5 top things to do in Memphis, Tennessee

July 8, 2020

5 top things to do in Memphis, Tennessee

In September 2019 Michael and I based a road trip through Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana around my creative immersion retreat with Andi Eaton, founder of Oui We, in New Orleans. 

Our road trip featured stays in Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, Houston and New Orleans. It was a lot of hours on the road to fit them all into 2 weeks so we only had one night in Memphis with the priority being to visit Graceland. Here are the 5 top things I recommend doing whilst in Memphis:

1. Graceland

As I just mentioned, Graceland was the purpose of our one night stop in Memphis. 

There are four experiences available when visiting Graceland, here’s a quick summary of what’s included:

Ultimate VIP tour

This top dollar tour gets you a guided tour around the Graceland Mansion, a self-guided tour of Elvis’ jets and full access to Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex which includes: the Presley Motors Automobile Collection, The Entertainer Career Museum and the discovery exhibits. You also get access to the VIP exhibit, a meal voucher and a show and tell session with the personal Graceland Archives.

Elvis Entourage VIP tour

Skip the lines with this tour ticket that includes an audio-guided tour of the Graceland Mansion, a self guided tour of the VIP exhibit and Elvis’ jets and full access to the Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex which includes: the Presley Motors Automobile Collection, The Entertainer Career Museum and the discovery exhibits.

Elvis Experience tour

This is the tour that Michael and I chose to go on because it was the cheapest ticket that gave access to the Graceland Mansion (audio tour included) plus it includes a self guided tour of Elvis’ jets and full access to the Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex which includes: the Presley Motors Automobile Collection, The Entertainer Career Museum and the discovery exhibits.

Elvis Presley’s Memphis and Planes tour

The cheapest ticket of the set includes the self guided tour of the jets with full access to the Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex which includes: the Presley Motors Automobile Collection, The Entertainer Career Museum and the discovery exhibits but it does not include a tour of the Graceland Mansion.

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Visiting Graceland was both exciting and sad. On the one hand it was amazing to see the original decor of the Mansion from the kitchen to the famous Jungle room and I was thrilled to see his costumes all the way from his movies to his live performances. However, it would be terrible not to acknowledge that Elvis was thrust into an unfathomable level of fame extremely young and was extorted for his talent up until his untimely death at just 42 years old. I mean, let’s face it, touring the man’s house and belongings doesn’t exactly honour him as much as it does make A LOT of money. Elvis’ talent, voice and movies continues to transcend across the eras though and as long as it does, the option will always be there to visit his home and final resting place.

Opening hours

Though Graceland has officially reopened after temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to check here before visiting to see if their opening hours have changed since the publication of this blog post.

New safety measures include the mandatory wearing of a face mask and all visitors will undergo a temperature check before entering. If your temperature registers as 100.4°F and over (38°C and over) you will not be permitted to enter.

Open 9am – 5pm Monday – Saturday and 9am – 4pm on Sunday.

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Ticket costs

Ultimate VIP tour

$180 per person

Children under the age of 2 are free

Elvis Entourage VIP tour

$108.50 per person

Children under the age of 2 are free

Elvis Experience tour

Adult: $69

Children aged 5-10 yrs: $38

Seniors (65+): $62.70

Children under the age of 4 are free

Elvis Presley’s Memphis and Planes tour

Adult: $41.50

Children aged 5-10 yrs: $21

Seniors (65+): $37.35

Children under the age of 4 are free

Click here to purchase tickets in advance and to review who is eligible for a discount.

PFH Top Tip: If you are on a budget but still want to pay your respects to Mr. Presley, there is the option to do a walk-up visit to the Meditation Garden where Elvis’ and his families graves are located (this is also accessible with all tickets that include a tour of the mansion). Walk-ups are allowed between 7.30am – 8.30am daily from the gates of Graceland. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walk-ups are temporarily suspended.

Accessibility 

Audio guides are given in the form of iPads and are fully captioned with visuals. Except for the two basement rooms of the Graceland Mansion which are only accessible by stairs, all rooms that are toured in the Graceland Mansion are wheelchair accessible. If the visitor in the wheelchair can walk they may take the stairs down, if they cannot, there is a video option for touring the rooms available to them. The Lisa Marie and Hound Dog II airplanes are not wheelchair accessible.

