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Memphis Vacation Ideas for Planning an Itinerary

Memphis rises from the Chickasaw Bluffs, on the Mississippi River’s eastern banks. Tennessee’s second-largest city is the perfect vacation destination for music fans, barbeque lovers, and history buffs. The number-one attraction in Memphis is undoubtedly Graceland, the former mansion and estate of the biggest recording star of all time, Elvis Presley. Another Memphis attraction not to be missed is the National Civil Rights Museum, where you can peer into the actual room where Dr Martin Luther King spent his final night before his 1968 assassination. Check out our trip planner, which lifts the lid on best places to visit in Memphis and links to some amazing footage from our Memphis Vacation Travel Guide video.

Ideas of places to visit in Memphis

While Graceland and The National Civil Rights Museum are the main draws for vacationers, visitors will find plenty of other cool things to do in Memphis. From the buzzing blues bars of Beale Street, to the smoky aroma of Southern barbeque you’ll find no shortage of attractions to fill your Memphis itinerary.

The Cotton Museum Memphis Tennessee

The Cotton Museum

(1:12 in the video) Start your vacation to Memphis with a history lesson by walking the trading floor of the former Memphis Cotton Exchange. The museum is packed with fascinating exhibits which chart the incredible impact the cotton trade had on the city’s economy and social fabric.

The National Civil Rights Museum - Memphis, Tennessee

The National Civil Rights Museum

(1:32 in the video) No visit to Memphis is complete without spending a few hours at one of the USA’s most important museums, the National Civil Rights Museum. From the slavers’ chains of the plantation era to the 1961 Freedom Rides, from the march to Washington to the Black Lives Matter movement of today, the museum is an often gut-wrenching journey through the African American experience. The museum is built around The Lorraine Motel, where Dr Martin Luther King spent his final hours before being gunned down on the balcony of Room 306.

Mason Temple - Memphis, Tennessee

Mason Temple

(2:29 in the video) Another important Civil Rights attraction to add to your Memphis itinerary is Mason Temple. It was at this church, the night before he was slain, where Dr Martin Luther King delivered his last speech, “I’ve been to the mountaintop”.

Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

(2:59 in the video) A trip to Memphis will show you that in this city, history and music go hand in hand. It was the hard times that gave the city some of its most empowering and unifying songs. Pay a visit to the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and trace the city’s incredible musical evolution, from plantation songs to blues, from rock ‘n’ roll to soul.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music Memphis

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

(3:33 in the video) Music lovers should put the former Stax studio at the top of their Memphis itinerary. Otis Reading, Wilson Picket and Booker T and the MGs recorded many of their hits here, helping make Memphis the epicenter of soul music for much of the 1960s. Pride of place in this popular Memphis museum is Issac Haye’s Super Fly Cadillac El Dorado.

Sun Studios Memphis Tennessee

Sun Studios

(4:12 in the video) Take a tour of Sun Studios, one of America’s most hallowed music attractions. Step up to the microphone where legends like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their early hits, and where Elvis Presley was first launched on his journey towards superstardom.

Graceland Memphis Tennessee


(4:27 in the video) The most famous visitor attraction in Memphis is Graceland. Three years after recording his first hit at Sun Studios, Elvis purchased this sprawling mansion and estate on the outskirts of Memphis, which today is the second most visited residence in the USA after the White House. Take a tour of the mansion then stop by the Meditation Garden, the final resting place of Elvis and his parents.

Elvis Presley's Memphis

Elvis Presley’s Memphis

(4:56 in the video) While Graceland is very much a place of quiet reflection for Elvis fans, just across the road at Elvis Presley’s Memphis the mood takes on a joyous tone. When planning a trip to Memphis, set aside a few hours to explore the endless exhibits which celebrate the life and times of the greatest recording artist of all time. Marvel at the astonishing collection of gold records, costumes, movie memorabilia and automobiles, then finish your visit with a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich in the TCB Dining Hall.

Memphis Barbeque and Fried Chicken

Memphis Barbeque and Fried Chicken

(5:30 in the video) Memphis is home to some of the best Southern-style barbeque and soul food in the USA, so allow plenty of space in your vacation itinerary to sample the most popular restaurants in Memphis. At the top of every visitor’s list should be Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous, which dishes up over 5 tonnes of charcoal-fired, Memphis dry-rubbed ribs every week! Don’t miss the lip smackin’ goodness of Gus’s World-Famous Fried Chicken.

Old Dominick Distillery Memphis Tennessee

Old Dominick Distillery

(6:39 in the video) Take a tour of Old Dominick Distillery, which has been crafting fine Bourbon and Tennessee Toddy since the 1800s. Afterwards, sit back and enjoy a few samples while taking in the best views of downtown Memphis from the rooftop bar.

Beale Street Landing Memphis Tennessee

Beale Street Landing

(7:04 in the video) If you’re looking for free things to do in Memphis, head down to Beale Street Landing and soak up the last warm rays of the sun as it sets across the timeless Mississippi. The view from here is better than free, it’s priceless!


Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

Beale Street

(7:18 in the video) After sundown, Beale Street lights up in all its neon and blue-soaked glory. Every Memphis trip planner should include an evening here. Join music lovers in one of the World’s most iconic music streets, and feast on a banquet of blues, rock and soul until 3 am.

Need more Memphis vacation ideas?

We hope you enjoyed these ideas for getting the most from your next Memphis vacation. Don’t forget to check out our images from Memphis to see all the other great attractions that we couldn’t squeeze into our video, such as the Memphis Zoo, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the famous Peabody Ducks.

Why limit yourself to just one destination? Browse the images in our global photo gallery for even more vacation inspiration. We also have hundreds of other Vacation Travel Guide videos from all around the world; so be sure to subscribe to Expedia’s YouTube channel today.

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This article was originally published on November 13, 2019. If you’d like to stay updated on new videos of the beautiful destinations that our planet has to offer, subscribe to Expedia’s YouTube channel.

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