Memphis has a reputation for being a city with a rich musical heritage, but there are a ton of diverse things to do in Memphis. In addition to iconic music studios and music venues, you’ll also find museums, parks, restaurants, and other activities to enjoy.
As a resident of Tennessee, I’ve visited the second-largest Tennessee city many times, and I’m here to guide you to all the best things to do in Memphis. There’s something for everyone to enjoy – from the Memphis Zoo to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Let’s get started!
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30 Best Things to Do in Memphis
Visit the legendary music studio known as the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (901) 521-0664 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5:15 pm Sun-Thu, 10 am – 6:15 am Fri-Sat | Entrance: $15 adults, Discounts for youth and children | 👉 Browse Sun Studio Tours on Viator
Sun Studio is a legendary music recording studio in Memphis, and is even monikered the “Birthplace of Rock N’ Roll”. Countless artists have passed through the famed walls, but the studio is most well-known for recording the music of famous stars like Johnny Cash, B.B. King, and Howlin’ Wolf.
Fun Tennessee fact, this is the music studio where Elvis Presley first laid down tracks – and taking a tour of the studios will put you in the exact same spot he once stood. The tour includes a walk-through of the studios as well as access to the upstairs museum filled with one-of-a-kind memorabilia.
I was surprised by how small Sun Studio is, but the experience is worth it. Stop by early in the day to get your tickets though – this is one of the most popular things to do in Memphis and there are only a limited number of tickets available each day.
National Civil Rights Museum
Learn about the history of the civil rights movement in the United States.
The National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis is one of the most comprehensive civil rights institutions in the United States. The museum is built around the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
A visit to the National Civil Rights Museum follows the history of the movement from the 17th century to the present day. There is an abundance of information and artifacts along with multimedia and interactive displays.
Make sure to give yourself plenty of time during a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum. You’ll need around an hour and a half to see everything.
Hang out with the lions, tigers, and polar bears at this zoo that’s fun for the whole family.
The Memphis Zoo was founded over 100 years ago and is located in Overton Park. There are more than 500 different animal species for visitors to see at the Memphis Zoo including giraffes, sloths, leopards, and polar bears.
The zoo keepers give different talks throughout the day where you can learn more about the zoo’s animals and habitats. You can also check out the schedule to see when animal feedings are. The penguin feeding times are very popular!
The Memphis Zoo is fun for all ages, but it’s especially fun for families with children. For an additional price, children can go on the zoo train, ride the carousel, or play in the splash park.
The Arcade Restaurant
Try out Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich at the oldest cafe in Memphis.
Located on South Main Street, the Arcade Restaurant first opened in 1919 and is open seven days a week serving breakfast and lunch. The French toast and the sweet potato pancakes are two of the best breakfast options.
Elvis Presley was a fan of the Arcade and even had his own booth near the back that he sat in when he visited. His favorite peanut butter and banana sandwich is still on the menu, for those Elvis superfans in the house.
The restaurant was updated in the 1950s but still maintains that classic retro charm. It’s the perfect blend of modernity and nostalgia.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous
Find out what makes Memphis BBQ so special at this iconic Memphis spot.
No visit to Memphis is complete without trying Memphis BBQ, and Rendezvous in downtown Memphis is one of the most popular places to get it.
The Rendezvous, which is located in a basement, might look like a hole in the wall, but the ribs are an iconic Memphis dish. In fact, the dry rub that is associated with Memphis BBQ was first served in restaurants here.
It’s worth visiting Rendezvous for the friendly atmosphere even if you aren’t a huge fan of BBQ. There are one or two vegetarian options on the menu as well. You should also make sure to try out one of the pie tarts. The chocolate chess pie tart is my favorite!
Walk through the famous Jungle Room at the Memphis mansion owned by rock ‘n roll singer Elvis Presley.
One of the most popular things to do in Memphis is to see the Graceland mansion that belonged to Elvis Presley. Fans of the rock n’ roll star can see Presley’s home, his gold records, his jumpsuits, and his collection of classic cars and jet planes.
The home was extravagant for its time, although many of the features are somewhat more common today. Still, it’s worth a visit to see what’s essentially a time capsule of when 22-year-old Elvis Presley purchased Graceland.
Die-hard Elvis fans who want to see even more should book a day trip to Elvis’ hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. The trip includes transportation.
Watch the famous ducks walk down the red carpet at this elegant Memphis hotel.
The Peabody Hotel is an upscale hotel that’s best known for its feathered residents. Every day, the famous Mallard ducks march to and from their home on the top of the hotel to a fountain inside.
