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woman smiling in front of a "Greetings from Memphis Tenn" mural

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Home of the blues and soul, the birthplace of rock n roll, a major player in the Civil Rights Movement, BBQ recipes that have lasted generations, and a historic hotel with ducks…this is Memphis. Even if you’re only spending a weekend in Memphis, you’ll feel like part of the community instantly because what makes Memphis special is its people and their love for this city.

So let’s dive in to an itinerary for a weekend in Memphis, perfect for 48 hours or a Friday to Sunday trip. Don’t forget your blue suede shoes!

This is the only Memphis, TN itinerary you need for a weekend in Memphis. This travel guide includes where to stay in Memphis, the best things to do in Memphis, and the best restaurants in Memphis including BBQ, breakfast spots, and more! This Memphis itinerary includes the National Civil Rights Museum, Elvis Presley's Graceland, Stax Museum, and more!

How much does a weekend getaway to Memphis cost?

An estimated total is $615 for one person if traveling alone. However, if you’re splitting any of these with a group (meaning the hotel, food, or parking), the cost per person will be lower. If you opt for below average accommodation (less than $150 per night) this will also be cheaper.

Where should you stay in Memphis?

Memphis has a lot of great neighborhoods, but I know safety is a common concern for travelers. That said, downtown is a great location near Beale Street, the Civil Rights Museum, and the beautiful and well-preserved South Main Street.

Here are some recommended hotels:

  • Central Station ($145+ per night) –  A beacon of old and new Memphis, Central Station still functions as a train station but has a quirky, music-centric hotel atop. It features custom music speakers in every room, a 30-ft record wall, and 8 & Sand, their immersive listening lounge bar.
  • Moxy Memphis ($109+ per night) – I can’t resist a sustainable property and the Moxy Memphis fits the bill! Plus, they have a beautiful outdoor “porch” where you can cozy up after a long day next to their bonfires.
woman smiling in front of a "Greetings from Memphis Tenn" mural

Outside of downtown, we enjoyed our stay in the Midtown neighborhood with lots of fantastic local eats and a fun, revitalized spot called Overton Square!

While there aren’t a ton of hotels in this area, the Airbnb scene is vibrant with many old restored apartments to call your home base for your trip to Memphis.

We stayed in this beautiful 2-bedroom!

How can you save on your trip to Memphis?

Unfortunately when it comes to saving in Memphis, capitalizing on some of our usual money saving travel tips is tricky because Memphis maintains its small-town, community feel without actually being that small of a city.

What I mean is that you won’t find a CityPASS here…so no big attraction pass to save on museum entries, and Groupons are scarce.

That said, there is one secret pass that will save you $27 and that is The Backstage Pass. This music pilgrimage pass covers your entry into the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, Sun Studio, Graceland, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It costs $89 and can be purchased at the Rock n Soul Museum or Stax.

Memphis Recording Service neon sign illuminated in a museum display
The Backstage Pass will save you a little money on admission to Stax, Sun Studio, Graceland, and Rock n Soul Museum

My other favorite tried and true tip is to use that Student ID, friend! It will get you a discount at the Civil Rights Museum.

Another tip to keep in mind is that parking in downtown is free on Sundays so don’t sweat the parking meter or parking app! You can also save on transportation costs by parking at a “Park and Ride” lot then taking public transportation into downtown (via the streetcars).

Finally, while you certainly can save money by cooking your own food or packing breakfasts/lunches, I highly recommend indulging when in Memphis. They are known for their food and honestly even just the meals over one weekend aren’t enough! It’s just that good.

Blues City Cafe neon sign illuminated during sunset
Don’t worry we’ll be visiting Blues City Cafe for their famous BBQ later in this Memphis itinerary!

Related read35+ tips for saving money while traveling

What’s the best way to get around Memphis?

You really do need a car in Memphis…it’s a driving city.

However, parking can get expensive, especially in downtown (except on Sundays when it’s free). So, check out Memphis’s bike share program called Explore Bike Share, which costs $5 for a single ride or $12 for a week.

