Located in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, Memphis makes for an awesome vacation destination. A rich music history, delicious BBQ, and a vibrant downtown all add to the city’s draw. Jaemye Brandon of Time Zone Travelers shares her tips for how to plan a perfect day in Memphis.
Things to Do in Memphis in a Day
Start with Breakfast
Like any other time, the best way to start off your day is with a good breakfast. Edge Alley, in downtown Memphis, is your place to go for hefty portion sizes and fresh ingredients. They’re known for their specialty coffee flavors, as well as, their modern/industrial feel to their restaurant. They pride themselves on great customer service, and it shows. I’m not a millennial, but I do have to recommend the avocado toast!
Sun Studio Tour
Once you have a nice full belly, walk the a quarter mile to Sun Studio for a morning tour. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect during this tour, as I’m not a huge music buff, but that didn’t matter. Sun Studio is more of a piece of history. It’s literally, “The Birthplace of Rock ‘N’ Roll. It’s a short one hour tour, but informative and it ends with the chance to hold the same ole’ mic that Elvis, Johnny Cash, and other incredibly talented musicians once sang into.
The Lorraine Hotel
Another HUGE piece of history that sits right in Memphis, TN, is the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Hotel. The Lorraine Hotel is where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. I would plan at least a couple of hours to spend here, however, you can easily spend an entire day taking everything in.
Once you walk up, you’ll want to take some time to observe the outside of Lorraine Hotel itself. You’ll literally be standing right where that historic event unfolded.
The National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is enormous and made up of two buildings. It’s a self-paced museum and there’s a lot of insightful history to read. One of the most moving aspects of the National Civil Rights Museum, besides the history of Martin Luther King Jr., is the bus that was created for this space. You can literally sit right next to Rosa Parks. Talk about a moving moment.
Make sure you visit the second building of the museum though! This is where you walk into the bathroom where the shooter, James Earl Ray, was when he assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968. There is so much incredible history here, and it’s one of those places that you’re only going to get to visit in Memphis.
Lunch in Memphis
Since you’ll be at the National Civil Rights Museum for at least a couple of hours, by the time you wrap up your tour, you’ll be starving. Lucky for you, Central BBQ, one of Memphis’ top BBQ joints is literally right across the street. You can leave your car in the museum’s parking lot while you grab a bite to eat.
If you don’t mind, I’d love to make a recommendation for you. The BBQ you get here is amazing! The pulled pork, the brisket, and well, pretty much anything else you choose. However, I’m going to ask you to step outside the box and order the fried bologna. I know, you’re probably thinking I’m out of my mind, but I’m telling ya…Central BBQ won’t let you down. Alright, you might be tempted to grab some dessert while you’re already there, BUT hear me out. Wait.
Must Eat Dessert in Memphis
One block away from Central BBQ, where you can easily walk, is Makedas Cookies Downtown. This HAS to happen. They are serving up some of the best banana pudding I’ve ever had, and I’m certain you’ll ever have. The secret? They use their famous butter cookies crumbles at the bottom of the pudding, and three baby butter cookies to top it. Y’all. I can taste it right now! We ordered the banana pudding, of course, and then we grabbed a pack of her day old cookies for $5.
Another reason I love this place is because they look out for the local kids in the community. They even run programs to help them become entrepreneurs themselves. So, you’re not only supporting a local business with the best banana pudding, but the kids in the community as well.
Walk on Main Street and Beale Street
You can walk to Main Street if you wish, and we did. However, you might feel more comfortable driving closer. I recommend spending some time exploring Main Street and Beale Street for a little bit. The Blues music will fill the air, and you’ll find some of the coolest street art.
When exploring these two streets, you’ll come across a lot of little shops where you can pick up your Memphis and Elvis themed gifts. Between Main St. and Beale St. sits a massive Elvis statue. If you can’t make it to Graceland, swing by the statue and have your photo taking with the “King” there. Beale St. is the party street and Main St. is the typical tree-lined road that tends to be much quieter.
Bass Pro Shop Memphis
Want to end your day in Memphis the best possible way? Make your way to the Bass Pro Shop pyramid. Wait. Bass Pro Shop to end our day in this amazing city? Yes! You get three things from this: 1) You get to go inside the famous Memphis pyramid. 2) This Bass Pro Shop is rather incredible! There’s an actual aquarium in there, along with alligators! 3) I saved the best for last. You can get the best views of the city, the bridge, and the mighty Mississippi River from the upstairs observation deck.
Best Sunset in Memphis
My ultimate recommendation for visiting is to time it for the sunset. You can catch the sun setting over the famous Hernando de Soto Bridge, and at sundown, the bridge has a light show that begins on the hour every hour until 10:00pm. Catching the lights from Bass Pro Shop’s observation deck will guarantee you the best seat in the house.
You just might be ready for a good night’s sleep after exploring the rich city of Memphis, Tennessee, in a day. If you happen to have more time, I suggest you also add in the Memphis Zoo, the Memphis Botanic Gardens, and a catch either a baseball or basketball game, depending on the time of year.
*All photos courtesy of Time Zone Travelers with exception of main Pinterest image.
Jaemye Brandon writes for Time Zone Travelers, a travel blog specializing in standby travel for other airline employees, their families, and travel companions. Our passion is to encourage and inspire others to take trips to the famous and not-so-famous places, and to get the most out of their travels.