Families with children, in particular, will love seeing the ducks walk along the red carpet during the Peabody Duck March. Led by the Duckmaster, the Duck March takes place once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
The Peabody Deli has fun duck-shaped desserts as well as other great food. Not to mention, the hotel is currently the only place in Memphis where you can have traditional English afternoon tea. The Peabody is conveniently located near many of the downtown attractions in Memphis.
Explore the restaurants and shops in this cool urban space.
Housed in a former Sears distribution center, Crosstown Concourse is a unique space for the community to enjoy restaurants, entertainment, and shopping.
You can stop by to eat at one of the great restaurants or grab a fun treat like gelato or gourmet popcorn. Abner’s is one of my favorite places to get fried chicken.
Crosstown Concourse is also a good place to check out Memphis’s art and entertainment scene. The complex has a theater, a listening room, and art exhibitions. Check out the event schedule to see if there’s something that interests you during your Memphis visit.
Muddy’s Bake Shop
Sip on a cup of coffee, eat a cupcake, or a taking a baking class at this cozy bakery.
Muddy’s Bake Shop is the place to go in Memphis if you are looking for a sweet treat. Muddy’s Bake Shop serves everything including adorable cupcakes, cookies, cakes, pies, and quiche.
I first went to Muddy’s Bake Shop to try out their Plain Jane cupcakes about a year after they first opened, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
The brightly decorated shop is a great place to sit for a few minutes while you sip coffee and enjoy a cookie. Muddy’s also offers different baking classes on a frequent basis. Spending the morning learning to bake scones or cupcakes is a great activity whether you’re traveling solo or with a group.
Shelby Farms Park
Bike, hike, and see the buffalo at one of the largest urban parks in the United States.
Shelby Farms Park is perfect for when you want to get outdoors without having to go far. Located right in Memphis, the 4500-acre park has 40 miles of trails for cycling and walking, multiple areas for fishing, and even a water splash pad for kids.
Adventurous visitors can try out the ziplines, and there’s also an area for paintball and laser tag. One of the most popular features at Shelby Farms Park is the herd of buffalo. Around 15 buffalo live on a 50-acre range in the park.
A visit to Shelby Farms Park is one of the best things to do in Memphis when the weather is nice.
Walk along the most famous street in Memphis.
Beale Street has played an integral role in the development of Memphis as well as the development of blues music.
Today the historic street is filled with restaurants, shops, and nightlife. A number of celebrations and festivals take place throughout the year on Beale Street including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Holly Jolly Holiday Celebration.
Beale Street is relatively empty during the day, but is much busier at night, especially on the weekends.
Memphis Sites & Attractions
Memphis Botanic Garden
Soak up the scenery and the peaceful atmosphere at this beautiful collection of gardens.
Located in Audobon Park, the Memphis Botanic Garden is a nearly 100-acre botanic garden that’s open year-round. The Memphis Botanic Gardens include 30 different gardens, an arboretum, and an art and sculpture collection.
There’s something for everyone to enjoy here, from the Formal Gardens to the Urban Home Gardens. For families, the My Big Backyard area has games, a play area, and other fun activities for kids.
Be aware that, while some areas are shaded, the Memphis Botanic Gardens can be hot during the middle of the summer. To stave off the heat, I recommend visiting the gardens during summer extended hours, or time your Tennessee visit around the summer.
Evenings are much cooler, and there are often food trucks to enjoy.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame
See cool pop culture artifacts like one of Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits and a Cadillac owned by Jerry Lee Lewis.
No visit to Memphis is complete without learning about the city’s musical heritage, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame is the perfect place to do this.
Honoring notable Memphis musicians, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame museum is small, but it’s just the right size to be interesting without being overwhelming. The museum’s collection includes items like one of Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits and a Cadillac owned by Jerry Lee Lewis.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is located on Beale Street, and it’s a good place to stop during the day when other attractions on Beale Street aren’t open yet.
Overton Park Shell
Catch a show at the historic stage where the first ever rock ‘n roll show took place.
The Overton Park Shell was constructed in 1936 and is one of the few remaining bandshells built during the Great Depression by the WPA. In 1954, the Shell was the site of Elvis Presley’s first public performance when he opened for Slim Whitman.
The Overton Park Shell is still used for events today, and a free concert series takes place during the summer and fall. Catching a show at the open-air amphitheater is one of the best things to do in Memphis if you want to enjoy a fun, relaxed atmosphere with great entertainment.