There are also three streetcar lines that run in downtown, on the riverfront, and on Madison and looks especially gorgeous on South Main. It costs $1 each way. Be sure to check out a map of where the streetcars run.

streetcar in Memphis, Tennessee runs on South Main and around downtown Memphis
Grab a streetcar in downtown Memphis to save money on transportation.

Some context for your trip

Of course, you’re going to be learning a lot about Memphis in the next few days, but if you’re like me, it can be helpful to know a little context going in. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t know ANYTHING about Memphis before visiting. I watched Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis and that was my context (I do feel like that movie gave some *missing* context to our visit to Graceland, though).

Still, here’s some info about Memphis that I wish I had known about ahead of time. Historically, Memphis has Egyptian elements – it was named for an Egyptian city, it sits along a major river (the Mississippi, not the Nile), and even has its own pyramid (the 6th largest in the world!)…it’s a Bass Pro Shop now but hey, it still counts!

Memphis pyramid which is a Bass Pro Shop view from on a boat on the Mississippi River
Can you spot the pyramid in the distance?

Music in Memphis is not only a part of history, but still connects the city to this day. Rock n roll, soul, blues, modern rap…they’re all crucial to the Memphis we know and love. We’re going to learn about the history of music and of course, listen to a lot of it along the way!

Finally, Memphis tells the story of Black America through not only the Civil Rights Movement, but also the thriving Black culture. As you stroll Beale Street, listen to music, and taste all the BBQ, you have to acknowledge and credit the Black community for their role in all of these things. Memphis tells a story of race through music, art, and food so we’re going to do our best on this itinerary to prioritize learning about it and continuing to support the Black community of Memphis.

Lorraine motel perfectly preserved since the assassination of MLK Jr.
The Civil Rights Museum located at the Lorraine Motel is absolutely on the docket!

Before we dive in, just wanted to share that I’ve compiled this itinerary into a handy download. It’s totally free and super useful to have on your phone (or printed out) when you travel. Just enter your email into the box below so I know where to send it.

Map of your Weekend in Memphis

Memphis Day 1 – context, cuteness, culinary explosiveness, and concerts

Welcome to Memphis! If you can arrive in Memphis with enough time to have a half-day that would be ideal! Of course, if you don’t have time for the full itinerary as it’s laid out, feel free to move things around.

Before you do anything, I recommend stopping by Stax Museum of American Soul Music to pick up the Backstage Pass for everyone in your party as you’ll start using it at locations tomorrow. You can also get it from the Rock n Soul Museum, but Stax has free parking behind so it’s a bit easier to get to.

Allow yourself to learn at the National Civil Rights Museum

We’re going to start off at the National Civil Rights Museum to provide some context for trip. I know we’re starting with a heavy one first, but it’s really important to learn about this history going into the weekend rather than learning it after the fact. And don’t worry we’ll be countering the heaviness with some cuteness later today!

The museum is located at the Lorraine Motel, which is where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It will take you through an unabridged, chronological Black experience from slavery to the incredible non-violent mobilization of adults and students to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the aftermath.

old motel preserved from teh 1960s where MLK Jr was assassinated
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as his stood outside his room number 306.

I was truly impressed with how dynamic the museum was. Not only is it a curation of artifacts and accompanying information, it’s an experience to make visitors understand the Black experience (which is obviously impossible unless you experience it first-hand, but they do a great job in trying).

For example, when learning about the Middle Passage, which is the awful sea journey captive Africans were forced to take to the Americas for the slave trade, you not only see examples of how captives were forced to sit during the grueling voyage, but you hear sounds of a captive being whipped in agony. It’s truly awful, powerful, and accomplished exactly what it was supposed to in driving your feelings.

You also experience similar demonstrations of sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, and more.

