I love Memphis.  No lie.

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It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Memphis.  I’ve only been twice, and they were both just long weekend.  But we explored morning until, well morning every day, taking in as much as we could.  I was lucky.  I have a friend who lives there to tell me where to go and what to see (Shout out to Molly!).  I managed to find a few new good places on my own each visit as well.  The history and culture is rich here.  The food and overall experience is revived and modern as well.  You can’t beat that combo. 

Get Planning

There are gorgeous, fancier places to stay in Memphis (like the Peabody and you should totally stay there if you can), but we stayed at the Courtyard Memphis Downtown- on the corner of Main and Jefferson.  Great price for the location. We could walk all downtown, even to Beale Street.  It’s located catty-corner to Court Square which hosts a gorgeous fountain surrounded by beautiful old buildings.  Thursday’s in Court Square are “Food Truck Thursdays” from 11-2.

Court Square

Before you go, check to see what’s happening at the FedEx Forum and the Orpheum.  The Orpheum is your place for national touring musicals and performances.  The FedEx Forum is home to every big concert tour stop you could want to see and the NBA Grizzlies

Make dinner reservations.  And Brunch reservations.  Don’t put this off- as soon as you know your dates, figure out where you want to eat and make your reservations.  The food scene is really big here and the locals are in on the action and you are competing for those tables. Brunch is a big part of your true Memphis experience- so do it right!

Random Highlights

When walking downtown, your eyes will be drawn up to take in the architecture, but don’t forget to take a look at eye level and see all the amazing street art.  It's such a big deal here they had a guide created just to show it off: Downtown Memphis Mural Guide. If you eat at Local on Main Street, but sure to check out the ally there.  Check online before you trip to see if they are having an Ally Party there to celebrating new artwork.  

Be sure to find a way to get yourself to the banks of the Mississippi River and see the beautiful Hernando de Soto Bridge to Arkansas.  If you can be there at sunset and on the north side- it’s a sight to behold.  Its large rounded arches also light up at night.  Learn more about all of Memphis’ Historic Bridges.  (But Hernando de Soto is my favorite). 

Sunset over Hernando de Soto bridge and the Mississippi

Become a Foodie in Memphis

The Majestic- Old Movie Theater turned restaurant.   Go for brunch if you can.  They silently show old cartoons on the movie screen, while a band plays on the balcony.  Order mimosas for the table and they deliver a bottle of Champagne and pitcher of orange juice.  Be sure to get online and reserve a table.

Itta Bena- it’s like a speakeasy- no sign.  Just head up the fire escape around the corner from B.B. Kings (it's part of that chain).  It’s named for the small town he was born in.  It is fine Southern dining and super cool at the same time.

McEwens- downtown off Monroe Avenue.  Make a reservation and ask to sit in the Wine Cellar.  Great food and atmosphere.

South of Beale (SOB)- We ate here for lunch, but it sounds like it’s a good spot for any time, day or night.

Automatic Slims- so much retro fun.  Check it out. 

The Brass Door- an authentic Irish pub, owned by Seamus (pronounced Shamis, don’t make the mistake I did- how embarrassing!)  Located in an old bank- so cool. Be sure to order the Ruben Egg Rolls.  I don’t even like Ruben’s but these were so tasty.  Located just a block over from Court Square.

The Green Beetle- The Oldest Tavern in Memphis. On South Main, but you might want to Uber to this one. 

Bar Dog Tavern- loved it.  Huge old bar.  Go for the cold drinks; leave with a damn cute shirt with a dog on it. 

Local- Gastro pub on Main Street. Good food and good atmosphere.

Loflin Yard- looks so cool.  I didn’t make it there, but you should and let me know if it’s as great as it’s Instagram account. 

See the Sites

Graceland- you just have to see it.  We drove straight there from the airport since it is pretty close and out of the way from downtown.  Go there to either fall in love with Elvis, or fall in love with him all over again.  Don’t be surprised when you find it’s not in a fancy part of town and the outskirts are pretty cheesy.  Ok, a lot of Graceland is cheesy, but know that going in and you won’t be so surprised and sad about it and can enjoy it for what it is. 


