Top 12 Things To Do in Memphis, Tennessee

As birthplace of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll, Memphis pulses with musical history around every corner. But Tennessee’s second largest city also captivates visitors with museums housing centuries-old Egyptian mummies, 80 acres of sprawling Victorian gardens, and barbecue sauces inspiring fierce local loyalty.

Beale StreetA historic entertainment district known for its vibrant nightlife and musical history.
The National Civil Rights MuseumA museum located at the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, focusing on the American civil rights movement.
Sun StudioIconic recording studio known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.
GracelandThe famous home of Elvis Presley, open to the public for tours.
Big River CrossingA pedestrian bridge offering views of the Mississippi River and downtown Memphis.
Botanic Garden at Shelby Farms ParkA vast park featuring gardens, trails, and recreational activities.
Brooks Museum of ArtMuseum housing an extensive art collection ranging from ancient to contemporary works.
Gibson Guitar Factory TourA tour offering a behind-the-scenes look at guitar manufacturing.
Stax Museum of American Soul MusicMuseum dedicated to American soul music, with a focus on Stax Records’ contributions.
Metal MuseumA museum focused on metalwork and metal art.
Memphis ZooA zoo featuring a wide range of animals and exhibits.
Children’s Museum of MemphisInteractive museum designed for children, with educational and fun exhibits.
Bass Pro at the PyramidA large retail and entertainment complex inside a pyramid-shaped building.

See for yourself by exploring this guide to top things to do in Memphis beyond the iconic Graceland estate during your next trip.

Beale Street

Name and Location: Beale Street is a historic street located in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, known as a significant location in the development of blues music and rock and roll.

History and Significance: Beale Street dates back to the early 1800s as an important commercial and cultural center for African Americans. Many famous musicians like Louis Armstrong and B.B. King frequented Beale’s nightclubs.

What to Expect: Visitors to modern Beale Street can hear live music booming from clubs and bars, browse unique shops, view historical markers, and explore museums detailing Memphis’s musical heritage while soaking up the lively party atmosphere.

Visitor Information: Beale Street is open daily with typical closing times between 2-5am depending on the business. No entrance fee but must be 21+ after 11 pm.

The cobblestoned entertainment hub saw American music history unfold for over a century thanks to legendary singers like B.B. King getting discovered inside its rollicking bars. Today live bands keep toes tapping at neon-lit nightspots like Rum Boogie Cafe and the New Daisy Theatre as you wander past blues clubs sharing walls with Civil Rights landmarks like the W.C. Handy Memphis Home & Museum. Fuel up on fried favorites at the Ramsay family’s BBQ diner before catching the Peabody Hotel Lobby fountain’s twice daily March of the Famous Ducks.

The National Civil Rights Museum

Name and Location: Located at the historic Lorraine Motel, The National Civil Rights Museum is at 450 Mulberry Street in downtown Memphis.

History and Significance: Built on the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s 1968 assassination, the museum traces the American civil rights movement from slavery through King’s death and beyond with extensive exhibits and historical insight.

What to Expect: Visitors take an impactful journey through five centuries by engaging films, interactive displays, numerous artifacts and King’s preserved motel room as he spent his final hours before being fatally shot on the balcony.

Visitor Information: The museum is open daily aside from major holidays. General admission is $16 for adults and $14 for seniors/military. Free for children under age 6.

Explore the 1968 Lorraine Motel balcony where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated tracing the ongoing fight for equality at this National Historic Landmark. Powerful exhibits document events from the Montgomery bus boycott through #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations across the wooded plaza at the historic Fire Station No. 2 used by riot police against Sanitation Workers on strike when King was called to Memphis. Contemplate next steps continuing progress exiting downstairs through vintage lunch counter stools bearing witness to sit-ins conducted just blocks away at Clayborn Temple open for tours.

Sun Studio

Name and Location: Sun Studio is located at 706 Union Avenue in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

History and Significance: Established in 1950 by rock pioneer Sam Phillips, Sun Studio is considered one of the most important music landmarks in the world where early rock n’ roll was discovered with legendary artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis recording seminal tracks onsite.

What to Expect: Guests can take a guided tour of the still-active recording studio to hear stories about the origins of rockabilly and Memphis’ rise paired with audio clips of history-making songs cut on original analog equipment.

Visitor Information: Open daily, standard tickets are $15 for daytime tours or $22 for nighttime. Advanced booking recommended as tours routinely sell out weeks in advance.

