Visiting Memphis For The First Time

Visiting Memphis For The First Time

If you’re visiting Memphis for the first time, you’re probably wondering what to do and what to see. Don’t worry, we’ve got some suggestions for you!

 

Visiting Memphis For The First Time

When we started house sitting, we were excited because we knew it’d give us the opportunity to see a lot of cities and states we’d never been to before. One such state was Tennessee. We were especially excited to be visiting Memphis for the first time as we traveled from one house sit to another. The city has so much history!

 

We were able to see a lot of Memphis in three days, and we put together this list of suggested things to do in the hopes that it would help others; a first timers guide to Memphis, if you will. We tried to include some obvious attractions as well as other places you might not have thought to visit.

 

Graceland

Your first time in Memphis absolutely MUST include a trip to Graceland. Visitors can tour Graceland Mansion, Elvis Presley’s home, and visit other exhibits that house artifacts, memorabilia, and photos that showcase his incredible life and career.

 

Visiting Graceland is a must if you're visiting Memphis for the first time

Graceland is huge!

 

Once you enter and get your tickets, we recommend going straight to the mansion. After you’re handed an iPad that will lead you through an interactive tour hosted by John Stamos, visitors board a shuttle that will take you to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. As we walked through various rooms, John told us a little about each one. Once outside, in the Meditation Garden, we saw the grave sites of Elvis and other members of his family.

 

Graceland Mansion

Graceland Mansion

Elvis' living room

Elvis’ living room

Elvis' grave site

Elvis’ grave site

 

It was cool to walk through the house, but we actually enjoyed the exhibits a lot as well. We realized how much we didn’t know about Elvis! “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” is over 200,000 square feet and has exhibits with some of his favorite cars and outfits. As someone who spent time in the Army, the section on Elvis’ military career was especially interesting.

 

Visitors can even take a look inside two of Elvis’ customized luxury airplanes. The Lisa Marie includes a living room, conference room, and private bedroom. It even has gold-plated seat belts and 24-karat gold-flecked sinks!

 

"Elvis Presley’s Memphis" has many interesting exhibits

“Elvis Presley’s Memphis” has many interesting exhibits

 

Graceland also has two themed restaurants and multiple souvenir shops. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to visit this top Memphis attraction.

 

Buddy enjoyed Graceland during his first time in Memphis

Buddy enjoyed Graceland!

 

Sun Studio

Known as the “The Birthplace of Rock’n’roll,” Sun Studio is a legendary recording studio where icons like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, and Ike Turner created hit after hit. Tours are given throughout the day, but after hours, music is still being recorded. Bruno Mars has even recorded at Sun Studio!

 

Our first timers guide to Memphis includes a stop at Sun Studio

Sun Studio

 

Tours last approximately 45 minutes and begin at the bottom half of every hour from 10:30am to 5:30pm. On the tour, visitors will learn about Sam Phillips, the creator of Sun Studio, and see incredible memorabilia. Visitors will also see the exact spot where Elvis recorded his first song and get to touch a microphone that he used.

 

On the Sun Studio tour, visitors will see memorabilia and listen to outtakes from recording sessions

On the Sun Studio tour, visitors will see memorabilia and listen to outtakes from recording sessions

The piano used by Elvis Presley in Sun Studio

The piano used by Elvis Presley

One of the microphones Elvis used to record music at Sun Studio

One of the microphones Elvis used to record music at Sun Studio

 

Beale Street

Beale Street has been a popular hang out since the 1920s and if it’s your first time in Memphis, we highly recommend passing through. With theaters, night clubs, restaurants, and stores, there’s something here for everyone. There’s a lot packed into just a couple of blocks.

 

It’s fun to wander around during the day, but definitely check out Beale Street at night. We recommend taking a look at the Beale Street website to see what events might be going on during your Memphis visit.

 

If you're looking for fun events in Memphis this weekend, definitely check out Beale Street

If you’re looking for fun events in Memphis this weekend, definitely check out Beale Street

 

Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

Whether you’re visiting Memphis for the first time or looking for romantic things to do in Memphis, you need to stop by the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. You might wonder why we’re suggesting going to a Bass Pro shop, but hear us out. This Bass Pro is inside one of the largest pyramids in the world!

 

Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid is a must if you're visiting Memphis for the first time

Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

 

Aside from the usual Bass Pro attractions, they also have “The Lookout” which is the main reason we stopped in. In the middle of the store, visitors will see the world’s tallest freestanding elevator. This elevator takes you up 28 stories to the top of the pyramid.

