This is an itinerary for having the best weekend in Memphis including where to go, where to eat, and where to stay!
When we decided to take a trip to Tennessee, I just knew we had to stop in the great city of Memphis. Bluff City, the birthplace of Rock and Soul, is an easy drive from where we live in Houston, TX. But somehow, I’d managed to live all my life without spending a weekend in Memphis. Now that we’ve returned, my only regret is waiting so long! [Check out our post of all the fun things to do in Franklin, TN too!]
If you’re also interested in a weekend in Memphis, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about things to do in Memphis, the best area to stay in Memphis, and where to eat while you’re there. This itinerary is pretty identical to the itinerary we followed. Feel free to mix and match the activities as it suits you but please note their operating hours. Some of these close relatively early and some are not open at all on Sundays.
At the time of writing this post, we are in the midst of a viral pandemic. However, Memphis did a wonderful job with their safety precautions. Every place listed here offered limited capacity, increased sanitization, temperature checks, social distancing, or all of the above. The city is committed to operating safely and responsibly and it shows.
Here is an itinerary for where to go, stay, and eat for a weekend in Memphis.
[Thank you, Memphis Travel, for hosting us! All information and opinions presented are our own.]
Weekend in Memphis
Day One [Friday]
Discover Your Inner Rock and Soul at the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum
The Rock N Soul Museum was one of our favorite stops during our weekend in Memphis. The city claims the title as the birthright of rock and soul music, so a visit here gives you the history of music but also some of the city too. The museum is small which gives it an intimate feel.
It’s also interactive [making it an awesome stop for the kids]. You are provided an audio guide [it is sanitized between uses] where you can hear in-depth information on each exhibit in the Smithsonianian affiliate museum. There are even jukeboxes where you can hear full songs.
[Tip: Add them to Apple Music so you can listen to them later! They’re cool tunes and it will remind you of your weekend in Memphis whenever you hear it.]
Explore Local Treasures on Beale Street
Beale Street is arguably one of the most iconic landmarks in the city so it only makes sense to visit it on the first day of a weekend in Memphis. If you’re up for a little debauchery and fun, you’ll find plenty of it here. It’s three blocks long and each has your choice of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. There’s plenty of live music performances on Beale Street too. Stroll down the infamous street and let your ears lead you to the music venue of your choice.
If you prefer a milder variety of fun, you can still revel in the joy of Beale Street during your weekend in Memphis! There are surprisingly quite a few options on Beale Street for you to enjoy. Pop into Beale Sweets Sugar Shack to taste their delicious fudge or sip a [root] beer at A. Schwab Trading Co. [Check out more things to do on Beale Street if you’re underage here.]
Day Two [Saturday]
Embrace the Journey to Racial Equality at the National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is a must-do during your weekend in Memphis. I’ve been to a lot of museums in my life but this one tops the list as one of my favorites. It’s built around the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It covers the tragedy in detail but also includes so much more.
It is a very large museum [wear comfortable walking shoes] but everything is so beautifully done that you don’t notice that it takes hours to complete. From the origins of slavery to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the “I Am A Man” movement of Memphis to the election of the nation’s first Black President, it is all covered here.
The experience starts outside with the external display of the Lorraine Motel and the audiovisual lessons in the mini-kiosks. Once inside, the entire place from floor to ceiling is packed with content and history. You can sit at a student desk with Ruby Bridges as she integrates a public school or board a bus with Rosa Parks while she changes the face of public transportation. There’s a lot here so allocate at least 2 hours to see and experience it all during your weekend in Memphis.
It is also one of the most popular attractions in Memphis so I highly recommend coming early if you want to avoid a queue.
Unwind at Afternoon Tea at Chez Phillippe at the Peabody Memphis
It’s only right to add something a little more “chill” to your weekend in Memphis. So your next stop is to Chez Phillippe at the Peabody Memphis for a traditional English afternoon tea. Chez Phillippe is the only place in the city that offers this service so it is truly one of a kind.
The girls were giddy from the moment we entered the restaurant. The interior of the restaurant is as beautiful as you can imagine with high ceilings, mirrored and muraled walls, ornate gold finishes, and perfectly distanced seating.