Some of the world’s very first rock ‘n’ roll tracks cut inside this unassuming one-room Memphis studio thanks to talents like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all getting discovered here by producer Sam Phillips during the 1950s. Self-guided tours let music lovers stand in the worn spots where musical genius was first captured at the iconic studio fully outfitted with era instrumentation the day it opened over 70 years ago. Pop memorabilia spanning the decades fills the onsite gift shop while the lively cafe next door keeps visitors humming under the indie record store’s glowing marquis.


Name and Location: Graceland is located at 3765 Elvis Presley Boulevard in the Whitehaven community of Memphis, about 9 miles from downtown. It was the longtime home and refuge of musical icon Elvis Presley.

History and Significance: Purchased by Elvis in 1957 at age 22, Graceland Mansion is where Elvis would retreat from fame and the place he spent the bulk of his adult life until his death in 1977. Now a National Historic Landmark, Graceland offers insight into Elvis’ personal life during his peak.

What to Expect: Guests tour the 14-acre estate to view Elvis’ flamboyant personal decor, jumpsuit collection, cars/motorcycles, trophies room, private aircraft, grave site and more while learning about his contributions to music along with challenges he faced.

Visitor Information: Graceland requires timed tickets for mansion tours purchased separately online in advance due to high demand. Ticket packages vary from $57+ per adult. Estate grounds are open daily.

No trip to Memphis is complete without visiting Elvis Presley’s famous home opened to the public after the rock legend’s death in 1977. Interactive iPad tour guides reveal how the Musical King lived amid shag carpet lined rooms, vivid peacock stained glass, a mirrored “jungle room” and the Meditation Garden where he was later buried alongside family members. Beyond the big mansion, Elvis fanatics can stroll the 7 acre campus to see his gleaming car collection, play pinball machines inside arcade exhibit Graceland Exhibits and climb aboard his customized jets at adjoining Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex.

Big River Crossing

Name and Location: Big River Crossing is a nearly one-mile long biking/pedestrian bridge spanning across the Mississippi River, connecting Memphis to Arkansas.

History and Significance: Completed in 2016 on abandoned railroad piers, the Big River Crossing provides Memphians access to miles of trails linking Tennessee and Arkansas while serving as an innovative example of reclaiming infrastructure to encourage exercise.

What to Expect: Walkers, runners and bikers ascend wood plank ramps rising 50 feet over the water and 327 feet across the river channel while taking in views of the Memphis skyline and Arkansas landscapes from the nation’s longest public pedestrian/bike river crossing.

Visitor Information: The Big River Crossing path is open daily from sunrise to sunset with no fee to access. Parking areas sit on both landing sides – Memphis and West Memphis, AR.

Pedestrians and cyclists get the best views of downtown or Arkansas’ sparking West Memphis bridges thanks to this innovative pedestrian boardwalk connecting Main Street with trails along the Mississippi River. Admire the mighty waterway carved 150 feet below linked by a short walkway dotted with educational plaques tracing the region’s past at Big River Crossing. Historic landing stairs, outlook tubes and sheltering shaded rest areas encourage stopping to contemplate scenes Mark Twain vividly described navigating nearby as a young steamboat captain while nomadic birds like eagles wheel overhead.

Botanic Garden at Shelby Farms Park

Name and Location: The Memphis Botanic Garden is a 96-acre garden located inside Shelby Farms Park at 750 Cherry Road in Memphis, Tennessee.

History and Significance: Created in 1966, the Botanic Garden’s exquisite cultivated gardens and expansive fields aim to inspire visitors to be more active environmental stewards via outdoor encounters with varying landscapes blooming year-round.

What to Expect: Guests explore numerous themed gardens like Japanese Maple Trail, Rose Garden, and Chickasaw Bluff while observing native butterflies and walking through wildflower meadows and foliage bursting with all colors on meandering trails.

Visitor Information: The Botanic Garden is open Tuesday-Sunday with hours varying by season. Garden admission is $10 for adults, $6 youth, free under age 2. Entry to Shelby Farms Park is free.

Trade urban views for winding lily pad ponds, bamboo groves, orchid-filled conservatories, and expertly cultivated specialty gardens spread across this stunning year-round escape. Families flock to climb massive treehouses and pretty wooden pedestrian paths winding through tropical blooms at the Botanic Garden at Shelby Farms Park. Seek out resident butterflies fluttering through flower-filled meadows, cascading waterfalls and secret garden rooms bombarded by busy hummingbirds and butterflies in this urban oasis just minutes from downtown attractions.

Brooks Museum of Art

Name and Location: The Brooks Museum of Art is centrally located at 1934 Poplar Avenue in Memphis’ Overton Park district.

History and Significance: Founded in 1916, the Brooks Museum has assembled an impressive permanent collection of over 7,000 fine art objects from all major cultures and periods spanning antiquities to modern era works in a 33,000 sq ft facility designed to inspire learning through art.