Sit-in demonstration with footage playing in the background
The sit-in-demonstration had footage playing in the background.
Demonstration and replica of the March On Washington that took place in Washington DC the nation's capitol
With MLK Jr.’s iconic I Have A Dream speech playing in the background, the March on Washington was a powerful demonstration.

This museum is powerful and the one absolutely 100% necessary visit on this trip. If you need to adjust this itinerary or cut things out, let this be the ONE thing you prioritize to do. It’s that important! Tickets cost $18 per person, or $16 for students. I recommend booking a timed ticket ahead of time so you can enter more quickly.

Address: 450 Mulberry Street

bus from the 1960s with black americans walking along side and audio playing of the bus driver yelling about segregating riders
Segregation on the bus was an important aspect of the Civil Rights Movement that Black people non-violently fought against.

Witness the cutest duck march of all time at the Peabody Hotel

I know that first stop was a somber, heavy one, so before we enjoy some BBQ and music, let’s witness one of the cutest things Memphis has to offer – the Peabody Duck March!

Here’s the story. Back in 1933, the manager of the Peabody Hotel and his buddies were out hunting using live duck decoys (it was legal at the time) and after drinking a bit too much whiskey, they thought it would be funny to put the ducks in the Peabody fountain, located in the hotel lobby. What they weren’t expecting was that the public LOVED the ducks!

The mallard ducks live in the fountain during the day and each night traipse a red carpet to the elevator to ride up to the roof, where their enclosure is. In the morning they do the reverse march back to their fountain.

The public can watch both marches (one at 11am and the other at 5pm), but for this Memphis itinerary, we’re going to watch the evening one from the lobby fountain!

Live mallard ducks in fountain in a hotel lobby indoors
Before the march, you can watch the ducks in the fountain!

Here’s what you need to know about watching the march!

You’ll want to arrive EARLY like at least 45 minutes, but preferably an hour. Bring something to do because it’s important to claim your spot early. It gets packed, especially on the weekends.

Depending on when you arrive, you may have time to visit with the ducks in the fountain before claiming your spot. Tell me these aren’t the cutest things you’ve ever seen?!

The Peabody old fashioned hotel sign on the roof of the hotel in burnt sienna color with American flag on top
Catch some beautiful views from the Peabody Hotel roof.

While you can sit in the lobby or watch from the balcony around the fountain, the best spot is really down by the elevator. They’ll put up crowd control dividers and indicate where you are allowed to stand so pick a spot and be patient.

Soon, the ducks will march! Just try to watch this without a smile on your face! Impossible!!

Address: 149 Union Ave.

red velvet sign hanging across an open elevator door with gold ropes that reads "Elevator in use by Peabody ducks"
Good thing they have 2 other elevators to use when the ducks occupy one of them!

Intro to BBQ in Memphis with dinner at Blues City Café

You’re probably getting hungry now. It’s been a long day of travel and exploring so let’s grab the Best Meal on Beale at Blues City Cafe.

Located just a couple blocks from the Peabody Hotel, you can walk here and work up that appetite for a final few minutes.

Hailed as the place to “put some South in your mouth,” Blues City BBQ has been around since 1991 and even has a Band Box stage where musicians like BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Booker T., Smashing Pumpkins, and Jack White have played!

woman in glasses starting to eat a BBQ platter in Tennessee
Have you seen a happier human about to devour some BBQ?

The meal to try is their Best Meal on Beale where for only $26 you get a full platter of a half rack of their famous ribs, catfish, baked beans, coleslaw, fries, and Texas Toast! We even got some hushpuppies with ours! Two people can definitely share unless you’re ravenously hungry.

Loved what you tasted? Next door, they have a shop where you can pick up some of their seasoning or BBQ sauce!

plate of BBQ food including ribs with texas toast and catfish piled on top with sides of coleslaw and baked beans.
It’s the Best Meal on Beale with the works!

