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There is plenty to do and see in Memphis to make a perfect weekend outing. It’s about a 3 – 3.5 hour drive southwest from Nashville to “The Home of the Blues”. It is a large city that sits on the shores of the mighty Mississippi. Many of the legendary soul, rock, and blues musicians recorded albums at the iconic Sun Studios including Elvis, Johnny Cash and B.B. King.
The city hosts incredible food, music and cultural interests. Graceland is a definite on the list. If you want to see ducks treated like the most important guest at a hotel, visit The Peabody to witness the march of the ducks which has been going on for 80 years! We enjoyed Memphis and the things to do. For ideas on visiting Memphis what to do + where to stay – read on!
Where to Stay – The Peabody Hotel and the Duck March
We timed our visit to downtown to see the Duck March which is led by the official Duckmaster at the Peabody Hotel. Several ducks make their way from the roof of the hotel, waddle into the elevator and ride down to the lobby. They hurry up and quickly waddle to the water fountain. It lasts all of about 15 seconds for the ducks to exit the elevator and climb into the water fountain. Although the ducks do play in the water fountain after the march.
This event has been going on for 80 years. The ducks live on the roof of the hotel and after a career of 3 months they go back to the farm. It is worth seeing the Duck March if you’re downtown around the time they do this. We arrived early to eat breakfast at the Peabody. We sat near the water fountain and had a lovely meal. Service was extremely slow. Not sure if that is how it is usually or just when guests are there to see the show.
Watching the duck march was cute and a fun thing to do. We happened to plan our day around this event. Not sure if it’s worth driving a ways for. Although we did not stay at the hotel, it is beautiful and certainly a place I would love to stay on my next visit to Memphis. It is a quality hotel with delicious food and unique shops.
You can check rates here for The Peabody Hotel
Getting ready for the duck march. The red carpet is rolled out and guests sit or stand behind the red ribbon. The ducks come waddling out of the elevator.
Inside the Peabody Hotel
Inside The Peabody Hotel are some great shops. We purchased a shirt at the Lansky Bros., Clothier to The King. This shop has high end clothing for men. The main owner – Bernard has since passed but has said, “I put Elvis in his first suit, and I put him in his last”. Elvis was fitted for his first suit for prom (which was held at The Peabody Hotel) and his last suit which was for his funeral plus many other occasions. We enjoyed speaking with the son of Bernard.
He was a kid when he first met Elvis and shared a few stories with us. One that sticks out was how polite Elvis was to everyone. The shop provides reproductions of clothing that Elvis actually wore combined with new 1950s-inspired clothing. We enjoyed the shop and checking out the Mug Shot Shirts. As you can see by the image below. The are a lot of infamous and famous people who have mugshots printed on the shirt. Not quite the shirt I would want my hubby wearing ; )
The National Civil Rights Museum
The Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis serves as part of The National Civil Rights Museum complex. The founders could not have picked a more appropriate site to document the history of the struggle for civil rights. It was here on April 4th 1968 that the Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated. The exterior of the motel remains as a time capsule to 1968, and the museum was designed around the hotel to tell the story of civil rights from the beginnings of the slave trade to the current environment.
The mood inside is quiet and sobering. Everyone who visits has the opportunity to enhance their awareness of civil rights from the perspective of those that suffered from the persecution. The Legacy Building sits across the parking lot from the Lorraine. This is where the assassin perched himself and fired the fatal shot.
This former rooming house can be toured and you can actually stand outside the spot were the bullet rang. There are displays and significant things to learn during your tour. Allow yourself 2-3 hours to tour the museum and Legacy Building. A must visit when visiting Memphis. Tickets are $17 for adults and more information can be found at civilrightsmuseum.org.
Across the street from the NCRM is the Legacy Building and it’s a must. This is the rooming house where the supposed assassin stayed during the assassination. The shooter positioned himself from this house. The second floor is a timeline of how the assassination could have been planned and also included various conspiracy theories. Did you know MLK’s widow didn’t believe that James Early Ray was the killer? Very interesting to read about this. Below is the gate to the entrance…
“I may not get there with you but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
Gus’s Fried Chicken
If you love fried chicken as much as my husband, you have to eat at Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Fried Chicken. It’s a hole in the wall located at 310 S Front Street in downtown Memphis. They’ve been serving the award winning Bonner Family recipe since 1953. The chicken is as good as they say. The flavor was perfect, the chicken was moist, and the perfect texture.
They now have 31 locations across the US and my husband vows to visit as many as he can. Bring some coin with you, my husband enjoyed feeding the old jukebox and dialing up vintage Motown, blues and jazz songs. The music added to the ambiance. A tip….arrive early for dinner to avoid the crowds. There aren’t many tables and people flock to Gus’s. Street parking is also an issue if you don’t arrive early.
If you are pressed for time, many customers were picking up take home orders. We arrived during the dinner rush and it was well worth the 20 minute wait. We were there in Memphis early fall on a weeknight. I would guess summers have a much longer wait time. Check it out at gusfriedchicken.com
You can find Beale Street, “Home of the Blues”, in downtown Memphis and just a few blocks from the Mississippi River. The pedestrian only walking section is loaded with bars and nightclubs featuring Blues music. There are a wide arrange of eateries and places to souvenir hunt. Street performers keep you entertained as you stroll the street.
We visited in the early evening when the full force of Beale Street is not exposed. Make no mistake once the sun goes down, Beale Street lights up. There’s a whole new energy. If music and alcohol is the combination you’re looking for, then hit Beale Street at night. My husband and I don’t drink so we didn’t hang around for all the bar hopping. If you enjoy that scene, this is the place for you. The area seems run down.
Throughout the year, Beale Street hosts many special events that draw thousands of participants. Visit Bealestreet.com for all the latest or even download the Beale St App.
The Mississippi River
The longest public pedestrian/bike bridge across the Mississippi River, is Big River Crossing. Very pretty scenery if you are up for a good walk or bike ride. Mississippi River sightseeing & themed dinner cruises on a fleet of old-fashioned sternwheelers would be a wonderful way to see sights from the river.
Graceland is about 15 minutes from downtown Memphis. As you can imagine, there is quite a bit to do and see at Graceland. All the tips of where we stayed and how we did it will be shared in another blog post.