Known as the Home of the Blues, Memphis is a music lover’s paradise, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit this incredible city. You’ll be able to explore its deep history, both in terms of music and the heart of the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century. Plus, there are museums, parks, and more waiting.
Here, you’ll learn more about the best things to do in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as discover ideal times of year to visit. In addition, you’ll get a good idea of the average trip costs so you can budget accordingly.
Best Times to Go to Memphis
Memphis is at its most comfortable during the spring and fall months, typically from late April through the beginning of June and again from late August to the middle of October. For instance, in April, you’ll find temperatures in the 70s during the day, and in October, you’ll experience similarly warm temperatures.
For music lovers, also consider visiting for the annual Beale Street Music Festival, which takes place each May. Some of music’s biggest names perform at this three-day event. 2022’s headliners included Megan Thee Stallion and Van Morrisson, so you know there’s something for everyone.
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Bad Times to Go to Memphis
Summer and winter will be less crowded in Memphis, but the weather is less than ideal for many. Summer travel in Memphis can be hot and humid. The average high temperature in July is in the 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit, making that one of the worst times to visit Memphis. Late fall and early winter tend to be cloudy in Memphis, but there’s not a high chance of snow. Rainfall tends to peak in early December and mid-April.
Average Cost of a Memphis Vacation
Before you start making a list of the top things to do in Memphis, get an idea of how much a trip there will cost you once you arrive. According to Budget Your Trip, an individual spends an average of $34 on dining every day. Local transportation is actually more expensive at $47 per day, so you might want to look into renting a car to get around.
Hotels, however, can be reasonably priced at around $134 per night in Memphis, and perhaps even less if you try some hacks to save money on hotels.
Here’s how the costs break down if you plan to spend a week in the city; there will be some incidentals as well:
• One Person Total: $1,172
• Two Person Total: $2,343
One note: You may want to also budget for travel insurance in case the unexpected were to happen, or look into what kind of credit card travel insurance your issuer provides.
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10 Fun Must-Dos in Memphis
As you plan a trip to this Tennessee city, you’ll likely want to map out an itinerary, even if just loosely, to make sure you hit the highlights. Here, culled from top online reviews and seasoned travelers, is advice on the 10 best things to do in Memphis.
1. Pay Homage to the King
We would be remiss to start off a list of best things to do in Memphis without mentioning Graceland, the home of iconic singer Elvis Presley. Open for tours on a daily basis, your ticket gives you access to 120 acres. Explore Elvis’s mansion (including the Jungle Room), his most iconic outfits, and the exterior grounds.
There are also on-site museums dedicated to the King of Rock ‘n Roll’s career and cars. If you really want to make the most out of your time at Graceland, you can also stay at a hotel on the grounds. If staying in the city, consider a rental car or shuttle for the 20-minute drive. Ticket prices range from $28 to $215 for the Ultimate VIP Tour. (If you’re buying the top of the line tickets, you may want to swipe with plastic when paying to earn credit card rewards.) graceland.com/
2. Visit the National Civil Rights Museum
Memphis is also known for another King — civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated at the city’s Lorraine Motel in 1968. Now the location has been transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum with interactive exhibits, films, and oral histories cataloging centuries of the quest for freedom and equality in America.
Exhibit material starts with the struggle against slavery in the early 1600s and moves forward through today’s continuing Civil Rights Movement. Walk through a recreation of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts of the 1950s, the Memphis Sanitation Strikes, and more. The museum is closed on Tuesdays so plan your visit in advance. civilrightsmuseum.org/
3. Stroll Down Beale Street
This nearly two-mile stretch of road in downtown Memphis is a celebration of all things music. Considered the official Home of the Blues, you’ll find clubs and restaurants to satisfy any music lover’s thirst for live entertainment.
There’s always something going on at Beale Street. Just show up to explore on your own, or download the official app to create a plan. Note that a security checkpoint goes up on Friday and Saturday nights. Those under 21 must be accompanied by an adult after 9 p.m., and the street is strictly 21+ after 11 p.m. In other words, weekend nights on Beale Street are on the list for fun things to do in Memphis for adults but not kids. bealestreet.com/
4. March with the Peabody Ducks
One of the best things to do in Memphis with kids is to head to the downtown Peabody Hotel for the daily Duck March. Occurring at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day, this decades-long tradition involves five North American mallards who live at the hotel. Each group of ducks lives at the hotel for three months before returning to farm life outside the city.