 

Inside the Memphis Bass Pro shop, with the world’s tallest freestanding elevator

Inside the Memphis Bass Pro shop, with the world’s tallest freestanding elevator

Looking down from the top of the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

Looking down from the top of the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

 

There are multiple observation decks that provide awesome views of the city and the Mississippi River. It’s a perfect spot to catch a sunset, which is why we think visiting with your honey would be perfect for a date night.

 

romantic things to do in Memphis

View of Downtown Memphis from “The Lookout” at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

For great views during your three days in Memphis, stop by Bass Pro shops at the pyramid

View of the Mississippi River

 

Besides the amazing views of Memphis, “The Lookout” also has it’s own restaurant with steampunk style decor. They have a great menu and a mesmerizing aquarium. It costs $10 to go up to “The Lookout” which we think is totally worth it.

 

if its your first time in Memphis. we recommend going to "the lookout" at Bass Pro

“The Lookout” has a restaurant that we think is perfect for a Memphis date night

 

Memphis Zoo

If you’re traveling to Memphis with kids, we suggest visiting the Memphis Zoo. This zoo has been ranked America’s No.1 zoo by TripAdvisor.com and was rated the “top zoo in the country” in a national survey by Morey Associates. Inside, guests will find over 4,500 animals, representing more than 500 different species.

 

If you're visiting Memphis for the first time, we suggest the Memphis Zoo

Are we in Memphis or Egypt??

 

We personally loved the architecture throughout the zoo and felt like we were traveling around the world as we walked from one exhibit to another.

 

The tiger exhibit at the Memphis Zoo

The tiger exhibit at the Memphis Zoo

The Memphis Zoo has authentic Chinese gardens and architecture

The Memphis Zoo has authentic Chinese gardens and architecture

The Memphis Zoo is home to over 500 species

The Memphis Zoo is home to over 500 species

 

Green Spaces

Memphis is home to many parks and green spaces, especially by the Mississippi River. Taking a stroll along the many paths and trails is a nice way to relax and take in the quiet side of the city.

Taking a stroll in one of Memphis' parks along the Mississippi River

Taking a stroll in one of Memphis’ parks along the Mississippi River

Big River Crossing

Another interesting place to see if it’s your first time in Memphis is the Big River Crossing. This bridge is almost a mile long and is the longest public pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River. It’s also the country’s longest active rail/bicycle/pedestrian bridge. Our favorite thing about the bridge is that there is a state line marker. So at one point we had one foot in Tennessee and one foot in Arkansas.

 

The bridge is free and open from sunrise to 10pm. Parking was a bit tricky at first, but after speaking to a local, we parked in the parking lot next  to the Channel 3 studio and walked from there.

 

visit the Big River Crossing during your three days in Memphis

Big River Crossing

State line on Big River Crossing pedestrian bridge

State line on Big River Crossing pedestrian bridge

free stuff Memphis

We’re in two states at once!!

 

While we were at Big River Crossing, we saw people jogging, walking their dogs, and taking in the views of Memphis. It seemed like a pretty popular place to hang out.

 

Our view of Memphis from Big River Crossing

Our view of Memphis from Big River Crossing

 

Where To Eat In Memphis

You can’t visit Memphis without eating at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken! Their fried chicken has won multiple awards, and for good reason. It’s so delicious! No matter what time of day you go, there will always be a line. We were told it’d be worth the wait, however, and they were right!

 

If you're visiting Memphis for the first time, stop by Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

 

We visited the downtown Memphis location and stood in line for about five minutes to get our name on the list to get a table. Once on the list, we waited about another 20 minutes to get our table. But again, it was totally worth it. The chicken was crispy on the outside, but juicy on the inside. And the mac & cheese and cole slaw we had to go with it were just as good!

 

Best fried chicken in Memphis

It’s always packed because the chicken is that good!

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken is a must for Memphis first timers

We ordered the two piece plate with mac & cheese and cole slaw

 

Best Places To Stay In Memphis

There are many downtown Memphis hotel options. You’ll want to be near the action so hotels near Beale Street would be preferable, especially if you’d like to have some drinks. During our visit to Memphis, we stayed at the brand new La Quinta Inn & Suites in the heart of downtown.

