Memphis is a vibrant city known for it’s music, food, history, making it the perfect weekend getaway destination. With so much to see and do, planning your Memphis weekend can be overwhelming. This guide will help you make the most of your time in this charming Southern city.
Take in Live Music
No trip to Memphis is complete without experiencing it’s famous music scene. Beale Street is the heart of Memphis music, with street performers, neon lights, blues clubs lining the iconic street. Stop into famous venues like BB King’s Blues Club and Rum Boogie Cafe. To catch live music from local musicians carrying on Memphis musical legacy. Can’t make it to Beale Street? Hit up local favorites like Lafayette’s Music Room and Hi-Tone Cafe to see Memphis emerging talent. With Memphis endless music offerings, your weekend soundtrack is set.
Key Live Music Spots
No Memphis weekend is complete without a musical pilgrimage down iconic Beale Street. Take in the neon lights and let the sounds of blues, jazz, rock spill from colorful clubs and hole-in-the-wall bars. Stop to snap photos in front of retro marquees and vibrant murals depicting Memphis legends. Pop into A. Schwab’s old-fashioned store brimming with kitschy souvenirs. Feast on saucy barbecue plates al fresco while local musicians jam on street corners vying for tips. At night, vibrant crowds and headlining acts electrify Beale, so dress sharp and prepare to mingle. From day drinking to late night revelry, Beale Street sets the tone for Memphis fun with it’s mix of old school charm and modern energy. Don’t just walk it – let Beale Street rhythm pulse through your weekend.
BB King’s Blues Club
Paying homage to the King of the Blues, this lively venue sticks to it’s roots with nightly servings of authentic Memphis blues, soul, R&B from talented local musicians. Grab a table near the stage, order the signature ribs or jambalaya, settle in for soul-stirring sets varying from funk to gospel to rock-tinged jams. Decorated with music memorabilia spanning decades, B.B. King’s immerses you in the spirit of Memphis. Between sets, sidle up to the inviting bar to chat with regulars and visitors alike, all here to worship at the altar of the blues. With it’s mix of finger-licking food, skilled performers, friendly vibes, B.B. King’s Blues Club hits all the right notes for an quintessential Beale Street evening.
Rum Boogie Cafe
Another Beale Street favorite for live music and letting loose is Rum Boogie Cafe. This Cajun-inspired spot packs ’em in with rollicking sets from local blues, rock, R&B talents on deck every night until 3 am. Grab a hurricane cocktail and beignets, then let the good times roll on Rum Boogie’s checkered dance floor. A high-energy young crowd fuels the boisterous atmosphere, especially on weekends when renown acts have the joint jumping till dawn. Touting the best cover bands in Memphis, Rum Boogie also hosts renowned national touring musicians that draw devoted fans. With a vibrant bar scene, sizzling blues sets, party-primed energy, Rum Boogie Cafe is the perfect place to dance, drink and experience Beale into the wee hours. Don’t even think about leaving Memphis without getting your Rum Boogie on.
Lafayette’s Music Room
Lafayette’s Music Room is an intimate midtown Memphis venue that offers a laidback listening room Setting for enjoying local and regional musical talent. The cozy space features exposed brick walls, candlelit tables, a compact stage that allows guests to get up close with the performers. Patrons can sip cocktails or local craft beers while tapping their toes or nodding along to blues, jazz, rock and indie artists that may one day headline Beale Street. With superb acoustics, charming atmosphere and standout live music, Lafayette’s Music Room hits all the right notes as a beloved local gem just beyond the tourist buzz of downtown.
With it’s edgy, creative vibe and lineup of emerging talents, Hi-Tone Cafe has become a favorite midtown venue for music lovers seeking the next big thing in indie, alternative, electronic acts. The modest corner venue packs in enthusiastic crowds with a steady calendar of local and regional bands interspersed with touring musicians on their way up. Neon beer signs cast a glow over the concert floor as fans sway along to hip hop, rap, punk or EDM beats bumping through the speakers. By night’s end, it’s clear Hi-Tone Cafe earns it’s reputation as a vibrant mecca for tomorrow’s stars and Memphi’s ever-evolving music scene.