It’s a three-course menu with petite sandwiches, the most delicious warm scone I’ve ever had in my life, a variety of desserts, and, of course, a fine selection of tea. It is impossible to choose which part of afternoon tea that we enjoyed most [it was every man for himself when the dessert tray came out] so it is safe to say we enjoyed every bit of it.
If you’re attending afternoon tea at Chez Phillippe with children like we were, don’t worry – it’s all incredibly family-friendly. There are even caffeine-free tea options.
Reservations are highly recommended.
Waddle with the Duckies at the Peabody Duck March
The Peabody Ducks are known worldwide and are the next thing you should visit during your weekend in Memphis. What initially started as a joke between friends, has evolved into an aquatic phenomenon for tourists and locals alike. Every day at 11 AM, like clockwork, the Peabody Ducks march from their rooftop “duck condo” down the elevator to the lobby. At 5 PM, they do the reverse and ascend from the lobby back to their quarters.
They are lead by their animated duck master Kenon Walker who skillfully gets them to put on the most adorable show ever. The ducks are, as expected, so fun but Kenon himself is without a doubt just as entertaining as the ducks themselves. His lively attitude really makes the show enjoyable and who knew someone could know so much about ducks? If you get the opportunity to chat with him during your weekend in Memphis, I highly recommend it.
It is recommended that you arrive 30 minutes prior to the show. However, if you can spring it, the earlier you arrive the better so that you can get a good seat. You can also get their Ducky Day package which has all sorts of cool perks like your own Duckmaster cane, a t-shirt, and more.
If it is crowded, be sure to check out the upper level for a bird’s eye view. [Get it? Because they’re ducks. Thank you, Kenon, for that joke that still makes me giggle.]
Day Three [Sunday]
Bike Through Shelby Farms Park
Escape the hustle and bustle of Memphis with a visit to Shelby Farms Park. This was one of our favorite stops during our weekend in Memphis. Shelby Farms Park is 4,500 acres worth of green oasis right in the heart of urban Memphis. There is plenty to do here from walking trails, bike rentals, playgrounds, water play, kayaking, and tons more.
What’s really special about the park is that it is also a conservancy. Different wetland species of birds, fish, rabbits, snakes, and more call the park home. The most famous residents are the family of buffalo that the park is developed around. A park official brought 6 buffalo there in 1989, and they’ve called the park home ever since. There are now about 15 buffalo at Shelby Farms Park and are often seen out and about while exploring the park.
[Side note: if you’re looking for another Tennessee destination with awesome outdoor activities, check out this list of fun things to do in Pigeon Forge, TN!]
Did the visit to Shelby Farms Park tire you out from all the fun? Great! Unwind and relax at your next stop: Overton Square. It’s a shopping destination in the Memphis Theater District with almost two dozen restaurants, entertainment venues, and small shops. If you’re visiting with kiddos [or even if you aren’t] be sure to stop by Sweet Noshings for gourmet popcorn, bulk candy, fudge, and ice cream. There are also art installations [that are perfect for the gram] and plenty of green space for everyone to stretch out.
Big River Crossing
There’s no better way to end your weekend in Memphis than with a visit to Big River Crossing. It’s the longest pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River and connects the Main Street in Memphis with the Main Street in West Memphis. Visitors are invited to walk, bike, or run across the bridge at their leisure for a unique view of the city. For a special treat, go near sundown to catch the Mighty Lights light show at the top of the hour.
Additional Activities for a Weekend in Memphis
If you have extra time during your weekend in Memphis, here are some additional activities I recommend.
Murals and Street Art
Memphis is home to some of the coolest street art I’ve seen. Camels & Chocolates has the most in-depth guide to murals in Memphis that I found online. Use her guide to find some cool picture opportunities around the city.
Mud Island Park
The newly uplifted Mud Island Park is a worthy addition to your itinerary for a weekend in Memphis. In addition to its amphitheater, picnic grounds, and the Mississippi River Museum, it features the new “MEMPHIS” sign that’s totally Instagram-worthy.
I Am A Man Plaza
The I Am A Man Plaza was created to honor the Black sanitation workers that went on strike in 1968 to fight for safe working environments for all workers. In addition to the sculpture stating “I Am A Man” there is also a wall with all the names of the participants of the strike.
