What to do in Memphis, TN?

My husband has been wanting to go to the International Paper Money Show in Memphis for a number of years and we might finally make it this summer. Since it’s several hours from home, we will be staying a few extra days to see the sights (and eat a lot of BBQ). I’ve requested the guide books from the local tourism folks, but wondered what else might be out there and what is the best stuff to do/see while there. Also, what are the best BBQ places? So what does the Dope have to say on Memphis? Thanks!

BBQ: Go to the Rendezvousfor excellent dry-rub ribs. (Disclaimer: I went there 21 years ago. It’s possible things have changed)

Go watch the ducks march to or from the fountain in the Peabodyhotel lobby.

Go to Beale Street for some live Memphis blues music.


I drove through Memphis with my family in January. We stopped at Corky’s for lunch and really enjoyed the BBQ there.

You’re about an hour away from the casinos in Tunica, MS. If you’d like to learn to play guitar, and have a soul you’re not using, you may want to visit the instersection of U.S. 49 & U.S. 61 near Clarksdale, MS along about midnight.

May want to check out Mud Island or the Memphis Zoo.

I really enjoyed visiting Sun Studio. And even though I’m not really an Elvis fan, I found Graceland to be a really interesting and worthwhile place to check out.

Don’t go to Corky’s. It’s the TGI Fridays of BBQ. There are lots of good local ones.

There is nothing to do at Mud Island, so skip that. Beale Street is fun if you’ve never been. Very touristy. Gift shops, live music, decent food.

Our zoo is good. The botanical gardens is nice. The casinos in Tunica are close, but very redneck and I don’t recommend them.

I’ll third the recommendation for the Memphis Zoo!

The zoo. The zoo. The zoo. (Seriously, the zoo is great)

I would avoid Rendezvous or Corky’s, personally. I’m a fan of neither. I like Neely’s a lot. If you have other food you like, give us some parameters (Italian, vegetarian, Mediterranean, etc.) and I can make better suggestions. There is more to Memphis than bbq, but the bbq is good.

Mud Island sucks. Beale Street is a touristy nightmare, huge drunken crowds. Now, if you like drunken crowds (think Mardi Gras, but no parades) then go and have fun, but if you don’t you’ll probably hate it.

How old are you? What do you like to do? There are other things to do here, but they depend on your interests.

Don’t forget the zoo. :slight_smile:

The National Civil Rights Museum, while undergoing some renovations, is still open and pretty powerful. It’s attached to the Lorraine Motel, which is where MLK was shot and killed.

Might consider Beale Street during the day – hopefully fewer drunks. :slight_smile:

I like the zoo idea.

We are in our late 30’s/early 40’s. We like history, art, like to try new foods (fairly adventurous in the food realm - he loves sushi, I love Korean and Thai), the outdoors, like shopping if it artsy/craftsy stuff, not into outlet malls and the like, noticed there is a AAA baseball team in the area, but it looks like they are away when we will be in town. We could be interested in local blues or jazz is the location is right.

Thought that the Cotton Museum looked kind of interesting. Has anyone been there?

The zoo is great, there is Graceland (Elvis’ house). Even if you didn’t like his music, it’s like a step back to the '70s. Has his personal airplane, many of his cars… It’s really neat.

I loved the Gibson guitar factory downtown… get to see them make guitars! (make tour reservations in advance)

Catch a Grizzlies game if the season hasn’t ended (FedEx Forum).

Meet up with Skald and go over ridiculous hypotheticals.

Catch a Redbirds game! (AAA affiliate of the Cardinals).

Clarksdale is a bit far (even if you are a blues nut), but if you aren’t from a place that has gaming, Tunica isn’t a bad drive.

If you like guitars you can go on a tour of the Gibson Factory.

eta: as suggested in the previous post :stuck_out_tongue:

Also, I hear the Pink Palace museum is supposed to be good. Never been myself. I actually prefer Tops barbecue up there. I’ve not been to Rendezvous in a while, but I’ve tried many joints up there, and Tops is what I like. There are various locations.

Texas De Brazil, The Melting Pot, Houston’s, and The Butcher Shop are some swanky, delicious places for dining. On Beale, The Pig is a fine bbq joint.

I was there with my mom and sister about 10 years ago. We enjoyed Chucalissa and Graceland (my mom was an Elvis fiend), and eating at as many barbecue places as we came across. We went to Rendezvous, Corky’s (recommended to us by a friend who grew up in Memphis), Interstate, & Marlowe’s. My favorite was Corky’s (dry ribs), then Interstate. I wasn’t fond of Rendezvous, and Marlowe’s was OK.

Slightly outside of Memphis in Germantown is The Commissary, a bbq joint revered by my wife. They are good, but not my favorite. I also wasn’t a fan of Neely’s.

You might want to look up some Diners, Drive-ins and Dives episodes (as well as Man vs. Food) to see the ins and outs of Memphis area restaurants.

I was going to say the Commissary as well but it isn’t close to other things. Rendezvous and the Peabody are right next door and Strainger may be surprised to see the same wait staff that was there at the last visit 21 years ago.

Tacky and touristy, but I actually had fun at Graceland.

The Barbecue Shop, on Madison, has excellent BBQ spaghetti. Soul Fish, on Cooper, has great catfish. The Cooper-Union neighborhood has a number of good restaurants.

Graceland is extremely dated in its decor but surprisingly moving. The Stax museum covers a whole world of soul music.

The Pink Palace is a VERY cool place to check out. A lot of local history, plus general american history, natural history and fossils, minerals, Elvis wing, IMAX, and planetarium, all in one place!

The Zoo is excellent and one of the best i’ve been to. There are plenty of places downtown to just walk along the river and watch the barges go by, which can be relaxing. Tops and Central are good for BBQ. Enjoy!

Again with The Pink Palace. It’s not the greatest museum but it’s fun. They also have a planetarium and an IMAX theater. The zoo is my favorite place and I probably go every week or so because there’s so much to see.

Beale Street is always fun, especially for people-watching.

memphis queen riverboat dinner rides

about 2 hrs long

PS I used to live on Mud Island in the mid 90’s, at that time the owner, and pilot of one of the 3-4 ships, was Captain Jake. He looked like God, with long white hair and long beard, and rode his old pan head Harley around the area. My girlfriend became good friends with Capt Jake, and worked on a bar on the ship.

Capt Jake was one of Elvis’ best friends. In the song by CCR, “Proud Mary” that was the ship that Capt Jake piloted in his day. There is a huge painting of Capt Jake in a nice grill your own steak place called the Butcher Block near Beale St. If you review the words of “Proud Mary” you will see it is written about life on the ships in Memphis. The ship was actually named the “Mary Elizabeth”.

Be sure to take the Mud Island tour. It has an automated elevated train, and shows how the River is controlled, as well as it has the Memphis Belle B17 on display. I lived on the residential part of Mud Island. This is where Tom Cruise was filmed in the movie “The Firm” - Mud Island.

I haven’t been there in 18 yrs, so some of this may be dated. I imagine Capt Jake is no longer with us (heavy drinker, but never when he piloted a ship).