 

This La Quinta was unlike any we’ve stayed at before. It was modern, beautifully decorated, and just a couple of blocks away from many of the Memphis attractions we were there to see. And they served breakfast too, which we always appreciate when we’re trying to travel on a budget. We’ll be writing a whole post about this hotel soon, so stay tuned! 😉

 

The La Quinta Inn & Suites Memphis Downtown is one of the best places to stay in Memphis

Our awesome room at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Memphis Downtown

Downtown Memphis La Quinta is one of the hotels near Beale Street that serves breakfast

Lots of breakfast options at the downtown Memphis La Quinta

 

Final Thoughts on Visiting Memphis

We thought three days in Memphis was the perfect amount of time for our first visit. We were able to do a lot, but realized there’s still enough more to do that we could easily go back and visit again.

 

Have you been to Memphis? What other places would you recommend for first timers? We’d love to read your comments below! 🙂

 

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If you're visiting Memphis for the first time, you're probably wondering what to do and what to see. Don't worry, we've got some suggestions for you! In this post, we highlight some more well-known attractions as well as some other places you might not have thought to visit.

**A big thank you to Memphis Travel for helping us arrange a fun-filled itinerary. Although we were given complimentary passes to some attractions, as always, all opinions are our own.**

 

16 Comments
  • Joe S. says:

    Ya know, I lived in Nashville for 4 years. Nashville isn’t even 3 hours away and I just never got around to visiting Memphis. After reading this post, I regret it! Maybe one of these days I’ll make it back East.

  • Today is a great day to remind people to visit the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee at the Lorraine Motel, the location where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

  • Tamara says:

    Funny, I’m planning a trip to Nashville and now that I’m reading this I’m like hmmm….maybe I should make the trip over to Memphis too! Great ideas!

  • Eric Gamble says:

    So the few times I have been to Memphis it was for work and we tended to explore only Beale Street. Overall I was kind of disappointed but perhaps that is because I am from New Orleans and nothing measures to the French Quarter streets.
    With that said, I would love to return and see Graceland. What a cool tribute to the King of Rock and Roll. Also, we just went to Florence Alabama which is part of the famous Music Triangle with Memphis and learned about how the founder of Sun Studios was from Florence. So I would love to see more about his studio and all the greats that recorded there.

  • Holly says:

    I definitely have Memphis on my list. Need to try some BBQ lol. Of course they got John Stamos to host that. Pretty cool they hand you an iPad, interactive. Graceland is a place I would like to see and seeing as it is a must, I would probably make it my first stop. That is a super nice LaQuinta.

  • Graceland looks fascinating and rather stunning – but there’s so much more! Most people from the UK who visited Memphis would do so for the Elvis connection. It’s great to hear about other places like Beale Street – and to get recommendations on where to eat and where to stay

  • You still got to do a lot in those three days. I would expect nothing less of you. LOL We love going to the Orpheum Theatre for Broadway musicals. Of course, barbeque is fantastic on Beale Street. I’ve been to Graceland a few times but not for 5 or more years. They’ve upped their game big time recently. 😉

  • Micki says:

    I was born in Memphis! We moved to Texas when I was a baby, but it’s nice to go back as a tourist. I need to try Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken! And if you go back, make sure you go to the Peabody to see the ducks. 🙂

  • Indrani says:

    So good to see Elvis Presley’s collections, his mike, piano and all. This must be a holy place to many of his admirers. Also good to know about close by places like Beale Street.

  • I had never quite looked at Memphis as a travel destination and you certainly showed me a new side of the town. I love the Graceland Mansion and also all of Presley’s things…so fascinating to peek into the past 🙂

  • I remember my own visit to Memphis… I guess I loved the most the Chinese architecture inside the zoo – it was awesome! 🙂

  • Went to see all these things as a first-time visitor in Memphis in 2010. Unfortunately, the Pyramid was still empty then. It would be interesting to visit the Bass Pro Shops there now and get great views of the city, too.

  • Medha Verma says:

    Great views from ‘the lookout’, good to know they have their own restaurant, I’d definitely want to visit that. Also, Graceland mansion looks pretty cool. I’d love to hang out on Beale Street, the vibe is perfect!

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Hi! I'm Vicky, a South Florida-based blogger traveling around the world with my stuffed monkey Buddy. Tired of the 9-5, we recently sold all of our stuff and started traveling full time. Click on the photo to learn more!

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