There's no place like Memphis....where else can you eat world-famous cuisine, visit one-of-a-kind attractions on hallowed ground, hear music in the very spot where modern American music was born and visit with the friendliest people on earth?
Black History Month in Memphis
February in the US is Black History Month but there are museums and events throughout the year in the South marking all this history. There's plenty of history at the powerful National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, but also the famed music museums and clubs off-the-beaten-path are cultural hidden treasures that tell the inside stories of the civil rights struggles and triumphs. Every autumn, the National Civil Rights Museum presents the Freedom Awards. This event honours individuals who are committed to equal rights and whose accomplishments depict the spirit of the civil rights movement. Honorees include Oprah Winfrey, Bono, the Dalai Lama and Paul Rusesabagina.
On Sunday mornings you can visit the oldest African-American congregation in Memphis, First Baptist Beale Street. Started in 1865 as a shelter for the thousands of rural freed men and women who came to Memphis during and after the Civil War, this magnificent structure is the first brick-constructed, multi-story church in the U.S. built for African Americans. If the history of the church doesn’t move you, the service will.
Two blocks away is Tom Lee Park. This riverside park serves as home of the Memphis in May International Festival and is named for Memphis’ greatest hero. In 1925, with the help of his tiny rowboat, local African-American resident Tom Lee (who could not swim) braved the Mississippi’s swirling currents to save 32 strangers from drowning when their excursion steamer sank. A statue at the centre of the park pays tribute to Lee’s heroic efforts.
Just 35 miles north of the city limits in nearby Henning, Tennessee, stands the boyhood home and final resting place of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley. The “birthplace of Roots," as Haley called it, has been restored to represent the home where he grew up in the early 20th century. The Alex Haley House and Museum is the perfect day trip from Memphis and a must-see for anyone with an extra day in the area and a passion for history.
While in Memphis, turn your dial to 1070 AM to tune into WDIA. This Memphis-based radio station became the first U.S. radio station programmed by African Americans in 1962 and is still a local favourite today. Also keep an eye out for the various historic markers scattered along downtown sidewalks. Each marker depicts a historical figure or event that took place right here in Memphis.
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, Memphis
Slave Haven Museum (or Burkle Estate as it is also known) is a white clapboard house built by Jacob Burkle in 1849. Rumour has is that this house on the Underground Railroad served as a way station for the runaway slaves. You can tour the house and visit the cellar where slaves used to wait to escape visit slavehavenmemphis.com for more information.
The Guest House at Graceland
It's officially open! The Guest House at Graceland is located on beautifully landscaped property and just a few steps from the gates of Elvis Presley's Graceland. This unique accommodation is inspired by the warm hospitality that Elvis always showed his guests, with every aspect of The Guest House reflecting Elvis' personal style and the unique character of Graceland. It's more than a full-service hotel, it's 450 spacious rooms and a range of contemporary facilities, including two restaurants, spaces for meetings and special events and a 464-seat theatre for live performances and movies. It's the gateway to your visit to Graceland and a great place to stay while discovering everything that Memphis has to offer. It's classic elegance and modern luxury - friendly, refined and uniquely Elvis. Click here for more information.
Harahan Bridge Project
Memphis' bike lanes, trails and pedestrian walks connect visitors to quaint neighbourhoods and a healthier lifestyle. The Harahan Bridge which spans the Mississippi River gives walkers and cyclists the opportunity to cross Ole Man River from Downtown Memphis to the banks of Arkansas. More information at harahanbridgeproject.com.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame opened in downtown Memphis on Beale Street, adjacent to the newly relocated Hard Rock Cafe. This will be the only Memphis museum to focus specifically on the heroes of Memphis music - rock, soul, jazz, blues, R&B and more. Meet and pay tribute to the intriguing muscial legends who shook the planet, through this new, fun, educational and highly interactive exhibition that's as outrageous as the inductees themselves. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is being administered by the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum. For more information visit memphismusichalloffame.com.
Blues Hall of Fame
The Blues Foundation, the Memphis-based international blues music organisation will opened it's first ever Blues Hall of Fame in downtown Memphis. The BHOF will pay tribute to the great blues men and women including B.B. King, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid is one of the most dynamic, immersive retail experiences offering something for everyone, from serious outdoor enthusiasts to families looking to have fun.
- Visitors can ride the tallest free standing glass elevator in America - 28 stories to the top of the Pyramid.
- Stand on the glass-floored observation decks at the top, patterned after the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
- Bowl "in the ocean" amid underwater scenery at Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill, a nautical-themed restaurant and bar with a saltwater aquarium and a 13-lane, ocean-themed bowling alley.
- Explore a giant cypress swamp environment with ponds, towering cypress trees and 84,000-gallon alligator habitat and live duck aviaries.
- Discover underwater ecosystems with ten aquariums teeming with more than 1,800 fish.
- Wine and dine on top of Memphis at the Mile High Catfish House, a full-service restaurant and bar situated at the top of the Pyramid serving southern-inspired comfort dishes. Guests will look out 300ft above the Mississippi River and a 10,000 gallon catfish aquarium at the centre.
- Visitors can practise their aim at the 25-yard live fire pistol and archery ranges.
Big Cypress Lodge
Big Cypress Lodge is a wilderness hotel inside Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in downtown Memphis. It's the first hotel ever located inside a Bass Pro Shops and includes 105 guest cabins and 15 suites overlook the Pyramid's vast cypress and wetlands expanse, feature interior and exterior views, elegant cabin-style decor and handcrafted furnishings. Guests can book a stay in one of its rustice-elegant and well appointed cabins and suites at big-cypress.com.
Memphis featured in the Top 10 Tasiest Towns in Southern Living Magazine
In the second-annual Tastiest Towns contest, Southern Living picked 10 cities that will have you ready to pack your forks and go. Memphis is a bountiful crossroads of barbecue, crops and rising culinary stars. Here is the article featured in Southern Living about great eats in Memphis, Tennessee.
There's no denying barbecue is at the heart Memphis' food culture. Spots like Cozy Corner Restaurant and Charles Vergos' Rendezvous are a must on any trip to Memphis, but recently some young talented chefs have redefined Memphis' flavour by blending local produce and the Southen fridge with culinary traditions from near and far. Chef Kelly English put the new food scene on the map in 2008 when he opened Restaurant Iris, where he mixes his Louisiana roots with Delta ingredients. "If Creoles had settled in Memphis this is how they would have cooked.".
Best Bites: Savour crispy veal sweetbreads and dumplings with fennel and local mushrooms at Restaurant Iris, reoll up your sleeves for a tender, smoky slab of ribs from Cozy Corner Restaurant and moist red velvet Frankly Scarlett cupcakes at Muddy's Bake Shop.
Nightcap in Memphis: Sip a smokey, orange-kissed All the Single Ladies (Prichard's single malt, Solerno blood orange liqueur and grapefruit juice at Hog & Hominy.