Address: 138 Beale Street

Get your party on at Beale Street

It’s Friday night 🎉 so of course Beale Street is the place to be! Beale Street was established in 1841 as an area for black culture and commerce. Despite an epidemic of yellow fever and losing a charter, a former enslaved man, Robert Church, acquired the land and helped bring it back to a thriving place for gathering, business, shopping, music, and food!

Beale Street sign during sunset with neon signs of local businesses in the distance
Beale Street comes alive at night!

Beale Street was the birthplace and location of many important firsts, fights, and moments for the black community. The first radio station programmed entirely for the Black community, called WDIA, was based on Beale Street, as was Ida B. Wells’ anti-segregation newspaper, Free Speech. It was also the location of non-violent marches by Memphis sanitation workers who were on strike, where Martin Luther King Jr. joined them to support – a precursor to his assassination.

Beale Street also played a major role in music as the sound of blues was developed here with artists including B.B. King, Fats Domino, and Little Richard frequenting the night clubs.

man jumps over 4 people crouched down on Beale Street in Memphis
There’s always lots going on on Beale Street, and there always has been!

There is a lot to do on Beale Street so you can easily pick and choose your poison.

Here are some things to do:

  • grab an ice cream sundae or other dessert item from A. Schwab, an old general store and soda fountain.
  • hang out with some goats at Silky O’Sullivan’s
  • find the “I love Memphis” mural
  • read about the history and important figures from all the signs
  • try some local beer at Ghost River Brewing Company
  • listen to music at one of the many venues including B.B. King’s Blues Club, Tin Roof, Rum Boogie Café, or Club Handy
outside view of A. Schwab historic building
A Schwab is a great spot for dessert, but they close at 7pm on the weekends!
Memphis mural that says I love Memphis
There are a ton of beautiful murals in Memphis to take photos with!
band with 4 members plays on a small stage outdoors at night with green lights illuminating them
We loved hanging out at Ghost River Brewing and listening to local musicians.

Day 2 – Elvis, Rock n Roll, and historic food

Today is all about rock n roll in Memphis, not just Elvis, but also the birthplace of rock n roll and other artists who made this genre into the powerhouse it is today. We’ll be tracing the footsteps of these hall of famers with, of course, some amazing food in between!

The best breakfast I’ve ever had at the Arcade Restaurant

I’m not exaggerating when I say that breakfast is by far the most important meal for me when I travel. I am always on the lookout for the top breakfast spots with classic staples or unique twists on breakfast foods.

Suffice it to say that deeming this spot the best breakfast I’ve ever had is no small award to dish out. The Arcade Restaurant was established in 1919 and was frequented by Elvis (they even have a special Elvis booth you can sit in now).

old diner with neon signs illuminating the restaurant name The Arcade Restaurant
Unsuspecting but SO GOOD.

As a classic diner, it may not look like the best breakfast of all time, but please allow it to pleasantly surprise you.

We tried the sweet potato pancakes (which I’ve loved in New Orleans) and French toast…which I’ve loved everywhere. If you have to pick one, absolutely go with the French toast! It was hands down the best I’ve ever had. It’s fried so it was perfectly crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth delicious on the inside!

view from above of two breakfast plates that have pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns
We tried sweet potato pancakes and french toast and boy were they delish!
woman holding a blue mug in a diner
I’m not usually a coffee person, but their peppermint mocha hit the spot!

Luckily for us breakfast lovers, they even have a breakfast sampler where you can try 2 eggs, 1 piece of French toast, 1 slice of bacon, 1 sausage patty, and 1 sweet potato pancake! YES PLEASE.

Be sure to also try their coffee and walk by Elvis’s booth on your way in – it’s the last one on the left against the windows.

flat lay of coffee with design on top and "History of the Arcade" pamphlet to the left of the coffee cup and saucer
The Arcade Restaurant is full of history so be sure to read about it while sipping your drink of choice.

Address: 540 South Main Street

A very Elvis morning at Graceland

This next activity is a great choice whether or not you’re an Elvis fan. Graceland is known as Elvis Presley’s mansion, but now it’s also home to the Elvis Presley Entertainment Complex, which has 10+ exhibits/museums, 2 restaurants, and a soundstage where artists still perform (Weird Al was there the night before we visited).

