Thursday, 9 May 2019

A Two-Day Guide to Memphis, Tennessee.

As part of our roadtrip from Chicago to New Orleans, we stopped off in Memphis for three nights and two full days. Like Nashville, I'd previously visited Memphis 14 years ago, when I was 14-years-old! I was intrigued to see what it was like, and although I LOVED the food, I didn't love the city as much as I did Nashville and New Orleans. But, although I didn't feel as at-home in Memphis as I did in Nashville and NOLA, I still had THE BEST time and really want to share our epic Memphis itinerary with you!

What to pack:

Arriving in Memphis & Our Itinerary

So, we arrived late in the afternoon on the Friday, and after checking in to our room at the Peabody Hotel (we won't talk about that though because we had a whole heap of issues there - but below is a photo of the cute duck pillowcase!), we got changed and wandered down to Beale Street to check out a restaurant that my cousin in Kansas suggested; Itta Bena.

Itta Bena is a fine dining restaurant that's part of BB Kings. It's a local secret and there is zero signage for it! It's also a secret how you enter - we asked the lady at the entrance to BB Kings how to get to Itta Bena, and she directed us through a fire door and up a set of stairs!

We were shocked when we got there and discovered the cutest restaurant and bar ever! We'd had a big lunch, and as American portions are so huge we decided to sit at the bar and have a drink and an appetiser and dessert each. You guys, it was some of the best food I have ever had. In fact, ALL of the food we had in Memphis was some of the best I've ever had and if I ever went back, it would be for the food.

I had the Crab stuffed avocado and then the pecan pie for dessert and honestly it was so delicious I can't even describe it! The pecan pie was HEAVEN and one of the best I've ever had - if not THE best! After dinner and a couple of cocktails we headed back to the hotel to get an early night ready for our busy day the next day!

Day 1 in Memphis

We started our first day in Memphis with a visit to Elvis Presley's Graceland. We'd slept in a bit as we were a bit exhausted from our three-hour drive the day before, so we skipped breakfast and drove straight over to Graceland. We picked up our tickets that had been pre-ordered, and then went to get some food before our tour started at 11:45am.

We had a bit of a random meal - we went to the Elvis diner, Gladys' Diner, named after his mother, and the only options were nachos, burgers, and hot dogs. I had a hot dog and it was a classic American-style hot dog, so it was pretty satisfying to be honest (is it just me who loves a dirty hot dog!), and I obvs paired it with an oreo milkshake haha. When in America!

We really loved Graceland and it was everything I remembered it to be. They've changed a couple of the exhibitions at the end of the tour since I was last there and added a HUGE new exhibition at the main Graceland entrance complex, but it's so worth the money you pay for the tickets!

After spending a few hours at Graceland we were pretty hungry and so we headed to Young Avenue Deli for a late lunch, which was recommended to me by the lovely Rachael! we LOVED Young Avenue Deli, it was in such a cool neighbourhood and was a classic American bar full of locals, and the sandwiches and cheese chips were just incredible! After our sandwiches we headed down the road to Muddy's Bake Shop for dessert. I had the Pecan Pie (naturally) and oh my goodness it was amazing. I'm literally obsessed with Pecan Pie!

After re-fuelling we then drove over to Sun Studios and managed to get there in time for the last tour of the day! I'd been to Sun Studios previously, and it's a great little museum and fun to see the studio where so many music legend's created music. Sun Studio is also the location where Elvis Presley was discovered by music producer Sam Phillips, and where his first record "That's All Right" was recorded! The photo below is the microphone Elvis himself used!

By the time we got back to the hotel it was around 7pm, and time for us to experience all that Beale Street had to offer! We were pretty full still from our humongous late lunch, so decided to skip dinner. We started with frozen daiquiri's from the washing machines at Wet Willie's, and then walked down Beale Street popping into whichever bar took our fancy. Unlike Nashville, any bar with live music charges you an entry fee, but our favourites were Rum Boogie Cafe, and Blues City Cafe! They're both right next to each other and we had the best time there. Oh, and we made friends with a very tall policeman haha.

Beale Street is constantly busy at night time, and although there are police everywhere we felt pretty safe! We spoke to a couple of women who are Memphis locals, and they said they go to Beale Street most nights with their friends just because they love it so much! They love that they can grab a drink from a bar, then hang out on the pavement/sidewalk and little square and listen to amazing live music right on the street.

Our first day in Memphis was just so 'Memphis' and exactly how we imagined it, and we loved it so much!!

