More important than neighborhoods in Memphis are the city's general divisions. These major divisions are how the city defines itself.
Downtown -- The oldest part of the city, downtown is constructed on the banks of the Mississippi River. After years of efforts toward revitalization, the area saw a boom in development about 10 years ago. However, the recent recession has been a setback, causing many of these new businesses to close. Still, there are scattered openings of new restaurants and shops, too. Beale Street remains the city's main entertainment district. Elsewhere downtown, interspersed with the vacant storefronts, are scores of great restaurants, night spots, and cultural attractions. Unchanged, however, are the breathtaking views of the Mississippi River.
Midtown -- This is primarily a residential area, though it's also known for its numerous hospitals, which are themselves collectively known as the Medical Center district. Though a far cry from bustling Beale Street, the Overton Square area -- once the city's top entertainment district -- isn't what it once was. Still, it's where the professional theater companies are located, and there are several excellent restaurants here, including Paulette's and the new Restaurant Iris. South of Overton Square, you'll find the proudly Bohemian Cooper-Young neighborhood -- basically a single intersection with trendy eateries, coffeehouses, and interesting boutiques. Midtown is also where you will find Overton Park, which envelops the Memphis Zoo and Aquarium, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the prestigious Memphis College of Art.
East Memphis -- Heading still farther east from downtown brings you to East Memphis, which lies roughly on either side of I-240 on the east side of the city. From downtown, take Poplar Avenue to get there. It's a maddeningly busy, narrow, and traffic-choked multilane corridor, but it's still the shortest distance between the two points. In East Memphis you'll find scads of malls and shopping centers, restaurants, office complexes, and a few high-rise hotels.
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