[I currently live and work in Bangalore, India]. I have gotten to know the city well in the last decade-and-a-half, and I have gotten to watch the it bloom as more and more people are dedicating their lives to making it a desirable destination for visitors as well as for people looking for a fun, affordable city to live in.
What makes Memphis a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Memphis has a [well-earned] rough-and-tumble reputation, and we are pretty proud of our “grit and grind” lifestyle, but there are also a number of sights, landmarks, and restaurants for visitors looking for something a little nicer. And the best part about Memphis is that it is still very affordable, so you can enjoy a fancy holiday without breaking the bank.
What 5 star hotel is the best in Memphis?
The Peabody has long set the standard for luxury in Memphis. With its beautifully ornate lobby and gorgeous rooms, it’s a wonderful hotel right in the heart of downtown Memphis. Not only do you get luxury, but you are also walking distance to delicious restaurants as well as Beale Street. And as an added bonus, you can watch the iconic Peabody ducks make their famous walk in the morning and evening, but get there early, because it gets crowded!
In 2015 Bass Pro Shops opened their newest store in the renovated Pyramid downtown. In addition to the retail shop, a number of restaurants, and the nation’s tallest free-standing elevator, it also boasts the Big Cypress Lodge. Each room has a Jacuzzi, and according to Holly Whitfield, author of the ILoveMemphis blog, the service is outstanding. Click here for rates and availability.
Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler in Memphis?
Shelby Farms Park, the largest urban park in the country, has a number of outdoor activities for travellers looking to enjoy some fresh air. You can rent a paddleboat and paddle around the park, or you can take advantage of the Greenline and walk, run, or cycle your way from the park all the way to Midtown.
Where are the best hang outs during the day in Memphis?
Memphis is synonymous with music, having launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Isaac Hayes, among numerous others. You can visit Graceland and learn about Elvis’ life and career; you can tour Sun Studio and learn about how Sam Phillips discovered so many of our iconic musicians; and you can head over to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music to learn about how Memphis gave birth to soul music. Everywhere you turn in the city you will see the influences of these musicians and so many more, and all three museums are worth a visit to learn about Memphis’ contribution to music. If you are pressed for time, Backbeat Tours offers an awesome Extended MoJo tour to give you a crash course in Memphis history.
The street art scene in Memphis has exploded in the last few years, and there are now a number of murals all over the city. If you have a car, challenge yourself to seek out as many of these murals as you can – the ILoveMemphis blog has a map of many of the murals, and the Memphis Art Project [started by students at my alma mater!] have created an online database of all the street art, including locations and artist information.
If you are feeling historical, take a tour through the National Civil Rights Museum downtown. The Lorraine Motel [where Martin Luther King, Jr, was assassinated] has been turned into a fabulous museum representing the history of civil rights in the United States. They recently finished a huge renovation, and it is well worth a visit.
Café Eclectic and Republic Coffee – both located in Midtown – are great places to pass the time. Both offer delicious menus and free WiFi, so they are convenient if you are looking to get some work done in a pretty setting.
If you want to be outside, you can head down to Tom Lee Park on the Mississippi River and wander along the famous bluffs, or you can wander around on Beale St – I kind of prefer it during the quiet hours of the early afternoon when I can chat with some of the restaurant, bar, and shop owners.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Memphis and what are their best dishes?
Chef Kelly English has turned the food scene in Memphis on its head with his two delicious Cajun-inspired restaurants. Located next door to each other in Midtown, both Second Line [2144 Monroe Ave] and Restaurant Iris [2146 Monroe Ave] offer luxurious dining with a down-home feel. I have never been to Restaurant Iris myself, but I have it on good authority it’s a great place for a birthday, anniversary, or other celebratory dinner. I’m a big fan of Second Line – and their fantastic patio – and can never get enough of their besh bbq shrimp or their po’boys. They do great cocktails as well.
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best dessert in Memphis?
Muddy’s Bake Shop has hands-down the best cupcakes in the city. They are made fresh every day, and they have traditional as well as exotic flavours. Definitely worth a stop if you’re craving something sweet!
Sweet Noshings is another great stop if you want to indulge your sweet tooth. They make a number of desserts fresh every day, and they also have a variety of candy as well as sweet and savory popcorns on offer. It’s not really sweet, but my favourite popcorn is their Memphis Mix – with a combination of barbecue and caramel, it tastes exactly how you would imagine Memphis would taste.
Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?
This one is easy – the Mississippi River. There are parks all along the river that offer stunning sunset views. Take a blanket and some snacks and chill out for a while as you watch the sun set. If you want a rooftop view, head to the Peabody or the Madison hotels downtown or to the Bass Pro Pyramid – you can’t go wrong with the views offered at any of these locations.
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
This one is also easy – Beale Street. Named America’s Most Iconic Street, Beale Street is chock full of bars and blues clubs, all of which feature live music. Step into BB King’s to hear local blues musicians, or head over to Silky O’Sullivan’s to enjoy a diver, say hi to the goats [yes, there are live goats on the patio], and listen to the dueling piano players.
Other favourites include Alfred’s and Rum Boogie Café, and it’s always worth a stop in Handey Park to say hi to the artists and check out who’s playing. If you’re in the mood to dance, head over to Club 152. And when you need a midnight snack, Blues City Café is your go-to for the best ribs in the city. Beale Street has a little something for everyone, and it’s a great spot during the day and at night. Fun fact: Beale St is the only stretch in the entire state of Tennessee where it is legal to drink outside. So grab a drink from one of the roadside bars and stroll along while you enjoy the music pumping out of every club and restaurant.
A personal favourite of mine is Earnestine & Hazel’s, about a 5-minute walk from Beale Street. A former brothel, Earnestine & Hazel’s is one of Memphis’ most famous bars, and it is widely known to be haunted by a few of its former inhabitants. The beer flows easily, the soul burgers are a must-try, and the jukebox will play the song you want before you even realize you want to hear it [ps – the jukebox is also haunted]. It is definitely worth a stop; just be sure to walk around upstairs as well!
If you’re looking for something a little fancier, look no further than the cocktail bar in the lobby of the Peabody. Get dressed up, sip on a fancy cocktail, and enjoy the lovely sounds of the grand piano.
And PS – if you’re in town during basketball season, the best thing you can do is head to the FedEx Forum and catch a Grizzlies game. Your entire Memphis experience will be rolled into 3 hours, and after the game you can walk over to Beale Street and continue with everything I just mentioned above. I promise you won’t regret it.
If you end the night at a fancy club, which one do you head towards?
It’s not fancy, but it’s very Memphis – at the end of the night, you head to Raiford’s. There’s a disco ball on the dance floor, the entire place is covered with smoke, and the dj is in his 70s. Dance the night away while listening to some of Motown’s greatest hits and revel in one of Memphis’ most iconic spots.
Veena grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River and now splits her time between Memphis and Bangalore, where she lives currently and works as a School Implementation Manager for Zaya Learning Labs. When she’s not sitting in traffic or attempting to eat her way around the city, she can be found reading and writing, cheering on her favourite sports teams, plotting her next out-of-town adventure, and pretending to be a runner. All she wants out of life is to live in the hills of Coorg and enjoy endless amounts of masala chai. Read about her adventures, and follow along for yourself on Instagram and Twitter.