This is Part 2: Beale Street, Downtown and The National Civil Rights Museum. Part 1 “Memphis – Nothing But Graceland? Part 1: The Peabody Ducks and National Underground Railroad Museum” can be found here.
We stayed in the Comfort Inn Hotel which is a 15 minute walk from Beale Street. Beale Street is the city’s musical center. We were lucky and happened to be in Memphis on a Friday and could enjoy a Friday night live music in one of the bars. All the bars have promoters in front who try to make visitors come in. They were quite charming and have a nice way to do that. We were convinced and went into one of these bars. They ask “food or drinks” and because we said “drinks” we went to the bar. With food, we would have gotten a table. Soon, the band started playing, Blues of course. None of us really is a blues fan but all of us liked it. Nashville is America’s music capital but Memphis is number two on the list. The band was really good, a very good experience.
A little story at side: part of our group ordered alcohol, I only ordered coke. The bartender asked “Are you the designated driver? We support drivers in this bar.” While he was saying this, he already nodded his head. I said yes, even though we were walking and got my coke for free.
Live music was everywhere that night. It’s not difficult to find, just walk along Beale Street.
Beale Street is blocked for traffic in the evening. Street artists perform, the road is always busy. Something is always happening.
Memphis has some historic buildings from the high period of the South. The hotel had booklets with walking routes in which you see the most important buildings. My travel book also had several walking tours. You can also book a guided tour. Horse carriages in the city center offer tours as well.
We did an early morning walk. Our body clock was still wrong, we were awake early anyways. This is a good way to do something in the morning when most places are still closed.
It was winter in Memphis (November) but to me (German standard kind of) it was a decent, comfortable spring day where Jeans and T-Shirt are enough.
National Civil Rights Museum (Lorraine Motel), Mud Island River Park, Bass Pro Shop and Shelby Farms Park
As mentioned above, we stayed in the Comfort Inn Hotel. From our room, we had a great view of the river, the port and Mud River Park. Mud River Park is a small island in the Mississippi River. In summer, tours are available. In winter, when we were there, Mud River Park is closed. From our hotel window, we also saw a pyramid. This pyramid is Bass Pro Shop, an outdoor and sports store. There is a viewpoint from which you can see the entire Memphis skyline. Taking the elevator make a 10 dollar fee. There is also an upstairs restaurant. You get a 10 dollar voucher for the restaurant by using the elevator. We did not know that and just paid our 10 bucks. In the store you get to see everything possible and impossible: even a huge weapon area. Crazy, I have never seen anything like that. How American!
1 Bass Pro Dr, Memphis, TN 38105, USA
opened from 8 am – 10 pm
The National Civil Rights Museum was built the Lorraine Motel spot. Lorraine Motel was where Martin Luther King was shot. We missed the opportunity to go there which I regret a lot. If I ever come back, I definitely want to go there.
450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103, USA
The biggest park in Memphis is called Shelby Farms. The park has 1800 hectares which is five time the size of Central Park. We were running out of time and could not go there.
6903 Great View Drive North, Memphis, TN 38120, USA
Musicians are probably interested in the big Gibson Store. To all non-musicians: Gibson is a famous guitar brand. They mainly sell guitars but also other instruments. A second option is the Gibson headquarters in Nashville. The Memphis store is near Beale Street next to the Rock’n’Roll Museum.
145 Lt. George W Lee Ave, Memphis, TN 38103, USA
Is Memphis an Interesting Place to Visit?
I have to say I wasn’t expecting much of Memphis. Because Memphis is so far from everything else (320 km to Nashville and 400 km to Vicksburg) I wasn’t sure if I want to go there at all. For a while I preferred the idea of going directly from Nashville to New Orleans. I did not really feel like driving to Memphis and Vicksburg. I have to admit, I was wrong. I really liked both, (see Vicksburg article) even Memphis was much nicer than expected. The two nights there were exactly right. One night would not be enough because it takes a while to reach. The live music in Memphis was outstanding, the Slave Heaven Museum very interesting. If we missed something by not doing Graceland and Sun Studios, I don’t know. We decided all together to not do that. As mentioned above I regret having missed the Civil Rights Museum. Apart from that I’m glad we were there.