A Labor Day Weekend tradition, the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival turns two city blocks into a celebration of the Memphis Delta Region musical heritage. Blues, rock n' roll, jazz, and Latin music sound from several stages across the area, complemented by street performances and various other happenings.
Award-winning Indie Memphis Film Festival aims to support and propagate indie film-making and ignite interest towards the genre among local audiences. It's been a success for 19 consecutive years, with movie screenings, live music performances, Q&A sessions with cinema heavyweights, and more.
Better known as the "Home of the Blues", this iconic street (the most visited attraction in Tennessee) is home to countless blues clubs and restaurants, and also the locale for numerous events and festivals throughout the year. Created back in 1841, it is integral to the history of Memphis, as well as the history of the blues, making it a vital part of any visit to the city.
Created by the Smithsonian Institute, the The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, more than being about music, celebrates the lives and stories of the musical pioneers who created it and forever changed popular culture, despite fierce opposition and racial and social obstacles.
Any true fan of music, especially a fan of rock and roll, will have Graceland on the top of their bucket list. Fittingly located on Elvis Presley Boulevard, this former home of the music legend houses an interactive museum that explores the life, influences and music of The King, and quite simply shouldn't be missed. Just next door is the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, and just across the road you can visit Elvis' tomb.
It is no accident that the National Civil Rights Museum is located at the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It's hard to think of a more meaningful location for a museum that chronicles the civil rights movement, and which strives to shed a light on civil rights issues that affect our society today. It is a sobering and powerful visit, not to mention an extremely important one.
Sun Studio, known throughout the music industry as "the Birthplace of Rock 'N' Roll", is yet another place of musical pilgrimage in Memphis. Tracing its origins back to 1950, it saw the likes of Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Johnny Cash and countless other legends sit in the recording booth. It still functions as a recording studio at night, while offering tours to the public by day.
Modern Memphis has plenty of attractions to offer, especially for animal lovers. The Peabody, a famous five-star hotel in Memphis, is home to a regal brigade of ducks who spend their days basking in the ritzy hotel lobby fountain. Crowds gather daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to watch the critters on their ceremonious march from their penthouse home to the fountain (and vice-versa in the early evenings).
Chef Kelly English has made Restaurant Iris one of Memphis' premiere dining establishments by consistently pushing the envelope of what southern and French Creole cuisine can be. Innovative dishes like fried oyster and blue cheese-stuffed New York Strip exemplify the offerings of a menu with a heavy emphasis on seasonal ingredients.
Lucky Cat Ramen is a testament to Memphis' culinary diversity and sense of innovation. Specializing in what they've dubbed 'Memphis-style Ramen', bringing local ingredients and methods to the Japanese staple, they've already gathered a loyal following ahead of the opening of their brick-and-mortar location in Midtown in early 2018.
It is no easy task to stand out from the crowd in a town as discerning about their barbecue as Memphis, but Central BBQ has managed to do just that, attracting throngs of hungry Memphians with a decadent offering of ribs, hot wings, and most importantly, pulled pork sandwiches (they also have famously delicious side dishes). You're likely to find a line outside Central BBQ, but it is sure to be worth the wait.
With a long history in the city (it started as a basement sandwich shop in the 1940s) and now legendary Greek dry rub ribs, which manage to find the perfect balance between sweet and spicy, The Rendezvous is synonymous with Memphis dining and should not be missed.
"Italian cooking, southern roots" - a tagline that encompasses everything Hog and Hominy is all about. Chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, the kings of Memphis dining, have received praise from major publications, including GQ and The New York Times, for their fabulously executed wood-fire pizzas.
Though it now has 24 locations across 11 states, Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken is a Memphis institution. Its roots can be traced back to 1973, and it's the first place any local will tell you to go for fried chicken, and with good reason. Do not skip the sides (the mac and cheese, in particular).
Winner of the OpenTable Diners' Choice Award in 2015 and 2017, The Beauty Shop is sleek yet playful and boasts a creative fusion menu. The space, formerly a salon, displays remnants of its past, with wash sinks and hair driers spread about. Book well in advance for the wildly popular Sunday brunch.