Sun Studio- The Birthplace of Rock N’ Roll- super small and quick tour, but worth seeing for sure.  Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded here.  We went straight here from Graceland before heading to downtown. 

The Peabody Memphis- It’s worth the visit.  The famous Duck March is daily at 11am and 5pm.  The ducks live downstairs between those hours.  Get there early to see the March as it fills up and can be hard to see.  Grab a drink at their really cool bar are in the lobby and just look all around you.  The flowers are gorgeous and frhtmlesh daily.  Head to the roof to see where the famous ducks actually live.  You’ll be up and close to the famous “Peabody” neon sign and get a great view of the city.  Check it out in the evening after the ducks have gone home and catch the sunset.  Before you leave, be sure to visit Lansky Brothers in the lobby- where the King himself shopped early on, as well as other Memphis music greats in the 50’s and 60’s.  You’ll see some neat signed guitars and memorabilia in there as well. 

National Civil Rights Museum- this is a must, but do it in a different day that the music part of your visit.  It’s pretty powerful.  The Museum is in what was the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  So moving.  The motel and parking lot take you right back to the 60’s.  The museum is very well done.  After feeling like you are in a time warp while going through the museum on the motel side, you cross the street to a modern day portion of the museum which follows the conspiracy theories and story of James Earl Ray. 

Memphis = Music

You should see Beale Street because this is where it’s at, where it was, etc… Just part of the deal.

For sure visit B.B. Kings on the corner of 2nd and
Beale (the West end).  While a chain, has amazing local talent here, including the B.B. King Blues Club All Star Band, which has a full horn section.  It is the original location.  There’s live music everyday starting early and running late.  We danced all night here on our first visit. 

View down Beale Street

Rum Boogie CafeDon’t let the cheesy name and exterior scare you away.  This great find is on the same block as B.B. Kings just on the other end.  It’s divided into three sections- the first part is the main section with the larger featured band each night.  We danced another night away here.  In the middle is a bar area.  Then if you open the wooden nondescript door at the end of the middle room, it takes you into another world.  It’s much less crowded (no line at the bar!), bar tables and chairs to sit and listen to the band, but also room for dancing.  It’s a hidden little room that I love!  Unless the band isn’t great.  Then just grab a drink there, take a look at all the walls, then go back to the bigger band. 

I’m sure there are other good places to hear music and do some dancing, but in our two visits these two places never let us down.  So. Much. Fun.

Night Owl?

Check out Raiford’s Disco on Second Avenue, right near the Courtyard. (It's actually called Paula & Raiford's Disco, but locals call it Raiford's).  It’s a Memphis Institution and exactly what it sounds like- a two story Disco open 10pm-4am on Friday and Saturday nights.  I hear you really want to see the light-up disco floor.  We were too pooped to go on our last visit and I totally regret it.  Raiford passed away the Sunday we left town.  We won’t miss it next time. 

Get out to visit a Neighborhood

Downtown is amazing, but if you can get to some of the outer neighborhoods you’ll be glad you did. Here are my recommendations. 

Midtown- See the Brooks Museum of Art and the Memphis Zoo (Winnie the hippo was born in March of 2017- see her before she weighs 3 tons if you can!). 

Overton Square- We loved Local on the Square.  It’s a Gastro pub by day with a great night scene.  The Zebra Lounge Piano Bar was so packed we couldn’t even get in! 

Cooper Younggreat little walking stretch with some nightlife.  We ate at the Beauty Shop- a little pricy, but super cute, cool and delicious all in one.  You’ll also find Memphis Made Brewing Company right off Cooper Street.  Try Central BBQ for Memphis style pork BBQ. 

Need more? 

Check out these sites I found: I love Memphis blog and Memphis Travel.

Follow these Instagram pages to start getting excited and to find other great local places you might like to try:

Once you return home from the trip, keep following the Instagram accounts of the places you loved.  You will be reminded of your trip every time you look through your feed!  

 ***Special thanks to my good friend Molly who loves to show off her town!


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