Memphis, Tennessee

Hometown of Lauren Perkins

Memphis, Tennessee

Technically, I grew up in a suburb of Memphis (Collierville) but I will focus on the larger city for our purposes here!

Memphis is situated along the banks of the Mississippi River in the southwestern corner of Tennessee. Named after the city of Memphis, Egypt, its skyline features The Memphis Pyramid, the tenth-tallest pyramid in the world. It was originally built as an arena for entertainment and sports, but now houses a Bass Pro Shop, complete with a hotel, restaurants, alligator habitat, and outdoor observation deck near the top.

The Birthplace of the Blues and Rock'n'Roll

Beale Street
Memphis is known for its rich musical history. Both the blues and rock’n’roll are said to have originated in Memphis. Memphis was home to blues greats like WC Handy and B.B. King, and Beale Street (pictured during the annual Beale Street Music Festival) continues to be a center of blues music and nightlife. The Stax Museum would be a great place to go if you’re interested in learning more about blues. Memphis is also home to Elvis Presley’s mansion, Graceland. Now a museum, Graceland is the second most visited house in the U.S. after the White House. Each year on August 15-16, the anniversary of the King’s death, fans from all over the world converge on the mansion for a celebration known as Elvis Week, which includes events, speakers, Elvis impersonation contests, a Mass in his honor, and a candlelight vigil at his gravesite.

Memphis BBQ

central bbq Memphis is also known for its barbecue! Many cities in the South have their own version of barbecue, but Memphis’s is possibly the most famous. Memphis barbecue is made from smoked pork (either pulled or ribs), served with a tangy, sweet barbecue sauce. There are numerous barbecue restaurants in Memphis, and even locals will differ on which one is best. Some of the most famous places are The Commissary, Rendezvous, Leonard’s, and Central BBQ. Personally, I think Central BBQ is the best – if you go, be sure to get the BBQ nachos! Each year, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held during the Memphis in May festivities, which also include the Beale Street Music Festival.

The Civil Rights Museum

Civil Rights Museum
Another must-see while in Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had traveled to Memphis to participate in demonstrations related to the sanitation workers' strike of 1968, and had just delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel. The current museum is attached to the Lorraine Motel, and explains the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. It is one of the most moving and fascinating museums I have ever visited.

Other Memphis Attractions
There are many more interesting places to visit in Memphis. Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States (it’s more than five times larger than Central Park in NY!) and features running, walking, and cycling trails, opportunities for sailing, kayaking, and horseback riding, and is home to a small herd of buffalo. The Memphis Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country, and is one of only four zoos in the U.S. that have giant pandas. Memphis is also home to two universities: the University of Memphis and Rhodes College.