Just as in Nashville, music is the heart of Memphis, and many of the city's main attractions are related to its musical heritage. The blues first gained widespread recognition here on Beale Street, and rock 'n' roll was born at Sun Studio. W. C. Handy, the father of the blues, lived here for many years, and Elvis Presley made his Memphis home -- Graceland (pictured above) -- a household word. The history of the Memphis sound comes alive in multiple museums around the city, and each one offers its own unique spin.

For most, Beale Street will be the best place to start exploring. Although the blues was born down in the Mississippi Delta, it was on Beale Street that this soulful music first reached the urban audience that would catapult it to fame. Today Beale Street is one of Memphis’ busiest entertainment districts, where visitors can hear blues, jazz, country, and rock music. But before Memphis helped launch the latter, it also played a crucial role in the city’s other truly beloved format: soul music. In the 1960s, Isaac Hayes and Booker T. and the M.G.’s recorded here at Stax Studio, and other musicians kicked off careers from Memphis as well, including Muddy Waters, Albert King, Al Green, Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, The Supremes, The Staples Singers, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and the Box Tops. If you don’t know many of the names on that list, rest assured you know their songs: From Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’” to Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” to The Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” you’ve tapped a toe to more than you think. Below are local sites music fans won’t want to miss. 

Fot your daytime touring needs, there is the venerated yet spare Sun Studio, the Rock 'n Soul Museum, and Graceland to get you started. Be sure to couple that with cultural and/or outdoor experiences like the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Zoo, or Children’s Museum of Memphis to get the full experience.

Whatever you do, take some time to see the river. Downtown has always been the heart of the city, and you only have to stand on the banks of the Mississippi for a moment to understand why. While there are pockets of Memphis that are arguably cooler, every Memphian knows there’s something about the wind coming off the river that will get you every time.

Important Tip -- If you’re going to run the table on Memphis’ music attractions, the $105 “Backstage Pass” is a no-brainer. You can save 20% (about $26) by purchasing a pass to four attractions at once: Graceland, Sun Studio, Stax Museum, and the Rock 'n’ Soul Museum. The pass can only be purchased at the Rock 'n’ Soul Museum, and it’s an excellent value for people who want to see Graceland because this includes the mansion tour (and all the other fun stuff there) and then three other Memphis attractions. Huge props to Arts Memphis for sponsoring this pass (artsmemphis.org). Bonus: Your four admissions don’t have to be used on the same/consecutive days, and the pass is good for a year from the purchase date.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.