As you could probably tell from my previous blog posts, I’ve just returned from Memphis. Though my boyfriend and I only spent four days in this Southern city, we enjoyed our time there immensely. It truly is a magnificently musical city with history to spare. There were many aspects of Memphis that we really loved, but below are our top five favorite attractions:
- Beale Street: Beale Street is the epitome of Memphis’s Blues music scene. Every bar down this strip has music pouring out of it. It’s one of the main attractions in Memphis and it certainly lives up to the hype. The street is completely lined with bars, gift shops, restaurants and clubs. We tried to stop into most places, and hit a lot of them. Our favorites were: Club 152 (really good music and cheap drinks), Absinthe Room (great second-story dive bar with billiards), King’s Palace Café Patio (home of the Beale Big Ass Beers and amazing Blues music), Rum Boogie Café (we had an excellent lunch here and the staff were awesome) and A. Schwab (a kitschy gift store with three levels of souvenirs).
- Sun Studios: This recording studio/historic music icon was Mike’s favorite place that we visited in Memphis. A lot of amazing artists recorded here and add to its famous history; to name a few: Ike Turner, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Howlin Wolf…the list goes on. It’s still currently an active recording studio where many big musicians stop by (U2, Bob Dylan…). The tour is well worth the $13 and includes a history on the studio, information on its big musicians, and a glimpse of the actual recording studio, which still has all its original features. Our tour guide was amazing and full of fun facts about the studio and the musicians. The studio/museum is connected to a café and record/gift shop, which is worth a look around.
- National Civil Rights Museum: Set in the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, this museum is too poignant to pass up. After you pay the $15 entrance fee, you start the tour with a short video outlining the purpose of the museum before heading through the exhibits. Each exhibit is purposeful and intriguing, and most are interactive as well. The museum is well laid out, taking you through the history of racial tension in America from the beginning. It does take quite a while to make it through the entirety of the museum and the boarding house across the street, which focuses on the life and motives of James Earl Ray. Plan to spend at least two hours here.
- Stax Museum of American Soul Music: It is no secret that I’m a big fan of soul music, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I instantly fell in love with this museum. The history of Stax Records is so rich, and the musicians connected with the company are too many to name (again, to mention a few: Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Booker T and The MG’s…). The flow of the museum starts with a short film, and then moves through the exhibits, which range from the influence of Gospel Music in Soul to a video of Chaka Khan singing on Soul Train to Isaac Hayes’s custom gold Cadillac. The old recording studio is still intact, along with the original mixing console, and is preserved for your viewing pleasure. It really is worth it to check Stax out, I promise you’ll be glad that you did. (Entrance fee is $13.)
- Mid-Town: I really wish we could have spent more time in this hip slice of Memphis. We had two great meals in this neighborhood: breakfast at Otherlands Coffee Bar, and lunch at The Beauty Shop. Both restaurants were a joy to be at, and both meals were phenomenal. We walked past cute shops and boutiques in this area and I really regret not exploring it more. We also heard from a couple of Memphis locals that this is the place to be for unique bars and restaurants away from downtown. Unfortunately for us, we received this advice too late in our trip. Oh well, all the more reason to go back, right?
If you’ve been to Memphis, what was your favorite place to visit? If you haven’t, what would be on your checklist to see there?