Memphis, Tennessee. Definitely a “10” in our book. This southern gem is just radiating with culture, history, incredible music and great eats. Wrap that all into a long weekend and you’ve got yourself a fabulous reason to don some blue suede shoes and take a walk through Memphis. Here are 10 things to do and eat while you’re there:
Dip into History:
- Take a tour through the home of “The King,” Elvis Presley. Graceland offers a self-guided audio tour that will take you through the mansion and ground of the home where the King of Rock and Roll once resided. You’ll also have a chance to see Elvis’s grave (if, in fact, he’s not still alive), tour his private jet the Lisa Marie, and ponder over some of his most sacred possessions like those bejeweled jump suits and classic cars. Two new exhibits have just opened focusing on Elvis’s fascination with Hawaii and his time spent in Las Vegas. While you’re there, try one of the King’s favorite snacks: a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.
- After Graceland, stop by Sun Studio, a store front music label that reputably recorded the first rock and roll single and signed artists to the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lew Lewis, and Carl Perkins. The Broadway hit, Million Dollar Quartet is written about a surreptitious night that the aforementioned spent together at this famous spot.
- If you’re still in the mood for music (which you obviously should be), check out the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum, one of the only Smithsonians not in Washington, DC. Here you will learn about the birth of rock and soul music and the struggle of innovators to jump racial and socio-economic hurdles to create a genre that forever changed the musical landscape.
- Martin Luther King Jr., the historical and great Civil Rights icon was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968. Now, the site is a part of the National Civil Rights Museum that educates visitors on the Civil Rights Movement’s impact and influence. Visitors can walk through the hotel room where King’s assassination happened and go across the street to see where the assassin James Earl Ray lived and plotted the tragic event. And don’t forget to stop by and say hi to Jackie…she’s been protesting for decades in front of the museum. She’ll talk your ear off, but it’ll be interesting.
- Memphis may be most famous for Beale Street, and rightfully so—it is one of the coolest (or hottest, your pick) spots in the US. As early as the turn of the 20th century, Beale Street was filled with historically African American clubs, restaurants, and shops. W.C Handy is credited for writing the first blues song here in 1909 and the street has since then hosted Louis Armstrong, B.B. King and Muddy Waters, among many others. Much of the Street is closed to traffic and allows open alcohol, which means you can cruise around sampling the different blues clubs, eateries, and eccentric shops with ease.
- Check out the march of the Peabody Ducks. Ok so ducks might not be rowdy but the little mallards that have been making their march down to the Peabody Hotel’s lobby fountain twice a day for nearly 80 years are quite the lively bunch. That’s right, ducks. Marching from their penthouse suite to a lobby fountain. In a fancy hotel.
- Head on over to Mud Island a la Tom Cruise in The Firm and check out the Mississippi River museum…they’ve got a scaled replica of the entire river with a big swimming pool-type-thing standing in for the Gulf of Mexico. They also have an amphitheater and great views of the Mighty Mississip, as well as the Hernando de Soto Bridge, which forms the world’s largest freestanding letter “M”. True. We couldn’t make that up.
Eat your Face Off:
- On a side alley just off of 2nd Street stands the home to
some of the bestthe best ribs in the country at Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous BBQ. What began in 1948 after Vergos found a coal chute in the basement of his diner is now something that you can smell for blocks. These dry rubbed ribs are spectacular and the homemade BBQ sauce takes them to a whole other level. Try a sausage and cheese plate too; you’ll be happy you did. They’re not open Sunday so plan accordingly. And make sure you use the sauce with the red cap for a little extra spice.
- Fried chicken is also a culinary star of Memphis at Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Chicken. The recipe, used for more than 60 years now, is a family secret but you’ll note that there’s a kick to it, giving this chicken an unbelievable zing. This chicken is fried perfectly on the outside and so juicy and tender on the inside, it will have you ordering buckets to go. Top it off with some baked beans and coleslaw and you’ve got a perfect picnic. If you don’t feel like waiting in long lines, order ahead and then eat in a park.
- You can’t leave Memphis without having a cocktail or two. Or a bucket of cocktail, really. Silky O’Sullivans Pub on Beale Street, home to live music, multiple bars, and 2 live goats, serves up a secret blend of libations in a gallon sized bucket. And it’s actually really tasty. Grab one of those and you are in for one gallon of Southern good time.