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downtown memphis tennessee things to do

Discovering the Best Things to Do in Memphis

Image by Chad Morehead from Unsplash

Looking for a fun-filled adventure in Memphis, Tennessee? From music to culture, Memphis is a city that has something to offer for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff or a foodie, this vibrant city has a rich southern heritage that captures all the beauty of the blues and showcases its cultural diversity. In this article, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of the best things to do in Memphis.

Shelby Farms Park

Spanning over 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms Park stands as one of the largest urban parks in the United States, providing a diverse range of recreational activities and natural beauty. The park boasts pristine lakes, scenic walking and biking trails, and an abundance of open spaces for picnics and gatherings. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor adventures, from paddle boating on Hyde Lake to bird-watching in the pristine wetlands. The park also hosts numerous events, educational programs, and community initiatives, making it a vibrant hub for both relaxation and engagement.

National Civil Rights Museum

Housed in the historic Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was tragically assassinated in 1968, the National Civil Rights Museum provides a comprehensive and deeply moving journey through the American civil rights movement. It showcases the historical events, figures, and stories that shaped this pivotal era in our nation’s history, from the era of slavery through the modern-day fight for social justice. The museum’s exhibits, multimedia displays, and preserved rooms offer a visceral experience, immersing visitors in the profound challenges and triumphs of the civil rights movement. Beyond its educational mission, the National Civil Rights Museum serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and the importance of social justice in our society, making it an essential destination for those seeking to understand and honor the legacy of those who fought for change.

Memphis Heritage Trail

The Memphis Heritage Trail is an evolving project designed to preserve and celebrate the city’s heritage by highlighting the stories, landmarks, and contributions of its various communities, including African American, Jewish, and Chinese populations. The trail provides a captivating journey through Memphis’s past, with markers, exhibits, and guided tours that allow visitors to explore the city’s vibrant history, from the Civil Rights Movement to its musical legacy. As a dynamic and ever-expanding representation of Memphis’s cultural tapestry, the Memphis Heritage Trail serves as an important tool for education and heritage preservation, offering a profound connection to the city’s roots and the people who have shaped its identity.

The Orpheum Theatre

Originally designed as a vaudeville palace, The Orpheum Theatre has since evolved into a premier venue for the performing arts. The Orpheum exudes an aura of grandeur, with its opulent decor and ornate detailing that harkens back to a bygone era. It has hosted a wide range of performances, from Broadway shows to concerts, dance recitals, and film screenings, making it a versatile and cherished institution in Memphis. Beyond its artistic offerings, The Orpheum also plays a pivotal role in the community, fostering a love for the arts through educational programs and outreach initiatives. Whether you’re attending a world-class performance or simply admiring its architectural splendor, The Orpheum Theatre remains an enduring symbol of Memphis’s cultural vibrancy.


As the former home of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, Graceland is a place of pilgrimage for fans and music enthusiasts from around the world. The mansion, an exquisite example of Southern colonial architecture, is a time capsule into the life of Elvis, featuring the preserved rooms, decor, and furnishings he once used. Visitors can explore the opulent living quarters, the trophy building showcasing his impressive collection of gold records, and the Meditation Garden, where Elvis and his family are laid to rest. Beyond the mansion, Graceland is home to the Elvis Presley Car Museum, displaying his iconic car collection, and the Elvis Presley Entertainer Career Museum, which offers a fascinating look at his life and career. Graceland is a place where the spirit of Elvis lives on, and it continues to captivate fans with its enduring charm and the enduring legacy of the King.

Memphis Botanic Garden

Spanning over 96 acres, the Memphis Botanic Garden offers a peaceful retreat for nature lovers, garden enthusiasts, and families alike. With a diverse array of gardens, including rose gardens, Japanese gardens, and butterfly gardens, it’s a place where visitors can explore the world of plants and landscapes in all their splendor. The Memphis Botanic Garden hosts educational programs, seasonal events, and activities that cater to a wide range of interests, making it a vibrant community hub. Whether you’re strolling through the lush greenery, enjoying the vibrant blooms, or simply seeking a tranquil escape from the urban hustle, the Memphis Botanic Garden is a living testament to the beauty of the natural world and the importance of environmental conservation.

The Blues Hall of Fame

Located in the heart of Memphis, the Blues Hall of Fame serves as a shrine to the blues, celebrating the artists and individuals who have made significant contributions to this timeless musical genre. The museum boasts an impressive collection of memorabilia, exhibits, and artifacts, offering a comprehensive journey through the evolution of blues music. From the early Mississippi Delta roots to the electrifying Chicago blues and beyond, the Blues Hall of Fame provides a vivid portrait of the musicians and their stories that have shaped the genre. It is a must-visit destination for music enthusiasts and a testament to the enduring impact of the blues on the world of music.

