Memphis, Tennessee is a city rich in history and culture, from its days as a key stop on the Mississippi River to its role in the civil rights movement. Visitors can explore this heritage at iconic landmarks like the National Civil Rights Museum and the Memphis Zoo. For a taste of the local music scene, be sure to check out Beale Street, home to dozens of blues and jazz clubs. And no trip to Memphis would be complete without sampling some of the city’s famous barbecue. Here are just a few of the things to do in Memphis when you visit this vibrant city.
This article contains affiliate links to trusted partners.
1. Beale Street
Beale Street is one of the most famous streets in America, and for good reason. Located in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee, Beale Street is home to a wide variety of music venues, restaurants, and shops.
You can enjoy live jazz in clubs like B.B. King’s Blues Club, or rock out to live blues at places like Alfred’s on Beale. There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy some authentic southern cooking, with spots like Central BBQ and The Rendezvous serving up mouth-watering ribs and barbecue chicken. And of course, no trip to Beale Street would be complete without doing some shopping at one of the many unique stores.
Graceland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Memphis, Tennessee. Located on Elvis Presley’s former estate, Graceland is now a museum dedicated to the life and work of the King of Rock and Roll.
You can tour the mansion, which has been preserved to look exactly as it did when Elvis lived there, or explore the nearby jungle room and pool house. The grounds also feature a memorial garden where Elvis is buried, as well as a museum that houses his cars, stage costumes, and other memorabilia. For fans of Elvis Presley, Graceland is a must-see destination.
3. Memphis City Tour
There’s no better way to see all that Memphis has to offer than by taking a city tour. You’ll get an up-close look at iconic landmarks like Graceland and the Memphis Pyramid, and you’ll learn about the city’s rich history and culture. You’ll also get to sample some of the local cuisine, including barbecue and Mississippi Delta blues. Whether you’re a tourist or a native Memphian, a city tour is a great way to taste all that this vibrant city has to offer.
- Memphis City Tour with Optional Riverboat Cruise
- Guided Memphis City Tour with Riverboat Cruise
- Memphis City Tour with Sun Studio Admission
4. Eat Memphis BBQ
If you’re planning a trip to Memphis, make sure to add some of the city’s famous BBQ joints to your list of things to do. You won’t be disappointed by the mouth-watering ribs, pulled pork, and other mouthwatering dishes on offer. And if you’re looking for the best of the best, here are some of Memphis’ most popular BBQ restaurants:
The Bar-B-Q Shop: This Midtown staple has been serving up delicious BBQ since 1988, and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. The ribs are cooked to perfection, and the pulled pork is juicy and flavorful. Make sure to try the Bar-B-Q nachos – they’re a real treat!
Payne’s Bar-B-Q & Great Carrying Place: This Whitehaven institution is well-known for its slow-cooked meats, and it doesn’t disappoint. The pork shoulder is particularly excellent, but everything on the menu is worth trying. Don’t leave without grabbing a few bottles of Payne’s famous BBQ sauce.
Central BBQ: This chain has several locations around Memphis, and it’s always crowded for good reason. The food is top-notch, and the prices are reasonable. Be sure to try the dry rub wings – they’re out of this world!
5. Memphis Food Tour
A food tour is a great way to get an overview of the local cuisine. During the tour, you’ll visit different restaurants and food vendors, sampling various dishes along the way. Food tours are typically led by experienced guides who know all the best spots. They’ll take you to places that you might not find on your own, and they’ll make sure you have a great time.
If you’re looking for things to do in Memphis, a food tour is a great way to sample some of the city’s best cuisine. You’ll have the opportunity to try a variety of dishes, from traditional Southern favorites to more modern fare. Whether you’re a foodie or just looking for something different to do, a Memphis food tour is sure to please.
6. Memphis Pyramid
The Memphis Pyramid, now called the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, is one of the most popular things to do in Memphis. The massive structure, which was once home to the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, now houses a variety of shops and attractions, including a hotel, an aquarium, and a ropes course. Visitors can also enjoy views of the Mississippi River from the top of the pyramid. While the Bass Pro Shops are the main attraction, there is also a food court with a variety of options, as well as a stage that hosts regular events.
7. Southland Casino
Southland Casino is one of the top things to do in Memphis. Located just minutes from downtown, Southland offers a wide range of gaming options, from slots and table games to poker and racing. With over 1,500 machines and 60 table games, there’s something for everyone at Southland. And if you’re looking for more than just gaming, the casino also features live entertainment and a variety of dining options. Whether you’re a seasoned gambler or just looking for a night of fun, Southland Casino is sure to provide an enjoyable experience.
8. Orpheum Theatre
The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie palace and vaudeville theatre. The grandiose design was inspired by the layout of an Egyptian tomb, and it featured a state-of-the-art sound system and a seven-story tall organ. In the 1970s, the theatre was saved from demolition by a group of citizens who raised funds to restore it to its former glory. Today, the Orpheum Theatre is once again a premier destination for live entertainment. It hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and special events throughout the year.
