The city of Memphis lies on the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee. You will be in your element here if you love Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, or Soul music. Legendary stars such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and B.B. King recorded their music at the famous Sun Studios, which you can visit.
The iconic Beale Street is packed with bars and restaurants playing live music seven nights a week. You can grab a drink from one of the bars and wander the street, taking in the atmosphere. This is the only place in Tennessee where you can drink alcohol while walking along a street.
Elvis Presley loved Memphis, and his mansion, Graceland, attracts hundreds of thousands of fans yearly. It is the second most visited house in the US, after the White House.
The food scene in Memphis is exciting, with restaurants booking up quickly, especially for brunch. Barbequed food is popular but plant-based restaurants have started to serve delicious dishes such as hot cauliflower wings and carrot dogs.
In the Greater Memphis Metropolitan area, there are around 2000 churches, most being Baptist. If you want to get a feel for the people of Memphis, attend a service that often has a full choir and band. There is a lot to see and do in Memphis, so if you are visiting, you may wonder where to start. I have chosen what I think are the 20 best things to do in Memphis, and feel sure that there will be something for everyone.
- Memphis, Tennessee
- 20 Things To Do In Memphis
- 1- Visit Beale Street At Night
- 2- Visit Graceland
- 3- Sun City & Music History Bus Tour
- 4- See The Peabody Ducks
- 5- Discover Soul Music At Stax Museum
- 6- Visit Edge Motor Museum
- 7- Visit The Memphis Music Hall Of Fame
- 8- Ride The Hop-On-Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus
- 9- Drink Spirits On A Haunted Pub Crawl
- 10- Explore The City’s History On A Walking Tour
- 11- Learn The History of Slavery At The Lorraine Motel
- 12- Explore The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
- 13- Cruise The Mississippi River
- 14- Taste Craft Beer
- 15- Walking Ghost Hunt
- 16- Go On A Scavenger Hunt Adventure
- 17- Join The City Discovery Bus Tour
- 18- Have a meal at The Arcade Restaurant
- 19- Enjoy Nature At Shelby Farms Park
- 20- Belz Museum Of Asian & Judaic Art
- Memphis City Tour with Optional Riverboat Cruise & Sun Studio Add-On Options – three in one.
- Memphis Mojo Bus Tour – shake, rattle and roll on a guided music tour.
- Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum Admission – skip the line and prebook your tickets.
- Memphis Musical Scene: Private Tour of Beale Street’s Hidden Gems – discover the secrets of this famous street.
- Elvis in Memphis Private Tour – including Graceland tickets.
20 Things To Do In Memphis
1- Visit Beale Street At Night
If you don’t do anything else, you should go to Beale Street, home to the Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, Soul, Jazz and Gospel.
It is three blocks of restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops and is a National Historic Landmark District.
You will hear music pouring out of the clubs and bars seven days a week.
It is a music-lovers dream.
The legendary B.B. Kings is worth a visit. Here, live music plays daily, and the food is outstanding.
Try fried catfish, greens, mac and cheese, Memphis-style ribs, or pulled pork.
At Silky O’Sullivan’s, you can eat inside or out. I recommend eating on the patio if the weather is good, as then you will see their tower-climbing goats!
Their hall of fame has handprints and signatures of famous customers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Bob Hope.
They have live music day and night, and their kitchen is always open.
If you love rum, visit the Rum Boogie Cafe, which has one of the best rum menus in Mississippi.
There is live music and a fantastic Cajun barbecue menu. It is also a venue for the International Blues Challenge.
If you plan to get a takeaway drink from a bar and wander up and down Beale Street, you can stop and listen to music from any of the bars.
There are also musicians playing on the street and you might even see The Beale Steel Flappers performing death-defying acrobatics in the middle of the street.
I have only touched on a few places you can visit on Beale Street.
There are so many more, and I can assure you that you will want to spend more than one night exploring Beale Street.
Top tour: Memphis Musical Scene: Private Tour of Beale Street’s Hidden Gems.
2- Visit Graceland
If you love the music of Elvis Presley, Graceland is a must.
Elvis bought the mansion in 1957 for $100,000, but now it is worth millions.
Graceland was the place he called home. It was opened as a museum in 1982 and covers almost 14 acres.
Every room in the mansion retains its original decor so you will see it as it was when Elvis lived there.
The tour includes the living room, Elvis’s parents’ bedrooms, the kitchen, the TV room, the pool room, the jungle room, father’s office and the Racquetball Building.
The Trophy Building is a paradise for Elvis fans, where you will see his collection of gold and platinum records, memorabilia from his movies, and his unique jumpsuits.
Other tour highlights include seeing his range of cars and going on his aeroplanes.
Elvis fans will be moved by the Meditation Garden, where he and his family are buried.
Many people continue to lay flowers at his grave.
Top tour: Elvis in Memphis Private Tour, including Graceland Tickets.
3- Sun City & Music History Bus Tour
This is a great tour that will acclimatise you to the music history of Memphis.
Your guide will be a professional Beale Street musician who will entertain you with songs and stories about the history of Memphis and the musical personalities that lived there.