Tickets to Graceland can seem pricey (I don’t deny this) at $77 per person but that ticket comes with access to an audio tour of the mansion led by John Stamos, and admission to all museum exhibits including Elvis’s planes. It’s one of those things where it hurts a little to pay that admission but it’s a fun, do-it-at-least-once type of opportunity.

Welcome to Graceland sign on ticketing complex for Elvis Presley's Graceland
Graceland is a must-visit for every traveler to Memphis

I highly recommend opting for the first tour of the day at 9am so you have unobstructed views of the mansion. You can buy timed tickets ahead of time online, or use that Backstage Pass.

When you arrive, proceed in the Ticketing Center where you’ll start the tour with a short video then you’ll board buses to Graceland Mansion. While the beginning of this operation is guided, once you’re in the mansion you can go as slow or fast as you want, assuming crowds aren’t backing things up.

Exterior of Elvis home in Memphis called Graceland with four white pillars, white lion statues, and green shutters on the windows on 2 stories
While the façade may not look like much, the mansion actually extends much farther in each direction! It’s huge!

Not only are the grounds of Graceland beautiful, but it is fascinating to see how lavishly decorated (and differently decorated) each room is. I loved the peacock stained glass, brightly colored den, and bohemian style billiards room!

The tour ends at the mediation garden where Elvis and his family are laid to rest.

living room with white carpet, white couch, 15 foot coffee table, two peacock stained glass windows separating the living room and media room in the distance with blue curtains on the window
You have to admire the decor!
pool table in center of Bohemian decorated room with stained glass chandelier hovering above
Every room is decorated so differently!
Mirrored stairway descending into a basement in Elvis Presley's home
Even the stairs to the basement are a trip

Once you’re back at the Entertainment Complex, you can start making your way through the exhibits from his cars, to his jumpsuits, to his military years, to his career records! Don’t forget to visit his planes including the Lisa Marie, which you can go inside.

Jumpsuits worn by Elvis are on display on a three suit high display in the Elvis Presley Entertainment Complex at Graceland
This was only one wall of jumpsuits…there were two more!
pink Cadillac car from 1955 owned by Elvis Presley
The iconic pink Cadillac driven by Elvis and his mother
woman coming out of a historic plane wearing a green dress and waving with her right hand
Don’t forget to go inside the Lisa Marie airplane

Address: 3797 Elvis Presley Blvd.

A relaxing lunch at Casablanca

One thing I loved about Memphis was how unsuspecting all of their restaurants were. They weren’t showy or even crowded sometimes, but the food was incredible every single time.

That was the case for Casablanca. This Mediterranean restaurant might not seem like an obvious choice for Memphis food, but it was so delicious!

With three locations in Memphis, we enjoyed our lunch in their Midtown spot. We tried shawarma, hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, and their house made tea (sweetened and unsweetened). Everything was perfect!

Mediterranean cuisine including tea, hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, pita, shawarma, and rice and vegetables
Plated beautifully and tasted just as fantastic

And we even had their house made chocolate mousse, which I’m pretty sure will be living in my head rent-free for a long time!

Chocolate mousse in a wide dish with chocolate syrup on top
Don’t skip dessert, I promise it’s worth every bite!

Casablanca address: 1707 Madison Avenue #103

Other options for lunch include Vernon’s Smokehouse or Gladys’s Diner at Graceland (if you don’t want to leave just yet), or Boscos Squared or Memphis Pizza Café, both located in Overton Square in Midtown, a lovely preserved area thriving with local shops, restaurants, and businesses.

