Don't Miss

Memphis, Tennessee


By Russ Heaps
Drive Time: More than 5 hours
Fly: Delta 4 hours – Greenville/Spartanburg to Atlanta and Atlanta to Memphis

Word-of-mouth has not been kind to Memphis, Tennessee. Most first-time visitors aren’t expecting much when they arrive. A little time in the city, however, reveals what a stunning misconception that is.

A lively downtown is anchored by Memphis’ “Home of the Blues”: Beale Street. Not unlike Nashville’s Broadway, several blocks

Beal Street at night.

Beal Street at night.

of this boulevard are lined on both sides by honky tonks featuring live music.

Staying at one of the downtown hotels, such as the Westin Memphis or The Peabody – both starting around $200 per night – puts you within a block or two walking distance of Beale Street. The Gibson Guitar factory is directly across Lt George W. Lee Ave from the Westin. It offers tours several times a day except Sundays for $10 per person. Also nearby is the Rock n Soul Museum. Created by the Smithsonian, it chronicles the history of Memphis music. Admission is $11 for adults.

Anyone into rock and roll won’t be able to resist the siren call of Graceland. It was the home of Elvis Presley for the last several years of his life and he is buried there. Make no mistake: It is a tourist trap of the first order, but rock-and-roll fans in general, and Elvis fans in particular, will want to take the tour. Based on exactly how much you want to see and your age, adult tickets begin at $34 and run up to $72. Beware: Graceland’s overseers have used the decades since “The King’s” passing to concoct all manner of creative ways to separate guests from their money. However, it is fun and quite informative.

S0261053Head for Overton Square in the Midtown area. Chock full of an eclectic array of restaurants, pubs and boutiques, it highlights the more trendy face of Memphis. While there, pop into Boscos on Madison Avenue for one of its on-site-brewed craft beers. The Ray’s Honey Rye and XXX Ale are quite tasty. Also ask about the day’s special bourbon-barrel-aged brew.

Memphis is the gateway to the Delta Blues Trail that takes you south well into Mississippi. Head down Rt 61 from Memphis about 75 miles and you arrive in Clarksdale, Miss. While there, check out the Ground Zero Blues Club featuring live music every Wednesday through Saturday nights. Sure it’s a bit of a hike back to Memphis, but you can rent a quality room for the night right upstairs beginning at $125. The barbecue is pretty good and the music outstanding.

Memphis may not have quite the cachet of Tennessee’s Music City, Nashville, but it has plenty going on and more than most music lovers will be able to take in over a week’s stay.