“Memphis? Why would I go to Memphis?” were my first thoughts when hubby asked me to go for the weekend. Not expecting much, it ended up being a super cool and funky weekend beyond our expectations.
If you ever find yourself in Nashville, it’s worth a trip to Memphis as it has a totally different vibe. Nashville is great for all things country music, but Memphis is the soul of Rock n’Roll.
Here are the 7 super cool things you want to do in Memphis.
- Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion and New Exhibition Center
- Sun Studio that produced Elvis and other Music Icons
- Beale Street local performers and night life
- Woodruff-Fontaine House tour of French- Victorian mansion
- “The Great American Pyramid” Resort and Lookout
- Brunch at The Beauty Shop Restaurant
- Dinner at Flight Restaurant
1. Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion and New Exhibition Center
Last week we wrote a whole post on Elvis’s Graceland Mansion and the brand new exhibition center that just opened this May. You can’t come to Memphis and say you’ve actually been to this city without visiting Graceland. It is the 2nd most visited house in the United States right after the White House.
Elvis was originally a blonde and first dyed his hair black with shoe polish!
You can easily spend a whole day here learning about Elvis, his family, and his empire. It’s a fantastic tour with some interesting history and Elvis’s continued impact in the music industry.
Elvis has a sensational house that is now owned by his daughter Lisa Marie Presley. You’ll find shag carpets and ceilings as well as several bars and hang-out rooms throughout the home.
The Exhibition Center is full of Elvis’s awards, accolades, and personal collections of cars, bikes, and wardrobes.
Find out more and all the fun facts from my last week’s post Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion and The New Exhibition Center.
2. Sun Studio
Who launched Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash? These rock ‘n roll icons make up the famous Million Dollar Quartet and founded by Sam Phillips, creator and owner of Sun Studios before he passed in 2003.
This tour was super fun because the guides are really upbeat and they love music themselves. Our guide knew how to play the piano and guitar and gave us a bit of a show. The tour is not long either- only an hour, but it’s jam packed with fun facts.
What’s extra great about Sun Studio is that it is still in its original state. There’s nothing fancy about it and it’s been perfectly preserved. In the main studio, they have floor spots marked where iconic artists have stood and sang. You can even play with the original microphone that the legends have used.
Sun Studio still records today and produced big artists like Tom Petty, Def Leopard, Matchbox 20, Maroon 5, and even U2!
You can still purchase original vinyl records and collectable items at Sun Studio. We bought a few keepsakes to add to our cool bar at our house.
We were pretty much museum-ed out after Graceland and Sun Studio. There’s only so many museums we want to do in a trip. We enjoy spending time to do other things. If we are to return to Memphis, we would visit these museums that are also popular.
- Stax Museum of American Soul
- Memphis Rock’n Soul Museum
- Civil Rights Museum
3. Beale Street
To paint the town red and see it in action with talent, clubs, bars, and music: You gotta go to the ever popular Beale Street. You can totally just walk around too and visit little knick knack shops like we did.
Parking can be pricey though, like $6-8 an hour and up to $25 for a full night out. You can avoid the cost by walking if your hotel is close by or if they have a shuttle that can take you. Most hotels downtown have a shuttle service.
Beale Street was named after a forgotten military hero, Edward Fitzgerald Beale.
We didn’t even know it, but there can be free entertainment from locals that perform right on Beale Street. We saw a group of young men and boys that were wowing the crowd with their gymnastics talent. The little boy was so adorable to watch.
You can catch professional shows too at the Orpheum Theatre. The night we were there, we didn’t know Hamilton was in town but saw the theater and many folks dressed for the show.
If you like to shop for souvenirs and oddities, there are no limits on Beale Street. There are tons of record stores and tourist shops to visit. Grab an old fashioned malt or sundae too, still served in glassware.
4. Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum, French-Victorian Mansion
Aside from music, Memphis has all sorts of history that can be experienced. A French-style Mansion, The Woodruff-Fontaine Historic House is a cool place to visit because it’s from the Victorian Era and it’s just a bit creepy. If you have a rainy day, it just adds to the experience. It’s located on Millionaire’s Row and was once the home of 2 prominent families.
You can buy tickets online through Tripadvisor or at the house. It’s $15 whether you do a self or guided tour. We went ahead and just did the guided tour which only had 4 people including us in our group.
I must have an old soul because I love the fashion during the Victorian Era. The clothes, architecture, furniture, and even the music! It’s all beautiful to me.
The walls and ceilings had such intricate details to them. It reminded me of the homes I’ve seen in France.
“The Woodruff-Fontaine Museum has one of the most extensive Victorian era fashion to 1920’s textile collections in the South. We have over 4,000 pieces in our collection from wedding gowns to undergarments and everything in between.” Woodruff-Fontaine Museum
It had cool antiques all throughout the house. My favorite was a human size music box that had large metal discs and played different tunes. The sound was magical.
There were many beautiful antiques, statues, and furniture all around the home.
There were some creepy stuff too, like dolls and oil portraits in the upstairs bedrooms.
I’m not a fan of dolls and clowns, and I could have sworn I saw Annabelle and the Redrum Twins from the movie, The Shining.
Ok, back to the beautiful stuff.
The formal dining room was a uniquely shaped orctagonal room.
The furnishings were lavish and ornate. This chair was peculiarly placed underneath the staircase. I like this shape though.