Stax Museum of American Soul
Show off your moves on the dance floor at this interactive museum featuring the hit music label.
Stax Records produced an impressive number of Pop and R&B chart-topper hits. The Stax Museum of American Soul chronicles the connected history of the record label and the explosive popularity of American soul music.
The Stax Museum of American Soul traces the history of soul music beginning with its roots in Southern gospel music. The museum has interactive exhibits like a dance floor as well as one-of-a-kind artifacts including Isaac Hayes’ custom Cadillac.
You’ll be surprised by how many artists and songs you recognize even if you don’t think you’re a huge fan of soul music.
B.B. King Blues Club
Listen to live music while enjoying a meal at the iconic Blues Club on Beale Street.
Since opening in 1991, the B.B. King Blues Club has been a popular place for both locals and visitors to enjoy eating good food and listening to great live music. You’ll hear blues music, soul, or rock ‘n roll depending on who’s playing during your visit.
The atmosphere is a lot of fun, and the food is good, too. The menu has hearty Southern favorites including burgers, poboys, and shrimp and grits.
Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum
Discover how Memphis music had an impact on music around the world.
The Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum is another popular museum in Memphis for music lovers. The Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum guides visitors through Memphis’ role in creating popular music beginning in the 1930s.
The city is known as the birthplace of rock ‘n roll as well as soul, so there’s plenty to see in the museum. You’ll learn about the music culture in rural areas and why musicians were drawn to Memphis. You’ll also learn how music was intertwined with the social and political changes taking place during the 1950s and 1960s.
Attend a show or other event at this grand historic theater in downtown Memphis.
Located on the corner of South Main and Beale Street, the Orpheum Theatre was originally an opulent opera house. The first building burned down but was replaced by a newer and equally-ornate theater.
Over the years, the Orpheum Theatre has hosted many different shows and programs. Today, the Orpheum Theatre is the place to see Broadway shows, dance performances, and concerts in Memphis.
For fans of the paranormal, you’ll learn about the many ghosts in the Orpheum Theatre if you book a Memphis ghost tour.
A. Schwab Trading Company
Shop til you drop at this business that carries an eclectic mix of goods, from candy to ukuleles.
Located on Beale Street, A. Schwab Trading Company is a variety store selling an unusual assortment of items. Abraham Schwab first opened a store selling boots and shoes in 1876.
After a few years, the store expanded to sell household goods and continues to sell old-fashioned goods today. The family-owned store also now stocks items that appeal to tourists, such as souvenir magnets.
Food & Drink Activities in Memphis
Jerry’s Snow Cones
Try a snow cone at a beloved local spot that’s been around since the 1960s.
Jerry’s Snow Cones might not look impressive from the outside, but the bright pink shack has been serving Memphis locals snow cones, burgers, and other fast food for years. Tigers Blood is one of the most popular flavors.
You can also get other food like pretzels, sandwiches, and funnel cakes. Jerry’s Snow Cones stays open year-round. During the busiest times, the wait can be long, so don’t be surprised if you see a line.
Old Dominick Distillery
Sample the Tennessee whisky at this world-class distillery right in the middle of Memphis.
There are a few places in Tennesee known for their spirits. But for bourbon and whisky fans, it’s worth adding a stop at Old Dominick Distillery to your Memphis itinerary. At Old Dominick Distillery, you can take a tour of the facility, try out cocktails and spirits at the bar, or bring home a bottle from the store.
Old Dominick Distillery also has a rooftop bar where you can enjoy views of Memphis while you have a drink. Besides bourbon, Old Dominick Distillery produces gin and vodka with bottle labels so beautiful you’ll be tempted to put them on display.
Start off your day with what is possibly the best biscuit in Memphis.
Getting breakfast at Sunrise Memphis is one of the best things to do in Memphis in the mornings. The colorful cafe is an incredibly popular spot, especially on the weekends.
The breakfast menu includes a wide range of biscuit sandwiches as well as pancakes, French toast, and other common breakfast foods. While everything on the menu is good, you absolutely need to try a biscuit. Sunrise Memphis also has a lunch menu beginning at 10 am.
Beck & Call
Sip on a classic cocktail while enjoying a beautiful view of the Mississippi River.
Located on the rooftop of the Hyatt Centric One Beale, Beck & Call is a cool cocktail bar with a view over the Mississippi River. The atmosphere is both elegant and fun. Beck & Call is a great spot to watch the sunset in the evenings and they even have live music and a fire pit on select nights.
