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Best things to do in Memphis

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Where in the world: USA  /  Tennessee  /  Memphis
Many of the things to do in Memphis revolve around the city's rich musical heritage. Find out why Memphis bills itself as both the "Birthplace of Rock" and "Home of the Blues" at popular attractions like Graceland and Sun Studio, where some of the best-known hits in American music history were recorded. A visit to Beale Street Baptist Church--the oldest African American church in Tennessee--takes you to the roots of the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, while National Civil Rights Museum--built around the hotel where the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. occurred--traces the history of the movement from the 17th century to the present day.

Memphis is best known for its Historic Sites, Specialty Museums, and Historic Walking Areas.

Top 15 things to do in Memphis

1. National Civil Rights Museum - Lorraine Motel

A privately owned complex of historical buildings, National Civil Rights Museum - Lorraine Motel traces the history of the civil rights movement from the 17th century to the present day. Built around the former hotel where the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. occurred in 1968, the complex narrates the story of the African-American struggle for equality. Walk through the museum to explore exhibits chronicling some of the most significant moments in the country's history, including the infamous 1960s bus boycotts and sit-ins. Check the online map for the easiest way to reach the museum from various parts of Memphis, and use the free parking just to the south of the complex.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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2. Sun Studio

Elvis Presley recorded his first song at Sun Studio, arguably the birthplace of rock and roll. Country music, blues, R&B, and rockabilly artists recorded here throughout the 1950s, with the most notable names including Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and B.B. King. Stop by to take a guided tour of the studio's headquarters and see equipment used to record some of the best-known hits in American music history. Highlights include Elvis Presley's microphone, used during a recording session in 1954. Located right in the downtown area, the studio is easily accessible from anywhere in town, with frequent shuttle buses running between this location and other notable music venues in and around Memphis.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Graceland

Once Elvis Presley's private home--and the place he died in 1977 at age 42--Graceland now is a museum dedicated to the famous entertainer. The mansion sits on a large estate that opened to the public in 1982. Tour the 23-room house to see its opulent and often tacky decor, providing insight into the mind of one of the world's most beloved music icons. To suit his unusual tastes, Presley extensively modified the estate, most notably adding a wrought-iron gate shaped like a book of sheet music. Just a year before his death the singer converted one of the rooms into a recording studio, where he worked on his final two albums.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. Beale Street

Beale Street was created in 1841 by entrepreneur and developer Robertson Topp (1807–1876), who named it for a forgotten military hero.

The original name was Beale Avenue.

Its western end primarily housed shops of trade merchants, who traded goods with ships along the Mississippi River, while the eastern part developed as an affluent suburb.

In the 1860s, many black traveling musicians began performing on Beale. The first of these to call Beale Street home were the Young Men's Brass Band, who were formed by Sam Thomas in 1867.

In the 1870s, the population of Memphis was rocked by a series of yellow fever epidemics, leading the city to forfeit its charter in 1879. During this time Robert Church purchased land around Beale Street that would eventually lead to his becoming the first black millionaire from the south. In 1890, Beale Street underwent renovation with the addition of the Grand Opera House, later known as the Orpheum. In 1899, Robert Church paid the city to create Church Park at the corner of 4th and Beale. It became a recreational and cultural center, where blues musicians could gather. A major attraction of the park was an auditorium that could seat 2,000 people. Some of the famous speakers in the Church Park Auditorium were Woodrow Wilson, Booker T. Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In the early 1900s, Beale Street was filled with clubs, restaurants and shops, many of them owned by African-Americans. In 1889, NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells was a co-owner and editor of an anti-segregationist paper called Free Speech based on Beale. Beale Street Baptist Church, Tennessee's oldest surviving African American Church edifice built in 1864, was also important in the early civil rights movement in Memphis.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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5. The Peabody Ducks

At The Peabody Ducks, witness one-of-a-kind ceremony in which marching ducks trot down the red carpet and up a small stairway into a marble fountain where they spend the rest of the day playing. You can watch them paddling in the placid waters of the fountain every day from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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6. Room Escape Games

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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7. Horseshoe Tunica, Tunica

