Things to Do in Memphis: By JUNKET
Did you know Memphis is mentioned in more songs than any other city in the world? Or that its giant pyramid is home to the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop? Or that Graceland is America's second most-visited private home, trailing only the White House?
Located on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, Memphis is a vibrant destination that pulsates with a rich musical heritage and a lively cultural scene, inviting visitors to indulge in a wide variety of fun attractions and unique locations. As the largest city in the state of Tennessee, Memphis boasts a captivating history, architectural wonders, and a distinct Southern charm that sets it apart.
Renowned as the birthplace of blues, soul, and rock 'n' roll, Memphis holds a special place in the hearts of music enthusiasts from around the world. From iconic landmarks (Graceland, anyone?) to hidden local gems like Stax Records, the city offers an abundance of attractions that showcase the city's unparalleled musical legacy and vibrant music scene.
Memphis History and Heritage
Beyond its musical and historical significance, Memphis offers a wealth of entertaining things to do. Enjoy the beautifully manicured gardens of the Memphis Botanic Garden or immerse yourself in the art world at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Perhaps Memphis is best known for Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, a sprawling estate that displays the iconic musician’s record collection, accolades, and personal items. For another truly unique Memphis experience, watch the Peabody Ducks, a cherished tradition at the historic Peabody Hotel, march to and from the lobby fountain each day, delighting visitors of all ages.
At nighttime, immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Beale Street, known as the "Home of the Blues." Enjoy live music in the numerous clubs and bars, indulge in delicious Southern cuisine, and soak up the lively energy of this iconic street.
Ghosts of Memphis
On the other side of sunset, the unforgettable Memphis Ghosts experience immerses you in the chilling tales and spine-tingling accounts that dwell within the city's haunted history.
Brace yourself for an enchanting exploration of the city’s mysterious past, where haunted structures and ghostly entities divulge their long-guarded secrets, beckoning you to:
And so much more…
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Although Native Americans had mostly left the region before Hernando de Soto's expedition in the 1540s, the Memphis area had previously been inhabited by indigenous peoples, including the Chickasaw tribe. Prior to its establishment as a settlement, the bluffs of Memphis were inhabited by a series of Native Americans, traders, and forts strategically positioned along the expansive stretch of the Mississippi River.
Over three centuries, the ownership of the region underwent disputes among different nations. West Tennessee was ceded to the United States in 1818, prompting the founding of a settlement on the Mississippi River bluffs the following year by a trio of investors who would never live in the area - John Overton, James Winchester, and future president Andrew Jackson. They named this settlement Memphis, after an ancient Egyptian city located along the Nile River.
“When Memphis was founded on former Chickasaw Nation territory overlooking the Mississippi River in 1819, there was literally nothing in place except a trading post, wandering tribes, and the high ridges of the fourth bluff overlooking a mighty river at the western edge of the settlement. It took many years to mold this wilderness into a city of laws, ordinances, and civic responsibilities.” – Charlie Lambert
Cotton is King
In its early years, Memphis served as a major trading hub due to its strategic location on the Mississippi River. The influx of Irish, Scots-Irish, Scottish Highlanders, and German immigrants joined pioneers from the eastern United States as they ventured westward to settle the emerging town. These settlers played integral roles as gunsmiths, blacksmiths, and operators of sawmills, cotton mills, and cotton warehouses.
With the cotton industry forming the foundation of the regional economy, Memphis emerged as the predominant trading center of cotton in the mid-South.
To facilitate the transportation of cotton to markets, Memphis became a focal point for transportation advancements.
The Memphis-to-New Orleans steamship line was established along the Mississippi River in 1834 and 1857, the Memphis and Charleston railroad line linked the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast, further bolstering the city's connectivity. The population of Memphis experienced a staggering increase from 1850 to 1860, more than quintupling to reach a total of 33,000 residents.
Fever and Fortitude
Amidst the economic and social disparities that sparked Tennessee's secession from the United States to join the Confederacy, Memphis briefly assumed the role of the state capital. However, in 1862, Union forces emerged victorious over a Confederate fleet near Memphis, resulting in the city's capture. As the war drew to a close, Tennessee became the first state to reunite with the Union, and in 1867, Memphis was designated as the seat of Shelby County.
The mid-19th century brought about notable events in Memphis, including the outbreak of yellow fever epidemics that ravaged the city. The devastating epidemics had a profound impact on the population and left Memphis practically deserted.
