Want to spend a weekend in Memphis and look for the best things to do?
Perfect! I just went and I am excited to help you plan your Memphis itinerary.
Memphis is the city of music. Some of the most famous singers, such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B King, and Jerry E Lewis, got their breaks in Memphis.
Memphis is the heart of so many music genres. Soul, rock ‘n’ roll, and the blues are what Memphis, Tennessee is best known for.
If you love music and the legends of American music, you need to spend a weekend in Memphis and explore this historic town.
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Where is Memphis, Tennessee?
Memphis is a city located in the east side of Tennessee. It is right on the Mississippi River. It is very close to the state borders of Arkansas and Mississippi.
Nashville is only a three-hour drive to the west.
How Many Days Do I Need in Memphis? Is a Weekend in Memphis Enough Time?
A weekend in Memphis is definitely enough time. Let’s explore some of the top things to do in Memphis so you can choose what you would like to include on your Memphis itinerary.
Is Memphis Worth Visiting?
Yes! I loved visiting Memphis. There are good parts of Memphis and bad parts of Memphis but Graceland alone is one of the those good parts that is definitely worth visiting and will make your entire trip worth it.
Learning all about Elvis was worth a weekend trip to Memphis to me. Plus, we enjoyed all the amazing museums, and learning all about the music that started in Memphis.
Why I Wanted to Go to Memphis
Now, you may not know this about me, but my name is Lisa Marie. Yes, I was named after Elvis’s daughter. My dad was a big fan and although I was born long after Elvis’s death, I still felt like a weekend in Memphis would be a perfect trip to take my dad on.
I was excited to go to Graceland with my parents, particularly my dad. We planned this trip long before COVID-19 and before the political unrest in the country. We decided to go ahead and spend a weekend in Memphis and were so glad we did because it was a blast!
Graceland was amazing and that is where we will start as we plan your Memphis itinerary.
Graceland is more than Elvis’s mansion and estate. It also includes an entire complex with museums dedicated to the life of the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll.
There are different levels of tours available ranging from $45 -$184:
Types of Tours
The Basic Tour only includes the Graceland Mansion. (I would not recommend this; you will want to see more.)
The Elvis Experience Tour is what I recommend. This will give you access to both the mansion and the entire complex.
If you are die-hard fans you can upgrade to an entourage or a VIP tour.
Reservations are required. You can pick a specific time for your tour.
How Long Should I Spend at Graceland?
Plan an entire day for Graceland. We arrived at 9:30 am and stayed till 3:00 pm. With that said we went during the pandemic and crowds were very low. I can imagine that during normal times the complex is busier and would take a little longer to explore.
We loved Graceland. I honestly was shocked at how much I loved it. The mansion was a step back in time and it was fun to see how Elvis spent his daily life.
As we continued throughout the complex, we loved learning about his career, life, and adventures.
Eating at Vernon’s Barbecue and seeing the planes and cars he owned were also highlights for us.
This was such a great experience. We highly recommend a Visit to Graceland!
How to Explore Downtown Memphis
Memphis is an easy walking city, but why walk when there are other fun options.
Horse Carriage Ride
We loved going on a horse carriage ride through Memphis. There are lots of carriages in downtown. You should not have any trouble finding one. Prices vary depending on the amount of people you have.
Our tour guide knew so much about the city and gave as a great tour around town. This was a great way to explore, and learn more about, the city.
Biking in Memphis
These bikes are conveniently located throughout the city. You can jump on and ride around. Memphis has taken a big step to make its city a bike friendly city. There are also guided Memphis Bike Tours. I think it would be nice to have a guide.
These scooters are popular all over the US. What is nice about them is that you can just hop on and off wherever. You can leave the scooter and not have to return it to a specific location. It is a great way to explore Memphis.
You will just need to download the app on your phone, provide the needed information, and unlock the scooter to start your ride.
Trolley or Bus Ride
There are three trolley lines in Memphis. The vintage trolley carts are a great way to explore Memphis. The Main Street Line is the most popular track.
It is only $1 to ride or $3.50 for a day pass.
Another option I love in every city is a hop on hop off bus tour. I feel like I get a good feel of the city when I use this option.
What is Beale Street?
