Memphis is just a few hours' drive from Nashville, but in many ways it seems worlds away. Though conservative and traditional, the city has spawned several of the most important musical forms of the 20th century -- blues, rock 'n' roll, and soul. And although it has been unable to cash in on this musical heritage (at least to the profitable extent that Nashville has with country music), Memphis still seems like a scrappy underdog in its fight to proclaim musical superiority. Less progressive -- or, some might say, polished -- than Nashville, Memphis still proudly proclaims its significance as the true mecca of American music.

Lay of the Land -- Located at the far western end of Tennessee, Memphis sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Directly across the river lies Arkansas, and only a few miles to the south is Mississippi. The area, which was long known as the "fourth Chickasaw bluff," was chosen as a strategic site by Native Americans as well as French, Spanish, and finally American explorers and soldiers. The most important reason for choosing this site for the city was that the top of the bluff was above the high-water mark of the Mississippi and thus was safe from floods. Although Memphis started out as an important Mississippi River port, urban sprawl has carried the city's business centers ever farther east -- so much so that the Big Muddy has become less a reason for being than simply a way of distinguishing Tennessee from Arkansas.

Memphis Today -- It’s odd to realize that Memphis is still, to the outside world, a city defined by two deaths that happened half a century ago. After the city spawned three of the world’s most important musical forms—blues, soul, and rock [‘]n’ roll—Elvis died, and the week marking his death is still Memphis’ biggest in terms of tourism. The second death, of course, is Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated here. Today the city still struggles—as our nation does—with racial tension, crime, poverty, and injustice, and no Memphian ever forgets how deeply that fact is intertwined with who we are as people. But while both of those historical events are what often bring people to Memphis, they’re not what bring people back. What does that is our people, and our people are moving forward.

As a city, Memphis has made great strides in recent years, breathing new life into areas that were once rundown or abandoned. Twenty years ago, the city built AutoZone Park, one of the nation’s top AAA baseball stadiums, downtown. The same year, we welcomed our first NBA team—the Memphis Grizzlies—and the redevelopment of downtown began in earnest. In recent years, that momentum has picked up yet again. Areas such as Cooper-Young and Overton Park are expanding, and South Main has exploded, as have Broad Avenue and Crosstown Concourse in Midtown. The latter—a former Sears warehouse that was reopened as a mixed-use space boasting everything from retail and restaurants to apartments and a health center—is representative of the unified, forward-looking Memphis locals are building together.

Downtown, of course, remains the heart of the city. Beale Street, with its nightclubs, live music, and souvenir shops, is still a draw, but so are the newer attractions, including Big River Crossing, the pedestrian and bike bridge that spans the Mississippi and connects to the brand-new iteration of Tom Lee Park; Bass Pro Shops, which opened in 2015 in the long-defunct Pyramid; Loflin Yard, a multi-use recreational space that led the city’s trend of family-friendly gathering spaces; and the renovated National Civil Rights Museum, which is more relevant today than ever before.

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.