What to Do

The National Civil Rights Museum


Located at the historic Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, this fabulous museum follows the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Not to be missed.

The National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 521-9699

Sun Studio


The birthplace of rock n’ roll. See where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their first hits.


The guides love to show you around and talk all about music history. The first rock n’ roll record, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston, was recorded here in March, 1951.
Sun Studio
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38103
Phone: 800-441-6249

Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
Welcome to the birthplace of soul music. This completely cool museum walks you through the history of Stax Records and their roster of stars like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, and many more.

Don’t miss the wall of hit records and Isaac Hayes’ gold-trimmed
1972 Cadillac Eldorado.
Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
926 E. McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106
Phone: (901) 942-7685


Sure it’s tacky and overpriced but you have to go to see how Elvis lived.  This is his Jungle Room with its Polynesian influence and green shag carpet on the floor and the ceiling. A hunka hunka!


Pay the extra fee to see The King’s extensive car and airplane collection. He used to give away Cadillacs like this.
3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38116
Phone: +1 901-332-3322

Main Street Trolley


At a dollar per ride, it’s a fun way to get around downtown and it passes by the Mississippi River for superb views. They rattle and clatter, and aren’t very fast–but everybody loves them. See trolley highlights by Paul Donovan:

Memphis Area Transit Authority
Route and Schedule Information: (901) 274-6282
Trolley: (901) 577-2640

If you are totally into trains, check out the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum, a volunteer-run group dedicated to rail in Memphis.

photo by Katherine of Chicago, Flickr
photo by Katherine of Chicago, Flickr

Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum
Central Station, 545 South Main Street, Suite 121, Memphis, TN

Gibson Guitar Factory

photo by Patrick from Parka Avenue, Flickr
photo by Patrick from Parka Avenue, Flickr

Even if you’re not a guitar geek, take an informative tour of the factory as they turn out hand-crafted Gibson guitars, from Les Pauls to the Firebird X. Security is high so don’t try to snap pictures like this without permission.

photo by Bones77sm, Flickr
photo by Bones77sm, Flickr

This short video from zZounds.com shows how they are made:

Gibson Guitar Factory
145 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 544-7998

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
Located at the modest home of the Burkle family who helped slaves escape to freedom to the northern states and Canada. Even though the small museum is often full of school kids on field trips, the guides have inspiring stories for everyone.  The place has hidden trap doors and secret tunnels used to shelter the escapees.

photo by tennesseevacation, Flickr
photo by tennesseevacation, Flickr

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
826 North Second Street, Memphis, TN 38173
Phone: (901) 527-3227

The Cotton Museum
Founded in 2006, this museum relates the history of cotton and its important role in the economy of the Mid-South. Films and displays show you how the commodity became “King Cotton.” The main exhibit is located on the trading floor of the old Memphis Cotton Exchange building.
The Cotton Museum
65 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 531-7826

The Memphis Riverboat Tour
An entertaining steamship ride along the Mississippi, taking you back to a time when riverboats ruled the waterways. The guides have humorous stories that make local history come alive. Plus, you get some impressive views of the city along the way.
Memphis Riverboat Tour
251 South Riverside Drive, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2628

The Withers Collection Museum Gallery

photo by Redfern Photo Archive, Flickr
photo by Redfern Photo Archive, Flickr

Located right on Beale Street, the photo museum features a display of African-American photographer Ernest C. Withers who documented the history and culture of Memphis.

Rosalind Withers is the trustee of her father’s life work and she has a wealth of stories about her dad covering segregation issues, Negro League baseball, and the local blues scene.

photo by Pan African News Wire File Photos
photo by Pan African News Wire File Photos

The Withers Collection Museum Gallery
333 Beale Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 523-2344

Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum

photo by Eridony, Flickr
photo by Eridony, Flickr

Near FedEx Forum, this museum covers the highlights of blues, soul, and rock ‘n roll–all forms of music with roots in Memphis. In addition to traditional museum displays, you can now grab an MP3 audio guide and a map to take the Historic Walking Tour of Beale Street.

