The interactive exhibits and programs compiled by the Pink Palace Family of Museums reinforce a mission that has stayed constant for 80 years: to "inspire people to learn how history, science, technology, and nature shape the Mid-South." Attached to Clarence Saunders' mansion built in the 1920s, the museum's permanent exhibits take an eclectic approach to chronicling the past, revealing everything from ancient fossils to contemporary southern history. Inside, visitors can chart the history of Memphis from the early Spanish explorers through the Civil War or walk through a replica of Saunders' original Piggly Wiggly—the country’s first self-service grocery store, and even see a shrunken head. Global adventures are chronicled on a four-story screen at the CTI-IMAX theater, and the Sharpe Planetarium explores the cosmos from the comfort of a 130-seat theater.
Traveling to east Memphis, one can discern the natural side of the Pink Palace Family of Museums. Lichterman Nature Center encompasses 65 acres of lush gardens filled with native wildflowers, trees, and wildlife. The center combines self-guided nature walks with plant sales and educational activities to expose visitors to the natural world.
A log cabin sits huddled in the woods as breezes sway rolling grasses and flowerbeds across the 1,120 acres that surround it. A Federal-style mansion stands tall against the sky, its columns flanking a towering front door and presidential balcony. Carrying on a 200-year tradition, The Hermitage tells the story of the presidential family, its plantation's slave population, and the atmosphere of the time through 32 historic buildings and more than a dozen archaeological sites.
The mansion and visitor center boast 3,000 original objects and 800,000 archaeological artifacts on display, as well as 1,200 printed items, 3,000 photographs, and 800 manuscripts bearing the president's original handwriting and cappuccino stains. The mansion's Greek-revival woodwork and mantels frame original wallpaper, and glass cases hold Andrew Jackson's authentic glasses, slippers, top hats, swords, and canes. Inside the visitor center, the Jacksons' actual private carriage guards a hallway leading to collections of artifacts from the plantation's slave families and communities. Most items in the collections were purchased directly from the Jackson family, though many artifacts were uncovered in the late 1800s by the historic Ladies' Hermitage Association when they broke ground for a new Olympic-sized swimming pool.
On the outdoor grounds, trained guides usher visitors to the first Hermitage, a log cabin where the Jackson family lived while the mansion was being built, and Alfred's Cabin, the preserved 1840s quarters of the former groundskeeper. In the garden, winding trails take visitors past period plants and the Grecian-style tombs of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. The rest of The Hermitage's grounds contain a network of winding walking trails, as well as grassy areas and cabins where museum staffers host events, weddings, and birthday parties. Across the grounds, interpreters in authentic period dress direct visitors to the sites of historic events and often train grade-school students to do the same through the center's special school programs.
Sunspot has been voted Best Vegetarian, Best Brunch, Best Wine List, and Best Lunch Spot by Metro Pulse readers for the menu’s gleeful collage of southwestern, Caribbean, and Latin American culinary traditions. Diners nosh on vegan, gluten-free, and omnivorous offerings including fried green tomatoes and sweet-potato tamales in low-key digs.
A large skylight casts warmth across walls the color of acorn squash, exposed brick, and a behemoth abstract mural of the sun. Servers pour from the kitchen, arms stacked with veggie burgers made in house and sandwiches stuffed with tofu and Jamaican-style jerk chicken. Behind the diner-style bar, bartenders sling 29 draft beers from brewers including SweetWater and Foothills and a substantial wine list of reds and whites by the glass or bottle. After polishing off a pan-seared tilapia in corn cream sauce, guests gaze at Sunspot's black-and-white wall photos. The restaurant is open until 2 a.m. on weekend evenings, serving food to night owls and people who trust the VCR clock.
Organic and fair-trade ingredients transform into beverages, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at Pasha Coffee & Tea. Between walls bedecked with original artwork, patrons nestle into plush armchairs to warm up with marbled-froth cappuccinos. Guests also spoon up Oreo frappes heaped with pillowy dollops of whipped cream, as well as coffee that, according to the roasting philosophy printed on the menu, is painstakingly roasted to the optimal degree. Cholula mayo paints crispy bacon slices in the spicy BLT, and pesto and mozzarella accent the italian breakfast melt's stack of ham and tomatoes. And occasionally, the coffee tables, magical beanstalks growing from dropped beans, and mismatched furniture part ways to make room for live music and poetry.:
The diversity of Relish's offerings—from its dine-in menu of salads and sandwiches to its bakery and frozen yogurt—represents the eatery's evolution from a small deli to a full-blown restaurant. Those early diner favorites, such as tuna melts and meatball subs, still fill bellies alongside bread bowls full of hot pasta. On the bakery side, custom cakes, gourmet cupcakes, and pies brimming with fresh fruit line the counters or await pickup for a future event. On Friday nights, the venue comes to life with the thrumming music of live local bands, followed by family-friendly Saturdays, on which kids eat free without having to pickpocket napping subway commuters.
The Cookie Store helps its customers to satisfy their sweet teeth with an extensive assortment of fresh-baked cookies and seven types of smoothies. From classics such as chocolate chip to more inventive flavors including snickerdoodle, honey oatmeal raisin walnut, and heath-bar toffee, The Cookie Store’s bakers concoct a spread of delicious bite-size treats daily. In addition to cookie trays and tins, bakers create custom cookie cakes in a variety of different shapes, including hearts and circles that can be decorated with birthday messages, cartoon characters, or interpretations of Jackson Pollock masterworks.