3 Days in Memphis, TN
Arts & Culture
Memphis is a low-key city with a ton of culture. This is the perfect city to spend a long weekend relaxing in while also getting to see plenty of sights. The area is rich in history and blues. This city is much more relaxed, and a tad underrated compared to Nashville.
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Where to stay
The Peabody Memphis
This Memphis icon (from the Blues era) stays true to its roots, with six dining options and a rooftop with panoramic views.
Hotel Indigo Vienna Naschmarkt
A stylish boutique hotel in the heart of Vienna, blending modern design with the rich cultural heritage of the city.
MOXY Memphis Downtown
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Day 1: Arrive in Memphis
Upon arriving in Memphis there is a lot to explore and see! A majority of the activity is centered in the downtown area around historic Beale Street. This includes a world-famous BBQ joint known for their ribs, Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous. You will definitely want to go early in the day to limit the amount of time you have to wait for a table. Plus, you NEED to try how delicious these ribs are early in the day because you might want to come back later for dinner - they are THAT good! They are closed on Sunday & Mondays so be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
Once you have polished off a full slab of ribs (no judgement) it's time for some retail therapy. Just across the street is the famous Peabody hotel, which is the home for Lansky Bros Clothiers. Even if you don't buy anything it's fun to look around at the larger than life clients they have - including none other than The King himself, Elvis Presley.
Depending on the time of day you are going to want to wander into the lobby of the Peabody. This hotel has a classic upscale feel and is known for the ducks that circle around the main fountain from 11am - 5pm. The duckmaster leads these trained ducks to march in and out of the fountain at 11am and 5pm. This ceremony is a MUST for any travelers with children.
While you are there you might as well pull up to the bar where you can order a variety of inventive and classic cocktails. Bonus points if you "make it ducky!"
Then it's time to head to your hotel to get cleaned up before hitting the electric scene on Beale Street. This is a must for your 3 days in Memphis! Prepare to enjoy live music from every bar you walk by. Most evening acts start around 8pm on the weekends, so be sure to get there early to get a prime seat.
Day 2: Music & history
Today is the day to really immerse yourself in the culture and scene of Memphis - what it was and what it is. You'll begin with a tour of Graceland - the complex belonging to Elvis Presley. There are several different tour offerings, but you need to see his home, which has remained largely untouched since his death in 1977. This means you'll see some extremely groovy living and lounging areas. Plan for an hour to an hour and a half.
Once you've visited the hallowed grounds of a music legend, it's time to explore the rest of the museum. There are exhibits dedicated to his over-the-top fashions, private planes, car collection and influence that continues on today. It is recommended to take your tour in the early part of the day when it is less crowded. Be sure to try Elvis' favorite sandwich (Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich) at the restaurants on site.
Graceland is a bit of a drive from Downtown Memphis. On your way back into the city center, it's the perfect time to make a pit stop for lunch near the National Civil Rights Museum. There are tons of great local spots along Main Street in this area.
Then it's time to immerse yourself in the Civil Rights Movement and the role Memphis played in it. The National Civil Rights Museum is a moving tribute the fight for change that happened in the 50s and 60s. The museum is self-guided with TONS of artifacts and details to consume that culminate in the very hotel room where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. Plan for at least 1.5-2 hours to really take in the materials.
After the museum it's time to cool off - Memphis enjoys a moderate temperate, with very hot and humid conditions in the summer months. If your 3 day trip to Memphis is in the summer, be sure that you are staying at a hotel with a pool, like the Hyatt Centric, you're going to want to dive in after being in the heat.
Then it's time for dinner and more live music. Beale street is a great option if you are staying nearby - you can't beat the bluesy vibes at BB Kings or the fun southern environment at the Rum Boogie Cafe. This street is excellent for people watching, so you might just want to wander around with a drink in hand before heading to eat.
Day 3: Leaving Memphis
This is the saddest part of your 3-day trip to Memphis - leaving it to head back home. If you aren't planning to leave until later in the day, getting one last taste of southern cooking with chicken & waffles at Alcenia's is a must! They do brunch like no other.
You may have noticed a giant glass pyramid, just off the Mississippi river on your arrival to Memphis. This is an homage to Memphis' Egyptian heritage. Believe it or not, what is housed inside the pyramid is one of the largest Bass Pro Shops in the world and includes several restaurants and a hotel. This is an especially fun stop if you have young children, there are several hands on activities for youngsters to do inside. Even if you aren't an outdoorsman or have children, taking a look around this massive pyramid and even going up to the observation deck at the peak is worth it.
If you are still in town for lunch, you need to hit up Gus' World Famous Fried Chicken. They are known for their spicy batter and mouth-watering chicken. If you are lucky enough, there may be a franchise near your home as well - but this original spot is a fun and unique experience.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Cameron Zellner’s guide, More than BBQ and Blues: Weekend Itinerary for Memphis, TN.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Memphis.