9. Memphis Zoo
The Memphis Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city for families. Home to over 3,500 animals, the zoo offers visitors the chance to see a wide variety of wildlife up close. In addition to the standard zoo animals such as lions, tigers, and bears, the Memphis Zoo also features rare and exotic creatures such as Komodo dragons and Sumatran rhinos. You can also take part in a variety of educational programs, such as behind-the-scenes tours and keeper talks.
10. Stax Museum of American Soul Music
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Memphis, Tennessee. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of soul music, and it features a wide range of exhibits and artifacts. You can learn about the origins of soul music and its impact on American culture.
The museum also features a number of interactive exhibits, including a recording studio where guests can try their hand at making their own soul music. With its mix of education and entertainment, the Stax Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of American music.
11. Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
Memphis is a city with a rich musical history, and the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is a must-visit for any music lover. The museum tells the story of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and its impact on the world. You can see artifacts from some of the most famous musicians in history, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and B.B. King. From listening booths to instrument demonstrations, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is a fun and educational way to spend a day in Memphis.
12. National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is a must-see for anyone visiting Memphis. The museum chronicles the history of the civil rights movement, from the early days of slavery to the modern fight for equality. You can see firsthand how far the country has come, and learn about the challenges that remain. With so much to see and do, the National Civil Rights Museum is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.
13. Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
If you’re looking for things to do in Memphis, the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum should definitely be on your list. The museum is located in a historic house that was once used as a station on the Underground Railroad. The house has been preserved just as it was during that time, and it’s filled with artifacts and information about the Underground Railroad and slavery in general. The museum also offers tours of the surrounding area, which includes a number of other historic sites related to the Underground Railroad.
14. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, founded in 1916, is home to an impressive collection of art from around the world, spanning a wide range of styles and periods. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Whether you’re a art lover or just looking for something to do on a rainy day, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is definitely worth a visit.
15. Children’s Museum of Memphis
Looking for things to do in Memphis with kids? Look no further than the Children’s Museum of Memphis! This highly interactive museum is designed specifically for children ages birth to eight, and features dozens of exhibits and programs. Kids can explore a replica of a 19th-century Mississippi River town, dig for fossils in an archaeological site, or play guitar in a recording studio. The museum also offers an array of educational programs, including art classes, story times, and scientific demonstrations.
16. Memphis Museum of Science & History
The Memphis Museum of Science & History is a great option for families and groups of all ages. The museum has interactive exhibits on a variety of topics, including Earth sciences, space exploration, and the history of the city of Memphis. In addition, the museum offers a planetarium show, tours of the historic Pharaoh’s tomb replica, and a hands-on Discovery Room for children. There is also a cafe on site, making it easy to spend an entire day at the museum.
17. Memphis Botanic Garden
The Memphis Botanic Garden is one of the most popular things to do in Memphis, Tennessee. This 96-acre park features a variety of gardens, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, and an herb garden. The Garden also has a children’s playground and a picnic area. In addition, the Memphis Botanic Garden hosts a number of events throughout the year, such as the Fall Festival and the garden concert series.
18. Dixon Gallery & Gardens
If you find yourself in Memphis with some time to kill, be sure to check out the Dixon Gallery & Gardens. The gallery features an impressive collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, as well as a beautiful sculpture garden. The gardens are a perfect place to take a stroll on a sunny day, and the gallery itself is worth a visit even if you’re not particularly interested in art. In addition, the Dixon Gallery & Gardens hosts a number of events throughout the year, so there’s always something new to see and do.
19. Mud Island Park
Nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River, Mud Island Park is one of the best things to do in Memphis. The park spans 12 acres and features a variety of things to do, including walking and biking trails, a riverwalk, and a museum. You can also take a ride on the park’s monorail or take a paddleboat out onto the river. Mud Island Park is also home to a number of events throughout the year, such as concerts, festivals, and art fairs.
20. Overton Park
If you’re looking for things to do in Memphis, you won’t want to miss Overton Park. This beautiful park is home to a variety of activities and attractions, including the Memphis Zoo, the Levitt Shell outdoor amphitheater, and the Overton Park Golf Course. You can also find hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and a playground. Whether you’re looking to spend a day outdoors or just want to enjoy some time in nature, Overton Park is the perfect place to visit.
21. Shelby Farms Park
Shelby Farms Park is one of the best places to experience the outdoors in Memphis. With over 4,500 acres of forest, wetlands, and fields, there is something for everyone at Shelby Farms. You can go for a hike or bike ride on one of the many trails, paddle a canoe or kayak on lakes and streams, or even take a horse out for a ride. There are also plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, including deer, bald eagles, and wild turkeys. In addition to its natural beauty, Shelby Farms Park also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from concerts and festivals to farmers markets and 5K races.
Although it is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor Nashville, Memphis is a city with a lot to offer tourists. From its world-famous barbecue to its rich musical history, there is something for everyone in Memphis. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Memphis is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
Alexandrea Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.