Today you will get a taste of the musical legends that put Memphis on the map at the city's best music museums before getting a chance to reflect on the sociopolitical context of the 1950s. Start your day where rock 'n' roll was born: at Sun Studio.
1. Sun Studio
Start your day where it all began: In the early 1950s, a shy, teenaged truck driver named Elvis Presley sauntered into Sam Phillips's tiny recording studio, asked to cut a birthday song for his mama, and ultimately launched the birth of rock 'n' roll.
2. Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Albert King; Al Green; Earth, Wind & Fire; Isaac Hayes; and the Staples Singers are just a handful of the musical greats whose inspiring stories unfold in this rousing, interactive museum. The funky music reverberating throughout will make you want to sing, dance, stomp, and shout.
3. Take a Break -- Four Way Restaurant
After getting funkdafied by the vibes at Stax, head down the block and hang with the locals at this family-oriented soul food restaurant. Crispy, piping-hot fried chicken, turnip greens, and candied yams with cornbread and butter are the perfect preludes to silky lemon meringue pie. But there's a lot of other comfort food, too. 998 Mississippi Blvd. tel. 901/507-1519.
4. National Civil Rights Museum
After spending the morning rocking to the sounds of Memphis music, put some social and political context behind what you've seen and heard. The National Civil Rights Museum is an absorbing and deeply moving experience, as it traces the cruel history of oppression and discrimination in the American South.
5. South Main Street Arts District
Walk north back toward Beale Street, window shopping at boutiques and stepping inside cozy art galleries that are beginning to emerge in this revitalized historic district.
6. Beale Street
This legendary strip, revered the world over as the birthplace of the blues, can be a rowdy, neon boozefest after dark. But during the day, it's a sea of curious tourists taking pictures, listening to live music at the outdoor W. C. Handy Park, and shopping for souvenirs. Join them. A. Schwab's, a 130-year-old dry-goods store, has the best bargains around.
7. Take a Break -- Blues City Café
Grab a bite at this juke joint and diner, which is my pick as the best of the Beale Street eats. Spicy tamales, lip-smackin' slabs of pork barbecue ribs, as well as cold beer, burgers, and rich gumbo are on the menu. With its weather-beaten booths and rural-Mississippi shack-inspired decor, the mojo here is laid-back. 138 Beale St. tel. 901/526-3637.
8. Main Street Trolley
Take a ride on one of Memphis's antique restored trolley cars. They're old, they're creaky, their hard wooden seats are uncomfortable, and they're slow. But for a dollar or two you can sit back, relax, and ride the clanging, cumbersome streetcars from one end of downtown to the other, getting glimpses of the Pyramid, the Mississippi River, and other local landmarks.
9. Center for Southern Folklore
Step inside the one-of-a-kind Center for Southern Folklore. Part coffeehouse, part outsider and folk-art gallery, and part intimate performance space, the center is a beloved, locally owned nonprofit that celebrates the region's rich diversity.
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.