Famous as much for its hearty and wholesome home-style cooking as for the warmth and charm of owner Betty Joyce "B.J." Chester-Tamayo, Alcenia's is a masterclass in southern hospitality and a one-of-a-kind Memphis experience. Be sure to try the cabbage (yes, the cabbage) and the over-the-top sweetness of the Ghetto-Aid (an extra-sweet Kool-Aid concoction).
Otherlands Coffee Bar and Exotic Gifts describes itself as "a cultural oasis in a plastic wasteland". The decor consists of a mishmash of different styles of chairs and tables, with colorful knick-knacks adorning the walls and patrons of all ages typing away on laptops.
Muddy's Grind House is as much about bringing the community together as it is about providing delicious, freshly-baked items to said community. They keep prices low by eliminating and advertising budget altogether and focusing instead on the quality of their cakes, cupcakes, brownies, pies, cookies and other treats, including banana pudding and even different types of cheese.
Java Cabana is one of the city's oldest and most beloved coffeehouses. They operate exclusively in organic, fair trade coffee and have a a wide selection of vegetarian food options. Their frequent live music performances and open mic nights attract throngs of poets, musicians and culture hawks.
Locally owned and operated roaster Ugly Mug supplies coffee made from ethically sourced organic beans to numerous coffeehouses in the region. You can take home some off their beans at their flagship store in Memphis, or enjoy a cup there along with breakfast or lunch (try their great artisan pizzas).
Bluff City Coffee is a place for true coffee lovers - all their drinks are espresso-based (meaning that there is no drip coffee), and they offer creative twists on your favorite drinks, such as the Mocha Bianca (with white chocolate) or Haley's Comet (espresso, milk, chai and caramel/apple flavor).
The key word here is craftsmanship, and that applies both to the coffee and the diverse items they have for sale. While they can range from blankets woven according to hundred-year old traditions to cutting boards from Tennessee woodworkers, they are guaranteed to have a story behind them and be of impeccable quality.
Though some might say Beale Street's heyday was back in the roaring twenties, we say that while it may have started then, it never ended. It remains the heart and soul of Memphis nightlife. Known as the "Home of the Blues", this iconic street is flanked by world-class restaurants, bars and clubs, where live music and good times roll non-stop.
The original location of this now nation-wide chain could be nowhere other than Memphis' Beale Street. It is no accident that it bears the name of a world-famous blues legend, as it attracts some of the biggest names in the genre for live performances, to be enjoyed over great barbecue and drinks.
Locally owned and operated, Brookhaven Pub and Grill is a popular sports bar (home to many a Tigers fan) that offers plenty in the way of food, drink and entertainment. Their fully stocked bar and ample menu are complemented by large TVs for sporting events and occasional live music.
River City Pedalers offers a truly unique nightlife experience: pedaling your way around the city on a party-bicycle-bus type contraption (something of a "bar on wheels") while enjoying a refreshing glass of beer. Get a workout, a tour of the city, and an unforgettable night out, all at the same time.
Another Beale Street institution, Blues City Cafe has over 25 years of experience bringing some of the biggest names in blues to their stage, with live performances still taking place nightly. Their ribs are legendary at this point, but their menu also includes steaks, catfish, tamales and more.
This wonderful upscale restaurant groups wines, meals and even desserts into themes or "flights", giving guests the chance to try numerous options at each visit. Northern Exposure features white wines from cool climates, while Wonders of the World takes a tour of wines from France, Italy and Australia.
For a really local taste of Memphis nightlife, visit High Point Pub, a neighborhood institution since 1947. There's plenty of entertainment, with shuffleboard, darts, three TVs, a jukebox and live music, as well as an impressive selection of 57 beers. You can also get a pizza from High Point Pizza right next door.
With a roaring twenties, prohibition era theme, and decor to match, a visit to Blind Bear is a trip through time. The fabulous drinks have theme-appropriate names, such as the Bootlegger's Mule, and they offer tons of entertainment, with live music Thursday through Saturday, poker nights on Sunday and Tuesday, Team Trivia on Wednesday, and more.