Indulge in Memphis BBQ
Memphis’s barbecue stands among the best in the world. From dry rub ribs to pulled pork sandwiches doused in tangy sauce, prepare your taste buds for meaty heaven. Barbecue stalwarts like The Rendezvous and Central BBQ should be on any first timer’s list. Looking to sample multiple spots? Commence on a mouthwatering barbecue tour to hit Memphis’s most legendary smokeries in just a few hours. Don’t forget the sides like baked beans, slaw, fries to complement the tender, smoky meat.
Top BBQ Joints
The Rendezvous is a beloved basement barbecue restaurant that has been dishing Memphis-style dry rub ribs and shoulder meat since 1948 in downtown. Behind red brick walls under the alley, patrons feast on tender, spice-crusted slabs of ribs and pulled pork shoulder washed down with icy cold beers as wafts of hickory smoke and sizzle fill the air. With it’s charming vigor, signature ribs, utter lack of pretense, The Rendezvous encapsulates authentic Memphis barbecue history in every sticky-fingered bite.
Central BBQ serves up hearty plates of ribs, chopped pork, chicken and wings slathered in their signature sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Their casual counter-service setup allows guests to grab napkins and dive into fall-apart tender smoked meat by the pound along with Southern sides like baked beans and slaw. Whether scarfing down a loaded barbecue platter al fresco on their patio or between the no-frills dining room’s red-checkered tables, Central BBQ captures real deal Memphis barbecue in all it’s mouthwatering, sauce-dripping glory.
This family-owned barbecue institution loads up paper-lined trays with fall-off-the-bone ribs, chopped smoked chicken, pulled pork doused in their one-of-a-kind blend of sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. Dining rooms decked out in Memphis memorabilia create a down-home setting for feasting on Corky’s hearty platters and sandwiches. Since 1984, locals and visitors alike flock to Corky’s for quality smoked meats paired with soulful sides like baked beans, slaw, fried pickles that epitomize true Memphis flavors.
Cozy Corner Restaurant
Tucked behind a brick storefront lies Cozy Corner, a hole-in-the-wall smokehouse serving heaping plates of ribs and rib tips since 1977. Neighbors and barbecue pilgrims squeeze into the kitschy dining room to feast on smokey, tender rib ends served with classic soul food sides like baked beans, cornish hens, candied yams. Despite it’s no-frills decor, Cozy Corner oozes charm and warmth through the chatter of regulars and scent of hickory wafting from the kitchen. For old-school barbecue done right in Memphis, Cozy Corner hits the sweet (and spicy) spot.
Learn about Memphis History
Beyond the music and food, Memphis delivers intriguing history at every turn. Time travel back to the days of slavery and the Civil Rights movement at the National Civil Rights Museum, located where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Tour the former home of slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest at the Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum. For more modern history, visit the Rock N’ Soul Museum and the Blues Hall of Fame to trace Memphis’s musical origins. By the weekend’s end, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the stories and struggles behind this dynamic Southern city.
Key Historical Sites
National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum chronicles the American civil rights movement through gut-wrenching exhibits spanning two centuries of oppression and injustice, as well as the hopeful fight toward equality. Located at the historic Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, the museum stands as hallowed ground. Through films, artifacts, timelines and interactive displays, guests walk through the grueling past that birthed freedom songs and continues to shape the journey still underway. More than a collection of mementos, the Museum connects human stories across generations joined in truth and reconciliation.
Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum
Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum exposes the cruel machinery behind American slavery from kidnapping to torture to auction within a 1830s home once owned by a notorious slave trader. The unassuming clapboard house harbored escape tunnels leading to the nearby Mississippi River, granting fugitive slaves a desperate chance at freedom. Standing in the cramped secret basement hideaways elicits visceral outrage and sorrow. As an aberration of human liberty, Slavehaven serves as sacred soil for bearing witness to unspeakable crimes etched into the backbone of Memphis.
Rock N’ Soul Museum
The Rock N’ Soul Museum traces the musical roots and evolution of Memphis – from field hollers, gospel choirs, boogie woogie piano and delta blues to the soul and rock n’ roll innovations that catapulted Memphis artists to global airwaves. Interactive exhibits and an audio tour chronicle the stories of Soulsville U.S.A. and Sun Studio legends like Otis Redding, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash. For music lovers, the museum hits a high note as a shrine to the songs and struggles that turned Memphis into a cultural icon.
