When the opportunity arose to spend 3 perfect days in Memphis, I jumped at the chance with a hard yes and packed my bags. It was a solo trip, which I haven’t had in a while. I knew Memphis would be a perfect solo destination with tons of sites and museums to explore. Having gone and returned I can confirm this is indeed a great spot so I wanted to share my weekend itinerary with you.
Since my college days of studying the history of Rock N’ Roll, I have wanted to visit the place where it all began, Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis has produced artists who have shaken the nation and continue to do so even today – from Elvis Presley and the Man in Black, Johnny Cash to the incredibly talented Justin Timberlake. I mean N’Sync without a doubt shook my world as an adolescent. Their album was the first and last cassette tape I ever owned.
Aside from their musical talent, Memphis today is a multi-cultural city brimming with energy and pride: from the art on display across every neighborhood, microbreweries and cuisine just as delicious as their world-famous BBQ joints, to burlesque shows in Victorian-style homes and boutique shops filled with some of the best candles I’ve ever smelled. No wonder residents of Memphis are so dang happy and proud to call this place home. It shows in the many festivities happening in parks, down Beale Street and even Uber drivers. I’ve never driven with happier people, honestly.
Memphis is a unique city where past meets present and we’re exploring it all over 3 perfect days. So pack your bags and get ready for some serious southern hospitality and fun!
Psst. . . are you a weekend traveler? Check out my weekend guides to Austin, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina. Driving might not be an option but flights sure are cheap.
Table of Contents
Facts About Memphis
Why is Memphis named Memphis?
Memphis is actually named after Memphis, Egypt which sat along the Nile River. Memphis, Tennessee sits along the Mississippi river which is why you will find Egyptian influence sprinkled around the city – the biggest giveaway being the large pyramid. The pyramid is home to a Bass Pro shop and an iconic mark of the city’s skyline. Just one the many weird quirks of the city.
Memphis means established and beautiful which is precisely what this city is.
What is Memphis best known for?
Memphis is best known for its BBQ, Beale Street where music legends such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley once roamed, and Graceland – the home of the king himself. It’s also where many events took place during the Civil Rights Movement.
Memphis is mentioned in over 1,000 songs
Memphis is mentioned in more songs than any other city in the world. I don’t know how they found this out, but the Rock N’ Soul Museum released a list of every song that mentions Memphis. This is a growing list with over 1,000 accounted for today. Artists on the list include Ke$ha, Jay-Z, and U2 (more on U2 in Memphis later).
For nearly 90 years, the Peabody Ducks have marched every day from their luxurious fountain to their luxurious top floor apartment. These famous ducks have even appeared as a trivia question on Jeopardy.
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Memphis
Memphis has many wonderful neighborhoods depending on what you’re interested in the most. If you’re looking to be near the water and nightlife of Beale Street, then downtown is a great choice. If you’re looking for a new, hip area for nightlife and local shops then Mid-Town is where you want to be. One thing I will say is wherever you choose to stay, everything is easy to get to by car or public transportation. Traffic from my experience was not bad at all.
Fun Fact: unlike most cities, downtown Memphis is not located in the city. With the Mississippi river bringing many of the goods to and from the city, the downtown life boomed near the river.
If you’re looking for where to stay in Memphis near Beale street I recommend the following hotels:
I stayed downtown at Hotel Napoleon. It’s a newly renovated hotel in a historic building close to everything and within walking distance to Beale Street. You can read my full review and photo guide here.
The Peabody Hotel if you want to splurge. It’s even closer to Beale Street and home to their beloved Peabody Ducks.
Vista Inn & Suites Beale Street if you want to live and party on the famed street.
Midtown is full of so many shops, restaurants, parks, art and more. It’s a great neighborhood to be in and truly the center.
Holiday Inn Memphis will put you right in midtown at a great price.
Be closer to the Victorian Village in midtown at Shellcrest Apartments.
Graceland is not a neighborhood but many people fly from all over the world to Memphis solely for this. If you are one of them I 1) don’t blame you and 2) recommend booking a hotel nearby. The following hotels will put you nearby:
Days Inn at Graceland has the coolest guitar-shaped pool. Completely decked out in all things Elvis.
And if you’re as in love with the King as I am why not stay at the Guest House at Graceland? It’s not the real thing but it sure feels like it.
Now that you are well informed of their claim to fame, ducks and where to stay, it’s time to get into the world’s best Memphis travel guide! (Where is buddy the elf when you need applause?)
This is the exact itinerary I followed which allowed me to see all corners of the city while still having time to chillax in my hotel room, which had Dish cable btw. I don’t even have cable at home so this was a luxury I was going to take full advantage of.
3 Perfect Days in Memphis: Fri-YAY
I technically arrived in Memphis late Thursday night. I recommend flying on Thursday night (after work for some) if you plan to take Friday off. This way you can wake up Friday morning for a whole day of adventure. Friday is an ambitious day. No day like the first to start strong.
I’m not a huge breakfast person, but with the number of places to eat in Memphis, I had to be.
No better way to kick off the trip with some southern comfort food at Sunrise Breakfast.
