What is there to do in Memphis?

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If you are thinking about going to Memphis and wondering what there is to do in Memphis, keep reading.

We went to Memphis as part of a road trip which was roughly planned around the Blues Highway tour which highlights famous blues singers and attractions in February 2021.

We had an 8 hour drive to Memphis, so we stopped over at the dog friendly Holiday Inn Express in Knoxville, TN for the night. Shortly before getting to Memphis, we stopped off at Harpeth State Park to do a little hiking. It was quite scenic and I recommend it as a stop over point.

Day 1

I had no expectations of Memphis and anticipated it to be much like Nashville. I was wrong. Memphis was a much more run down city and clearly had seen better days. There were many abandoned buildings and blue light cameras (indicating a high crime area) surrounding our hotel which was downtown. We stayed at the expensive but very nice dog friendly Hotel Indigo. It had a 70’s theme to it and was well decorated and clean. On the plus side, we did see several police officers during our walks downtown.

Day 2

On Monday, March 1st, we walked the dogs 5 minutes away to the River Dog Inn Kennel so we could explore Memphis where dogs couldn’t go. We started our adventure with a walk down Beale Street. Many of the buildings were boarded up or abandoned. There were a few business’ open. It appeared that perhaps some of these business’ were hit hard before COVID and looked like they may not open back up. I had expected Beale Street to be similar to Broadway in Nashville. It was smaller with more closures. If you have a choice, I’d opt for Nashville over Memphis if you are looking for nightlife.

The pyramid was originally supposed to be used as a basketball arena but that failed. Bass Pro bought it and turned it into a tourist attraction which offers a huge hotel with treehouse rooms, outdoor gear store, restaurants/bars, a cypress swamp and other water features, and a observation deck which overlooks the City. We stopped to buy some clothes, eat lunch, and get a great view of the city (not free).

Memphis is know for its blues music so we decided to go bar hopping down Beale Street to experience some blues music. There were only a couple bars open, partly due to COVID and it being a Monday. Our friend had recommended Silky O’Sullivan’s and told us about that goats that were sometimes fed beer by the bar patrons. We saw a stuffed goat by the bar and a couple goats behind a large fence in the back. Apparently getting goats drunk is no longer allowed. Our waitress was super friendly and I would recommend a visit.

BB King’s Bar was recommended both for their food and entertainment. It did not disappoint and was one of the only places open that had a packed bar and a great band. My husband, Joe, got the ribs and enjoyed them. This would be his first of three plates of ribs during our stay in Memphis!

The night got a little foggy after this but we hit a couple more bars, had a bourbon slushy drink in a leg, and heard some local blues music. I will say that Memphis is known for its high crime rate but I did not feel unsafe in the city. I saw several police officers standing on corners and never got approached by a homeless person (and there were many)

Day 3

On Tuesday, March 2nd we picked up the dogs from the kennel and walked to Mud Island River Park. The park is only accessible by foot. One of the main features of the park is a large model of the Mississippi River and its watershed. There was supposed to be water running through the model but there was none during our visit. There’s a large field to walk the dogs and an oversized Memphis sign for photos.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and got take out BBQ from the famous Rendezvous restaurant for lunch. Joe got ribs of course and I got a pulled chicken salad.

Experiencing and learning about Black history was an important part of our Deep South Road Trip and so our next stop was the Lorraine Motel. This is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It has been converted to a Civil Rights Museum and was closed during our visit. Dr. King was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike when he was shot. You can see the balcony where he was shot and replicas of 1960’s era cars in the parking lot.

There was an obvious presence outside the property. A older lady was protesting being forcibly removed after the assassination. She was living at the motel at the time. She has been protesting since 1968 and the locals say she has never missed a day even during large snow storms. We decided it best not to approach her as the locals advised against it.

Joe continued his rib tasting at Central BBQ which is a short walk from the Lorraine Motel. We were able to sit outside with the dogs. The waitress’ and staff were very accommodating and friendly. The dogs were a big hit with them.

I felt like we experienced as much as Memphis as we could during COVID. Memphis is not terribly dog friendly and for the most part is a dirty city. I feel like 3 days was more than enough time to see the city and have no plans to visit it again. In the future I would have researched museum closures and would have planned the trip toward the end of the week when more things were open and the nightlife was more alive.

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