Memphis TN

Birthplace of Rock’n’Roll

No trip to Tennessee would be complete without visiting the birthplace of Rock’n’Roll. We went into the Memphis area with a general idea of the “must do”things and then our list evolved as we met locals and received even more ideas.We have been holding off on purchasing bikes until we get a bike rack for the van, but with the span of Memphis we finally pulled the trigger. It made exploring all of Memphis possible and we are so glad we were able to cruise through the town rather than move the van multiple times or walk our butts off.The wonderful women at the welcome center allowed us to park the van in the parking lot for the day for free while we explored the city.

  1. Graceland is expensive ya’ll, don’t get me wrong it is probably worth every penny, but to help our budget stretch a bit farther we planned on skipping a visit to this iconic location. Then we met a local who told us that until 8:30am every morning people are allowed to visit Elvis’ garden and grave site on the Graceland property. We are so glad we were able to tour the grounds, pay our respects to Elvis and his family members laid to rest there and grab a few pictures of his Graceland home.
Tips for others visiting: Be there by 8:00am to give yourself time to truly appreciate the grounds, the pool area and the reflective pool. There is free parking along the stone wall of the property, we had no problem finding a spot even in our big van. They allow people to write on the rock wall of the property so if you are into that you should bring a marker/paint pen. Remember that thousands of people come here to pay their respects to a man/family who touched their lives,the garden is a solemn place and should be treated as such.

2. Ever heard of Gibson donuts? Yeah we hadn’t either, but oh-my they were delicious. Another suggestion from a local that was spot on. We order half dozen and they threw in 2 plain glazed ones for free. Our favorites were the red velvet, the maple bacon and the Oreo. Also they are located near one of the Gus’s famous fried chicken locations so if you are stopping by in the afternoon you could grab lunch and then dessert at Gibson.

3. Seeing the famous Peabody Ducks march was an absolute must on our list. Getting to see ducks waddle to the fountain in the middle of one of the grandest hotels we have ever seen was remarkable. We arrived early for the morning show as suggested by everyone and watched from the Mezzanine level. We had a great view of the duck master as he told the history of the duck march and how it all began (as most good stories do) with two friends having a bit too much Tennessee whiskey and a practical joke. The “march” is super cute, the ducks emerge from the elevator and high tail it straight to the fountain and then they lift the red velvet rope to allow kids to slowly approach the ducks. The duck master is available afterwards for questions too. We decided to catch the show 2 times in one day. They march to “work” promptly at 11am and they go back to their rooftop home at 5pm. J being the brilliant man he is thought we should stay upstairs and wait for them to come home for the evening (at 5pm) to avoid the crowds and he was so right. We got to see the ducks up close and were able to watch them waddle across the roof top to their $200,000 home.

Tips for others visiting: downstairs is sitting room only- meaning you are kind of expected to sit at the bar tables and have a drink or snack while you wait. The view from the Mezzanie level was perfect for seeing the show but you do not get to see the ducks up close until they are swimming in the fountain- which we were ok with but a kiddo would much rather be down on the ground floor up against the ropes watching. You can see the duck palace any time you’d like it’s nothing too special but if you want to see the ducks in their palace you have to go before 11am or after 5pm otherwise they are “at work” in the fountain. Apparently you can nominate a person to be an honorary duck master, not sure of the details but worth looking into if you are interested. The duck show is absolutely free, they do take donations for charity though so if you want to throw a few bucks their way for the show please do – the charity they were collecting for during our visit was St. Jude’s.

4. Many of the greats who came out of Memphis spent time with a man named Sam Phillip sat the famous Sun Studios. We took a tour of the studio with the best tour guide we could have asked for, Mark. We got to see all the old recording equipment, hear about the many famous faces who got their start here and we even got to hold the microphone used by many of the greats!

Tips for others visiting: Tours run promptly every half hour so you can buy tickets when you arrive, tour the gift shop and record area and then start your tour. NO videos are allowed to be recorded during the tour however you can take as many pictures as you’d like. Tour lasts about 40minutes and it is nice and air conditioned.

5. We visited the enormous pyramid shaped Bass Pro shop to see what all the fuss was about. It is HUGE, complete with a bowling alley, hotel, skyline viewing area (for a $10 fee) and restaurant. It was fun to wander around and watch the fish and ducks (though let’s be honest they weren’t as cool as the Peabody ducks.)

6. The grand finale of our visit was the world famous Beale Street. We walked from end to end checking out the bars, and meeting new people. Our favorite bars were 152 Beale Street which had a great people watching perch along Beale street and a really wonderful band playing our favorite music and Silky Sullivan’s which was a dueling piano bar full of fun people and friendly bartenders. We also (surprise, surprise) found a candy shop on our tour of Beale Street, we fell in love with the watermelon and the banana pudding fudge.

Tips for others visiting: Some bars charge covers to pay the band, many do not. We chose to go to the bars that did not and tip the bands ourselves. The famous places like B.B. King were simply too crowded and loud for us to enjoy. Since Beale Street is closed off to traffic you are allowed to carry your drinks along the street. There is an Entertainment District Police station at the end of Beale if you should lose something or need assistance police are available there 24/7.

We truly enjoyed our time in Memphis and we hope to make it back to visit again in the future. There is no doubt about it the heart and soul of Rock N Roll is still going strong in this magical city.