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.
One of Tennessee's oldest independent eateries, the story of Peerless Restaurant begins more than 75 years ago with the Kalogeros family. And yet the founders' legacy endures not just through their descendents?the current owners?but also in the food. Many of the steak-and-seafood house's dishes come from decades-old Greek family recipes, and even the signature barbecue sauce hasn't changed since it was first concocted in 1938. Hand-picked and butchered Midwestern steaks are aged and grilled until caramelized. Tender chicken is marinated with Mediterranean spices and cheeses, or slathered in that iconic barbecue sauce and served country-style at the bottom of a giant tin drum. Fresh seafood?such as cold-water lobster, Maryland lump crab, and diver scallops?forms the foundation for the rest of the menu.
To match the eclectic selection of dishes, the bar specializes in mixing craft cocktails and curating a list of more than 50 international wines that's often explored during monthly tastings. At both Peerless locations, the sounds of clinking glasses, forks, and laughter echo throughout a palatial dining room characterized by rows of dark wooden booths and giant mosaic-style glass disks on the ceiling. Just out of sight, even more lavish rooms host banquets and other special events.
The chefs at Terra Nostra Tapas and Wine mix European, American, Asian, and Caribbean cuisines on a small-plates menu that changes daily, ensuring consistently fresh tastes. Within the bustling kitchen, they can be found architecting shareable servings of tender meats, fresh vegetables, and market fresh seafood. Servers keep diners hydrated as they pour out 80 wines by the glass and 90 wines by the bottle, offering palate-tickling quaffs that both sate grape thirsts and wash away tablemates' memories of conversational gaffes.
Terra Nostra's space comes to life with international art and nautical murals depicting schools of fish. Outdoor seating is available in a festive patio area, and indoor diners are arranged at spacious dining bars designed to foster sharing of food, conversation, and bootlegged films. Along with bringing the local community together over shared meals, Terra Nostra's staffers remain committed to serving the global community via work with charitable organizations. In 2010 and 2011, they took part in medical-relief mission trips to Ecuador.
Sleek light fixtures dangle from Kohana Japanese Restaurant's ceiling and subtly illuminate a tidily minimal fleet of indigo and white chairs, booths abutting wavy-lined wall paneling, and plates featuring eats carefully crafted and presented by the chefs. Sharply dressed in the only two colors that can be worn together, black and white, servers march out with precisely sliced sections of signature dishes such as the Phoenix specialty roll, which combines spicy tuna, snow crab, and avocado with a multifaceted dressing. Non-sushi selections, such as crunchy shrimp tempura and baked salmon with eel sauce, also pair well with Kohana's selection of wine, beer, and sake.
When patrons step into Lanes, Trains, & Automobiles Entertainment Depot, playful noises jostle their senses: the crash of bowling pins, the decisive zaps of laser-tag guns, the thunder of colliding bumper cars. The center shelters a spectrum of friendly competition under one roof, but at the heart are 32 bowling lanes. During open-bowling hours and late-night cosmic bowling, touchscreens tally strikes and automatic bumpers shift up and down to accommodate different players in case they decide to somersault down the lane.
Nearby, up to 16 laser-tag soldiers duck behind barrels and walls splattered with neon paint in the 2,500-square-foot Lazer Station. In the Spinzone, black lights and colorful spotlights swivel around a central traffic signal, which dictates the stops, starts, and illegal U-turns of bumper cars.
In the arcade, patrons battle for champion status and pick of pizza toppings at air-hockey tables, skee-ball machines, and racing video games. Professional competitors face off on flat-screen TVs at Tailgaters, an on-site eatery slinging burgers and pizza. Eight VIP bowling lanes, a designated party zone, and a stage for live entertainment and karaoke act as peaceful dignitaries in the 4,500-square-foot restaurant as well.