If you’re looking for a fun get-away complete with great music, delicious food, and a hip nightlife, you don’t have to go far. Memphis is a great place to go for BBQ, the blues, Elvis, Civil Rights history and much more.
There a number of ways to get to Memphis, though the easiest and cheapest is driving. With gas prices low, Memphis is a super spot for a road trip. It’s an easy six-hour trek up Highway 55, and a stop in Jackson for lunch is a great excuse to break up the trip. Also, Memphis is fairly spread out, so it helps to have a car there.
You can also fly to Memphis airport on major airlines, or non-stop via Southern Airways out of Lakefront Airport. Amtrak is a relaxing way to get to Memphis and takes a little over eight hours from the New Orleans terminal.
A good area to consider staying is Harbor Town on Mud Island. Located about 10 minutes out of downtown, this amazing neighborhood features apartments, homes, restaurants and The River Inn at Harbor Town. www.riverinnmemphis.com
The River Inn of Harbor Town offers cozy rooms, many with a view of the Mississippi River, at reasonable rates. The River Inn is a Four Diamond hotel as named by AAA, and it has consistently been voted the best hotel in Memphis by “US News & World Report.”
The hotel is an intimate property with a European flair…featuring only 28 rooms and suites. Your room comes with a full breakfast at the restaurant Paulette’s. And be sure to grab a drink at their rooftop bar Terrace that features tasty small bites and an amazing view of the Mississippi River.
No matter where you stay, make sure to grab a Peabody Punch at The Peabody Hotel. Dating back to 1869, the hotel is a gorgeous landmark. If you time it right you can see their famous ducks swimming happily in their home in the lobby. www.peabodymemphis.com
No trip to Memphis is complete without a visit to Graceland. Whether you are an Elvis lover or hater, visiting the house that Elvis lived in will change your view of American culture. It is a walk down Americana…and Elvis’ energy can be felt throughout. www.graceland.com
Graceland is located about 20 minutes from downtown. Tickets to Graceland start at $40, and go up from there depending on how many extra areas that you want to see. Everyone receives an iPad that leads you on a tour of the house with John Stamos as your Guide.
More than 2.5 billion Elvis albums have been bought, making him the highest selling solo artist of all time. Graceland does a fantastic job of telling Elvis’ story, and seeing his gravesite is a solemn moment. The only thing not explored in depth at Graceland is Elvis’ drug use and untimely death…understandable considering the circumstances.
Elvis got his start at Sun Studios, which claims to be “The Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll.” Sun Studios also is the home to the “Million Dollar Quartet” – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. www.sunstudio.com
With a 90-minute tour offered at a reasonably priced $12, Sun Studio is a good spot to spend part of your day. Among the highlights are seeing the recording studio, which has not changed, and being able to hold a microphone that Elvis used. The studio is still functional today, with U2 having recorded much of their album “Rattle & Hum” there. Grace Potter worked there recently as well.
More than 2.5 billion Elvis albums have been bought, making him the highest selling solo artist of all time.
Something else not to miss in Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum. Located just a few blocks from downtown, the museum is a powerful experience that every American should visit. From slavery to present day battles, the National Civil Rights Museum follows the struggles of African-Americans in their fight for equal rights and justice. www.civilrightsmuseum.org
The Museum surrounds the Lorraine Motel, the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Some of the most compelling segments of the museum are the sites of where Dr. King spent his last hours and where his assassin James Earl Ray stood to take the fatal shots.
Tickets to the museum are $15, with discounts for students. It’s best to arrive early to the museum…both for the amount of time it takes to explore the museum and to beat the crowds that attend the museum in mass.
Of course you can’t go to Memphis without partaking in their world famous BBQ. Memphis features literally hundreds of BBQ spots, and every local has his/her favorite. A great choice is Central BBQ. With three locations, you don’t have to go far to find one. Besides amazing ribs and brisket, Central BBQ features some of the most amazing sauces you’ll ever taste. www.cbqmemphis.com
Even non-BBQ restaurants serve fantastic BBQ. With that, Lunchbox Eat’s “3rd Period Smoking Birds” is one of the most delicious sandwiches anywhere, period. Lunchbox Eats is located near the Fed Ex Forum, and their “Smoking Birds” creation that features Black Cherry wood slow-smoked turkey, chicken, and duck is a must-try. www.lunchboxeats.com
Memphis also features trendy restaurants in hip neighborhoods. The Cooper-Young area in Memphis Midtown will remind you of the Marigny/Bywater. There you will find the charming restaurant Beauty Shop. Enjoy a meal in the very location that Priscilla Presley used to have her hair done. If the weather is nice, grab a table on the outside patio if one is available. www.thebeautyshoprestaurant.com
In West Memphis across the street from Whole Foods is the home of Memphis’ best Italian restaurant. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen features “Food & Wine’s” 2013 Best New Chef award-winners Andrew Tiger and Michael Hudman. Must-try dishes include the appetizer A/M Breakfast, which features a poached egg, pork belly, and house-made pork rinds. The pasta offerings are all first-class, especially the daily special, and the entrees offer refined elegance. www.andrewmichaelitaliankitchen.com
There is no lack of nightlife in “The Blues City.” Beale Street is our version of Bourbon Street complete with loud nightclubs and pricey restaurants. A great spot to take it in is King Palace Café’s Absinthe Room. Grab an absinthe cocktail and enjoy the view of the action below. www.kingspalacecafe.com
For authentic blues music, skip Beale Street altogether for Wild Bill’s. Wild Bill’s features true blues musicians still belting out tunes for the love of being alive. Located near Rhodes College and the Memphis Zoo, Wild Bill’s is a true urban juke joint.
Other nightlife winners include Paula and Raiford’s Disco. Located downtown, Paula and Raiford’s will have you doing “The Hustle” to the wee hours of the night. www.paularaifords.com
If you’re looking for a quick vacation that’s not too far away, consider Memphis. With great accommodations, plenty of sites, and great food, Memphis is a winning combination.