Easily the most spectacular performance hall in the city, the Orpheum should be the first place you look when planning your trip to Memphis. They put on Broadway plays, of course, and get many big shows (“Hamilton,” “Mean Girls,” and “Wicked,” to name three), but they also play host to everyone including motivational speakers, beatboxing trios, holiday extravaganzas, weekend movie series, and musical acts as varied as Iron & Wine, soul violinist Omari Dillard, R&B acts like Kem, and legends like Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. The original incarnation of the Orpheum was built in 1890 as the Grand Opera House, which burned to the ground in 1923. The new theater was built on the same spot in 1928 as a vaudeville hall, with ornate, gilded plasterwork on the walls and ceiling, glittering gold and silver leaf, lush carpets, antique crystal chandeliers, and a Wurlitzer organ. In the '40s the Orpheum briefly became a movie theater, waned in popularity, and almost shuttered before it was saved and restored in 1977 to its former glory as a playhouse. With the elegance of a classic opera house, the Orpheum is one of the best places to see a play in the Southeast, but seeing a rock show here also makes for a beautiful juxtaposition of old-school glamour and modern music. 

It will come as a surprise to no one that the Orpheum’s story is, as so many places in Memphis are, intertwined with legends of the supernatural. The most famous story is of Mary, a 12-year-old girl who came to haunt the Orpheum in the 1920s. The cause of her death is disputed, but it’s largely agreed it was either a car or trolley accident near the theater, after which Mary wandered into the Orpheum and simply decided to stay. For more than 50 years, strange and unexplained incidents including flickering lights and slamming doors have convinced people the place is haunted, including Yul Brynner who was seriously spooked during rehearsals for “The King & I” in 1982. Mary is consistently described by witnesses to be a shy girl with braided brown hair, a white dress, and a serious stare, though she must be a theater lover as she’s never interrupted a live performance.

Next to the Orpheum is the sleek, modern Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education, which presents educational programs—from magic to songwriting—that are often open to the public, so that’s worth a look as well. Events are listed on the Orpheum’s main website.