There’s something I really liked about the city of Memphis.
For being a city of 645,000 people, it sure felt like a small town. The traffic wasn’t bad, downtown was hip without being TOO hip, people were friendly, there are lots of trees and parks and it sits on the Mississippi River!
Just west of downtown there’s a road that hugs the river; parks of all kinds are scattered along the waterfront with a walking/biking trail.
Something we saw while cruising along this waterfront route:
…an interesting group of people playing beach volleyball along the Mississippi shore! It was a warm day, so they must have been hot in their long sleeves and skirts. A tour bus was parked under a nearby tree where their driver casually smoked a cigarette while he waited for the rally to end. This was definitely not something I was expecting to see!
The city of Memphis has played a key role in nurturing and producing musicians who shaped the course of American music. (Think Elvis, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis…) Beale Street is where the action happened. The famous street was created in 1841 by an entrepreneur who had trade merchants open shops on the street and developed housing in nearby neighborhoods. In the 1860s, many black traveling musicians began performing on Beale street and from there it boomed as the place to play and hear the blues.
The Beale street area is decorated with colorful murals, historic statues and bright lights of bars and nightclubs. We ate dinner on Beale street and enjoyed a live performance by a group of drummers in the street. The area is home to many restaurants and shops, as well as the Gibson Guitar factory 😉 This part of downtown is very touristy; it reminded me of a Las Vegas block with all the lights and people wandering with drinks in hand! It was fun, but there’s a lot more to this city (and its musical history) than this one attraction. I personally found museums and other Memphis sights to be more enchanting.
For instance, how about a park?
On November 14, 1901, the City of Memphis purchased a 342-acre tract of land that became Overton Park and was named after John Overton, who was a co-founder of the city. The Memphis College of Art, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the zoo are all housed on this land. Matt had been wanting to record some of his music in different natural settings during our trip. We took a walk one morning through the old forest state natural area at Overton Park and it was exactly what he was looking for. What a fantastic place to find in the middle of a city!
I don’t know if we’ve ever been to more tourist attractions that we did on this trip, but I like that we were able to balance them out with other things like parks and out-of-the-way country roads. More of that to come!
IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN VISITING ANY OF THE ABOVE LOCATIONS (pictured or mentioned), HERE ARE SOME TIPS AND LINKS FOR YOU:
• The Beale Street website; find events, maps, parking etc.
• Memphis Riverwalk, where you can find Martyrs Park at the south end, plus other attractions as you travel north.
• Overton Park map
• Looking for more trails to hit while in Memphis? Check out this informative website with maps and photos.
• The Orpheum Theater opened in 1890 on the corner of Main and Beale streets and was billed as the most classy theater outside New York City. Here is a current list of upcoming events in the historic theater.
• Blues Hall of Fame (it was on our list but we ran out of time!)
• LYFE Kitchen, the restaurant where we ate twice because it was so yummy! Located in the historic Chisca Building in downtown Memphis. (Wahoo tacos, farmhouse burger, edemame hummus, spicy margaritas…YUM!)