I had been looking very much forward to visiting Memphis, although the only thing I really knew to begin with was that Graceland was to be found in this city. I did more research before I got there, and ended up liking the city very much. One of the very first things I did when I arrived in Memphis was to find the famous Beale Street, and see what all the fuzz was about..!
Street performers, apparently!
Memphis is as much a musical city as Nashville, and I got the same experience with wonderful music streaming out of every other doorway on Beale Street. I decided on the Blues City Café where there was this really awesome blues band playing.
Think I ended up spending a couple of beer’s time in there..
I loved the Beale Street experience. It’s all fenced off so there’s no cars apart from the police’, and there are so many interesting stores, eating and music joints. And so much life! If the rest of Memphis looks a little empty on the following photos, I think it’s because everybody was on Beale Street.
One thing I had also been really looking forward to in Memphis was the food! Tennessee seems to be the birthplace and best place for all things pork, so I made sure to try as much of that as I could stomach.
The ribs I got at Rendezvouz were so delicious, and since I was on my own and didn’t mind sitting at the bar, I could walk straight in. Looks like there was there quite the waiting time if you needed a table..!
The pulled pork I got at Central BBQ was cheap and very tender, but not as flavourful as I could have wished.. Quite the opposite from Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken! Their Memphis location was completely packed (so I opted for take out) and I can see why!
Super delicious chicken and very nice slaw and ranch dip as well. I can reveal already that I went back for more of Gus’ fried chicken in Atlanta..
I bought what’s known as a Memphis Backstage Pass at the Rock & Soul museum, so that I could save a little on all the music museums I wanted to visit. Rock & Soul museum is by the way a very interesting little place where you learn not just about the music, but the roots of the music and the people that created it. Next stop was Sun Studio:
This is the real birthplace of rock’n’roll. This is where Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash were discovered by Sam Philips and made their very first records. That famous picture on the wall? The piano they’re sitting at is in the studio.
I don’t want to reveal too much of the tour – suffice to say it’s very interesting and has a pretty cool surprise in the end.!
There’s a free shuttle bus running between Sun Studio, Graceland and Rock & Soul museum, so I hopped on that one to go to Graceland.
Wow. This is a really big experience. I only knew and enjoyed Elvis’ music, but you get to see and learn so much about the man himself. The tour of the house and gardens is really well done, as you get an iPad and get to do your very own interactive tour.
Of course with the final stop at his grave. The Memphis Backstage Pass I had bought included a ticket to Graceland with most of the extra exhibits, so when I was done at the house I went on to see his cars, jumpsuits, planes and lots of other memorabilia. You could spend half a day here if you wanted.
The STAX museum was also included in the Backstage Pass but it was unfortunately closed when I went there. Instead, I made sure to time my visit to the Gibson factory just right!
I am a hobby guitarist so this was a must do for me. Photography is strictly prohibited on the 45 minute tour, (and ‘if it looks cool don’t touch it!!), so you can focus completely on soaking in what you’re seeing – if you’re smart and visit on a weekday you’ll see all the workers in action!
South of Main
I was only in Memphis for just above 2 days and I wanted to prioritise the music part of the city. Had I had more time, I would have loved to delve into the Civil Rights part too. Before I went down to South of Main I took a swing by the river to check out the riverboat:
From there I walked a little stretch along the river before I turned away towards South of Main, first to get a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, and then on to a very special, historic place:
The Lorraine Motel, the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in 1968. They kept the place the same as it was, and the Civil Rights Museum is right nearby commemorating him. Apparently not a good idea according to some:
Other than that it was a beautiful, quiet area when I was there.
Walking back north to Main Street I came past quite a few murals:
I really liked Main Street in Memphis, broad and shadowy and with plenty of places to eat or have a drink if that’s what you fancy.
And then, the murals..!
What’s not to like?! I had read before I went to the States that Memphis was one of the most dangerous cities in the country and that’s probably true.. But I didn’t feel it. I walked everywhere as everything, apart from Sun Studio and Graceland, are very close together and never felt that I was in a bad place. Just in case anyone was wondering.
Have you been to Memphis? Where did you eat YOUR BBQ ribs? Comment below!