What to Expect: Visitors explore galleries with selections from the Brooks’ extensive holdings in genres like sculpture, drawings, prints, paintings and more along with special exhibitions showcasing notable regional and national artists’ works.

Visitor Information: The Brooks is open Wed-Sat with Sunday hours limited seasonally. General admission is $7 for adults and $3 youth ages 9-17. Free admission offered each Wednesday.

From ancient artifacts to avant garde installations, the impressive permanent collection inside the sleek Brooks Museum of Art spans diverse world cultures including African Naive works and Cuban surrealism alongside American Regionalism paintings and modern sculptures. Knowledgeable guides stationed throughout exhibit halls provide context bringing scenes to life. Tailored monthly events like craft cocktails, yoga amid masterpieces or spectacular glass blowing demos offer constantly changing reasons to keep returning to downtown’s foremost fine arts destination.

Gibson Guitar Factory Tour

Name and Location: Gibson Guitar Factory tours take place at the Gibson USA Headquarters located at 145 Lt. George Lee Av in Memphis, about 10 minutes from Beale Street and downtown.

History and Significance: Gibson’s Memphis guitar factory has been building iconic instruments like the Les Paul and ES 335 since the mid 1980s, outputting 1000 guitars per week sought after by the world’s top music artists.

What to Expect: Guests walk the production line witnessing skilled luthiers meticulously shaping bodies and necks, binding frets, tuning and testing each semi-hollow and solid body electric guitar destined for fame across multiple rooms.

Visitor Information: Afternoon tour tickets should be booked 1-2 weeks ahead online. Tours run Mon-Fri at $10 per person, limited to small groups due to hands-on nature. Parking onsite.

Hardcore music lovers need to see handcrafted Gibson guitars taking shape on interactive factory tours revealing how raw wood gets fretted, wired and finished into one of over 4,000 instruments built per year upholding exacting standards dating to 1894. Watch master artisans measure, chisel, glue and tune future legendary axes with exact precision passing down skills across generations just like the classicLes Paul and ES hollow body models made famous by musical icons like Elvis and Chuck Berry. You’ll walk away a bigger fan – and maybe even guitarist yourself – after this riveting behind-the-scenes glimpse provided complimentarily by the beloved American guitar giant.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Name and Location: The Stax Museum is situated inside the original Stax Records building at 926 E. McLemore Avenue in the Soulsville area of South Memphis.

History and Significance: Founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart, Stax Records produced era-defining soul music by legends like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, The Staples Singers, and others who recorded here until 1975 when the company went bankrupt.

What to Expect: Guests tour exhibits relaying the Stax Records story through videos, stage costumes, gold records, vintage gear and more while hearing the timeless music that altered pop culture, still emerging from the beats and grooves of this small converted theater space.

Visitor Information: The Stax Museum operates Tuesday-Saturday with tours offered at 1 PM lasting 60-75 minutes. General admission is $16 per adult and $11 for youth ages 9-17.

Slide into a vintage recording studio recreation to learn how groundbreaking talent like Otis Redding refined a distinctly southern “Memphis Sound” variation inspiring modern Motown. See Isaac Hayes’ shimmering gold-trimmed Cadillac Eldorado, funk godfather James Brown’s red satin cape and other artifacts bringing soul, blues, R&B and gospel stories alive inside the weathered Stax Records studio grounds. Then dance your way through outstanding rotating exhibits gracing the spacious modern showcase space launched by hometown legends like Rufus Thomas. Don’t miss daily live instrument demos revealing the gritty mechanics fuelling raw soulful grooves still capable of moving every body on the dance floor.

Metal Museum

Name and Location: The Metal Museum is an art museum focused on fine metal work located at 374 Metal Museum Drive on a peninsula overlooking the Mississippi River about 10 minutes southwest of downtown Memphis.

History and Significance: Founded in 1979, the Metal Museum’s collection, exhibitions and resident artist program aim to spark appreciation for artworks crafted out of metal while providing creative learning opportunities surrounding metal art processes through classes, demonstrations and direct engagement.

What to Expect: Guests traverse creatively landscaped grounds viewing remarkable works in forged iron, jewelry, sculpture and more fabricated from precious metals and found objects while observing artists welding, forging, enameling and casting new pieces onsite.

Visitor Information: The Metal Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday year-round with summer evening hours on select Fridays. General admission is $7 adults. Guided group tours offered.