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
Take a walk through history [literally] with a visit to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. It is the former home of an abolitionist that aided many runaway slaves on their escape to freedom.
Visit Graceland, the home of the infamous Elvis Presley. His estate, along with his memorabilia, is impeccably maintained and on display for visitors. You’ll learn about his life and his music in this full immersion experience.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is dedicated to sharing their history [and the funk] of the “Memphis Sound.” It’s located in the former recording studio of Stax Records and features tons of interactive exhibits with musical instruments, stage costumes, records, and more. There’s even a Cadillac in the museum that was formerly owned by the late, great Isaac Hayes.
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
The Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, a 535,000 square foot pavilion, is more than just a store – it is a total shopping experience. There’s an entertainment patio, an interactive wetlands center, a huge aquarium, an observation deck, and even a wildlife-themed hotel.
Memphis is home to one of the top-rated zoos in the country. Add a visit to the Memphis Zoo to your weekend in Memphis to experience the 76-acre zoo with over 3,500 animals representing 500 different species.
Best Area to Stay in Memphis for a Weekend in Memphis
Downtown Memphis – The Peabody Memphis
Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee and if you don’t want to spend your entire weekend in Memphis in the car, finding the best area to stay in Memphis is important. I highly recommend staying in Downtown Memphis as it has the most options in the city. Also, it will place you closest to all the fun activities.
There is no doubt as to which hotel in downtown Memphis you should stay at: The Peabody Memphis. With a nickname like the “South’s Grand Hotel”, The Peabody Memphis has a large reputation to live up to. Luckily, it is as legendary as the city itself and pulls off a level of charm and sophistication that would be impossible to find elsewhere.
We’ve stayed in many hotels but our stay at The Peabody Memphis was extremely unique. It was new and yet somehow beautifully old. Everyone we encountered from the bellhop Eric that helped us with our luggage to the manager in the lobby, was friendly and helpful. The entire experience was filled with Southern charm and highly recommend it for a weekend in Memphis.
Downtown Memphis at The Peabody Hotel is the best area to stay in Memphis for a weekend in Memphis.
Where to Eat In Memphis
The Bar-B-Q Shop [1782 Madison Ave]
Voted #1 ribs in America by the Food Network, The Bar-B-Q Shop should top your list of places to eat during your weekend in Memphis. If you’re not a Memphis native, be sure to try the BBQ spaghetti. We’ve never had anything like it and it was Phil’s favorite.
Sunrise Memphis [670 Jefferson Ave]
As the self-proclaimed, best breakfast in Memphis, you have to try Sunrise Memphis. This Memphis gem serves lunch too but the breakfast dishes are their specialty with dishes like biscuit sammies, omelette plates, breakfast tacos, and more.
Belly Acres [2102 Trimble Place]
Farm to table is the name of the game at Belly Acres in Overton Square. They serve burgers, shakes, and smiles in the cutest farm-themed ambiance you can imagine. There’s even a tractor in the entry and a crop duster on the ceiling.
Loflin Yard [7 West Carolina Ave]
We are suckers for restaurants with green space, and with an acre of it, trying Loflin Yard was high on our list. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to eat there during our weekend in Memphis. Please try their delicious menu of dishes like brisket tacos and spicy sausage po’ boys then tell us all about it!
Arcade Restaurant [540 S. Main Street]
The Arcade Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in Memphis. Located on South Main [and just a short walk from the National Civil Rights Museum], they serve traditional diner food of burgers, pizzas, and sandwiches. Their breakfast is a special treat though [try the Sweet Potato pancakes and thank me later].
Gus’ Fried Chicken [1815 Washington Ave]
We can’t discuss places to eat in Memphis without including Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken. Prepare your palate and pack some Tums because the chicken is Spicy [yes, capital S]. But it is a Memphis tradition and totally worth the burn.
Memphis Chess Club [195 Madison Ave]
Eat, play, or learn – you can do all three at the Memphis Chess Club. This downtown Memphis eatery highlights the classic game of chess in a way that’s fun for all ages. You can grab a cup of coffee, order a bite to eat, and then play chess all day long.
Some other great places to eat in Memphis are highlighted in this video from Memphis Travel.
With all these great activities, you’re sure to have a fun, packed weekend in Memphis.