You will drive by historic landmarks such as Beale Street, Stax Studios, the Lorraine Motel, and the early homes of Elvis, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash.
The highlight of the tour is a visit to Sun Studio, which is thought to be the birthplace of
Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It is where many legendary singers were discovered in the 1950s.
Elvis recorded his first record here at the age of 18 and it’s where you can see memorabilia from music industry icons and listen to outtakes from recording sessions.
Top tour: Memphis City Tour with Sun Studio Admission.
4- See The Peabody Ducks
Every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., the Peabody Ducks make their way via the lift of the Peabody Hotel from their rooftop home to the fountain in the lobby.
They are a sight to be seen.
This started as a joke in the 1930s by Peabody’s General Manager, but the ducks became so popular that they became a permanent fixture.
There are five mallard ducks, one drake and four hens.
They are bred at a local farm and live at the hotel for three months before retiring back to the farm and replaced by another five ducks.
Combine your visit with brunch in the hotel or a drink in the bar.
The Peabody Ducks are at The Peabody Hotel, 149 Union Avenue, Memphis, 38103.
5- Discover Soul Music At Stax Museum
Soul music was born in a country church and this museum starts in a reassembled 1906 Mississippi Delta Church.
The museum is dedicated to American Soul music and here you will see over 2,000 artefacts, exhibits and films.
The museum is fun and interactive.
Vintage episodes of Soul Train play next to the Express Yourself Dance Floor and you are encouraged to join in and show your dance moves.
Visit the control room and see some of the old recording equipment used to record music from your favourite stars.
Studio A is a replica of the converted film studio where Stax artists cut their records.
In the Hall of Records, the walls are lined with cases containing all the music released by Stax Records between 1957 and 1975.
There is a listening station where you can hear music from this time.
If you were a fan of Isaac Lee Hayes Jr, the singer, actor, and songwriter who was one of the creative forces behind Stax Records.
You can see his custom-built Cadillac Eldorado with its 24-carat gold exterior, gold-trim and white fur carpets inside.
Stax Museum Of American Soul Music is at 926 E McLemore Avenue, Memphis 38126.
Top tour: Memphis Mojo Bus Tour.
6- Visit Edge Motor Museum
If you like sports cars, the Edge Motor Museum is a must.
It follows the history of the American sports car from its rise to its fall, telling you how trends in culture and economics influenced this progress.
Each car in the collection has been chosen based on its historical significance.
The cars go back as far as 1913 with the Ford T Runabout and end with the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette.
You will enjoy seeing such cars as the 1929 Ford Model A Speedster, the 1950 MG TD, and the 1966 Pontiac GTO while learning what was happening in the US at these times.
The Edge Motor Museum is at 645 Marshall Avenue, Memphis 38103.
7- Visit The Memphis Music Hall Of Fame
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame honours Memphis musicians for their lifetime achievements in music.
The induction ceremony is conducted each year.
So far, there have been over 48 inductees, such as Elvis, Otis Redding, B.B. King, Al Green, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin and Justin Timberlake.
In 2015, a museum was set up which features memorabilia from the inductees, rare video performances and interviews, and interactive exhibits.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is at 126 Beale Street, Memphis 38103. Skip the line and book your tickets here.
8- Ride The Hop-On-Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus
This day pass gives you unlimited rides and nine stops, allowing you to see as much as possible if you have limited time in Memphis.
Get on and off whenever you want.
The buses pass through each stop every 90 minutes, and there is onboard narration.
Stops include The National Civil Rights Museum, B.B. Kings Blues Club, Stax Museum of American Soul Museum, Graceland, and Sun Studio.
9- Drink Spirits On A Haunted Pub Crawl
If you enjoy a drink and are also interested in the paranormal, this experience is for you.
It takes place in the exciting South Main Street district of Memphis and you get to go to three haunted bars.
Your guide is an expert paranormal investigator, and you will learn about the people who are supposed to haunt the bars and listen to your guide’s personal experiences with the paranormal.
You might need a drink while you are listening to the frightening stories! Join the pub crawl here.
10- Explore The City’s History On A Walking Tour
If you want to get a feel for Memphis and its history, book a guided walking tour of the city.
Tours are usually around two hours, imparting secrets about the city’s rich history and about some of the people who lived there.
Highlights include visiting essential locations from the Civil War, such as the sites of The Battle of Memphis and Forrest’s Raid.
See where Martin Luther King Jr last marched before he was assassinated.
You will go to Downtown Memphis and walk along Main Street, which is full of locally-owned shops, chef-owned restaurants, and artistic venues such as the Orpheum Theatre, which hosts travelling Broadway shows and variety acts.
Most tours include the famous March of the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel.
11- Learn The History of Slavery At The Lorraine Motel
Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum dedicated to the civil rights movement.
Here you can see around 260 artefacts, 40 films, interactive media, and listening posts covering five centuries from the beginning of slavery.
You will be taken through the Civil War, to the rise of Jim Crow, a derogatory stage caricature of a black slave played by a white actor with a blackened face, to the events of the second half of the 20th century.
The National Civil Rights Museum is at 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis 38103.
12- Explore The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
If you are a fan of such artists as Elvis, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, and Isaac Hayes, this museum is for you.