Vernon's Smokehouse restaurant at Graceland
Feel free to hang out at Graceland for lunch

Take a break on Memphis Riverboats

Alright at this point, you might be a little museum-ed out (yes that’s a word now). So, let’s switch it up by taking a beautiful cruise down the Mississippi River with Memphis Riverboats. We’ll get outside, listen to some music, and admire Memphis from afar.

woman looking off a boat into the distance of the river with a bridge in the background
Take a little relaxation break on the Riverboats

Afternoon sightseeing tours, which last 90 minutes, cost $26 per person and happen at 2:30pm, though you’ll want to arrive closer to 1:30-2 pm to have time to park, walk over, and secure your seats on the boat. I recommend the top deck because you’ll get unobstructed views of the bridges and surrounding sights!

woman smiling at the camera from the top of a boat passing under three bridges on the Mississippi River
The top deck provides the most beautiful unobstructed views so grab a seat early

You can buy alcohol and snacks aboard the boat so plan accordingly. We had no problem bringing our water bottle on, but they do say that outside food and drinks are not allowed.

I don’t want to blather on and on about the cruise because this article is already getting super long, but it’s a relaxing trip and a great break to prevent museum overload!

top of a riverboat that is white with two black exhaust stacks

Learn about the greats at Sun Studio Tour

For the final activity of the day, we’re visiting one of the many iconic recording studios in Memphis, Sun Studio. This is officially the birthplace of rock n roll because the first ever rock n roll song was recorded here (called Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston) in 1951. It features the first ever distortion sounds made by a busted amp.

museum display of busted amp used to make the first rock n roll song Rocket 88 by Jackie Breston
Check out the busted amp that helped create the first rock n roll song!
Woman posing with a microphone in Sun Studio
Be sure to take your photo op with this original microphone

Sun Studio is also where Elvis famously got his start with a record called That’s All Right, a cover of Arthur Crudup’s song, he released in 1954.

This recording studio was also home to recording artists Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash! It’s also still a functional recording studio and has been used by artists like U2 and B.B. King.

photo of Memphis musicians playing at a piano with the actual piano in front in the studio
This iconic photo of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash was taken at this piano in Sun Studio.

Tickets for the tour can only be purchased in person the day of and they can sell out. If you’re traveling to Memphis during a busy time (i.e. holidays), you’ll want to pop into Sun Studio before lunch to purchase your tickets ahead of time (they open at 10 am).

Tours are guided and there are set times, so you’ll be aiming for one of the last two tours of the day at 4:30 or 5:30 pm. Be sure to touch the door handle of the old entrance on your way out for good luck!

exterior of historic Sun Studio in Memphis with large electric guitar on the outside
Might not look like much, but this building houses some incredible music history
exterior of Sun Studio historic door that is good luck to touch
Can’t leave without grabbing the handle for good luck!

Address: 706 Union Avenue

A tasty BBQ invention for dinner

I love trying new foods when traveling (I think most people do). It’s part of what makes a destination so unique and really showcases the history and people of place. That’s what this dinner choice is for.

We’re headed to The Bar-B-Q Shop to try their famous BBQ spaghetti, which they are the creators of!

barbeque spaghetti on a platter with texas toast on a side plate behind and left of the main plate
BBQ Spaghetti has pulled pork and BBQ sauce with spaghetti noodles!

We were so lucky and grateful to speak with the owner, Eric Vernon, who is a third generation owner of the restaurant. When we shared we were excited to try the BBQ spaghetti, he clued us in that the best way to eat it is on the Texas Toast, which was a horribly messy endeavor but it was SO GOOD.

You’ll want to order a combo plate that includes pulled pork or brisket and the BBQ spaghetti, this way you can try more of their delicious menu!

woman smiling at the camera with BBQ spaghetti on the fork in her hand
You can eat it the traditional spaghetti way too.

I really loved how homey The Bar-B-Q Shop was. Everyone was taken care of even though they were understaffed. Families were jovial and couples were having a great time (us included). You can just feel the difference in community here, which Eric pointed out as well – that what makes Memphis special is not their big activities, but their people, relationships, and community.