Catch some action at Horseshoe Tunica, featuring over 1,500 slot machines and table games. Appealing to serious players, the casino includes several fine restaurants, a snack bar, and a large buffet.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Memphis Zoo

Home to over 3,500 animals, Memphis Zoo features more than 500 species spread out through more than 31 hectares (76 acres). Bring good walking shoes, because a full loop of the park's exhibits is a 3.2 km (2 mi) walk. You can visit different habitats and regions of the world and their native animals, like the African Veldt, the Crocodile Cove, the Northwest Passage, and China. Don't miss the Dragon's Lair, an area dedicated entirely to the Komodo Dragon, the world's largest lizard. Before you go, check the zoo's online schedule for information on zookeeper talks, animal encounters, and feeding sessions.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Located at the original site of legendary recording company Stax Records, Stax Museum of American Soul Music explores the story of one of America's most influential music genres. It's packed with more than 2,000 videos, films, photographs, original instruments, and costumes, as well as plenty of interactive activities. Through these exhibits, you can learn about not only Stax Records' artists, such as Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, and Albert King, but soul stars from other labels. A historical highlight is the authentic Mississippi Delta church, which is more than a century old and demonstrates the importance of soul music's gospel roots. While you're here, you can show off your moves on the museum's dance floor.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. Tastin' 'Round Town

Our Epicurean travel adventure is a multi-course, multi-restaurant feast.

www.tastinroundtown.com Tours provides a Chef-guided unique food tasting at the birthplace of the blues and the soul of barbecue. Visit our website for the list of tours offered today! From family-owned, local restaurants to trendy award winning Chefs. We provide a local, sustainable experience tasting a variety of foods, allowing you to feel like a native Memphian. On Twitter @tastinroundtown
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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11. Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art

The Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art is located at 119 South Main Street at the intersection of Gayoso Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. The museum was opened in 1998 as the Peabody Place Museum and in January 2007 it received its present name.
The museums collection is based on the private collection of Memphis developers Jack and Marilyn Belz, who owned the Peabody Hotel and Peabody Place. The Belz features over 1,000 objects, including works of jade, tapestries, furniture, carvings, and other historical and artistic objects. The museum also houses one of the finest collections of pieces from the Qing dynasty.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

Created by the Smithsonian Institution, Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum celebrates two particular kinds of music--as well as those who encouraged the world to overcome racial and socio-economic barriers, throughout the 20th century. Pick up an audio guide and tour the seven galleries. You'll learn the stories behind the instruments, the costumes, and the stars who owned them. Throughout, you'll hear songs from the 1930s through 1970s.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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13. Withers Collection Museum & Gallery

The pictures tell the story at Withers Collection Museum & Gallery, which exhibits a collection of photos taken by Ernest C Withers, who documented the local history for over six decades. The gallery occupies Withers' former studio and includes almost 1.8 million images in its archives. Withers was a prolific photojournalist who photographed everything from major Civil Right Movement events to notable jazz and blues performers. You'll find the museum's app in both the App Store and Google Play, so be sure to check that out before you visit. Call or click the website link for info about summer opening hours.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Dixon Gallery & Gardens

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens is an art museum within 17 acres of gardens, established in 1976, and located at 4339 Park Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, United States.

The museum focuses on French and American impressionism and features works by Monet, Degas, and Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Marc Chagall, Honoré Daumier, Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Berthe Morisot, Edvard Munch, Auguste Rodin, and Alfred Sisley, as well as an extensive collection of works by French Impressionist artist Jean-Louis Forain. The museum also houses the Stout Collection of 18th-century German porcelain. With nearly 600 pieces of tableware and figures, it is one of the finest such collections in the United States.

The Dixon also features a comprehensive schedule of original and traveling exhibitions of fine art and horticulture.

The museum sits within four principal outdoor sculpture gardens with Greco-Roman sculpture. Its site was acquired by the Dixons in 1939, and landscaped in the English Garden style with open vistas adjacent to smaller, intimate formal spaces. The major areas within the gardens are the Cutting Garden, Formal Garden, South Lawn, and Woodland Gardens.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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