They’re brought down from their Royal Duck Palace on the rooftop to swim in the lobby fountain. Participants must be at least five years old, and the hotel recommends arriving 30 minutes early to get a seat. Seeing the Peabody Ducks is definitely an affordable family travel option. peabodymemphis.com/peabody-ducks
5. Tour the Belz Museum
What started out as a private art collection has turned into five permanent exhibits displaying Asian and Judaic art, as well as the Holocaust Memorial Gallery. The Belz Museum also brings in special exhibits twice a year.
One of the most comprehensive collections at the museum is the Chinese art exhibit, which is known as the largest such collection in the southeast United States. You’ll see many pieces from the Qing dynasty, which lasted from the mid-1600s through the early 1900s. The Belz Museum is closed Monday and Tuesday.
6. Take in Some Thrilling Basketball
Love basketball? Check out an NBA game at FedExForum, which is home to the Memphis Grizzlies (nba.com/grizzlies/tickets). The season runs from October to April. The stadium also hosts University of Memphis men’s basketball, which is a NCAA Division I. You can also check out the Division I women’s team on campus at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
7. Marvel at the Mighty Lights
Put this on your list of free things to do in Memphis: the nightly Mighty Lights on the downtown waterfront. Every evening, the city’s two iconic bridges (the Hernando de Soto and Harahan) are lit up in a huge display of LED lights. You’ll see the show at the hourly and 30-minute marks starting at sundown, followed by a grand final at 10:30 p.m.
Scout out a spot to watch along the Mississippi riverfront parks, or scope out an aerial view in the city. The Fourth Bluff and Mud Island are both good options to check out. mightylights.com/
8. Snap Selfies at Mud Island River Park
Tap into your inner river rat at Mud Island River Park. It takes just a few minutes to walk to it from downtown Memphis, and you’ll enjoy lounging on this Mississippi River island. It’s also a perfect spot for some social media selfies thanks to the huge Memphis sign, which spans 50 feet.
This 52-acre park also features a scale model of the Mississippi River to give you a sense of the true breadth of the world’s third largest river basin. Traveling with pets? Mud Island is also a great location for a long walk with your dog. memphisparks.com/park/mud-island-park/
9. Drop into the Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Not only is Memphis home to the blues and rock ‘n roll, it has also played a pivotal role in America’s soul music scene. The Stax Museum is the original home of the legendary Stax recording studio, which was the recording label of iconic artists like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Shirley Brown, and many others.
Explore the rich history of the studio through exhibits and artifacts. You’ll even get the chance to see Isaac Hayes’ custom Cadillac Eldorado, decked out in 24-karat gold trim with a mini-fridge and television on the inside. The Stax Museum is closed on Mondays; tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for kids 9-12; children 8 and under are free. staxmuseum.com/
10. Wander Through Meeman-Shelby Forest
Needa dose of nature? Memphis has that, too! Head 20 minutes outside of downtown Memphis for the enchanting Meeman-Shelby Forest. You can explore 13,000 acres of wilderness that is home to a diverse range of ecosystems. Discover sandy beaches and swamplands (home to the Bald Cypress tree).
There are plenty of recreational activities to enjoy, including trails, a nature center, and a disc golf course. tnstateparks.com/parks/meeman-shelby
From a huge music scene to pivotal moments in history, from parks to nightly light shows, Memphis has attractions worth exploring for all ages. It doesn’t matter if you have a few days or a full week — it’s easy to fill your schedule with tons of fun things to do in Memphis on any budget.
Is Beale Street worth a visit?
Beale Street is considered a must-visit if you’re visiting Memphis, whether it’s your first time or you’ve vacationed there before. Home of blues music, you’ll get a truly unique flavor of entertainment any time of day or night.
What is the best month to visit Memphis?
If you have a completely open calendar and are ready to head to Memphis at the perfect time of year, consider going either in mid-spring or mid-fall. You’ll miss the heat of summer and clouds of winter, so you can explore the top things to do in Memphis, Tennessee, in the best possible weather.
What is Memphis most popular for?
Memphis is best known for its music scene, both historically and today. It’s considered the home of the blues as well as the hometown of rock ‘n roll (Elvis Presley’s Graceland is there), so you’re sure to find something to enjoy.
Photo credit: iStock/benedek
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