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 -- 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.
Downtown Memphis has weathered its share of hardships over the years. About 10 years ago, the city started to see a long-awaited renaissance, with a flurry of new construction projects taking place. However, the recent U.S. economic recession has hit hard, leaving such visible scars as vacant mixed-use developments, unleased condos, and closed restaurants.
However, this shouldn't deter you from visiting downtown. There are still many worthwhile tourist spots (the National Civil Rights Museum is tops on the list), clubs, and eateries that are holding their own or doing well, despite the tough times. And regardless of the prosperity levels at any given point in time, downtown Memphis remains the heart and soul of the city. To get a sense of what it's all about, you need to stand on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, stroll Beale Street to hear live blues being played in the bars, and "duck" into the city's most beloved historic hotel, The Peabody, to witness its most time-honored tradition.
A few blocks south of downtown is Soulsville, USA: the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a must-see site. It gets my pick as the best of the city's music attractions, and I never tire of visiting it year in, year out. Stax is located in a grittier neighborhood than downtown, but seeing it may help give you a sense of what Memphis was like a generation or two ago. (Besides, it's where Aretha Franklin and scads of other legends grew up.) Farther south, you'll want to head on down the highway to Graceland. There are several old-school barbecue joints along the way. Savor all of these things, because they're collectively part of the definitive Memphis tourist experience.
Especially for Kids -- Many of Memphis's main attractions will appeal to children as well as to adults, but there are also places that are specifically geared toward kids. In addition to the attractions listed below, see also the Pink Palace Museum, the Memphis Zoo and Aquarium, the Chucalissa Archaeological Museum, the Mud Island/Mississippi River Museum, and the Peabody Ducks.
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.