Beale Street is a street in downtown Memphis. It is about 3 blocks (1.8 miles) and is blocked off so that cars cannot drive down it. There are lots of places to eat, bars, great music, and gift shops. It is a historic street that links to blues music.
What is Beale Street Famous For?
You might want to refer to Beale Street as an adult only street because there are many night clubs located here. It is most famous for the history of blue’s music.
Jerry Lee Lewis has a club located on Beale Street.
Is Beale Street Safe?
If you are concerned about your safety, one thing to note is that the police station is located right on this street. There are officers that patrol the area frequently.
Usually, there are enough festivities and performances so that you should not be alone at anytime.
Rock N Soul Museum
The Rock N Soul Museum is located downtown and is associated with the Smithsonian. That means that it is a really nice experience. The museum goes in a chronological order from the beginning of the music scene in Memphis and all the famous music that has come out of the city.
Admission to the Rock N Soul Museum is $15 at the door. You will probably want to purchase tickets ahead of time so that you can schedule a reservation.
How Long Should I Spend at the Rock N Soul Museum
I would allow about an hour and a half to explore the museum. There is a 12-minute video that you will watch upon entering the museum. After the show you will be given a self-guided audio tour.
With your self-guided audio device, you can enter different numbers and learn all about the music in Memphis. There are lots of famous songs that came out of Memphis and you will get to listen to them in this tour.
We loved going to this museum. I thought the self-guided audio tour was fabulous. There are a lot of amazing antiques from the different time periods that are represented in the museum. I enjoyed learning all about the different types of music and how they developed right in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Stax Museum is the museum of soul music. This museum lays out the legacy of one of soul music’s top recording labels and artist such as Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.
Admission and Hours
The museum is open from 10:00 am – 5:00pm
Admission is $13 for adults.
How Much Time Should I Spend at the Stax Museum?
I would recommend about an hour or two to explore the museum.
What to Expect at the Stax Museum
Most museums do not want you to dance in the exhibits, but at the Stax Museum it is hard not to because you will hear all the records that Stax recorded. This is a fun, interactive museum.
Sun Studio is where Elvis made it big. He initially recorded a record for his mother and a year later the receptionist remembered him and had him come in for an audition that landed him a contract.
Admission and Hours
Admission is $15 at the door or you can purchase them ahead of time.
Sun Studio is very popular. You will need to get your tickets early in the morning because it will likely sell out its tours.
How Long Should I Spend at Sun Studio?
Every tour is given on the half hour. So plan on arriving ahead of time and booking a tour time. The tour lasts about 40 minutes.
I think our experience was a little different because of Covid, meaning that we showed up and still were able to get a tour an hour and half from the time we arrived.
I imagine that this is a tour you would want to plan first thing in the morning so that you are sure to get a tour time.
Although Sun Studio is a small area, the tour is quality and not as much about space as it is about information shared.
Sun Studio not only signed Elvis Presley, but also signed Johnny Cash, Jerry E. Lewis and Roy Orbison. The songs recorded in this studio made music history. Our tour guide was fabulous.
If you only have a weekend in Memphis, Sun Studio needs to be on your Memphis itinerary! This was one of my favorite things to do in Memphis.
Fed Ex Forum
Located next door to the Rock N Soul Museum is the Fed Ex Forum. This is the home of the Memphis Grizzlies. It also is a huge venue that houses big concerts.
Unless you are planning to attend a basketball game or concert you probably do not need to add this to your Memphis itinerary.
National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is actually a complex of museums and historic buildings that trace the American civil rights movement.
Adult admission is $17
What to Expect
Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1964. The hotel is an exact replica of the real location. We decided not to include this museum in our Memphis itinerary because of the political unrest going on in the city at the time we went.
Memphis may be most proud of its zoo. It continues to rank in the top 5 zoos in the United States. This is one of the top things to do in Memphis, so if you are spending a weekend in Memphis, be sure to add this to your Memphis itinerary.
How Long Should I Spend at the Memphis Zoo?
Most people spend about 3-5 hours visiting the animals. I would definitely plan to get there early. When we arrived, the line to get into the zoo was backed up a very long way.
Is the Memphis Zoo Safe?
Yes, this area is safe. I noticed that the area is being updated and appears to be a hip urban development.
