There’s so much to do in this iconic city, from eating the signature ribs to listening to live music while sipping on a cold drink walking down Beale Street.
Here are a weekend’s worth of tips on where to stay, what to do, and what to eat when you step foot in the Home of the Blues city.
It’s only right to stay at the Hyatt Centric Beale Street, located in the heart of downtown Memphis, literally in the midst of it all. This newly built hotel is a property of firsts and onlys. It’s the very first and only hotel to take on the famous Beale Street address. It’s home to the city’s only riverfront and rooftop whiskey bar Beck & Call (and riverfront restaurant CIMAS). And it has downtown’s only resort-style pool with poolside dining. The best part? The hotel is just 15 minutes away from Memphis International Airport, and right around the corner from delicious food and nightlife.
I personally love all the subtle nods to the music culture throughout the Hyatt. From wall art that resembles an old speaker, to a hallway carpet pattern designed to mimic sound waves. There’s even wallpaper at Beck & Call that resembles the acoustic foam of a recording studio.
The hotel boasts 227 rooms that combine the old and the new, and features images of original materials from the iconic Ironworks building, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Highlights of the King room I stayed in included the amazing views of the Mississippi River and “M” Bridge from the high windows. I also loved the shower wall that had the names of different signature Memphis elements. Did you know that BBQ spaghetti was a thing?!
End the night with dinner at CIMAS, an elevated dining experience and the Hyatt’s restaurant. Dig into one of the enticing Latin-American inspired dishes with a Southern twist. The Pork Belly “Al Pastor” Tostada was deliciously flavorful. Dine on the eatery’s outdoor patio for more amazing views of the river and “M” bridge.
Be sure to sip some drinks at Beck & Call, a happening rooftop whiskey bar serving crafted cocktails. Savor a cocktail while taking in the beautiful sunset, perched eight stories up. The wrap-around balcony and panoramic views make it the perfect spot for photos. At night, you can catch a view of the “M” Bridge Light Show from the rooftop.
As a born and raised Texas girl, I’ve been dying to indulge in the ever-so-popular and iconic barbecue that every Memphian speaks so highly of. Austin may be the music capital of the world, but Memphis is the barbecue capital of the world. I spent my first night making short work of some of that famous barbecue in one of the city’s most iconic restaurants. Rendezvous serves up all the barbeque goodness you can think of. I had sausages, brisket and smoked ribs packed with dry-rub spices. In the great debate of which city has the better BBQ, I’ve come to the conclusion that Memphis has the ribs, but Texas has the brisket!
One Bridge, Two States
Biking (or riding a scooter) across Big River Crossing while taking in even better views of the Mississippi River is a fun, active experience to do with the whole fam. Get your camera ready, because you’ll have the chance to be in two states at once, with one foot in Tennessee and one foot in Arkansas.
Another must-do activity: take a tour of Sun Studio to get an inside look at what the world knows as the Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll. Learn about the discovery location of musical legends and genres of the ‘50s, from Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to B.B King and Jerry Lee Lewis. See the one-of-a-kind memorabilia and hear the outtakes from recording sessions. You can even stand in the very same spot that Elvis first recorded and sing out of the same mic. (No, Elvis’ DNA is no longer on it.) Before Sam Phillips died (the founder of Sun Studio), he requested that Elvis’ microphone never be locked up behind glass. He wanted everyone to get a chance to touch it, hold it, and just appreciate its greatness.
Dine & Drinks
After your informative tour at Sun Studio, grab a slice at the hip-hop inspired pizza joint Slim & Husky’s that serves up artisan pizzas and unique cinnamon rolls. We suggest the Red Light Special and Halle Berry cinnamon roll.
Later that evening, get your drink on with a tour of local Memphis brewery Grind City Brewery. You’ll get an inside look at how the beer is brewed along with a fight tasting. I recommend trying a smooth beer like Poppy’s Pils.
Rise and shine with breakfast at Sugar Grits before you take a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum. Explore how this significant era continues to shape history, equality and freedom. The museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. A must-see museum in Memphis!
Fuel up with lunch at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. You can’t go wrong with some fresh, tender and crispy fried chicken at this famed restaurant. It’ll make your mouth water. The fried pickles with ranch are great to share with the table.
Take a tour of Old Dominick Distillery where you’ll get an up-close view of how the distillery makes its local spirits along with an enjoyable tasting. (This was the day I realized I’m the gin and vodka type.) You’ll learn firsthand about the dedication and passion that goes into the process of creating these state-of-the-art spirits.
Your trip isn’t complete without a night out on Beale Street. Dive into the nightlife fun and walk from place to place with a drink in hand to see what places are poppin’ (the only place in Tennessee to allow this). Maybe you’ll have more luck petting the goats at Silky O’ Sullivans than I did. If you go on a Wednesday (until September 29th), you’ll get to enjoy Bike Night on Beale from 6pm-midnight. Motorcycle enthusiasts travel downtown to park on this iconic street to show off their amazing motorcycles of every kind.
In Memphis, music runs deep, not just in the blood and veins, but in the heart and soul. From street corner to street corner, the music that helped change the world takes over and continues to be influential. Whether it’s relishing some barbecue, walking Beale Street or touring the halls where music legends recorded their very first rock ’n’ roll albums, you’ll enjoy every moment in this unforgettable city.
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Cover photo courtesy Jack Kenner
Leean Vargas is an Editorial Assistant at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of
Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She is a concert enthusiast who loves traveling, photography, good food, and discovering new hangout spots in her beloved city, Austin, Texas.