Day 2 in Memphis

We began our day with heading downstairs and seeing the Peabody Duck parade at 11am. I was super disappointed because they only allow kids near the duck parade, and the adults have to stand all around the outside of the lobby so you can't even see the ducks - even with my perfect eyesight! Anyway, you could go up to the fountain after the parade and see the ducks swimming in the fountain which was cool.

After the duck parade we drove over to Al Green's Gospel Tabernacle Church and had the best time there! The service lasted around 2 hours, and anyone can go along. Clare and I are both Catholic and we found it really interesting seeing a different religious service to our normal one. We loved how it was so focused on music and it felt so uplifting and really made you leave feeling super happy and inspired.

Sadly Bishop Al Green (yes, THE Al Green) wasn't there because he was on a trip, but we still had such a fun time and everyone there was so welcoming and really made us feel a part of the service! If you're visiting Memphis on a Sunday, I highly recommend you take an hour or two out of your day to experience Al Green's Gospel Church! And the outfits are just stunning - all the ladies turn up in their finery with hats and matching handbags and it's just incredible. Also I love how some brought their own tambourines with them!!

After church we then drove over to the Stax Museum of Soul. When I came to Memphis as a teenager, Stax was my Dad's favourite museum as he's a huge soul fan. It's such a great museum and highlights the incredible musical talents of Stax's soul artists and the history of the recording studio. It's a much bigger studio than Sun and has a lot more to see and do so you should probably give around 1-2 hours to really enjoy the museum.

We were pretty hungry by this point so headed to another recommendation from Rachael (most of our Memphis eats were her recommendations - and they were all brilliant!), Arcade Restaurant. Arcade is the oldest cafe in Memphis, having been opened in 1919 by Speros Zepatos from Kefalonia, Greece! These days the cafe is exactly as it was in the 1950s when Speros' son Harry refurbished the interior and added the neon signage. I had a BLT sandwich and chocolate milkshake with cream and a cherry on top and it was DELISH.

Also please excuse my nails in the below photo of me with the milkshake - my gel's came off and I don't have the photoshop skills to make them look cute haha!

After food we walked just down the road to the Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum. This is probably the most important tourist attraction in Memphis - if not Tennessee - and is well worth visiting. The Lorraine Motel is where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony, while the museum is incredibly well done and so important to educate yourself on the Civil Rights Movement in the US and horrific treatment of black people in America. We felt emotionally exhausted and drained afterwards, but I'm so glad we went.

To make us feel a little more relaxed and lift our spirits we decided to drive over to the Big Bass Pro store at the Pyramid. It's essentially a Disney World for outdoor lovers and it's so hard to describe! I mean, you walk inside this HUUUUGE entrance and you instantly feel like you've been transported to a cabin in the mountains. 

There are indoor rivers, birds, ducks, an archery range, shooting range, and laser arcade. There's also an Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill with a bowling alley and a saltwater aquarium, a gigantic elevator which takes you up to The Lookout at the Pyramid at the apex of the building. There's even a 100-room hotel known as the Big Cypress Lodge, and the shop contains the largest collection of waterfowl and hunting related equipment in the world! Oh, and there are real-life ALLIGATORS! Yep, alligators. Obviously they're behind glass, but still. Alligators in a shop? 'Merica.

After all the excitement of Bass Pro, we drove back to our hotel and got ready for dinner, before walking to Central BBQ (it was a fair walk, but we needed to earn all the calories we were about to consume). You guys. Central BBQ was honestly some of the best barbecue food I have ever eaten in my life. I had the ribs with BBQ sauce (I can't stand the dry-styled ribs, but at Central BBQ you can choose which ones you have), Mac & Cheese, and sweet iced tea and it was just heavenly. THEN for dessert I had the most incredible Banana Pudding! My mouth is literally watering right now just thinking about that meal. Promise me you'll go to Central BBQ if you're in Memphis!?

After dinner we walked back to Beale Street, and spent the entire rest of the evening listening to live blues at BB Kings. It was the perfect last evening in Memphis, and BB King's grand-daughter was even there!!

I did love our time in Memphis, but after visiting twice I do feel like I've really done a lot of the tourist attractions and don't feel a huge need to go back. BUT, I would go back purely for the food. The food was just insanely good.

Hertz Car Hire Fact Box:

Car hire in Memphis with starts from £27 a day. For further road trip inspiration, head to Hertz American Road Trip Planner and discover iconic and off-the-beaten track routes, downloadable maps and insider guides.

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