It’s almost impossible to describe in writing, but you’ll discover it soon enough on your trip to Memphis.

woman in a green dress and man smiling at camera inside BBQ restaurant where the man is the owner
It was great to meet and chat with Eric, the owner.
tour guide surprises traveler by jumping in on her photos on a riverboat
Our riverboat tour guide surprised me by joining in on my photo-taking! It’s moments like this that made Memphis so special (and fun!)

Memphis Day 3 – a little soul for the soul

For the final day in Memphis, we’re continuing our music journey at the Rock n Soul Museum, created by the Smithsonian Institution, and at Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which is part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

But first, coffee…at Bluff City Coffee and Bakery

Did you really think after all that hoopla about breakfast, that I would pick a breakfast spot with only drinks…of course not.

Bluff City Coffee and Bakery has breakfast sandwiches with lots of veggie and vegan options. You’ll want to get your sandwich on their homemade biscuits – we loved the rosemary scallion and garlic cheddar.

two breakfast sandwiches in to-go cardboard containers with coffee in the background
I love a classic breakfast sandwich

To pair, I’d recommend the mocha (my drink of choice), the Golden Kelli (espresso with honey, cinnamon, and milk), or Haley’s Comet (as a scientist, I appreciate this name), which is their signature latte with espresso, Chai, caramel apple syrup, and milk. And yes, they have alternative milk options like soy, almond, and oatmilk!

woman's hand outstretched with coffee with a historic black and white photo behind
Be sure to check out the neat Newman collection photos of historic Memphis!

While there are a few locations, the location on South Main is in a beautiful, historic spot. You’ll see lots of preserved buildings, even just from the Bluff City Coffee & Bakery window. And to pair with that, peep the Newman collection historic photos of old Memphis displayed in the shop.

Address: 505 South Main Street

view of historic street South Main in Memphis
South Main is a gorgeous spot, especially in the morning when it’s empty!

Discover the evolution of music at Rock n Soul Museum

You know how we visited the Civil Rights Museum to provide some context for this trip? Well this museum is a piggyback on that.

The Rock n Soul Museum tells the story of how rock, blues, and soul were developed from songs of struggle from farmers in the early 1900’s. It shared how differences in Black and white experiences shaped the evolution of these musical genres.

woman holding a ticket to the Rock n Soul museum outstretched in front of the museum
Let’s go to the Rock n Soul Museum
example instruments from porch music of farmers back in the 1920s
Porch music was just the beginning of the musical evolution

You’ll learn about the influences of the Grand Ole Opry, segregation, and religion, specifically gospel.

piece of radio transmitter from Grand Ole Opry radio from the early 1900s
This is just a PIECE of the Grand Ole Opry radio! Oh, how technology has changed!
historic poster displayed in a music museum showing artists performing at a club on Beale Street

The museum only takes about an hour to get through, and it will help you understand the next stop a bit deeper.

Tickets are $13 for adults, but don’t forget to use the Backstage Pass here, and they open at 10 am.

Address: 191 Beale Street

Beale Street sign showing historic segregation signs
This section addressed how segregation influenced Black and white musicians

Defy racial boundaries at Stax Museum of American Soul Music

We’ve covered rock n roll and a bit of blues, so now it’s time for soul, baby!

Stax Records is such an influential spot because they truly defied racial boundaries that were common at the time elsewhere. The founders were siblings Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, both white, who brought on interracial bands and musicians like Booker T. and the M.G.’s.

historic Stax recording studio in an old movie theatre
Anytime you see signs like this, be sure to stop to read a little history

Otis Redding, Sam and Save, Albert King, Carla Davis, and Isaac Hayes, all recorded hits for Stax Records in the 1950s and 60s.

The museum shares the story of how soul was created from gospel sounds. It showcases their role as a racial oasis and even tackles how social issues, namely the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., changed everything.

museum display of an old 1960s suit worn by a soul musician
Booker T and MG’s were one of the most famous interracial bands of the time!

