I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in Memphis, Tennessee. I have a disclaimer before I get into my thoughts and recommendations. For almost all of my posts, I have either lived in the location or spent an absurd amount of time on research prior. I read travel books, blogs, chamber of commerce information, fiction books, non-fiction books, and ask for opinions from friends and strangers in person and on social media. So even though I may not live there, I have a solid baseline before I even step on a plane and can then provide you my thoughts based on my own experience. This is not true for Memphis. This was my first trip and besides looking up some places to eat the weekend before I left, I didn’t do much preparation. But even still, I have some thoughts to share that might help with your next trip.
Peabody Hotel: I was there for work and lucky enough to stay at the Peabody Hotel. I loved it! If I go back to Memphis again, I am staying there! This historic hotel first opened in the 1920’s and retains the charm and glamour of the time. It is most famous for its resident ducks which live at the hotel and march to the lobby every day at 11 am and go back up the elevator at 5 pm. I got such a kick out of it and watched it several times. Websites will tell you to go at least thirty minutes prior in order to get a good seat. Even in the off season, that wasn’t enough time. I think you need to get there 45-60 minutes prior. It is a beautiful bar and you can watch the ducks swim in the fountain so it is not a waste of time to get there early and enjoy the lobby. The hotel also has a couple of great restaurants and I thought the Capriccio Grill had some of the best spinach I’ve ever had.
Graceland: Memphis is famous as the home of Elvis Presley and Graceland. I enjoy Elvis as much as the next person and can sing along to most of his songs, but I would not call myself a “fan.” But still, when in Memphis… It was interesting and I mostly enjoyed the experience but I won’t go again. In fact, I was pretty disappointed and surprised by the logistics of their operation. I don’t know if this was a post-COVID labor shortage or standard practice but even with pre-purchased timed tickets we waited in line at least 30 minutes for the initial movie and then another 30 minutes for the shuttle ride to the house. I am tempted to say it was longer, but I didn’t time it exactly and it was cold, so I may be tempted to exaggerate. Regardless, I was there in the off season so I can’t imagine how they handle the summer crowds. The movie is “required” and you are not allowed to walk to the house so you have to take a shuttle bus that holds about 30 people at a time. The house was too small for the number of people let in at a single time. It is an audio tour (comes with the price of the ticket) but you can’t fast forward. Due to my time constraints and the crowds, I walked through the house much faster than the recording but could not skip ahead to where I was. This meant I didn’t listen to the tour after the first couple of rooms. I enjoyed the other areas of Graceland much more.
The other two must do items while in Memphis are the National Civil Rights Museum and hanging out on Beal Street to eat ribs and listen to the Blues. The Civil Rights Museum was outstanding and comprehensive. I would recommend at least three hours. I was told the Cozy Corner had the best ribs in Memphis but we went to the BB King club to also hear some live music and they were some of the best I’ve ever had!
If you have time, I also highly recommend a city tour with the company A Tour of Possibilities. Queenie, our guide and owner provided a fantastic tour of the city paying particular attention to the history of slavery, the civil rights movement and its legacy.
Another great place to eat was the Arcade which is one of Elvis’ old favorites. They have a standard breakfast menu along with some crazy additions.
And if wanting to get in the mood before your trip, both the movies The Firm and Walk the Line take place in Memphis.