2. Sun Studio

The Legendary Sun Studio is known the world over as the “birthplace of Rock n’ Roll”. B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and The King himself, Elvis Presley, all recorded here and now that the studio has been transformed into a museum, you too can walk these very hallowed halls as they did, way back when, better yet, you can stand in the very spot where Elvis first recorded. The museum is full of memorabilia and the tour features live recordings of sessions.

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Opening hours

New safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic include the mandatory wearing of a face mask and all visitors will undergo a temperature check before entering. If your temperature registers as 100°F and over (37°C and over) you will be denied entry.

Open 10am – 6.15pm every day.

Tours operate every hour on the half of the hour from 10.30am – 5.30pm.

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Ticket costs

All tickets are sold in person on the day.

Adults: $15

Children aged 5-11 years are free

Children under the age of 5 aren’t allowed access

Accessibility 

In 2003, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark and therefore renovations cannot be made to the studio. The gift shop/cafe is wheelchair accessible but the first half of the tour is inaccessible due to a staircase, the second half in the studio is accessible.

3. Beale Street

Beale Street, dubbed “Home of the Blues” is the most famous street in Downtown Memphis. With 24 bars and restaurants it won’t be hard to find a spot to listen to some of the biggest Blues and Country hits ever recorded.

Beale Street has an interesting history of gambling, drinking and murder that goes beyond the party central location it is known as today. Click here to read more about it on the Beale Street website. 

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On Friday and Saturday nights, a security checkpoint goes up at 9pm checking that anyone entering the street is 21 or older. Minors already on the street may stay up until 11pm with an adult, after 11pm it’s 21 and over only. The street is basically an open air club.

4. The Peabody

The Peabody Hotel is one of the most legendary hotels in Memphis. Originally it was on the corner of Main and Monroe but was later moved to its current location of Union and 2nd St. Despite the rebuild it has always been considered the “South’s Grand Hotel”. It’s not the design of the hotel nor the famous guests that make it world famous though, nope, it’s the ducks. 

Ever since 1933 when the General Manager of the hotel returned from a hunting trip with the ducks in tow, the resident Peabody Ducks have marched to and from the fountain, through the grand lobby of the hotel at 11am and 5pm every single day. How did these ducks suddenly conform to marching a red carpet? Bellman Edward Pembroke was a former circus animal trainer who decided to train them to do the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became The Peabody Duckmaster, serving for 50 years until his retirement. Others have taken on the title, with many, many ducks taken under their wing (yep, I did that). I never saw the ducks myself, honestly I can’t decide how I feel about this duck parade. Though the Peabody Hotel states the ducks aren’t domesticated, they also say they live in a fancy pants house on the roof… 

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Alternatively what you can do, which is what we did, is take the lift up to the rooftop (it’s free when there isn’t an event on) for sweeping views of Memphis including the Mississippi River. It’s particularly lovely during golden hour.

5. National Civil Rights Museum

I don’t know whether it was ignorance or lack of research when deciding what to do in Memphis that led to us missing the National Civil Rights History Museum located in the former Lorraine Motel, the very motel that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968.

I have chosen to put this on my list despite not visiting because I not only regret not being aware of this museum but it’s also important that I inform anyone who reads this that it is in Memphis and is an integral part of Memphis’, America’s and the world’s history. One day when the opportunity to return to Memphis is available to me, visiting this museum to learn more about the history of civil rights in the USA will be the first thing I do.

The museum features interactive exhibits that document both the distressing and inspiring history of the fight for human rights and social justice across the USA both throughout history and the present day. 

Opening hours

Though the National Civil Rights History Museum officially reopened 1st July 2020 after temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to check here before visiting to see if their opening hours have changed since the publication of this blog post.

New safety measures include the mandatory wearing of a face mask and keeping 6ft apart from other people.

Open 9am – 5pm every day except Tuesday and Sunday.

Ticket costs

Adults: $17

Seniors (55+): $15

Children (5-17): $14

Children under the age of 4 are free

Active U.S. Military are free

Click here to purchase tickets in advance.

Accessibility 

Click here for more information regarding the opportunities to visitors with different hearing or visual abilities.

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Safe travels, Gabriella

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Ticket prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

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