Memphis is the biggest city in Tennessee, but with a welcoming, decidedly laid-back vibe, the whole place feels like a friendly neighborhood. Known as the birthplace of blues and Elvis’s final resting place, this city knows its way around live music and deep-fried Southern food—and pulls in thousands of visitors each year because of it. Memphis is deeply pretty, too: the buzzing downtown overlooks the Mississippi River and several enormous parks that make it easy to forget you’re in a city at all.
- Graceland: Do not miss Graceland, former home to the King of Rock and Roll. The mansion and museum are full of costumes, original furnishings, and other Elvis paraphernalia.
- National Civil Rights Museum: Interactive exhibits and historic collections tell the story of the American struggle for civil rights. Part of the museum is housed in the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a sniper in 1968.
- Shelby Farms Park: One of the largest urban parks in the country—five times bigger than Central Park. Hike, fish, and mountain bike in the forests, wetlands, and lakes here, and don’t forget to visit the park’s resident herd of bison.
- The Pink Palace: This giant pink marble mansion was built by the founder of Piggly Wiggly grocery stores in the 1920s, and was turned into a museum and planetarium after he gave it to the city of Memphis. It also contains a replica of the original Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Delightfully weird.
Music and Eats
- Beale Street: Known as the “Home of the Blues,” this is Memphis’s rowdiest quarter, where drinking on the street is legal and live music spills out of the countless bars and clubs.
- Barbecue heaven: Memphis is serious about its barbecue, and famous for both “dry” (spice-rubbed) and “wet” (covered in tangy sauce) varieties. Try Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous for legendary dry ribs, but go early to avoid a long wait.
- Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum: Grab a headset and listen your way through this museum dedicated to chronicling the birth of blues, rock, and soul music.
Where to Stay
- Peabody Hotel: Live ducks swim in a fountain in the hotel’s ornate lobby; it’s Memphis’s landmark luxury hotel, within walking distance of Beale Street and the Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum.
- Hampton Inn & Suites - Beale Street: Right in the entertainment district, this hotel is within walking distance of numerous Beale Street shops and restaurants.
- River Inn of Harbor Town: A high-end downtown boutique hotel overlooking the Mississippi, with crystal chandeliers, gaslit lanterns, and other Old World touches.
- Heartbreak Hotel: The boutique hotel for true Elvis fans. A heart-shaped outdoor pool, an Elvis gift shop, and an onsite Jungle Room Lounge contribute to the retro vibe. Close to Graceland.