With the implementation of better sewage and water systems, trade flourished in Memphis, and the population boomed again by 1890. The opening of the first railroad bridge south of St. Louis in 1892 further enhanced the city's trade prospects and solidified its position as a thriving trading hub for cotton and lumber by the turn of the century.
Home of the Blues
Following the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, Memphis became a key center for African-American culture and entrepreneurship. Beale Street, a historic thoroughfare, emerged as a vibrant hub for blues music and entertainment, earning it the reputation as the "Home of the Blues."
In the 20th century, Memphis experienced a cultural revolution with the rise of influential musicians and the birth of iconic recording studios. Artists like Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, and others all contributed to the city's rich musical legacy.
Sun Studio, known as the "Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll," became the launching pad for many of these legendary musicians, forever cementing Memphis' place in music history.
The civil rights movement also left an indelible mark on Memphis. The city witnessed significant events, including the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike, which brought attention to the struggles of African-American sanitation workers and ultimately led to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In recent years, Memphis has undergone revitalization efforts that have transformed neighborhoods, preserved historic landmarks, and fostered a thriving arts and culture scene. The city's diverse communities, culinary delights, and vibrant events, such as the Memphis in May International Festival, continue to attract visitors from around the world.
With its welcoming hospitality, vibrant culture, and a blend of old-world charm and modern attractions, Memphis invites visitors to experience its unique blend of music, history, and Southern flair. It's a city that captures the imagination and provides visitors with an unforgettable experience.
The King’s Retreat
Memphis is a city that holds a special place in the hearts of Elvis Presley fans from around the world. With numerous attractions and experiences dedicated to the King of Rock 'n' Roll, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Elvis during their time in Memphis.
A visit to Graceland, Elvis' iconic mansion, is a must for fans. Touring the rooms where Elvis lived, including his music-filled Trophy Room and the unique Jungle Room, provides a glimpse into his personal life and the opulence he enjoyed. The mansion tour also includes access to the Meditation Garden, where Elvis and his family are laid to rest, offering a serene and reflective space for fans to pay their respects.
Adjacent to Graceland is the Elvis Presley's Memphis complex, a sprawling entertainment and exhibit space that celebrates Elvis' life and legacy. Here, visitors can explore a range of exhibits showcasing his dazzling stage costumes, Grammy Awards, and personal artifacts. The complex also houses the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, displaying Elvis' impressive collection of cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles.
For music enthusiasts, a trip to Sun Studio is a must. Known as the "Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll," this legendary recording studio is where Elvis, along with other iconic musicians like B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded their first hits. A guided tour provides insights into the studio's history and offers a chance to stand in the very room where the music careers of these iconic performers took off.
Fans can also walk in the famous singer’s footsteps on Beale Street, the iconic street known as the "Home of the Blues." Many talented performers pay tribute to Elvis by covering his songs and keeping his music alive in the heart of Memphis. This historic thoroughfare remains a mecca for music lovers, featuring vibrant blues clubs, juke joints, and lively street performances that fill the air with soulful rhythms.
“Somebody asked me this morning what I missed about Memphis and I said everything.”
– Elvis Presley
Explore the picturesque Mississippi River Park, which stretches along the riverfront. Stroll along the riverwalk, enjoy a picnic in the park, or simply relax while taking in the stunning views of the mighty Mississippi River.
As of the largest urban parks in the United States, Shelby Farms Park offers a range of outdoor activities, including walking and biking trails, paddleboarding and kayaking on the lake, horseback riding, and even a treetop adventure course.
Experience the Big River Crossing, the longest pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River. Take a leisurely walk or bike ride across the bridge and enjoy panoramic views of the river and the Memphis skyline.
Art, History, and Food
Memphis is also steeped in history, with significant ties to the civil rights movement. The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, provides a powerful and immersive experience, chronicling the struggles and triumphs of the movement.
As the oldest and largest art museum in Tennessee, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art showcases a diverse collection of artwork from various periods and cultures. It features impressive collections of European, American, and African art, as well as engaging exhibitions and educational programs.
The city's culinary scene is as diverse as its cultural tapestry. From iconic barbecue joints like the Rendezvous to soul food eateries dishing out comforting classics like fried chicken and collard greens, Memphis is a haven for food enthusiasts seeking authentic Southern flavors.
Get to Know Memphis
In addition to the Junket Memphis Experience, the city offers a wide range of entertainment options that cater to all interests, from performing arts and historic architecture to captivating museums and outdoor activities. Memphis boasts several renowned attractions, including:
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