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What to See and Do in Memphis - From Soul Music to Fine Art

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Sitting along the banks of the Mississippi, Memphis is a city rich in culture and history, including everything from the Civil Rights Movement to rock 'n' roll music. During your trip, you can see the world-famous Peabody ducks, enjoy the nightlife on Beale Street, and tour Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. You'll find no shortage of things to do in downtown and its surrounding areas.

Around Downtown

 

Once a center of trade for cotton and other goods shipped along the Mississippi River, downtown Memphis is now where you'll find some of the city's top attractions. Here, you can tour Sun Studio, which launched the careers of such musicians as Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Also located in downtown, the historic Peabody Hotel is home to one of the city's most famous traditions: the Peabody ducks. Twice daily, the ducks march through the hotel's lobby and into its fountain. Mud Island is a 52-acre park that allows visitors to enjoy the Mississippi riverfront.

 

  • Sun Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis 38103; Tel: +1 800 441 6249; Website: Sun Studio
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  • Peabody Ducks, 149 Union Avenue, Memphis 38103; Tel: +1 901 529 4000; Website: Peabody Ducks

Strolling on Beale Street

 

Beale Street is synonymous with Memphis. The most famous street in the city, it’s where blues music originated, and its clubs have hosted performances from legends like W.C. Handy and B.B. King. Today, you can take in the nightlife here or visit attractions like the FedExForum. This arena is the home of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies and also hosts live concerts. The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, located at the FedExForum, pays tribute to the musicians who shaped rock 'n' roll and soul music through exhibits created by the Smithsonian Institution.

 

  • FedEx Forum, 191 Beale Street, Memphis 38103; Tel: +1 901 205 2640; Website: FedEx Forum
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  • Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, 191 Beale Street, Suite 100, Memphis 38103; Tel: +1 901 205 2533; Website: Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

 

Mingling in Midtown

 

The eclectic Midtown neighborhood, bounded by Interstate 240 in the west and East Parkway in the east, has a diverse variety of attractions. If you're traveling with the family, you can enjoy a day of fun at The Children's Museum of Memphis. Nearby, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of European and American works by artists such as Winslow Homer and Sir Anthony Van Dyck. Midtown is also home to the Memphis Zoo, where you can see animals from around the world, including penguins, giraffes, and pandas.

 

  • Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Avenue, Memphis 38104; Tel: +1 901 544 6200; Website: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
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  • Memphis Zoo, 2000 Prentiss Place, Memphis 38112; Tel: +1 901 333 6500; Website: Memphis Zoo

 

Sights in the South

 

There are plenty of sights to see south of downtown Memphis, beginning in the South Main Historic District. This area is where you'll find the National Civil Rights Museum, housed inside the old Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Further out from the city, you can visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which pays homage to some of the biggest acts from legendary soul label Stax Records. Graceland, the famed home of Elvis Presley, is located a few miles away. Tours of the house are available.

 

  • National Civil Rights Museum, 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis 38103; Tel: +1 901 521 9699; Website: National Civil Rights Museum
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  • Graceland, 3717 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis 38116; Tel: +1 901 332 3322; Website: Graceland

 

East Memphis attractions

 

Spanning the area between Midtown and Germantown, East Memphis is replete with boutique shopping, dining, and green spaces. A must-see in this part of town, the Memphis Botanic Garden has lush gardens that span an area about half the size of Vatican City, including the Anne Heard Stokes Butterfly Garden, the Asian Garden, and the Camellia Collection. Within walking distance of the Memphis Botanic Garden, the Dixon Gallery & Gardens combines art and horticulture with a permanent collection of works from artists like Degas and Monet, plus gardens inspired by English parks.

 

  • Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Road, Memphis 38117; Tel: +1 901 636 4100; Website: Memphis Botanic Garden
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  • Dixon Gallery & Gardens, 4339 Park Avenue, Memphis 38117; Tel: +1 901 761 5250; Website: Dixon Gallery & Gardens