The Memphis Riverboat Tour is a sightseeing tour. We had a lot of fun. Our tour guide was funny and really got the crowd going.
We learned a lot about the Mississippi River and specifically the part that runs by Memphis, Tennessee. It was fascinating. The tour last about 90 minutes. There are snacks available for purchase on board and tables to sit at.
Be sure to arrive early so that you will get your seating choice. We were able to have a nice table on the main deck.
Bass Pro Pyramid
Bass Pro has nationwide locations, but its Memphis location is unlike anything you have ever seen. It is shaped like a pyramid, which is appropriate as Memphis, Tennessee was named after an ancient Egyptian city.
This pyramid was originally a basketball stadium but now is a Bass Pro Super Store.
Free Standing Elevator
The elevator at Bass Pro is the tallest free standing elevator in the USA. It will take you 300 feet into the air to an observation deck.
It does cost $10 to ride, but if you are staying at the Big Cypress Lodge located inside of Bass Pro tickets are included with your stay. (More on the Big Cypress Lodge below.)
Do you like heights? This might determine if you want to add this to your weekend in Memphis itinerary. I am not a big fan of heights, but I did okay. The view from the top of the pyramid was beautiful.
Bowling Alley and Restaurant
Within Bass Pro is a bowling alley and restaurant. The bowling alley is amazing. It is decorated like an underwater adventure. If you love to bowl, or have kids with you that need a break from sightseeing, I would add this to your Memphis itinerary.
As for food, I am going to save you the time and tell you to eat before you get to Bass Pro. The food at the restaurant was awful. We ordered three meals and all of them were lacking.
The Peabody Ducks
A weekend in Memphis would not be complete without a stop at the Peabody hotel.
You normally do not have to stay at the hotel to experience the famous duck master! What is a duck master you ask? Well, the duck master has trained the Peabody ducks to march from the penthouse to the fountain in the lobby. It is quite a parade. There are two times a day when you can view the march.
During COVID only guests that are staying at the hotel will get to view the marching ducks.
Getting Out of Memphis
If you are tired of the city, take a 20 minute drive out to Shelby Farms. There are walking paths, bike trails, paddle boats, and zip lining.
It is a nice break from downtown. We enjoyed walking around in the fresh air.
Best Places to Stay in Memphis
I wanted a very unique hotel experience. Of course there are the national hotel brands in Memphis, but I was searching for something with a little more local flare. I was able to find three hotels that I think are worth mentioning.
The Guest House at Graceland
The Guest House at Graceland is located directly across the street from Graceland. It is very nice! We really enjoyed staying here. It was gated and safe.
The Peabody is a Memphis treat! The rooms are very nice but what makes this hotel famous is its ducks. Yes, that is right; ducks!
There is a duck master that has trained the ducks to march! They march to the fountain in the lobby every morning and then march to the penthouse rooftop ever evening. It is a really cool experience.
This hotel has hosted many famous people, and even Elvis enjoyed spending time there. I loved all the duck décor. Even the soap in the bathroom was a sculpted duck. It was awesome!
Big Cypress Lodge
The Big Cypress Lodge is located inside the Bass Pro Store. It is a unique experience because your balcony over-looks the store.
The rooms are really nice and themed. I love the details that went into the design of the rooms. One benefit to staying at the lodge is that you get a free pass to the elevator and observation deck at the top of the Bass Pro Pyramid. One disadvantage of the lodge is that there is not a pool.
We had a great time at all three hotels and I would recommend each of them. They made our weekend in Memphis very enjoyable.
Is Memphis Safe?
I wanted to throw this section in so you can be totally prepared for your weekend in Memphis. Memphis has a little bit of a violent crime problem. It maybe 711% higher than the national average.
With that said I think in the touristy areas you will be fine. There are police everywhere protecting the downtown area. If you feel unsafe make sure to book a tour so that you can be with other people and also with someone who knows the area well.
Are You Ready for a Weekend in Memphis?
Hopefully this helps you plan a weekend in Memphis itinerary. There are definitely enough things to do in Memphis to keep you busy the entire weekend. Hope you have a wonderful time!
Come back and comment what your favorite thing in Memphis was once you go!
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