rock'n'roll and history by the mississippi river
The sun is shining on the Mississippi River and through the almost deserted streets the notes of an Elvis song float. We are in Memphis, in the state of Tennessee, birthplace of rock'n'rollMartin Luther King Jr. assassination site and the first stop of our trip down route 61.
Are you thinking of visiting this city in the south of USA? sit next to jukebox, throw a coin to a song of the King... And take note of what to see and what to do in one day with this guide to Memphis!
- Memphis guide: what to see in one day
- memphis guide
Memphis guide: what to see in one day
Downtown, the center of the city
Memphis is the largest city in the state of Tennessee (whose capital is Nashville), although as soon as we got to the center, our feeling was that of setting foot in a ghost town.
The traffic is leisurely, but even in Downtown, the center of the city, cars are the majority against casual walkers.
The main street in Downtown is South Main St, where the trolley bus and some horse carriages run. Although It is quiet, it is one of the liveliest in the citywith shops and restaurants where you can enjoy southern food.
There, and in the neighboring streets, and you will find places like the Old Dominick Distillerya whiskey distillery that offers tours guided, or the South Main Marketa food hall where you can try the local gastronomytaste some craft beer or have a coffee.
Where to sleep in Memphis? If you spend a short time in Memphis, rent a hotel in the center, the Downtown area, and you can walk to most places. We stayed there.
Beale Street, the musical heart of Memphis
Although, if there is a mythical place in Downtown Memphis, it is Beale Street, the musical heart of the city.
Memphis has unbreakable ties to music: artists like Aretha Franklin and Justin Timberlake were born there, and legends like Johnny Cash, Tina Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King and Elvis.
arguably he rock and the blues they were born in the same cityand some of the most celebrated places in Memphis are not only seen, but also heard about.
In the early 20th century, Beale Street was lined with African-American-owned businesses and clubs where Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters or BB King, among many others, played night after night the blues until it became a legend.
Despite being the home of blues, from the 70s Beale Street went into a decline that still shows in some empty and dilapidated premises.
Even so, today Beale Street is a tourist thoroughfare packed with clubs, souvenir shops, restaurants and some other slum. He reminded us a bit of Nashville Broadway, eccentric and somewhat decadent, albeit on a small scale.
There you will find, among many other places, the Orpheum theater, The club of blues of BB King or the Jerry Lee Lewis's Pubfounded by the musician.
In the neighboring streets are the Rock and Soul Museum and the FedEx Forum, the stadium of the nba team Memphis Grizzlies. If you like hear live music in MemphisThere's always something going on on Beale Street.
And, if you go in May, you will coincide with the famous Beale Street Music Festival.
Sun Studio, the studio that captured the rock
The next stop on this Memphis guide is the sun studio, one of the most famous recording studios in the world. Why not, if he presumes to be the place where he was born rock'n'roll?
It was in 1951, when Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats (with Ike Turner as songwriter) they recorded in this studio Rocket 88, the first song of the genre.
Then came Howlin' Wolf, BB King, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis... And the young man Elvis, who recorded his first demos there.
One of the great moments that the Sun Studio left for history is a jam sessions impromptu that took place there in 1956. The protagonists? Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkinsthe Million Dollar Quartet.
Today the Sun Studio is open to the public, and We recommend a visit, we loved it!
Visit the Sun Studio. The Sun Studio is visited in a 1 hour guided tourwhere you can sing into the same mic as Elvis and listen to recordings that will make you hum and tap your feet to the beat.
You can get there on foot from Downtown (20 minutes along Union Avenue, quite deserted, or Marshall Avenue, more normal).
The National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel
If the Sun Studio filled us with energy, the next stop in the city made us shudder: the magnificent National Civil Rights Museum.
Memphis was very active in the fight for civil rights of African Americansand this museum delves into a crucial part of American history that tourists often overlook.
It is built around the Lorraine Motel, an old motel that probably wouldn't still be standing if it weren't for there Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death on April 4, 1968on the balcony of his room.
It is a huge and entertaining museum, with exhibitions dedicated to a subject as complex and moving as the fight for equal rights in the United States, from the days of slavery to the present.
Another museum building, from where Luther King was shot, is dedicated to the work of the pastor and the different theories about his murder.
Visit the Memphis Civil Rights Museum. We recommend that you reserve at least 2 hours for the museum. You can get there on foot from Downtown along South Main St (15 minutes).
the mississippi river
Trade across the Mississippi shaped the history of Memphisand today the inhabitants of the city continue to walk to the lullaby of the river.
Can enjoy the Mississippi in various ways: The easiest is to take a walk along Riverside Drive, the street that runs along the river, with a lane for pedestrians and runners and some playgrounds. There we saw the first sunset in the south, and what sunsets…!
kids will like it mud islanda peninsula attached to the coast with a scale replica of the Mississippi, a museum and other entertainment (open from April to October).
The famous steamships they have seen better days, but there are still a few that offer river cruises.
Graceland, Elvis' mansion
The mansion that Elvis bought after rising to stardom, Gracelandis one of the most visited attractions in Memphis and the United States.
It is on the outskirts of Memphis and resembles a Disneyland from the rock'n'rollwith different types of tickets, souvenir shops and even a themed hotel, the Heartbreak Hotel. Elvis is buried there.
The reviews say that Graceland is worth itboth for mythomaniacs and for the curious, although we left it for another occasion, because we had little time and we preferred to dedicate it to the city.
Other ideas in Memphis
- Enter the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, one of the most majestic hotels in Memphis.
- Cheer on the Memphis Grizzlies at an NBA game. Marc Gasol's basketball team plays at the FedEx Forum arena off Beale Street.
- Visit the Elmwood Cemetery. Historic headstones and mausoleums can be seen in the oldest cemetery in Memphis. They organize guided tours, although you can also go on your own.
And here is our guide to Memphis in one day! Have you already visited this Tennessee city? What do you think about it?
- Official website of tourism.
- Where to sleep in Memphis? Here is a list of hotels. If you will only spend one day in the city, we recommend that you look for accommodation in the Downtown area.
- D.Memphis airport to downtown. He memphis airport It is small and about 15 minutes from the city. To go downtown, you can take an urban bus (check the schedule at BUSH) or a taxi. We called an Uber car and the ride downtown cost us $13.
- This article is part of our Route 61 Guide from memphis to new orleans.