Is Memphis Worth Visiting? Exploring the City’s Attractions, History, & Culture

From the Author: I've lived and worked in Nashville for 12+ years. I'm heavily involved with the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, so when you visit, you might find me giving the odd tour or helping out wherever possible. If you have any questions, I respond quickly to comments. Come in and say hi!

Memphis has played a significant role in American history, including being the incubator of the Civil Rights Movement and the location of Martin Luther King's assassination. 

It's also the birthplace and home of the King of Rock' n' Roll himself, Elvis Presley. 

As the busiest port along the Mississippi River during the 19th century, Memphis has a fascinating history related to trade and transportation. 

Is Memphis Worth Visiting?

Memphis is absolutely worth visiting. In addition to being one of America's greatest music cities and the birthplace of rock ‘n' roll, Memphis played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement and has a fascinating history related to trade and the river. In addition, visitors can explore iconic landmarks such as the National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, Sun Studio, and Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley.

Where is Memphis Located?

Memphis is about a 3-5 hour drive southwest of Nashville, Tennessee. The city sits on the border of Mississippi and Arkansas. One of the fun things to do is walk the Memphis and Arkansas Bridge. On one side is Tennessee, and on the other, it is Arkansas. Don't do it if you are afraid of heights. 

From Memphis, it's only a 2-6 hour drive to reach Little Rock, Arkansas; St. Louis, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; or Birmingham, Alabama.

Memphis Attractions

Pro Tip: Don't think all the attractions are downtown; spread your wings a bit, and you'll be surprised at the many things to do and see.

Graceland, Home of Elvis


Graceland was the home of Elvis Presley. Graceland is the mansion that sits on 14 acres and has been converted into a museum and memorial site.

Local Graceland Tip: The ticket prices can surprise visitors. However, you should remember that visiting Graceland includes more than just the house. It's a complex where they have his jumpsuits, cars, memorabilia, and army artifacts. It's not only Elvis fans who will enjoy Graceland. There is an option to buy a VIP pass for faster access. If you go there when it's not busy, don't get the VIP pass; it's unnecessary. 

Beale Street

Beale Street

This is the nightlife center of Memphis. It's home to bars and entertainment. You walk the street at all hours of the day. During the day you can eat and drink at the many bars and restaurants. However, at night it's a whole different scene. There is music in almost every bar, and enjoy the street performers like the Beale Street Flippers. You are allowed to walk Beale Street with open containers. Also, there are usually jugs of free water.

Sun Studio

Sun Studios 

This recording studio is known as the “birthplace of rock ‘n' roll.” Elvis Presley recorded “That's All Right” here in 1954.

Sun Studio is open to the public and is a popular attraction and museum. You can learn about the history of rock and roll and see memorabilia from the studio's early days. 

The studio also still operates as a recording studio and has been used by modern musicians such as U2, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty.

Arcade Restaurant

Arcade Restaurant

The oldest café in Memphis, Elvis himself used to be a regular. It still operates as a cafe you can visit and eat at today. It's been featured in many documentaries and films. Learn more here.

National Civil Rights Museum

This is a must-visit in Nashville. It was built around the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, following the long civil rights history in the United States.

Memphis Zoo

Memphis Zoo

The Memphis Zoo is very enjoyable for kids and adults alike. It's diverse, featuring over 500 species worldwide, including giant Pandas, Elephants, Grizzly Bears, and red Pandas. There are a lot of educational opportunities and a train ride.

Peabody Hotel Memphis

Peabody Ducks 

The Peabody Hotel is a famous Memphis hotel. For 90 years, they have maintained a tradition of ducks in the center fountain from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. They march them in on the red carpet at 11 a.m. every day. They also have a beautiful lobby and bar. Remember not to pet or feed the ducks or throw money in the fountain. It has excellent views of the city. Every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., the lobby is filled with music, an official makes a speech, and the red carpet is rolled out for the ducks. Learn more here.

Bass Pro Shop 

The Bass Pro Shop is more than just a place to grab fishing and hunting gear. This location is an experience. It's an insane place with a shooting gallery, bowling range, restaurants, and a hotel.

It's themed like a swamp, so there are lakes, boats, real alligators, and fish. Check it out!

Like Peabody, it has an excellent lookout with views of the city. 

Shelby Farms

Shelby Farms

Shelby Farms is a massive, 4,500-acre park with hiking and biking trails, fishing ponds, horseback riding, playgrounds, and picnic areas. Visitors can also rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats to explore the park's many lakes and waterways.

One of the most popular attractions at Shelby Farms is the Shelby Farms Greenline, a 10.65-mile paved trail that connects the park to the heart of Memphis. The track is popular with runners, walkers, and cyclists and offers scenic views of the park and surrounding areas. Learn more here.

Stax Museum

Stax Museum

Stax Records, a record company that significantly influenced the soul and R&B music genres, has a fantastic museum called the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis.

The museum was renovated and reopened in 2003 and is housed in the historic Stax Records building.

You'll find exhibits featuring Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Booker T., and the MGs.

Rock ‘n' Soul Museum

Rock ‘n' Soul Museum

The Rock' n' Soul Museum offers a musical experience that takes you from the rural fields of the 1930s to the birth of Sun, Stax, and Hi Records, followed by the Memphis' musical heyday in the 70s. 

The influence of southern rock and soul that originated in Memphis has influenced the world. The Rock' n' Soul Museum showcases the entire journey. Learn more here.

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