Discover why artisan blacksmith skills transition beautifully into modern sculpture masterpieces at this converted Ohio River loading dock foundry. The Metal Museum’s remarkable collection balances delicate copper botanicals against immense fiery iron environmental abstractions following in traditions tracing Egyptian metalsmithing over 5 millenia. Meet internationally recognized resident artists firing up forges shaping metals through ancient techniques reinvented answering contemporary aesthetic challenges. Appreciate the raw creative might at play beneath impressive open-air pavilions displaying a mere sample of the 500 works donated since opening in 1979.

Memphis Zoo

Name and Location: The Memphis Zoo is located at 2000 Prentiss Place in Midtown Memphis’ Overton Park.

History and Significance: Operating since 1906, today the Memphis Zoo sits on 70 acres serving as the mid-south’s premier family attraction and leading zoological institution exhibiting over 3,500 animals across three unique loop trails focusing on education and species conservation efforts.

What to Expect: Zoo explorers traverse the Mississippi Delta Country, Northwest Passage, and Teton Trek trail systems to encounter chimps, penguins, elephants, rare snow leopards, komodo dragons, panda bears plus hundreds more mammals, birds, reptiles housed in award-winning habitats.

Visitor Information: The zoo is open daily 9AM-4PM except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ticket pricing varies by age, starting at $15 for adults 12-59 years old. Discounts for seniors, military families and children.

Over 3,500 exotic animals fill 70 lush acres in Midtown showcasing habitats spanning steaming jungle canopies to arid African savannas and waters filled with playful penguins. Experience orangutans swinging through aerial trails above pathways winding past red pandas, tunnelling prairie dog dens and lazy clouded leopard naps at the Memphis Zoo. Special events like craft beer tastings inside luxury camping lodges or acrobatic Cirque du Soleil-style shows never cease providing engaging reasons to keep returning like the furry residents greeting adoring fans of all ages at the nation’s fourth oldest municipal zoo.

Children’s Museum of Memphis

Name and Location: The Children’s Museum of Memphis is located at 2525 Central Avenue in Midtown Memphis, near Overton Park and the Memphis Zoo.

History and Significance: Founded in 1985, this imaginative 29,000 square foot museum provides engaging hands-on educational exhibits focused on developing children’s creativity and cultural awareness through role playing, interactive environments, and sensory stimulating installations.

What to Expect: Kids can direct TV shows and perform music in studios, drive vehicles, conduct science experiments, assemble art projects, role play careers like doctors, shopkeepers and chefs while getting fully immersed in enriching settings advancing developmental skills.

Visitor Information: The Children’s Museum is open daily. Admission is $13.50 per person ages 1+ with discounted rates offered weekday evenings. Annual memberships providing unlimited access are popular with families.

Kids rule across 27 interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits guaranteed to keep young minds actively engaged through self-directed play and discovery. At the Children’s Museum of Memphis, tiny tots love racing through twisty roller coaster tunnels, steering downtown fire engines or guessing shadow puppet shapes dancing along backlit walls beside expansive windows overlooking the Mississippi River below. Parents too appreciate the ability to guide kids through a grocery store, health clinic and bank sparking curiosity about real world lessons while playing. When weather allows, the three-story building connects kids with nature through lush gardens ripe for fairy hunts plus climbing towers tangled in rope netting daring climbers to summit scenic views.

Bass Pro at the Pyramid

Name and Location: Bass Pro at the Pyramid is located Inside the Memphis Pyramid building at 1 Bass Pro Drive just off I-40 along the Mississippi River north of downtown.

History and Significance: Originally opened in 1991 as an arena, the building’s unique form resembling Egypt’s pyramids was radically reimagined into a megastore adventure theme park by outdoor retailer Bass Pro in 2015, transforming the faded structure into a popular tourist hub.

What to Expect: Shoppers explore a colossal retail space with boat and truck displays soaring through the towering steel Pyramid frame containing fishing/hunting goods, a bowling alley, shooting gallery, restaurant, cypress swamp with waterfowl, and a hotel high atop the apex.

Visitor Information: Bass Pro at the Pyramid is open daily with no admission fees. Parking in the 6,200 space garage is free. Various attractions inside operate on different schedules.

As the tallest freestanding sport retail space in America, it makes sense the outdoor superstore fills the Memphis skyline’s tallest structure. Adding 100,000 fish plus a bowling alley, rotating restaurant and 4.5 acre rooftop amusement park guarantees the iconic 32-story steel Pyramid continues wowing crowds like it has since opening in 1991. Ride glass elevatorsscaling rotating LED-lit cliffs revealing taxidermy lions, giant aquarium sharks and exotic waterfowl between shopping floors filled with boats, tackle and outdoor gear during this architectural adventure guaranteed to fascinate everyone.

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