it has some unusual guests – five ducks live in a suite on the penthouse floor. Apparently this bizarre tradition started in the 1930s – the ducks were placed in the fountain of the Peabody Hotel as a practical joke (after a night of drinking), however it somehow stuck, and in the 1940s they enrolled a circus animal trainer to start the “Duck March”. The animal trainer is now known as the “Duck Master”. Every day at 11am the ducks come down the elevator with their duck master, walk down the red carpet and go into the fountain in the hotel lobby, where they swim for half the day. In the evenings at 5pm, the cycle is reversed and they walk along the red carpet back to the elevator in order to take it up to their suite. It is definitely a fun attraction to see in person!
Memphis, Tennessee was named after the ancient capitol of Memphis in Egypt due to its location on a major river. Throughout the city you can see different icons that resemble Egypt, such as the pyramid. Inside the pyramid is the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop. You could easily spend hours looking around as the interior is HUGE. The observation deck is the main attraction and its definitely worth the view! It costs $10 to go up the elevator (free if you are staying inside the hotel) however if you decide to eat at the restaurant they take $10 off your meal. Inside you will also find a delicious fudge factory that makes fresh fudge daily as well as some crocodiles and fresh fish.
One hidden gem to discover in Memphis is the Crystal Shrine Grotto. It is a beautifully created cave that dates back to the 1930s. Natural rock and quartz crystal collected from the Ozarks form the background for the nine scenes from the life of Christ. The art recreates history and literature. The cave is located inside a cemetery so please be respectful when paying a visit.
There is no complete trip to Memphis without learning about the Civil Rights Movement and knowing how important this city was. The Lorraine Motel is the current site of the National Civil Rights Museum. Inside you can spend many hours learning about the history and struggles of African-Americans. It is designed to take you on a journey through time – from the earliest days of slavery to the present-day Black Lives Matter Movement, with everything in between. You learn many things from the founding of our nation, the civil war, reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, Montgomery Bus strike, the Freedom Riders movement, college sit-ins, and much more. The museum is very interactive making you feel as if you are witnessing everything first hand. It is a very emotional experience but far more educational than any history class could ever teach you. It is great to set aside a whole day for the museum as there is a lot to read and learn, and it is a self-paced walk through. The last part of the museum you are able to see the room that Dr King stayed in the night before he was assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr’s words hang proudly on the Lorraine Motel marquee. He had traveled to Memphis to lend his support for a sanitation workers strike. He gave his last speech at a church not far from the hotel the night before. This very place is where he was shot. May we always honor his legacy.
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!“
– Dr Martin Luther King Jr