If you are anything like me, and love you some jazz, then the home of the blues, soul and rock n' roll, Memphis, should be at the top of your bucket list! Being a writer who loves to travel, I'm constantly looking for places where I can be inspired and relax in the same swoop. Memphis was it!
I got a chance to spend a weekend there and it was absolutely amazing. I learned a lot and ate too much. The culture and history is truly filled with inspiration.
There is so much history down on Beale Street you will love it! It wasn’t always a tourist area but instead the heart of black culture that brought our people together which is a bitter sweet. It once was a thriving street filled with black owned businesses in the 50s but now not so much. I would really recommend you visiting some of the local museums that are either on or near Beale to find out more about the culture and the history of Memphis.
My favorite museums that I visited; the Rock n Soul Museum. I learned so much about the history in the short tour. My fav fun fact was about WDIA radio station having the first black announcer. It was white owned and the black staff weren't allowed to touch any of the knobs. However when the owners would walk out they would touch the knobs anyway. If you go you can also get a peak at Ike Turner's first piano, what a hand-crank record player looks like and the red jacket of Dewey Phillips who was the first to play Elvis on the radio.
Not too far away, we also visited the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. It was small but we got to see a lot! The new interactive museum had memorabilia from legends like Isaac Hayes and B.B. King.
There even was a display for the Negro classic of Hustle and Flow with the hoodie of Three Six Mafia who wrote the famous song "Hard Out Here For A Pimp." There you will also be able to view their Grammy for the lyrics for Most Original Song.
We got to do a little bit of shopping on Beale after visiting the museums. My wife even got me a childhood toy, a Raggedy Ann Doll, from a neat little shop called A. Schwab. They had all the classics in there including those fake candy cigarettes that my wife insisted on getting. If you really want to get back to your roots let this be a stop on your list!
We planned to visit the Lorriane Motel National Civil Rights Museum where Dr. Martin L. King Jr. was shot and murdered in 1968 in front of room 306. But once we arrived, we got to meet and extraordinary woman, Jacqueline Smith, and decided that was not the place for us. Ms. Smith was the last person to ever stay at the motel before it was converted into a museum. She has been a one woman protest for well over 30 years (longer then I've been alive) because she believes our culture is being robbed. The profits from the memorial do not go back into our community but into the pockets of the other man.
"Mrs. King didn't want this. That's not even the same furniture in there. She took it out after he died. She wanted her husband to rest in peace. But instead, our community is being hurt and they aren't trying to help. Just trying to line their pockets." If you get a chance to go, I encourage you to speak with her on the corner of Butler and Mulberry Street before going in. She may change your mind, too.
Instead of the old fashion walking around to tour we did the new school thing: we rode scooters! Bird Scooters are in 100 plus cities all over the US and it is such a cool way to get around. You just download the app, put in your info, and find a random scooter just sitting or laying around on a corner. It really is inexpensive and they are electric. So if its hot you can get a cool little breeze zooming through the streets.
During the night, we got to enjoy some really good live music at B.B. Kings down on Beale while sipping on a nice cold Ghost River Golden Ale.
We also grabbed a tasty drink called Pink Panties at the outside bar called The Historical Daisy that is also on Beale Street. Right down the road there was a night clubbed called Peoples Pineapple. We didn’t actually go in because all of the people were enjoying the music and dancing (more twerking then anything) right there in the street.
Our absolute favorite spot there had to be the Jerry Lee Lewis Bar on Beale. Their drinks were strong and the music was great! Get there early as the lines do get really long and you want to secure a table on the balcony like we did. We got one in the corner and was able to people watch those below along with being able to see a bartender do some cartwheels on the dance floor before it got to crowded. Getting there early also avoids a cover charge of some $10-$20 a head.
Our last stop before heading home was the Memphis Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. It really is a cool place to visit. There is a lot in there and something for just about everyone when it comes to sports shopping. You can even find some cool looking fish and some gators in the massive indoor river. After walking around we took a long ride up to the top of the Pyramid using the tallest free-standing elevator in America to a fancy restaurant where we got some great food and some tasty drinks. After, we stepped outside to witness some of the most beautiful views in Memphis.
Two days in Memphis is never enough but we did enjoy ourselves! I can't wait to go back and do it again! If you are more of a big city kind of person, take a peek at Empire State of Mind: The Best Places to Visit in NYC to see some of the cool places i call my favorites when visisting the Big Apple.
Do you know of great spots to visit in Memphis? Share in the comments below!
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