Memphis is any music lover’s dream — spanning legendary landmarks, amazing live music venues and must-see museums. Not only did Elvis get his start here, but many of music's biggest names began their careers performing on Beale Street or recording songs at Sun Studio. While Memphis is known for its rich musical history, the city is still rockin’ with some of today’s best up-and-coming artists. Here's how to spend the perfect 48 hours in the city.
Tamp & Tap
With a schedule this packed, you’ve got to start your day with a hearty breakfast. Tamp & Tap in downtown Memphis is known for its delicious take on Southern classics — the Low Country Benedict being a local favorite. You can order online and pick up in about 10 minutes for a socially-distanced meal outside or enjoy the laidback atmosphere inside.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland
Visit the King's residence at Graceland, a can’t-miss destination for any music fan. This king-sized estate was Elvis’ former home and is now the largest Elvis museum in the world. See how he really lived as you walk through the foyer, iconic jungle room and pool room — every opulently decorated space screams his influence along the way. Elvis Presley's Memphis features an astonishing collection of Elvis memorabilia, his on-stage costumes, his cars and instruments. Each exhibit details one of the biggest music icons in history — even Elvis experts are sure to learn something new here.
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
Dubbed by some as the world’s best fried chicken, Gus’s Fried Chicken signature blend of spices and extra juicy chicken draws major crowds. The secret’s out on how tasty Gus’s Fried Chicken is, so be prepared for a wait — but, it’s totally worth it. And don't forget to try the fried green tomatoes.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music
One of the most popular soul record labels of all time, Stax played a pivotal role in creating the soul music sound and helped launch the careers of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, and many more. The history of soul music comes to life through video footage, memorabilia and interactive exhibits. You can also get your groove on while listening to famous Stax tracks on its dance floor.
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
Spend a few hours delving into the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum that tells the story of the birth of rock and soul music. Start from the rural hollers of the 1930s to the 70s with Stax, Sun Studio and Hi-Records to the overall music influence rock and soul has had on the world. With video, songs and artifacts, you can fully immerse yourself into Memphis' strong music story. The museum is regarded today as one of Memphis' most prominent museums.
The Majestic Grille
This beautiful former silent film theater has been transformed into a high-end eatery in the heart of Memphis. The Majestic Grille has created mesmerizing ambiance by maintaining authentic 1940s décor and playing silent films in the dining room. But the most impressive aspect is the food. Dry aged steaks, fresh seafood and an extensive wine selection round out this fine dining experience. It’s obvious why this restaurant has garnered tons of awards and critical acclaim.
Beale Street Historic District
For more than 150 years, Beale Street has been the cultural epicenter of Memphis, renowned for its live music and vibrant night life. Legends like B.B. King and Isaac Hayes used to showcase their talents at venues on this street. Always humming with energy, expect to hear artists from a wide range of genres like blues, rock 'n' roll and country performing every night in bars and clubs on this three-block strip. In addition to live music, Beale Street also has shops filled with regional craft goods, fashions and sweets, galleries and restaurants. It’s the perfect way to end an adventure-packed first day.
Founded by legendary producer Sam Phillips, this recording studio is world famous. Music legends like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded tracks here. Sun Studio is also where Elvis got his start, cementing Memphis as the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll. The studio offers tours during the day, sharing countless stories that excite any and all music lovers. At night, it still functions as a recording studio, helping perfect the sound of tomorrow’s music legends.
St. Blues Guitar Workshop
When it comes to music, the classics never go out of style — St. Blues Guitar Workshop is proof. This high-end store makes its guitars the old-school way, crafted by hand with care. Musicians come from far and wide to purchase these instruments that are made with a level of craftsmanship rarely seen today. Swing by to check out the workshop or pick up a guitar to call your own.
The Beauty Shop Restaurant
This trendy restaurant’s slogan — “Look good. Eat good.” — says it all. Located in the trendy Cooper-Young Historic District, this former beauty parlor (where Priscilla Presley used to get her 'do done) stays true to its roots with a retro salon aesthetic. Hair dryer chairs, vintage aqua details and a mirror with daily specials make it a photo-worthy brunch spot and the food has the same sense of fun as the décor. Internationally inspired dishes join diner classics on the eclectic menu — Watermelon & Wings is a must.
Blues Hall of Fame Museum
After some light noshes (and maybe a delicious cocktail), head over to the Blues Hall of Fame Museum for more music history. Both die-hard blues aficionados and music fans alike will find this collection of blues musician stories told through video and interactive exhibits, artifacts and displays captivating. Enjoy 10 galleries of memorabilia, photos, instruments and costumes. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also always has traveling exhibits, so each visit could hold something new.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame
Aretha Franklin, Elvis and ZZ Top are just a handful of music legends from Memphis. It’s hard to imagine just how many there are until you visit the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, which was created in 2012 to commemorate musicians who called Memphis home. Right off of Beale Street, the museum is within walking distance of some of the famous haunts where many museum inductees got their start. The museum offers daily tours of its one-of-a-kind music memorabilia and interactive exhibits, and occasionally hosts live music performances.
The Second Line
For dinner, take a culinary trip to New Orleans at The Second Line. This low-key rustic restaurant is known for its authentic New Orleans cuisine — no “spin” or “elevated take” needed. Locally sourced ingredients and recipes passed down through generations make this an unbeatable place for po’ boys and more. In addition to the staple roast beef po’ boy, The Second Line has all the Cajun creole classics, from barbecue shrimp to catfish and gumbo.
Lafayette’s Music Room
Wrap up your music-filled trip to Memphis at Lafayette’s Music Room. As is the case with many of the best places in Memphis, Lafayette’s has a rich history while still being relevant today. In the 1970s, Lafayette’s Music Room was a key stop for touring artists like Billy Joel, KISS and Barry Manilow. Lafayette’s Music Room was revitalized in 2013 with live music seven nights a week. Located in popular Overton Square, this venue draws a crowd any night of the week. Don't miss the Tennessee Songwriters Week Showcase event at Lafayette's Feb. 21, 2023 where songwriters from across the nation will sing their songs for a chance to perform at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.
While there are many fascinating attractions to visit in Memphis, these surefire locales will make an unforgettable trip for any music aficionado. Find even more ideas for your trip to Memphis.
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