photo by otacon4130, Flickr
photo by otacon4130, Flickr

Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum
191 Beale Street, Suite 100, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 205-2533

The Center for Southern Folklore
This non-profit organization showcases unique gifts, music, and works of art from Southern artists. When you’re done shopping,  stay for coffee and Miss Ella’s peach cobbler. Located downtown at the Peabody Place trolley stop.
The Center for Southern Folklore
123 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3655


Memphis Music

Beale Street

photo by mrbrent62, Flickr
photo by mrbrent62, Flickr

Birthplace of the blues. Touristy and bustling with people but there’s still good music there.   Walk around the small strip of bars and restaurants for the neon and party atmosphere alone. When you hear a band you like, pop in for a drink or two. The clubs feature blues, of course, but you may also hear soul, R & B, rock, country, and rockabilly played on Beale.

The Memphis Flyer

Many music clubs are located all around town not just on Beale Street so the best way to find out what’s going on is to pick up the free local entertainment weekly, The Memphis Flyer. http://www.memphisflyer.com/

Blues Music Awards

photo by JoTeri, Flickr
photo by JoTeri, Flickr

Sponsored by The Blues Foundation, the annual Blues Music Awards celebrate the best in blues music. It’s like the Academy Awards for great blues musicians! Leading up to the big night, many of the top artists are in town, playing in clubs and attending the ceremony.
The Blues Foundation
421 South Main, Memphis TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2583

International Blues Challenge

photo by BlairEvanBall, Flickr
photo by BlairEvanBall, Flickr

Hundreds of blues musicians come from all over the country and the world to take part in this annual five-day event, usually held in late January. Performers for the challenge are chosen by local blues societies to come to compete in three categories: Band, Solo/Duet, and Best Self-Produced CD–all for cash, prizes, and industry recognition.
The Blues Foundation
421 South Main, Memphis TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2583

Beale Street Music Festival

photo by ConcertTour, Flickr
photo by ConcertTour, Flickr

Part of the Memphis in May International Festival, this annual three-day event is held at Riverfront Park at the foot of Beale Street. There’s an emphasis on local musicians but the three outdoor stages showcase many national touring artists, too.
Memphis in May International Festival
56 South Front St, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone (901) 525-4611

Memphis Music and Heritage Festival

photo by memphissamiam1, Flickr
photo by memphissamiam1, Flickr

Usually held over the Labor Day weekend, this colorful festival takes place on Main Street in downtown Memphis.  For two days, a wide variety of cultures take to the streets with people enjoying local music of every kind–blues, gospel, rock, folk, country–along with cooking demonstrations and dance shows throughout the day.

Center for Southern Folklore

photo by joespake, Flickr
photo by joespake, Flickr

In addition to showcasing artists’ work, this gallery also hosts music events in the evenings.  There’s only about two dozen tables so it’s an intimate way to see up-and-coming and established artists in a casual setting. If it’s a freebie, be sure to throw a tip in the musician’s bucket or buy their CD.
The Center for Southern Folklore
123 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3655

The Full Gospel Tabernacle

photo by ConcertTour
photo by ConcertTour

Born in Arkansas in 1946, singer Al Green was ordained a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in the seventies.  This is where he still preaches and sings gospel when he’s in town.  Here’s a video of Rev. Green performing the classic “A Change is Gonna Come.”

The Full Gospel Tabernacle
787 Hale Road, Memphis, TN
Phone: 901-396 9192

Elvis Week

photo by John Dreyer, Flickr
photo by John Dreyer, Flickr

Elvis tribute artists converge at Graceland for the annual Elvis Week celebration in August. Festivities also include special tours, hip-shakin’ karaoke, movie screenings, and dance parties. Long live The King!

photo by marques.murilo, Flickr
photo by marques.murilo, Flickr

3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38116
Phone: +1 901-332-3322

WDIA Radio

photo by ilovememphis, Flickr
photo by ilovememphis, Flickr

While you’re in town, check out local radio. On the air since 1947, WDIA became the first radio station in America programming music entirely for African-Americans. B.B. King worked here as a disc jockey, and so did Rufus Thomas–two of the many black radio personalities the station hired over the years.

photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos

WDIA AM 1070
12 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3318

Where to Eat

photo by Robby Virus, Flickr
photo by Robby Virus, Flickr

Let’s face it–it’s tough to be a vegetarian and eat out in Memphis. Everywhere you go, there’s barbecued ribs and pulled pork with a side of ‘slaw and beans. Carnivore heaven! As a visitor to the city, these are some of the best to try:

photo by MartinsRide, Flickr
photo by MartinsRide, Flickr

The Rendezvous
52 South 2nd Street
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 523-2746
Down an alley but you will have no problem finding it–there’s a line-up outside and you can smell the place for blocks. This downtown landmark is always busy.

The BBQ Shop
1782 Madison Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
Phone: (901) 272-1277
Fall-off-the-bone ribs served with fabulous coleslaw and beans. Not far from Sun Records. You’ve gotta love the dancing pigs!

Corky’s Ribs and BBQ
5259 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, TN 38119
Phone: (901) 685-9744
Reputed to have the best pulled pork in Memphis. Delicious dry ribs, too, to die for.

A & R Barbecue
24 North Third Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 524-5242
Down home rib goodness–either wet or dry–that’s popular with locals. Located downtown near AutoZone baseball park, and also near Graceland.

The Four Way Restaurant
998 Mississippi Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38126
Phone (901) 507-1519
A Southern home-style restaurant that’s still a neighbourhood favourite for sweet potato pie, fried catfish, fried chicken, and peach cobbler. Near the Stax Museum.


Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
730 S Mendenhall Road
Memphis, TN 38117
Phone: (901) 767-2323
Who knew Southern fried chicken could taste this good at this bustling café. Wow! Near the Civil Rights Museum.

The Little Tea Shop
69 Monroe Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-6000
A busy downtown diner serving casual Southern soul food like fried chicken with turnip greens. Profiled on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Near the Cotton Museum.

Day Trips and Beyond

If you decide to go on a road trip from Memphis, these are some blues destinations well worth your time.

Delta Blues Museum

photo by SueReed99, Flickr
photo by SueReed99, Flickr

 About an hour’s drive south from Memphis, this homespun museum in Clarksdale covers important musicians from the Mississippi Delta like Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Charlie Musselwhite, and many more. They have some great displays and artifacts, including the remains of Muddy’s cabin from Stovall Farms where he lived as a sharecropper and tractor driver.
Delta Blues Museum
1 Blues Alley, Clarksdale, MS 38614
Phone: (662) 627-6820

Ground Zero Club

Also in Clarksdale, MS, the club owned by Morgan Freeman showcases modern blues musicians. You might see him when he’s between movies and back in his home town.

photo by exploreTeam, Flickr
photo by exploreTeam, Flickr

Ground Zero Club
252 Delta Ave, Clarksdale, MS 38614
Phone: +1 662-621-9009

Mississippi Blues Trail

If you are driving south to New Orleans, the two cities are about 800 miles apart. You can motor through Mississippi along the Blues Trail and see many historic blues landmarks and museums along the Mississippi Delta.

Along the Blues Trail, the impressive B.B. King Museum in Indianola, MS is a shrine for blues lovers.

photo by paintoutloud, Flickr
photo by paintoutloud, Flickr

Mississippi Blues Trail – MDA Tourism
P.O. Box 849, Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: (601) 359-3449

Memphis on Screen

If you want to know more about the history and culture of the area, these are helpful documentaries and movies:

Eyes on the Prize


Multi-part PBS documentary about the Civil Rights movement. Superb archive footage and insightful interviews. A must-see. Aired on public television in 1987 and was finally released on DVD in 2010.

Well-told drama about Martin Luther King Jr. (Jeffery Wright) leading the sanitation workers strike in Montgomery, Alabama. (2001.)

Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story


Music-filled documentary about the rise and fall of Stax Records and its important place in the history of American soul. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Highly recommended for the archive footage of all the big stars like Otis Redding, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, and many more! (2007.)