Blues Hall of Fame
Tucked away just off Beale Street lies the Blues Hall of Fame, an under-the-radar gem paying tribute to the legends and forgotten heroes behind America’s original musical art form. Through displays of instruments, clothing, silver record plaques and other memorabilia, the museum traces the roots and evolution of the blues from Southern fields to smoke-filled Chicago clubs to the world stage. For blues connoisseurs, this intimate collection of artifacts brings legends like B.B. King and Muddy Waters back to life, note by soul-stirring note.
Explore Memphis Outdoors
When you need a break from the bars and barbecue, Memphis’s parks and green spaces offer the perfect outdoor escape. Take a smooth cruise down the mighty Mississippi river while learning about the history of this vital waterway. Wander through the lush Memphis Botanic Garden and observe gorgeous blooms and seasonal plantings. Satisfy your urban wanderlust at the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, one of the nation’s largest urban parks, boasting lakes, wetlands, miles of trails. Or relax with a picnic surrounded by flowers and art installations at the Overton Park greenspace.
Top Outdoor Activities
Mississippi Riverboat cruise
Mississippi Riverboat cruises reveal the majesty and history of America’s most storied waterway from Memphis vibrant riverfront. Guests climb aboard old-fashioned paddlewheel boats and set sail down Ol’ Man River, gazing at sweeping views of the cityscape as captains detail centuries of commerce and culture shaped by the Mississippi’s currents. Sunset sightseeing rides pass under the Hernando de Soto bridge while live blues bands serenade the on-board party. For a unique vantage of Memphis, riverboat cruises capture lazy afternoons steeped in lore of the mighty Mississippi.
Memphis Botanic Garden
Located in the heart of Memphis, the Memphis Botanical Garden is a 96-acre haven of natural beauty. With diverse gardens like the fragrant Rose Garden, the tranquil Japanese Garden and the interactive My Big Backyard, it’s a place to explore for all ages. Home to a variety of plant species, it offers educational programs, workshops and seasonal events. Whether you are looking for a peaceful retreat or an educational outing, this garden is a green oasis where you can connect with nature and enjoy the serenity it offers in the midst of the bustling city.
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is a 4,500-acre urban park located in Memphis, Tennessee. It is one of the largest urban parks in the United States and offers a wide range of outdoor activities and natural beauty. Visitors can explore more than 40 miles of hiking and biking trails, paddle on crystal-clear lakes, enjoy picnics in scenic areas. The park also hosts events, educational programs, features a children’s play area, dog park, treetop adventure course. With it’s commitment to conservation and community involvement, Shelby Farms Park is a green space beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Offering a mix of nature, culture and recreation. This historic park features the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Zoo, the Memphis College of Art, making it a cultural center. Visitors can explore scenic trails, relax by the iconic Rainbow Lake, enjoy picnics amidst lush greenery. Overton Park hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, attracting locals and tourists alike. With it’s rich history and diverse attractions, it is a beloved destination for both relaxation and cultural enrichment.
Can’t Miss Memphis Experiences
Beyond the classic tourist attractions, make sure to immerse yourself in true local Memphis happenings. Shop for vinyl records on Record Store Day at Goner Records or Shangri-La Records, channeling Memphis’s musical heyday. See a movie at the historic Malco Summer Quartet Drive-In, captures 1950s Americana. For a kitschy experience, check out the lifesize replica of King Tut’s tomb at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. From diners and dive bars to neighborhood gems, veer off the beaten path for an authentic taste of Memphis weekend fun.
Unique Memphis Spots
Renowned independent record label and record store specializing in underground music. Founded in 1993, Goner Records has played a pivotal role in promoting punk rock, garage rock and underground music. The label has released albums by influential bands and artists, contributing to the preservation of alternative music culture. Their record store offers a wide selection of vinyl records, CDs and other music-related products. With a dedicated fan base and a commitment to supporting independent music, Goner Records continues to be a vital part of the global music landscape.
Iconic record store and independent label. Founded in 1988, it has become a legendary institution on the local and national music scene. Not only is Shangri-La a haven for vinyl enthusiasts, offering an eclectic selection of records spanning multiple genres, but it also operates as a record label, releasing albums from both emerging and established artists. With it’s rich history, commitment to music culture, dedication to showcasing diverse talent, Shangri-La Records continues to be a vibrant and essential part of the music community in Memphis and beyond.