The museum takes about an hour to an hour and a half to get through and tickets cost $13 for adults, but you can use your Backstage Pass here.

Address: 926 E. McLemore Avenue

hallway of displayed records produced in Stax Records
You’ll no doubt find a number of records you’ll recognize in this hall

Farewell lunch

At this point, you’re welcome to head back home. But, if you have a little extra time, might as well grab some lunch at another Memphis staple. I’d recommend Central BBQ, which is right across the way from the National Civil Rights Museum. They’re known for their slow-smoked, fall-off-the-bone ribs.

Another spot I wanted to visit, but unfortunately ran out of time, was Dyers, a burger place on Beale Street known for their 100 year old cooking oil. Okay yeah, that kind of sounds gross, but where else can you taste that! Their grease hasn’t been changed in decades and has even been moved when Dyers moved locations!

exterior of Dyers restaurant in Memphis home of the 100 year old cooking oil
Dyer’s is home to 100 year old oil…but it’s an experience!

Finally, you can also try Gus’s (World Famous) Fried Chicken, which has locations all over the US, but was started about 40 minutes from Memphis. It was the Memphis location, opened in 2001, that solidified Gus’s as the world famous restaurant they are today!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this itinerary! Memphis is truly special and I know you’ll feel it too when you visit.

Thank you to Memphis Heritage for hosting me on this trip. As always, all opinions are my own.

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In this weekend in Memphis itinerary you'll visit the best Memphis has to offer including Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Graceland, the Rock n Soul Museum, Sun Studio, and tour the Mississippi, eat lots of BBQ, and sample the best breakfast! This travel guide also has tips for where to stay and how to get around.
This ultimate guide to Memphis Tennessee covers where to stay, what to do in Memphis, what to eat in Memphis, and more!
This is the only Memphis, TN itinerary you need for a weekend in Memphis. This travel guide includes where to stay in Memphis, the best things to do in Memphis, and the best restaurants in Memphis including BBQ, breakfast spots, and more! This Memphis itinerary includes the National Civil Rights Museum, Elvis Presley's Graceland, Stax Museum, and more!
How to spend a weekend in Memphis, Tennessee, this 3 day itinerary covers the best activities in Memphis, Memphis restaurants, and more! It has travel tips on where to stay in Memphis, how to make your trip to Memphis a budget trip, and more!

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Recent PhD graduate and hyper-planner of Periodic Adventures, my goal is to share travel inspiration, budget tips, detailed guides, and fun travel stories!

Comments:

  • What a lively city! There seems to be so much to do and eat. The food looks amazing, especially the BBQ spaghetti which we would love to try.

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  • I just went to Memphis in April and loved it. I didn’t know what to expect but there’s so much to see and do in the city. I was there almost a week and wasn’t bored. The ducks were definitely cute to watch and I left a bit more of an Elvis fan so I’d say it was a good trip

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  • Thank you for this comprehensive guide to Memphis. This has picked my interest in the city. So much history…

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  • Michelle

    Memphis is such a fun town. I have to admit though, I do hate that you now have to not only pay to get onto Beale Street, but you also have to pay to get into every bar. 🙁 Anyway, I loved your post. You offered up some great ideas for a fun weekend!

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  • That is such an informative post! Loved reading it.

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  • Nikki

    Wow what a terrific weekend guide! I’ve driven through Memphis a few times but haven’t spent much time there yet. I’m saving this for a future trip 🙂

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  • Sadly we have not yet visited Memphis but the music history would draw us for sure. I love the idea of using bikes to get around in the city. And your tip that we should not miss the National Civil Rights Museum. We won’t pass on great bbq to fuel our adventures in Memphis.

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  • What a great post filled with so much valuable information! I hope to visit one day. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Agnes

    It’s an excellent and comprehensive Memphis itinerary. I haven’t been to this city yet, but it’s on my list of places I want to see. I plan to visit National Civil Rights Museum, take photos from the Peabody Hotel roof, and enjoy Beale Street at night.

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