Memphis, Tennessee is a popular passing through point on any great American road trip, whether you’re heading South to New Orleans, East to Nashville, or Southeast to Savannah, you need to spend at least a full day in Memphis. I took a quick visit to Memphis passing through to Missouri and met people from all over the world traveling through the beautiful southern United States. If you like music, food, and fun, you’ll love Memphis.
Trust me when I tell you to start your day at Arcade Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Memphis and one of Elvis’s favorite breakfast spots. Trust me again (and the Food Network) when I tell you to order the sweet potato pancakes, you can’t go wrong. Plus, you’ll need a big breakfast if you’re planning on a jam-packed day of fun in Memphis!
Rock and Soul Museum
Visit the Rock ‘n Soul museum and be transported back to the time of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, BB King, and Jerry Lee Lewis. For $12 the tour starts off with a video about the beginnings of Rock and Soul music and everyone who made it possible. From the video room you will be handed headphones and a device that will play the descriptions of every exhibit in the building and a selection of songs to choose from. It’s the perfect place to start a day of Rock ‘n Roll education because they will introduce you to Sun Studios, Stax Records, and the musicians that started the revolution of music. Also, they offer a free shuttle to Graceland, Sun Studios, and back to the Museum.
If there is absolutely ANYTHING you want to know about ANY part of Elvis Presley’s life you will find it in Graceland. Take one of three tours in Graceland (ranging from $32-$45) and live a day in the life of the king. If you are limited on time take the basic tour of the Mansion, in the other tours you will get to see his car collection and his collection of airplanes, but the mansion alone will take you an hour and a half easily. After you’ve seen the mansion and where Elvis rests peacefully today treat yourself to an ice cream at Rockabilly’s Burger Shop and wait for your shuttle to pick you up.
Next stop head to Sun Studio and walk in the footsteps of the Million dollar quartet, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Learn about the history and struggles of Sun Studio and Sam Phillips, hear the stories of the humble beginnings of Rock ‘N Roll and the legends that recorded in that studio.
Gus’s Fried Chicken
Take the shuttle back to the Rock n’ Soul museum and from there it’s only a 10 minute walk to Gus’s Fried Chicken, the home of the famous Memphis hot, fried chicken! I am not a particular fan of spicy food but knew I couldn’t leave without at least trying it, and I was glad I did! It was hot, but not too spicy, everything about it was perfect, and a meal with two huge pieces of chicken and two sides is only $7! I don’t know if I have ever felt more southern in my life than I did eating fried chicken at Gus’s!
After dinner take some time to get ready for a night of live music on Beale Street! You can’t leave without visiting BB King’s blues cafe, Rum Boogie Cafe, and Blues Hall! Immerse yourself in the blues and hear the music of the legends you spent the day learning about!
If you can do anything about it do NOT leave without getting some famous Memphis BBQ! Rendezvous is famous for dry rub ribs and Central BBQ is famous for their wet rub ribs, I visited Rendezvous and it totally lived up to the hype!
If you happen to visit on a Thursday in the summer go to the rooftop party at the Peabody, there is a $15 cover, but the music is top notch and the party is a total blast!
If you have a car take the advice of every Memphis blog out there and head to Jerry’s Sno Cones and treat yo’ self to a perfect combination of soft serve and sno cones, and yes, it’s as good as it sounds.
If I had to pick one of these things to skip I would skip Graceland. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I visited, but it is one of the more pricey things on the list and takes a lot of time. While we're at it, go ahead and skip the Hall of Fame at the Hard Rock Cafe, after all the other places and museums the hall of fame felt redundant and like a waste of $8.
- Next time I visit I will hit up Stax Records Museum
- Beauty Shop Restaurant- In the 60's was a hair salon where Priscilla Presley got her hair done, today it still has some of the original beauty shop fixtures and furniture but is a restaurant!
- The Civil Rights Museum- I've heard that it's incredible but you need a decent amount of time to spend there
I only had time to take so many tours and the ability to eat so much food, I couldn’t possibly fit it all in!
- Stay at the only hostel in Memphis, The Pilgrim House. It was $30 a night and a $7 Uber to Beale Street. It is in a really neat part of town on Cooper Street, walking distance from restaurants, bars, breweries, and music venues. If you're concerned about staying in a hostel read my article The Truth About Hostels, and hopefully that will put your mind at ease!
- If you are without a car like I was, Uber to Arcade Restaurant for breakfast, walk to the Rock 'N Soul Museum, take their FREE shuttle to Graceland and Sun Studios, then take it back to the museum. The museum is on Beale street and only a 10 minute walk from Gus's if you decide to do that.
- I skipped lunch this day, but if you want to fit in an extra meal to get that BBQ or go to the Beauty shop restaurant go to those places for lunch for a cheaper menu, and get Gus's for dinner, it's cheap all the time!
Memphis is a great city to spend a little bit of extra time in on your next road trip. There is history, amazing food, incredible music, and the people of Memphis make you feel more than welcome to be visiting their city. When's your next road trip?