Malco Summer Quartet Drive-In
It has a distinctive appeal that transcends the ordinary experience of going to the movies. Since it’s creation in 1966, this outdoor paradise remains a steadfast monument to nostalgia and entertainment. With colossal screens under the starry night sky, it invites movie enthusiasts to enjoy the latest blockbusters, timeless classics and special events in a unique setting. Complete with traditional concession delights, this drive-in not only delivers cinematic wonders but also etches a timeless charm into the hearts of patrons, preserving an authentic slice of Memphis cultural fabric.
Memphis Pink Palace Museum’s King Tut Exhibit
Extraordinary journey through time and civilization. This incomparable exhibition, organized at the Pink Palace since 1977, transports visitors to the heart of the rich history and treasures of ancient Egypt. Like no other, this exhibit reveals the grandeur of King Tut’s tomb, featuring meticulously recreated artifacts and the mesmerizing splendor of a bygone era. As you wander through the exhibition halls, you will immerse yourself in the mystique and allure of the pharaoh’s reign, an experience that transcends simple museum visits and offers a unique insight into the enigmatic world of King Tut.
Lodging for Every Style
With it’s diversity of neighborhoods and range of accommodations, Memphis has lodging options to suit any weekend style and budget.
The historic Peabody Hotel on Union Avenue places you downtown in a lavish, 1920s era property, just steps from Beale Street’s famed entertainment. For boutique stays, Reserve at the Madison or Hu Hotel Memphis capture modern Southern sophistication in their sleek decor and rooftop bars. The Westin Memphis Beale Street provides refined elegance blended with delta culture.
In hip midtown, the Holiday Inn Memphis offers value along with walkable access to shops and eats. For homey charm, book a room at Memphian Hotel or Copy Cat Chateau B&B, housed in a historic mansion. If you prefer an apartment-style stay, Airbnbs and rental properties abound in central neighborhoods like Cooper-Young, allowing you to live like a local.
With hotels spanning the style and price spectrum, everyone can rest easy between weekend adventures.
Getting Around Made Simple
Memphis’s manageable size and layout makes getting around a breeze. The trolley system offers a vintage way to explore key sites downtown and in midtown at an affordable fare. Rideshare services like Lyft operate efficiently across town. Walking and biking are great options for neighborhood wandering and short trips between downtown destinations.
If you want to cruise like a local, GoCars street legal golf carts are a goofy, GPS-guided alternative for little-to-no traffic sightseeing. To guide your navigation, helpful visitor centers are stationed downtown and midtown, armed with maps and insider tips.
With this mix of transportation choices at your fingertips, jaunting between world class barbecue, museums, live tunes will be smooth sailing all weekend long.
Find Your Fun
if reliving blues history on Beale Street, strolling sculpture gardens or sweating over dry rub ribs, memorable experiences await in this vibrant Southern crossroads. Plot your weekend around can’t miss attractions, uncover unexpected gems off the main drag, soak up that distinctly Memphis atmosphere. With an open agenda and a taste for adventure, an unforgettable weekend in the Home of the Blues is calling your name. Let the good times roll!
Finalizing Your Memphis Itinerary
A weekend getaway to Memphis delivers a vibrant blend of music, culture, culinary indulgence unique to this authentic Southern city. From the neon lights of Beale Street to the haunting history of the Lorraine Motel, Memphis imparts it’s stories through sound and taste.
Beyond the textbook tourist stops, take time to stray from the beaten path. Wander tree-lined neighborhoods, chat with locals in diners, soak up the pace of life here. Seek out record stores, kitschy museums, street art murals, live music holes-in-the-wall. Follow strands of Memphis’s musical DNA woven into dive bars and front porches, into public parks and street performers strumming the afternoon away.
Come with an open agenda – this is no ordinary urban escape of conference centers and big box brands, but rather a gateway into America’s eccentric history, conflicted past, song-steeped soil. Put aside preconceptions, embrace detours, prepare your senses. A weekend in Memphis awaits with some of the country’s richest culture…and barbecue. Just follow your feet and flavor cravings – they’ll serve you well.