There are 3 floors total and a tower as a lookout space at the very top to see. The many rooms are filled with stories and rich history from 2 prominent families that lived during the Victorian Era 1837-1901.
The tower at the very top floor is a tiny space where the family used to lookout for danger. It’s very tight quarters and seemed more like a playhouse.
5. “The Great American Pyramid” Resort, Outdoor World, and City Overlook
There really is a pyramid in America and by its measurements is one of the top 10 largest in the world. It must be the coolest pyramid ever. Visitors can come here and play like its an outdoor playground. Check it out!
Inside, it has a really cool resort and an outdoor world too. The 5 star resort is called The Big Cypress Lodge and we stayed in a Premier King Room for 3 nights.
Each room is built like a tree house or cabin and overlooks the outdoor world below.
In the center of the indoor pyramid is the tallest freestanding elevator in the country made of all glass. It takes visitors to the observation deck where you can see fabulous views of Memphis.
The best time to see the city of Memphis on the Observation Deck is sunset. You can stay and just watch the sunset fade into the city lights.
The Pyramid and its Big Cypress Resort and Bass Pro Shop outdoor world, is perfect for families. There are so many things to do and see at this place for kids and adults.
The resort has a bowling alley, aquarium, archery, shooting range, swamp with huge fish and walking ducks. You can buy any outdoor toy you’d like; speed boats, 4 wheelers, and any kind of hunting sports gear you can think of.
The Pyramid is one of the most unique places you can stay in the country. The service was nice and attentive too. The elevator rides are free and unlimited for resort guests of The Big Cypress Resort or $10pp as a visitor. The charge can also be waived if validated by eating at their restaurant, The Lookout, located at the very top of the Pyramid.
6. Brunch at The Beauty Shop Restaurant
Brunch at a Beauty Shop? Isn’t that where people go to get their hair do? Yes and yes. The Beauty Shop Restaurant was once a professional salon where Elvis’s wife Priscilla Presley went to get her hair done back in the 50’s. Now, it’s a hip and hot restaurant for great eats.
It’s such a fun and eclectic place. The atmosphere is 50’s but they play 80’s music. The food is familiar but with a twist that elevates each dish. For a funky good time, make reservations to The Beauty Shop Restaurant and don’t mess up by skipping the desserts, YUMM!!
The food is fresh and all made from scratch. Their menu has plenty of variety to satiate any palate. It’s located in the Midtown of Memphis, a cute boutiquey neighborhood.
7. Dinner at Flight Restaurant
There are many great places to eat in Memphis. One of the more unique restaurants is Flight and is among the top ranked places to eat in the city. The term “flight” in dining means to have a sampling of food or drink. Most people know the term for a flight of drinks such as wine or beer.
But food? Similar to an á la carte tasting menu or tapas, you can create your own flight of appetizers, main courses, and desserts. Unlike a traditional tasting menu or tapas bar where there’s really no full entree and each dish is presented separately. Here, they are full entrees but mini sized. They present it to you as a complete set too.
For the appetizer course: we chose the BBQ Shrimp, Crab Cake, and Lobster Ravioli. They brought all 3 out presented as a set.
Create your own flights for each course: Appetizer Flight, Entree Flight, and Dessert Flight
This is particularly fun when you are undecided about what to order and many things on the menu look tempting to try.
For my entree flight: I ordered the Surf and Turf, Soft Shell Crab, and Elk Tenderloin. The Elk was my favorite mini entree and the Soft Shell crab was my least favorite.
Hubby ordered his own flight too. He wanted the Pecan Salad, Red Fish, and Beef Wellington. Surprisingly, he enjoyed the Beef Wellington the least, saying the breading was too thick. The salad and red fish were excellent.
Dessert is obviously the most fun but challenging to decide on the options. Whatever you do, you must get the Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake that looks like a muffin. It was the best in flight that we had and is the most ordered per our server.
The dessert flights are full sized portions, but it was manageable between 2 people.
Flight Restaurant is a fun and nice place for an upscale dinner. If you like variety when you eat or a nibbler, you will enjoy this restaurant experience. Make sure you make a reservation. If you walk in, it’s a first come first serve bases for the outdoor patio only. It’s super hot in Memphis during the Summer time, so reservations are necessary to dine indoors with AC!
Hope the 7 Super Cool Things to Do in Memphis will help your visit to this awesome funky town. But of course one question still remains….
What about the Ribs?
You can’t come to Memphis and not eat their famous ribs, right? There are so many great places for ribs depending on your style.
Do you like your BBQ ribs wet, dry, or muddy style? I tried the “muddy” style for the first time in Memphis and was hooked. It’s 50% wet, 50% dry and 100% delicious! Memphis is known for its fall off the bone and melt in your mouth ribs. We tried them at a couple of places and it did not disappoint.
Try Corky’s or Central BBQ while you’re in town. Both places are super popular with the locals and will hit the spot for sure!
One more thing…
For the best cup of joe and yogurt bowl ever, visit Comeback Coffee House in downtown Memphis. It’s a really cool coffee spot to just hang out and grab a snack.
I had the mocha latte with my first time getting oat milk since they don’t offer Almond or Coconut. It was so good. Then I ordered the Berry Yogurt Bowl with house-made granola, honey, and cacao nibs. Heaven on Earth!