With an address on Beale Street, Beck & Call is a great place to either begin or wrap up your evening.
Sample a little bit of everything on the menu at this trendy downtown spot.
Ibis Memphis is one of the coolest dining spots in Memphis based on atmosphere alone. The entire restaurant manages to feel elegant while still being fun and quirky.
While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, the loaded fries and the truffle fries are both particularly good. For dessert, the chocolate salty balls are amazing. And, of course, the cocktails are great as well.
Ibis Memphis is the perfect place for a date or to grab a couple of drinks with friends.
Family & Fun Things to Do in Memphis
Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum
Basketball fans, this is your chance to attend a game with the best fans in the NBA.
Seeing the Memphis Grizzlies play at the FedEx Forum is one of the best things to do in Memphis for basketball fans and families. The Memphis Grizzlies have had some outstanding years and some less-than-stellar years, but the crowd’s energy is always good.
Besides hosting the Memphis Grizzlies, FedExForum also hosts concerts and other events. Check out the schedule to see what’s going on when you plan to visit Memphis.
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
Shop at one of the largest retail stores in the world located in a distinctly unique building.
The Bass Pro Shop at the Memphis Pyramid is one of the most unexpected things you’ll find in Memphis. The Memphis Pyramid opened in 1991 and is the 10th tallest pyramid in the world. It was inspired by the city’s Egyptian namesake.
The Memphis Pyramid was originally used as a sports and events venue. Now the 32-story pyramid is home to a giant Bass Pro Shop. Besides hunting and sports specialty shops, you’ll find a bowling alley, a museum, and an indoor cypress swamp complete with alligators and ducks.
You can even book a room at the Big Cypress Lodge if you want to stay overnight. There’s so much going on here that you need to see the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid at least once.
Children’s Museum of Memphis
Kids love this museum’s fun interactive exhibits that range from outdoor gardens to aerodynamic experiments.
The Children’s Museum of Memphis is a place for families to create fun memories together. Located in Midtown, the Children’s Museum of Memphis has hands-on, interactive exhibits that children love.
Kids can enjoy all kinds of activities from playing in the bubble garden to conducting aerodynamic experiments using scarfs and balls. The Children’s Museum of Memphis is educational, but for kids, everything just seems like fun.
Weekdays are typically less crowded than weekends. Most of the exhibits are designed to appeal to children ages 2-10.
Explore Memphis on one of the restored vintage trolleys.
One option for getting around Memphis is the trolley line. Right now, Main Street has restored rail vintage trolleys that run every 12 minutes on the Main Street Rail Line. It’s an effective way of getting to different Memphis attractions quickly, and the interiors of the restored trolleys are fun to see.
There are two other trolley routes in Memphis: the Riverfront Line and the Madison Line. However, these don’t use rail vintage trolleys and the trolleys run on a less frequent schedule. The trolley rides are still useful for getting around though.
Tom Lee Park
Enjoy a view of the Mississippi River from this popular local park.
Tom Lee Park is a popular local park that runs along the Mississippi River near downtown. The park has recently been revamped and will be reopening soon.
For kids, Tom Lee Park has a unique river-themed playground with features like a giant salamander and a jungle gym shaped like an otter. Nature lovers will enjoy the native plants and trees that are featured in the park.
It’s possible to walk to Tom Lee Park from downtown, so it’s a great outdoor escape for both locals and visitors.
Browse the books at this adorable bookstore on the east side of Memphis.
Located in the Laurelwood Shopping Center, Novel is a local, independent bookstore. Novel has a wide selection that will appeal to most readers, and the staff offers great recommendations. Besides books, you’ll also find games and gifts at the store.
Novel has story times for children throughout the week as well as other book-related events for adults. For those looking for an excuse to spend as much time as possible in the bookstore, you can even have lunch or dinner at Restaurant Iris which is located in the same space as Novel.
FAQs about What to Do in Memphis
Is Beale Street in Memphis worth visiting?
Beale Street is the most iconic street in Memphis and is worth visiting for all the historic events that happened there. The street is busiest in the evenings and on weekends, but there are restaurants and museums open during weekdays as well.
What is Memphis known for?
What is the famous street in downtown Memphis?
The famous street in downtown Memphis is Beale Street. Beale Street has been an important site for music and culture in Memphis for years. Today, you’ll find spots like B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street.
That’s it for the best things to do in Memphis! Check out my comparison of Memphis vs. Nashville if you’re still in the process of planning your Tennessee trip.
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