I loved the down to watch home-style feel walking into sitting in an eclectic dining room with chairs, tables, and decor resembling grandmas house.
The staff was so lively. I was of course filming while I waited for my food and immediately started busting out in dance (Funny cause that’s exactly what I do in 99% of my videos). Needless to say, I wanted to be friends with them.
The food was just as I expected it to be. Large plates of deliciousness. I got avocado toast, which was more like avocado loaf and fruit. It hit the spot along with my iced black coffee. Comment below if you’re a black coffee lover so we too can be friends.
Following breakfast, a morning walk to sun studios is a great idea. It will take you around 10-15 minutes to walk there looking at random bits on street art along the way.
Address | 670 Jefferson Ave, Memphis, TN 38105
Sun Studio Tour
Sun Studio is the record label of Sam Philips – the man who discovered and produced music legends like Elvis Presley, Johhny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and more. The studio was called Memphis Recording Studios. It technically still is, but Sun Studios has taken the common name. Artists can still record in the studio today.
Sun Studios is actually the record label. The room in which the music was (still is) recorded is called Memphis Recording Studio.
Coming in around at 45 minutes, this tour is much shorter than I anticipated. However, it’s not short on information and entertainment. Your tour guide will be just as musically talented – showing his or her skills on the piano and guitar. It’s quite the dance and sing-a-long event. You will hear music from all the influential artists associated with the Sun Studios label.
The first tour is at 10:00 a.m. and runs at the bottom of every half hour until 5:30 p.m. Plan to arrive early for there is so much to see in and outside the studio. Take time to look closely at all the merchandise and decor of this place before sitting at the retro bar for a refreshing coke or coffee.
Tickets are $14 for adults which can be purchased there. No reservation is required. If you got to the official tourism board, Memphistravel.com you can print a coupon for $2 off admissions. You can also click here.
Another great thing about Sun Studios is they offer a free shuttle to and from Graceland which may or may not be on the Sunday itinerary hehe.
Support Small Business on Broad Avenue.
Broad Avenue is the most recent revitalization project in Memphis. The area is coming along so nice with local businesses side by side for your shopping pleasure. You will also find this adorable restaurant, The Liquor Store. A liquor store turned restaurant with tropical flair decor. Across the street is Wiseacre Brewery – a massive space with a tasting room, store and more.
To sum it up, make sure to stop off at:
The Liquor store for lunch.
Shopping local goods for cardio.
Wiseacre brewery for drinks, games, and chilling out in cool air conditioning.
The world-famous Memphis Zoo is located in Overton Square. It’s also home to Overton Park (a clever name I know) which is the largest urban park in town. It’s a beautiful spot for afternoon relaxing, golfing and more.
Address to Memphis Zoo | 2000 Prentiss Pl, Memphis, TN 38112
This next place comes highly recommended by my Uber driver – Lboe (pronounced elbow). Probably a hipster putting their fancy take on words haha. I mean I would do the same. Anyways, my Uber driver felt very strong about Lboe being the best hamburger in the world. I would have liked to try it for myself had I not already had a giant food baby from lunch at the Liquor Store. So, if you find yourself hungry in Overton Square, check out Lboe.
If you want to experience nightlife off Beale Street, head back to Overton Square. The nightlife is thriving with bars all within walking distance from each other.
Blue Moon Revue
If you’re looking for something different and unique to do in Memphis, then Blue Moon Revue is that.
At 9:30 pm head to Blue Moon Revue dinner drinks and burlesque show. The sad iPhone photo above does not do this place justice. It was such an incredible vibe. A burlesque show in this old Victorian home with bars and eclectic lounges on two floors. I felt like I was in this old school underground burlesque show.
The food and drinks can get pricey if you’re not careful. I was one person and ended up spending around $60 for fries, sliders, and two martinis. Being from Vegas, that’s pretty typical for a weekend night out, so I can’t be that mad about it. The tickets to the show will cost you around $30.
You can purchase tickets here.
Address | 679 Adams Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38105
3 Perfect Days in Memphis: Saturday
Saturday is all about history in the beginning – from diners to the National Civil Rights Museum. You will be starting your day at the oldest diner in Memphis. . .
Breakfast at Arcade Restaurant
The Arcade Restaurant has been serving guests since 1919 and stands today as the oldest diner in Memphis. In 1950 the son took over the restaurant and added the very instagrammable storefront sign you see today. Inside, you will find nothing has changed either.
The vibe of this entire place remains untouched and provides a brief step back in time for guests. Make sure you try their sweet potato pancakes and search for the picture of Justin Timberlake in front of the famed neon sign. Arcade Restaurant is a true Memphis classic.
Address | 540 S Main St, Memphis, TN 38103
National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is worth a visit to Memphis even if just to experience this historic place. Typically, I’m wrapped up in the history of other countries that I forget to learn more about my own country. I was in a glass case of emotions from start to finish. We know the major points of the Civil Rights Movement but there is no much more in here – bringing you into modern times and future outlook. A very moving and important reminder to live and let live with love and respect for another.
Admissions cost $16 for adults and $14 for students. Learn more here.
