The Tennessee adventure continues from Memphis to Tupelo…
After loading the car we decided to have a quick stop at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music to help celebrate their 10th anniversary. The sun was shining, there was great bbq food, bouncy castles galore and some amazing singing from the students at the Stax Music Academy; we were blown away by the talent of these kids who are the next generation of Soul Music! If you are in Memphis in June you can see them performing at B.B. Kings Blues Club on Beale Street every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1–5pm or at the Stax Museum every Tuesday from 2–4pm.
Tupelo, Mississippi is just over 100 miles from Memphis (1.5 hours driving south on 78) and when we arrived we checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn. An added bonus for our children is a hotel with a swimming pool so after dumping the bags, hubby & I grabbing books, the kids literally jumped into their swimwear and we had some brief downtime before dining at the Lost Pizza Company. If you fancy something sweet afterwards two doors down is Tutti Frutti Yoghurt – 16 flavours of frozen yoghurt, 18 toppings and 12 fresh fruit options – you can have any combination any way you fancy!
The hotel is located next door to the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau (what we know as Tourist Information) and the office is open Monday–Friday, 8:00–17:00, so it’s definitely worth a visit to help you decide what you would like to do and the staff are very helpful! We decided to spend an hour touring the Tupelo Automobile Museum before having our next Elvis fix. The museum is great for any car enthusiast, there are over 100 classic cars collected by founder Frank Spain, some of which are works of art but they all have a story to tell! There is a police car that the children can sit and play in plus a DeLorean for any Back to the Future fans.
Unless you are an Elvis fan you might not know that Tupelo is most famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. If you have already been to Memphis and visited Graceland then visiting the two room house built by his father is rather humbling. You can sit on the porch swing for a great photo opportunity (see ours above) before entering the house and being greeted by a lady in a rocking chair. You are standing in the room that Elvis was born in and she starts to tell you the story of Elvis Aaron Presley born January 8, 1935. As you exit you continue on the Walk of Life, a series of stone blocks dating Elvis’ life and leading you to Elvis at 13, a statue of Elvis with his guitar and another photo opportunity. We then walked up to Elvis’ Childhood Church, which has been moved to the Elvis Presley Birthplace Complex. You sit in a pew before the multi-media presentation takes you back to years gone by as we experienced what it was like for a young Elvis and how he started his fascination with music after listening to rich Southern gospel. We didn’t know what was going to happen and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else but it is definitely worth a visit, and very well done! To finish the tour we visited the Elvis Presley Museum a collection put together by Janelle McComb, a Tupelo resident and personal friend of Elvis and the Presley family. My son thought it was particularly funny that you can see Elvis’ pyjamas and Molly was quite happy watching the videos.
It was time for us to refuel and we hadn’t had a burger for about 48 hours! So we decided to visit Johnnie’s Drive-In, an authentic American diner that was Elvis’ favourite place to eat. If you are lucky enough you can sit in Elvis’ booth but the restaurant is full of great photos, friendly staff and yummy burgers!
We decided that as the kids had been fed and watered we would get on the road again to head to Nashville, but if you wanted to spend more time in Tupelo the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo was highly recommended and there are also many special events throughout the year so it’s worth looking on the website before your visit.
We decided to travel on the Natchez Trace Parkway to Nashville, it’s a slightly longer journey than using the interstate but it’s a beautiful scenic road that runs between Nashville and Natchez. The Natchez Trace Parkway began as a footpath for Native Americans 8,000 years ago but today is open to motorists, cyclists and hikers. The speed limit is a strict 50mph but you can literally stick at this speed the whole journey as you don’t get stuck behind any traffic – in fact you hardly see any traffic! The drive from Tupelo to Nashville on the NTP is about 4 hours, so we were fully stocked with activity books, colouring, snacks, i-Phones and eye-spy ideas! My two had even bought their pillow pets along for the Tennessee roadtrip and were great when the youngest wanted a nap. There are toilets along the NTP and stops for photos but there are no shops or petrol stations unless you leave the Parkway so it is recommended to fill up with fuel before you leave. Along the Trace we saw a couple of squashed snakes (quite interesting for a 4 year old!), deer, wild turkey and birds of prey and not once did we hear “are we nearly there yet” so a very successful journey – and then we arrived in Music City, Nashville!
If you would like more information on Tupelo please email us, or view our Memphis & Mississippi Travel Guide which has a section dedicated to Tupelo. If you have any questions fill in the comments box below and I will be happy to help! If you missed Part 1 – Memphis you can read it here.