A uniquely Memphis experience, Lansky Brothers (located inside the Peabody Hotel) is an upscale (mainly men's) clothing brand with a line dedicated to the timeless appeal of Elvis-style fashion called Clothier to the King. There's no better place to to get a snazzy new look with a characteristically Memphian flavor.
Bass Pro Shops can be found all over the country, but there truly is no other location quite like this one. More than just a shop, it is a playground, a hotel, an aquarium - in short, it is the Disneyland of outdoor activities. Fans of fishing, hunting, camping and lovers of the outdoors in general will not want to pass up the chance to visit.
The Peanut Shoppe has been around since 1949, serving a bewildering assortment of fresh nuts and dried fruits, some plain, some salted, some covered in sweet coatings, but all made fresh daily. Their packs of mixed specialties and special gift boxes make for a perfect Memphis souvenir.
Every Saturday morning from April to October the large pavilion just outside the central Amtrak station fills up with stalls where local farmers put their products on display. All items are locally produced, from the food items to the typically Mid-South kitchen and garden arts and crafts.
The blues is one of those things that Memphis seems to do better than most other places. In that regard, the now legendary Saint Blues Guitar Workshop carries on a tradition of craftsmanship and excellence in their instruments, from the beloved Bluesmaster series to the iconic Cigar Box guitars. Music lovers should not pass up the chance to visit.
Burke's Book Store is one of the oldest independent bookstores in the United States, tracing its origins back to 1875, shortly after the Civil War. It remains one of the best places in Memphis for new and second-hand books, as well as rarities and volumes on the history of the city.
Malcolm Burt, better known as the Doctor of Bluesology, runs Memphis Music, possibly the best music store in the city, specializing in blues, southern soul, gospel, jazz and rock n roll. His level of expertise in these genres, personalized sense of service and friendly demeanor will make your visit one to remember.
Dubbing itself a "kindergarten for grown folks", the Five in One Social Club is part retail store and part creative workshop. The shop features one-of-a-kind handmade goods produced by regional artists, and the workshop brings people together for classes and creative exchanges.
Broad Avenue Arts District is an emerging area in East Memphis rich in artisan workshops and boutiques, making it the perfect place to find interesting and unique gifts. Visitors can find everything from handmade soaps and artisan crafts to high-end jewelry and one-of-a-kind clothing items and accessories.
With a great location just across from the Botanical Gardens, Laurelwood Shopping Center is fit to meet most shoppers' needs. With a great selection of shops for men's and women's fashion, home decor and dining options, visitors will surely find what they're looking for.
Citizens of the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Kingdom of Brunei can visit the United States for up to 90 days without applying for a visa (as well as citizens of Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco and San Marino). Citizens of these countries must obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before traveling. All other travelers must obtain a visa before visiting the United States. International travelers need a passport that is valid for at least 3 months after the end of their intended trip in order to enter the country.
The Memphis International Airport is located a mere few miles outside of downtown Memphis. There is no shortage of options when it comes to reaching the city from here. A public bus stop is located at baggage claim level of Terminal C. Bus No. 64 runs seven days a week, from roughly 6am to 11pm Monday through Friday, 7am to 9pm Saturdays, and 7am to 7pm on Sundays. Taxis are readily available, and can be hired next to the concourse B baggage claim area. Apps like Lyft and Uber service the airport and are a viable alternative to taxis. Multiple rental car companies are also represented here. There is also a number of shuttles that service the airport, many hotels offering guest complimentary transfers. Inquire with your accommodation for details.
The summer months of late May through September tend to get a lot of heat, and with school holidays falling on that period (which means an especially high number of visitors), a trip to Memphis may be better saved for early spring (April) or just after the summer, for October or November. Events are held throughout the year, so your desire to attend one (or more) of those may also play a role in deciding on the best time to visit.
MATA runs an extensive bus network throughout Memphis. Prepare exact change for the fare box when boarding the bus. Pre-paid FastPasses may also be bought from bus operators, which eliminates the necessity of fumbling for change when you board the bus. The historic trolley service has been suspended as of 2013, but plans for re-inaugurating the routes in the summer of 2018 are currently underway.