There is a digital audio guide that takes you through the seven galleries of the museum.
There are over 300 minutes of information which include 100 songs, so don’t be surprised if you hear people singing along.
You will be taken from the birth of rock and soul music, through the expansion of the recording studios like Studio and Stax, right up to the present day.
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is at 191 Beale Street. Memphis 38103. Skip the line and reserve your tickets here.
13- Cruise The Mississippi River
What could be better than getting a fantastic view of Memphis by taking a cruise along this famous river?
There is an excellent choice of cruises on offer, such as the sightseeing cruise, which covers about a 10-mile round trip and gives you historical commentary.
A great evening out is the dinner and music cruise, including a barbecue and live band.
You will see Memphis beautifully lit up as you gently cruise the river.
Sundays often have Blues lunch cruises and there are always cruises on holidays such as Easter, Mother’s Day, and the 4th of July.
Top tour: Memphis City Tour with Optional Riverboat Cruise & Sun Studio Add-On Options.
14- Taste Craft Beer
Some interesting breweries in Memphis produce craft beers, so if you enjoy a pint, why not take a tour and taste?
You will visit three breweries and try their tasty brews while hearing anecdotes about beer and the history of the brewing industry in Memphis.
On the bus, you will listen to a narration by DJ Chetter of Radio Memphis, with plenty of beer trivia and local Indie music.
You need to be 21 years of age or over to take part in this tour.
15- Walking Ghost Hunt
If you are interested in the paranormal, walking ghost tours in Memphis will take you to the city’s most haunted places.
You will be taken to the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.
Many people get an uncomfortable feeling, leading to the belief that his spirit remains.
The spooky atmosphere is enhanced by the fact that his car is still in the car park and the room he was staying in has remained untouched.
Another place you will go to is Ernestine and Hazel’s, a bar that used to be both a bar and a brothel.
Many visitors have seen ghosts around the bar but the eeriest thing is the haunted jukebox.
It can play the song choices of customers even before they have paid or selected them and has even turned itself on when unplugged.
16- Go On A Scavenger Hunt Adventure
If you want an activity for the whole family, why not go on a scavenger hunt in Memphis?
You need a smartphone to participate, as you will be given a list of items to find through riddles and challenges.
Once you complete the challenge, take a photo and send it in to get points.
Your points then go on a leader board and your aim is to get to the top.
There is a chat feature in case you need to ask questions. The game lasts around two hours and is expected to cover two miles.
17- Join The City Discovery Bus Tour
This is a great tour to familiarise yourself with the city. Get to drive by Beale Street, the Peabody Hotel, and the Lorraine Motel, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.
See the Orpheum Theatre and Hotel Chisca, where the DJ Dewey Phillips played Elvis for the first time.
The tour also allows you to visit either the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum or The Edge Motor Museum.
At the end of the tour, stop at Central BBQ, where you can try the best barbecued food in Memphis.
18- Have a meal at The Arcade Restaurant
Memphis is well known for its food scene, and if you have the chance, you should go to The Arcade Restaurant.
It is the oldest cafe in Memphis and was founded in 1918 by Speros Zepatos, who came to Memphis from Kefalonia in Greece.
Breakfast is served all day, Southern-style lunch specials every day, and dinner Thursdays through Saturdays.
They also have desserts, exciting cocktails, and an extensive coffee menu.
The Arcade Restaurant is at 540 South Main Street. Memphis 38103.
19- Enjoy Nature At Shelby Farms Park
For a day communing with nature, visit Shelby Farms Park, which covers 4.500 acres and over 40 miles of trails.
You can hike or rent a bicycle to get around the park and you might be lucky enough to see some of the buffalo at Shelby’s.
Kids will love the park as there is a Woodland Discovery Playground and a Water Play Spray Ground.
They can also go for pony rides, while you can go horseback riding.
There are two lakes in the park and there you can rent canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.
There is enough to do to spend the day here or to return.
If you get a bit hungry, visit their restaurant. At weekends you will also find food trucks.
Shelby Farms Park is at 6903 Great View Dr N, Memphis 38134.
20- Belz Museum Of Asian & Judaic Art
For something a little different and not connected to the music scene in Memphis, visit the Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art.
The museum has five permanent exhibitions.
Three are Asian and feature artwork from the Qing Dynasty which ran from 1644 until 1911.
The fourth exhibition is the Judaic Gallery, where you can see around 200 works of art painted by contemporary Jewish artists.
The final exhibition, The Holocaust Memorial Gallery, is moving. Here there are photos, stories, and biographies of Holocaust survivors.
The Belz Museum Of Asian & Judaic Art is at 119 S Main Street, Memphis 38103.
- 20 Beaches In Tennessee
- 20 Tennessee Landmarks
- 20 Things To Do In Nashville At Night
- 20 Things To Do In Jackson Tn
- 20 Attractions On A Memphis To Nashville Drive
- 20 Places To Go Glamping In Tennessee
- 13 Tennessee National Parks
- 20 Nashville Museums
- 20 Things To Do In Memphis
- 20 Cities In Tennessee
- Where To Stay In Memphis