If you like to walk, consider doing the tour outlined below, which takes in some of the city's best attractions, including Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum.
Start: The Peabody hotel, on the corner of Union Avenue and Second Street.
Finish: Cotton Row and The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange, corner of Front Street and Union Avenue.
Time: Approximately 2 hours, not including time spent at museums, shopping, meals, and other stops. It's best to plan on spending the whole day doing this walking tour.
Best Times: Spring and fall, when the weather isn't so muggy, and Friday and Saturday, when the Rendezvous is open for lunch.
Worst Times: Summer days, when the weather is just too muggy for doing this much walking. Be mindful of safety, and don't attempt this walking tour after dark.
Start your tour of Memphis's main historic districts at:
1. The Peabody hotel
This is the home of the famous Peabody ducks, which spend their days contentedly floating on the water of a marble fountain in the hotel's lobby. The ducks make their grand, red-carpet entrance each morning at 11am (and the crowds of onlookers begin assembling before 10:30am).
Take a Break
By the time the crowds thin out and you've had a chance to ogle The Peabody's elegant lobby, you may already be thinking about lunch. If it's a Friday or Saturday, you can fortify yourself at the Rendezvous, 52 S. Second St., one of Memphis's favorite barbecue spots.
From The Peabody, walk 1 block west to Main Street, which is a pedestrian mall down which runs an old-fashioned trolley. Turn left, and in 2 blocks you'll come to:
2. Beale Street
This is where W. C. Handy made the blues the first original American music when he committed "Memphis Blues" to paper. Today, this street of restored buildings is Memphis's main evening-entertainment district.
On the corner of Main and Beale, you can't miss the:
3. Orpheum Theatre
Originally built as a vaudeville theater in 1928, the Orpheum features a classic theater marquee and beautiful interior decor. Today, it's Memphis's main performing-arts center.
Across Main Street from the theater stands a:
4. Statue of Elvis Presley
A visit to this statue is a must for Elvis fans. Bring your camera.
Continuing east on Beale Street to the corner of Second Street will bring you to:
5. B. B. King's Blues Club
Named for the Beale Street Blues Boy himself, this is the most popular club on the street, and though B. B. King only plays here twice a year, there is still great live blues here almost every night.
A few doors down the street, you'll come to the:
6. A. Schwab Dry Goods Store
This store has been in business at this location since 1876, and once inside, you may think that nothing has changed since the day the store opened. You'll find an amazing array of the odd and the unusual.
At Beale and Third streets, you can take a breather in:
7. W. C. Handy Park
There always seems to be some live music in this park, also the site of a statue of Handy.
A block south along Beale Street from this park you'll find the:
8. New Daisy Theatre
This is a popular venue for contemporary music, including rock, blues, and folk.
A few doors down from the New Daisy, you'll find the restored:
9. W. C. Handy House
Though it wasn't always on this site, this house was where Handy lived when making a name for himself on Beale Street.
Diagonally across the intersection is:
10. Church Park
Robert Church, a former slave who became the city's first African-American millionaire, gave the African-American citizens of Memphis this park in 1899.
Now head back up Beale Street and take a left on Main. This is the street down which the trolley runs, so if you're feeling tired, you can hop on the trolley and take it south a few blocks. If you walk, turn left on Butler Street, and if you ride, walk east on Calhoun Street. In a very short block, you'll come to the:
11. National Civil Rights Museum
Once the Lorraine Motel, it was here that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The motel has been converted into a museum documenting the struggle for civil rights.
After visiting this museum, head west on Butler Street and turn right on Front Street. You will now be walking through:
12. Cotton Row and The Cotton Museum
In the days before and after the Civil War, and continuing into the early part of the 20th century, this area was the heart of the Southern cotton industry. Most of America's cotton was once shipped through the docks 2 blocks away. This area of warehouses and old storefronts is now a designated historic district, and many of the buildings have been renovated.
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.