Deep South USA Blog

For two years, Tom Lee Park has had a major renovation to transform it into an oasis along the Mississippi Riverfront, so here are some favourite features of the park.

Sunset Canopy, Tom Lee Park, Memphis

All the Spaces to Sit and Appreciate the Riverfront Views

Originally there were very few places to sit and appreciate the view of the Mississippi River. The new design was very intentional about providing many places for you to sit back and relax. Be sure to take a seat at the First Horizon River Lounge along the water.

There is also a Hammock Grove where hammocks will be set up for you to relax away.

Creatures of the Mississippi River Playground

In this playground, creatures of the Mississippi River come alive. Kids of all ages will love this space that allows them to climb, slide and zip-line.

For those looking to work up a sweat on holiday, hit the fitness zone sponsored by the Campbell Clinic. There are various fitness stations and obstacles including some that give Ninja Warrior vibes.

The Legacy of Tom Lee is Honoured Well

Let’s honour the river hero, Tom Lee. The stunning bronze statue featuring Tom Lee at one of his rescues, remains a centre piece of the park in its original location.

There is also "A Monument to Listening" - a new sculpture by renowned artist Theaster Gates. This space challenges park visitors to reckon with their own humanity in context of Tom Lee's legacy and is supported by the Mellon Foundation's Monuments Project.

There are 32-seating sculptures in this space and along the river near the monument to represent each life Tom Lee, a Black man in 1925, saved when he acted quickly and with great bravery pulled them from the waters and swift river currents after a steamer had overturned. Tom Lee did so without knowing how to swim.

You can also see a view of the Tom Lee Monument in Heroes Plaza, a gift of Baptist Healthcare, from A Monument to Listening.

Bringing Food, Coffee, Ice Cream and Cocktails to the Riverfront

Something that has been missing from the riverfront experience for too long was food options. The new Tom Lee Park will include two Wooden Pavilions which will feature Paper Plate Pavilion and Vice & Virtue. Paper Plate Pavilion is a food truck getting its first brick-and-mortar and Vice & Virtue is a coffee shop located inside Arrive Hotel.

Cocktails will also arrive soon and a Ben & Jerry's ice cream stand. The pavilions are near expansive patio options, so a coffee morning stroll through the park is a great way to start the day.

Sunset Canopy Named in Honour of Tyre Nichols

Named in honour of Tyre Nichols, this giant structure anchors the park as a community gathering space. It’ll be an area for events, basketball, concerts and more. Or simply a place to catch some shade. For scale, it's 20,000 square feet and will make for one of the most unique event venues – it’s seriously impressive!

It's a Nature Oasis with lots of Trees & Plants

The new park offers a closer connection to nature and not just in the sense of it being an outdoor park. More than 1,000 trees were planted in the park and way more plants that you couldn't begin to count. All the plants are native to the area and the community went through lengths to pick seeds from other parks to grow a natural habitat.

In the Habitat Terrace, the south end feature of the park, you can see in the sound gardens and not feel like you are steps away from a city downtown. It's a quiet space to unwind and really hear the sounds of nature.

AutoZone Plaza to Cool Off In

It gets real hot along the river during the Memphis summer months so now visitors can cool off at the 7,000-square-foot misting fountain at AutoZone Plaza. It also glows with colour-changing lights every evening. It's gentle enough of to cool off in without getting soaked. Located at the bottom of the ADA-accessible Carlisle Cutbank Bluff next to Beale Street Landing.

These seven highlighted spots certainly don't begin to cover every area of Tom Lee Park, but it's a good start and we want to leave some elements for you to discover yourself along the way.

Written by Jalyn Souchek, the Director of Content for I Love Memphis Blog.

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