THE BEAUTY OF Memphis is that you’ll find whatever you set out to find: especially good food, good culture, and good people. There’s a reason artists have been singing about Memphis for decades, and you’re about to discover why. Here’s your guide.
There’s only one way to start off your day in “the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll” — we’re talking about a big ol’ Southern breakfast.
One of my favorite places to get carb-loaded and coffee-sated is Brother Juniper’s, near the University of Memphis, but it’d be a Tennessee travesty not to tell you about Bryant's Breakfast — the traditional Southern breakfast of choice for locals. I dare you to find something you don’t like on either menu.
Once you’ve inhaled your bacon and grits, you’ll need to find a warm rock and some greenery to unwind a bit. First suggestion? Overton in Midtown. Inside the boundaries of Overton Park are the Memphis College of Art, the Brooks Museum, and the world-class Memphis Zoo. This is not to mention great places if you really do just want to lie in the sun. (You might be thinking that doesn’t sound exciting enough, but you’ve yet to eat that breakfast.)
Midtown is Memphis. This neighborhood has everything you need, all within walking distance. From Overton Park, head to Overton Square. Walk across Poplar Ave, go a few blocks, and boom — you can’t miss it. Here you’ll find a whole strip of shops and restaurants. My favorite restaurant is the Bayou, especially on game day, where you can get a taste of the South with a New Orleans feel.
You won´t have to look for long at all to find something you like, from a German sausage joint replete with Reinheitsgebot beers to good ol’ American pizza with the more domestic swill. The point is, go to Overton Square and stop worrying about it.
Graceland — you can´t go to Memphis and not see the King of Rock and Roll’s home. If you weren´t a believer before, you will be after the tour. It’s a living time machine — you can still feel His presence when you walk through the lavish house, and the trophy room will blow your mind, especially The King’s platinum records. (He has more of these than I have participation trophies.)
Take it further. When you leave Graceland, head down to the world-famous Sun Studio and see where the man got his first break and recorded lots of his great songs. The studio sells souvenir t-shirts and the café makes a mean milkshake.
It’s the perfect time to catch a show, concert, or game. You can see a number of touring Broadway shows and concerts at the Orpheum Theater. You can watch the Redbirds play in an urban stadium that rivals Wrigley Field or Camden Yards in its beauty. The Grizzlies play in the Fedex Forum and, on their off nights, there’s usually some type of performance in the same venue.
The last time I watched the Griz play in the Grindhouse (because Fedex Forum is far less fun to say), the Dirty South was bumpin´ harder than a nightclub, the crowd was turnt, and some lucky sonuvabitch made a full-court shot for a brand new Lexus. Plus, you can try the best BBQ nachos in the world while you watch the game. Winner winner.
The Hi ToneMemphis, United StatesThis is my favorite spot in the whole city. I feel terrible if I don’t get to go on one of my visits. The always have great acts like the one above, Mac Sabbath. Better recognize! Great people and great music and my lucky thermos. That’s all I need!
After the game, take it down a notch and go for a walk. And we’re not talking about walking 10 feet off of Beale — I think we should just get our dogs right on it and beat the hell out of that pavement.
Many people have to walk up and down the street a few times, because the first experience can be a little overwhelming. There’s a lot to see and it changes with every passing moment, so don’t hesitate to join that group.
Take a few minutes and wait for the long-standing performance troupe, the Beale Street Flippers, to start their show. Take in the lights and the smells. You don’t need to try to find the party — you’re already there.
You can legally carry a drink on the streets here, and there’s an establishment for everyone. You can find dueling pianos, old bluesmen and their named instruments, dancing, and there’s usually a show at The New Daisy.
Last but not least: Another perennial favorite is Raiford’s, which is just a stone´s throw from Beale and is reached by a short walk through old downtown. Maybe you want something a bit more romantic — keep walking towards the river and watch the lights sparkle on the water.
If 24 hours isn’t enough…
Jerry’s Sno ConesMemphis, United StatesThe very best Sno Cones and frozen treats on the planet. It’s nowhere near the touristy stuff and is a destination on its own. It was also used in the filming of “Great Balls of Fire!”
- Try the Broad Avenue Arts District, and stay after the sun goes down
- FRIED CHICKEN, Y’ALL!
- Ride the tram right through downtown Memphis, from South Main to the Pyramid
- Find Jerry’s Sno Cones for the best you´ve ever had
- Take a time out at the Civil Right Museum
- Get a groove on at The Stax Museum
- Go party with the locals at The Hi Tone
And now? I bet you’re a believer.