West of Memphis
Director Amy Berg’s documentary examines the West Memphis Three–teenagers who seemingly were falsely convicted for the murder of three little boys. (2012.)

Let Freedom Sing

Chronicles the power of music that helped move a generation during the Civil Rights Movement. Features 29 inspiring performances including Respect, Change Is Gonna Come, People Get Ready, Fight the Power, and What’s Going On.  (2009)

Elvis: Return to Tupelo

Features interviews with childhood friends, first girlfriends, and early bandmates to build a complete picture of the well-mannered Southern boy with a talent for singing.  It’s the story of Elvis’s dirt-poor upbringing in Tupelo, MS, his job as a Memphis truck driver with musical aspirations, and his rapid rise to stardom in 1956.  Even if you know a lot about Elvis, this documentary is still full of surprises. (Elvis was actually blonde!) (2008.)

Other movies filmed in Memphis and nearby:

21 Grams (2002)
3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)
The Angel Doll (2000)
Black Snake Moan (2007)
Cast Away (2000)
The Client (1994)
The Delta (1996)
Elizabethtown (2005)
Elvis (2005 TV Movie)
Elvis and Me (1988)
A Family Thing (1996)
Finding Graceland (1998)
The Firm (1993)
The Grace Card (2011)
The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (1992)
Forty Shades of Blue (2005)
Great Balls of Fire! (1988)
Heart of Dixie (1989)
Highway 61 (1991)
Hustle & Flow (2005)
Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989)
Making the Grade (1984)
Memphis (1992 TV Movie)
Memphis Beat (TV Series)
Memphis Belle (1990)
Mystery Train (1989)
Nothing But the Truth (2008)
A Painted House (2002)
The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
The Rainmaker (1997)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Soul Men (2008)
Take Me to the River (2014)
This is Elvis (1981)
Trespass (1991)
Tricks (2007)
Walk the Line (2005)

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has a complete list of movies filmed in Memphis:


Background and Resources


Memphis Travel

Memphis Travel – Mobile Apps

Memphis Magazine

ILoveMemphis Blog

Memphis History


National Civil Rights Museum

Unpublished MLK Assassination Photos


Memphis Trolley

Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum

Memphis Central Station

Gibson Guitars

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

The Cotton Museum

Steamboats of the Mississippi

Ernest C. Withers

Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum

The Orpheum Theatre

Center for Southern Folklore

Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission

Little Kids Rock

photo by micro43, Flickr
photo by micro43, Flickr

All-Music Guide – Blues

Memphis Blues

The Blues Foundation


Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie’s Blues

B.B. King

Al Green

Elvis51Elvis Presley

Sun Studio

Levitt Shell (Overton Park Shell)

Rocket 88

WDIA Radio


Wheelin’ on Beale: How WDIA-Memphis Became the Nation’s First All-Black Radio Station and Created the Sound that Changed America

The Stax Museum
photo by Kim, Flickr

Stax Records

Stax Records (Concord Music Group)

Stax at 50: A 50th Anniversary Celebration


photo by AOK Library and Gallery, UMBC
photo by AOK Library and Gallery, UMBC

Otis Redding

Booker T. & the M.G.’s

Staple Singers

Sam & Dave

Isaac Hayes

John Németh

The Bo-Keys

photo by sarah james, Flickr
photo by sarah james, Flickr

Hi Records (Official)

Hi Records

Hi Times: The Hi Records R & B Years


Big Star

Ardent Studios

A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man



Changing How the World Does Business: FedEx’s Incredible Journey to Success – The Inside Story

FedEx Delivers: How the World’s Leading Shipping Company Keeps Innovating and Outperforming the Competition

photo by Jack Delano, Wikimedia Commons

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

Jim Crow Stories: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggles

photo by Joseph, Flickr


National Train Day

Content Creation for Train Simulator 2014



Mississippi Blues Trail

Delta Blues Museum

Ground Zero Club

photo by Amy and Turgay, Flickr
photo by Amy and Turgay, Flickr