Address | 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103
Memphis is all about their BBQ and Central BBQ is one of those classic spots for a great meal. They are located literally across the street from the Civil Rights Museum. Many people (myself included) assume BBQ is this wet, sticky sauce, but in fact, Memphis BBQ is all about their dry rubs. Sure, the sauce is always available, but just to clear a misconception up, Memphis BBQ is dry, not wet.
Central BBQ has some seriously good mac ‘n cheese. They are also known for their massive salads that come in a huge taco bowl and filled with veggies and meat. A great spot for calming the many emotions I had walking out of the museum.
Address | 147 E Butler Ave, Memphis, TN 38103
Every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. guests can witness the grand march of the ducks to and from their lobby fountain at the Peabody Hotel. They are escorted by the new Duck Master. This job does not see many turnovers. The last Duck Master was there for 50 years before retiring. Needless to say, Duck Master is an honorable job.
Yes, these ducks live the life of luxury. I was told that every 3 months the ducks rotate and go back to their natural habitat on the farm. They are eased in an out of the transition by a trained duck caregiver. I mean come on? These ducks have it made. I always love knowing animals are treated with the utmost human kindness.
I tried to capture the moment for you but it was crazy busy. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze in a tiny nook to watch the ducks march. Some moments can only be captured with your eyes.
Address | 118 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38103
Explore the Waterfront at Tom Lee Park
Tom Lee Park is a great sunset spot with a front-row view of the river and city skyline. I was there for the 200th birthday on Memphis where they built the world’s longest picnic table. This is where the spirit of Memphis shined. Everyone coming together to eat a meal, share a laugh, and dance to local artists. To me, it showed just how diverse Memphis is.
If you can get to any type of local event during your visit that would be amazing.
Address | Riverside Dr, Memphis, TN 38103
Beale Street at Night
Beale Street is open container and pedestrian-only at night. Live music is busting out of every entry to every bar. It’s a live music bar scene and a tourist-heavy zone, but that doesn’t matter. The history makes Beale Street well worth a visit. If only to appreciate the great musicians that once roamed the area.
At night, the streets come alive with neon signs lighting the path to all the joints. Y’all know I love neon signs. While everyone was bouncing in and out of bars, there I was snapping photos of all the neon signs.
The streets will be packed with parties of all sorts from Bachelorette to Birthdays. Music blasted from inside every place while street performers kept the party going outside. Beale Street is such a historic area of Memphis, you have to see it for yourself.
Most places do charge cover – even restaurants. That was annoying, but if you find yourself enjoying one bar, I recommend just staying there to make paying a cover worth it.
3 Perfect Days in Memphis: Sunday
Sunday is a jammed packed day, which means you need all the time you got before heading to the airport. I recommend a grab-and-go breakfast at your hotel or nearby coffee shop, then head off to the newest sign in town. . .
Mud Island was once just that. Empty, muddy land. Then construction began and soon residents moved to the island. When it came time to change or keep the name, they had a unanimous vote to keep it Mud Island. Today it’s home to a scenic park offering water and land activities with the downtown views from afar. Their newest resident is the “Memphis” sign as you can see above. Not shown is the adorable cafe and hammocks. It cost me a $6 Uber fare and worth every cent.
Type in the app “Mud island river park”. Your driver can only drive to the nearby amphitheater. Don’t worry. Just get out and the sign is a short walk from there. Maybe 5 minutes if you’re a super slow walker.
Address | Mud Island River Park
Graceland is the private residence of the King, Elvis Presley and now a huge attraction for millions of tourists all over the world. Don’t underestimate how massive this place is. Enough museums to fill an entire day. That’s not including waiting for the shuttle to visit his actual house.
Graceland is divided in two. On one side you have the museums, theater, gift shops, and restaurants. Across Elvis Presley Blvd. is his actual home. You will have to be shuttled over there. The lines go fast.
Fun facts about Elvis: He starred in 31 feature films and had the first concert to broadcast worldwide via satellite. You will learn all this and more. By the end, you will be in love with this cutie pie all over again. C’mon, the man was a cutie pie.
The only thing missing from is an Elvis Karaoke Bar. After all that Elvis overload, all I wanted to do was sing and dance on stage. If you think a karaoke lounge at Graceland is a genius idea, comment below and lets put this in motion!
Tickets cost anywhere between $41 to $175 depending on the package. You can learn more and purchase tickets here.
Address | Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116
Unfortunately, now it’s time to say goodbye. Well, at least for now. You can always just move to Memphis. That’s also an option.
Thank you so much for hanging out in this massive guide. I hope you have the best, I mean, perfect 3 days in Memphis. It truly is a melting pot of culture and a great destination.
Psst. . . Looking for more U.S.A. travel? Check out a few of these posts:
Are you feeling a trip to Memphis now or what? Comment with an “oh yeah” below if so!
Thank you so much for Memphis Tourism for hosting my trip. Though sponsored all opinions are my own. Also, this post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you purchase through these links, which helps me keep my lights on and order pizza from Dominos! I am extremely grateful. Thank you.
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