Memphis’s BBQ Scene

Memphis’s BBQ scene is nothing short of legendary, and it stands as a crown jewel in the city’s culinary heritage. Known for its slow-smoked, tender, and flavor-packed meats, Memphis-style barbecue is all about the art of perfection. Pork, especially the succulent pulled pork shoulder, reigns supreme, often served on sandwiches or as a platter with sides. The hallmark of Memphis BBQ is its distinctive dry rub, a delectable blend of spices that imparts a bold, smoky flavor. The folks in Memphis take their barbecue seriously, and there’s a fierce competition among the city’s many barbecue joints, each with its unique take on this mouthwatering tradition. The Memphis BBQ scene is a journey of culinary delights, and a visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without savoring these finger-licking flavors.

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Housed in the original Stax Records building, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is an iconic destination for music enthusiasts and history buffs alike. It offers a captivating journey through time, immersing visitors in the soulful sounds and the cultural impact of artists like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Isaac Hayes. The museum’s exhibits are a treasure trove of memorabilia, including vintage instruments, stage costumes, and personal artifacts from legendary musicians, providing an intimate glimpse into the soul music movement. With its interactive displays, multimedia exhibits, and a recreation of the original Stax Records recording studio, this museum offers a truly immersive experience, allowing visitors to feel the rhythm and soul that made Memphis an enduring epicenter of American music. It’s a must-visit destination that pays homage to the incredible artists who shaped the sound and spirit of a generation.

Overton Park

Overton Park in Memphis is a cherished urban oasis, providing residents and visitors with a verdant sanctuary amidst the bustling city. Covering 342 acres, it’s a green haven filled with lush trees, walking trails, and a picturesque lake, making it a perfect escape from the urban hustle and bustle. The park is home to several notable attractions, including the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Zoo, and the Memphis College of Art, making it a cultural hub as well as a natural retreat. One of its most renowned features is the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, which houses an impressive collection of artworks. Whether you’re picnicking in the shade of ancient oaks, strolling through the Old Forest State Natural Area, or enjoying a family day out at the zoo, Overton Park offers a diverse range of activities and an opportunity to connect with nature and culture right in the heart of Memphis. It has long been a treasured part of the city’s landscape, offering a slice of serenity and a platform for artistic and cultural exploration.

Memphis Music Hall of Fame

The Memphis Music Hall of Fame serves as a testament to the cultural significance of Memphis in the world of music. The Hall of Fame honors a diverse array of musicians who have left an indelible mark on the industry, from Elvis Presley and B.B. King to contemporary stars like Justin Timberlake. The museum features an impressive collection of memorabilia, interactive exhibits, and multimedia displays that provide a comprehensive and immersive journey through the city’s musical history. It’s a place where visitors can experience the magic of Memphis music, delve into the stories behind the hits, and appreciate the soulful, rock ‘n’ roll, and blues traditions that continue to resonate globally. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is a vital cultural institution that pays homage to the city’s rich musical heritage, ensuring that the legends who called Memphis home will always be remembered.

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Established in 1916, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art stands as the oldest and largest art museum in the state, offering a diverse and enriching artistic experience. Housed in a beautiful neoclassical building, the museum’s collection spans across centuries and cultures, featuring an array of European, American, and decorative art, as well as an impressive assortment of contemporary works. Visitors can immerse themselves in a world of artistic expression, from classical masterpieces to modern installations. The Brooks Museum is not just a sanctuary for art enthusiasts but also a hub for educational programs, community engagement, and cultural events. Its commitment to showcasing art in all its forms and fostering a love for the arts within the community makes it an essential cultural institution in Memphis, where the power of creativity and expression takes center stage.

Beale Street

Often referred to as the “Home of the Blues”, Beale Street has a rich history as a hub for legendary musicians and vibrant nightlife. It’s a lively and vibrant destination where the sweet sounds of blues, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll resonate from the numerous clubs and bars that line its storied cobblestone streets. Visitors can expect to be immersed in the authentic Memphis music scene, savor mouthwatering Southern cuisine, and explore shops filled with musical memorabilia. Beyond its musical heritage, Beale Street also hosts lively festivals, parades, and events that celebrate the city’s vibrant culture and history.

Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is a captivating and immersive institution that takes visitors on a journey through the birth and evolution of rock and soul music, right in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee. Located on historic Beale Street, this museum provides a comprehensive exploration of the roots and impact of these iconic musical genres. Through engaging exhibits, rare artifacts, and multimedia displays, the museum delves into the rich cultural, social, and economic forces that shaped the music. From the rural beginnings of blues and gospel to the fusion of rock ‘n’ roll and soul, this museum traces the interconnected history of these genres and the pivotal role Memphis played in their development. It’s a place where the rhythm and soul of the city come to life, offering an educational and emotional experience that resonates with music enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Memphis: Home of Blues, Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll

Memphis has so much to offer, from history and culture to some of the best food and music in the world. When visiting this beautiful city, be sure to take in the sights and sounds we’ve suggested, and create your own adventure too. From a night out on Beale Street and sampling Memphis’s famous BBQ to visiting the Lorraine Motel and the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis is overflowing with culture, excitement, and unforgettable experiences.

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