Where to eat, play, and stay in Memphis

PLAY

The National Civil Rights Museum was established in 1991 in the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. A tour of the museum begins with an exhibit on slavery and continues through five centuries of history, including the Civil War, Jim Crow, and  Civil Rights protests. If you only do one thing in Memphis, it should be a stop at this museum. Graceland has something to offer everyone. Visitors can tour the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s former mansion, his burial site, and the museum, which includes a room full of Elvis’ iconic jumpsuits, a wall of his gold records, and his impressive classic car collection. You can also tour his private airplanes. There’s a lot to see, so allow plenty of time to take in the massive collection of Elvis memorabilia. Afterward, consider a stop at Sun Studio, known as “The Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll.” The legendary studio’s not only where Elvis first recorded but also hosted the likes of B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and more. Nearby, Beale Street is to Memphis what Bourbon Street is to New Orleans: Think neon lights, live blues music, and plenty of beverages. Go to B.B. King’s Blues Club for live music and Silky O’Sullivan’s for buckets of booze. For a craft beer tour, check out Memphis City Brew Tours, and at Blue Note, you can get a behind-the-scenes tour of a bourbon distillery.


EAT

Start your day at City & State, which serves up roasted coffee from Epoch Chemistry. Every day, the bar offers a pour-over, a drip coffee, and a single-origin espresso. Afterward, browse the novelty shop, which stocks stationery, candles, mugs, jewelry, a selection of hip bags, and more. Of course, you can’t go to Memphis without trying some barbecue. It’s estimated that the city has 142 barbecue restaurants, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Central BBQ is conveniently located next to the National Civil Rights Museum and offers some must-try brisket BBQ nachos. Other contenders include A&R for its pork sandwich and Bar-B-Q Shop for its award-winning ribs. For fried chicken, head to Gus’s Fried Chicken in downtown or East Memphis. (And when you get back to St. Louis, you’ll likely want to make another stop at the Maplewood location.) Grab an outdoor table at Terrace at the River Inn for dinner with a view and a variety of shareable plates, including a Mediterranean flatbread, a watermelon Caprese salad, and even St. Louis–style toasted raviolis.


STAY

For a classic Memphis stay, head to The Peabody Memphis, where you can see the famed ducks parade through the lobby. The hotel has several dining options, including Capriccio Grill, an Italian steakhouse, and Chez Philippe, which serves a classic French cuisine. Or consider a stay at Big Cypress Lodge, located in the Memphis Pyramid. Beyond the cozy accommodations, there’s the sprawling Bass Pro Shops (with 100-foot tall cypress trees and 600,000 gallons of water stocked with dozens of varieties of fish), restaurants, underwater-themed bowling, and the nation’s tallest free-standing elevator, which leads up to a restaurant and observation deck with picturesque views of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi. Across the river, in West Memphis, the casino at Southland Casino Hotel is akin to those you’d find in Vegas, with a floor that’s the equivalent of two-and-a-half football fields in length and boasts 2,400 slot machines, 50 table games, and three bars. There’s also a range of restaurants including The Fry House, which serves a menu of only fried foods, and The Kitchens, a buffet that features seven open kitchens. Ignite Steakhouse is an upscale steakhouse, featuring a 40-ounce hand-cut tomahawk. And if you want to make a night of it, the newly constructed 20-stories hotel has 300 rooms and 12 penthouses.

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