Stuff To Do In Memphis This Weekend – Walk the streets of Memphis and you can almost feel the bones of this mid-sized city rising above the pavement. There is a reason why this place has had so much influence on American culture.
From Memphis, the first rumblings of rock ‘n’ roll swept across southern radio before the world changed. Decades ago in Memphis, the Delta Blues began their trek north to the power and wealth of Chicago.
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And it was in Memphis that the sounds of Stax Records helped define the civil rights era, delivering hits with a frequency and quality rivaled only by Motown. The city has been a rough diamond for blue-collar tourists for generations, and while the seeds of gentrification have taken over some of its rougher areas, the Bluff City is one of the best cities to visit. on earth.
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There’s no shortage of American history, so here are the best free activities to enjoy in Memphis.
Music may dominate the identity of Memphis, but the shadow of Martin Luther King Jr.’s final days. I AM A MAN Plaza opened in 2018, one day after the 50th anniversary of King’s 1968 assassination on a Bluff City balcony.
The plaza has a memorial to King and other heroes of the civil rights movement and is within walking distance of Beale Street. Find it south of Claiborne Temple. The large church—now partially abandoned—served as a meeting place for the sanitation workers who brought King to Memphis that fateful week.
The National Civil Rights Museum charges admission, but its plaza is free © Bruce YuanB / Getty Images
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No visit to Memphis is complete without a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum located on South Main Street at the Lauren Motel.
There is an entrance fee to the museum, but budget travelers or passers-by can enter the plaza for free and pay their respects to Dr. King in front of the balcony where he spent his last moments. The wreath permanently marks the spot where he stood when the assassin’s bullet took his life.
Visitors to Beale Street don’t have to spend a penny to enjoy live music at Handy Park. The plaza at the east end of Beale is named after WC Handy, an early 20th century musician known as the “Father of the Blues”. Before six strings and electrics defined the current blues sound, Handy’s trumpet rang out in the clubs of Beale Street in the 12-bar blues that became the foundation of modern music.
A hundred years after Handy topped the charts, modern blues bands play weekend nights next to his statue.
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Memphis is full of statues of legendary musicians – look for Elvis on Beale Street © Richard I’Anson / Getty Images
Handy’s statue isn’t the only reminder of old sounds—a 30-minute tour of downtown and downtown can also bring you face-to-face with Elvis Presley, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Melton and Johnny Cash. All but Cash can be found on Beale or South Main Street, while the Man in Black can be found in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Midtown.
For generations, Memphis’ riverfront was a bustling center of commercial activity, filled with the sounds of steamboats and cotton bales. Today, it is a well-maintained green space along the Mississippi River where you can learn the unique story of the shipwreck, the river rescue and the local hero after whom the park is named.
There are also basketball and volleyball courts, a small water park, and unparalleled views of the Big Muddy sunset—all for free. Bonus points for Elvis and B.B. From the giant statues of King in the visitor center at the north end of the park.
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Tom Lee Park’s winding sidewalks lead visitors south, over Fourth Chickasaw Bluff and the Big River Crossing. A historic rail-to-trail project connecting Memphis to Arkansas across the historic Harhan Bridge. The crossing spans more than a mile of the Mississippi River to a more than 10-mile corridor of bike lanes that wind through the peaceful Arkansas countryside.
The Big River Crossing provides the perfect backdrop for photographers to the Memphis skyline across the river and serves as an after-dark light show for visitors to Tom Lee Park.
This 10.6-mile rail-trail trail connects downtown Memphis’ old-growth forest to one of the nation’s largest urban parks. Starting at Overton Park, cyclists can connect to the Shelby Farms Greenline via the Hempline and continue through cypress swamps and meadows.
The ride passes local watering holes like Whisker Brewing Company, Hempline Brewing Company, Chef’s, and High Point Pizza before passing through the buffalo herd at Shelby Farms.
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From there, riders can continue to the suburbs of Germantown or Cordova, or return downtown. Passionate cyclists can also join the Greenline from Big River Crossing by taking the city’s recently constructed bike lane downtown.
The Mississippi River isn’t the only waterway that defines the Bluff City. Its smaller tributary, the Wolf River, cuts a path through the wilderness from the eastern suburbs to the Mississippi River north of Mud Island.
Local conservation organizations have taken advantage of this natural resource by building the Wolf River Greenway, a progressive bike trail that takes visitors along the banks of the Wolf River. Cyclists looking for a shorter ride can explore the open sections of the Wolf River Greenway, which now connects to the Greenline.
There is no shortage of top-class music museums in the city. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum are both world-class attractions, but the Blues Hall of Fame is no exception.
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Overlooking the National Civil Rights Museum, this free museum pays tribute to the musicians who paved the way for one of the most revered forms of self-expression on the planet. You will find the door next to the statue of Little Milton.
The Metal Museum charges an entrance fee, but you can tour for free © JD Photo / Shutterstock
The Metal Museum, formerly known as the National Ornamental Metal Museum, has now simplified its name. Admission to indoor exhibits is $8 for adults, but the museum’s 3.2-acre riverside property is free to tour.
However, there is more to this place than the fascinating artwork. Located south of downtown Memphis, the Metal Museum is housed in the former Fort Pickering, a Civil War-era fort built on the site of an 18th-century French fort, itself the ruins of a Mississippian cultural settlement. A thousand year date. Its main monument, the Chiska Mound, still stands next to the metallurgical museum, bearing the scars of its use as a Union and Confederate fort during the Civil War.
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Near the Metal Museum, visitors can take a fascinating, haunting tour of Elmwood Cemetery. This sprawling 80-acre complex is filled with monuments to the dead from the Victorian era and is home to some of the city’s most gruesome stories.
Elmwood serves as the final resting place of every American war veteran, with local legends and the dark, unmarked graves of yellow fever victims. Known as “no man’s land,” this area was home to thousands of Memphians who died during an 1878 epidemic that so fatally cost the city its charter.
Memphis was named after the ancient Egyptian capital because the Mississippi River reminded the early pioneers of the Nile. Despite its origins, the city has a long association with Egypt, and its main university came.
The University of Memphis has one of the most prestigious Egyptian art and archeology programs in the world. The school has been instrumental in many of the most important discoveries in Egyptian history in the last decade, and its art museum has a permanent collection of ancient Egypt that includes nearly 5,000 years of antiquities.
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The collection includes the mummy of Irtv-Irw, a nearly three-thousand-year-old tomb that has haunted students in the area for decades.
Every hour between sunset and 10:30 p.m., riverside visitors can watch dueling light shows: to the north, the Hernando DeSoto Bridge pulsates and swirls in patterns and colors, and to the south, the Harahan Bridge instead.
The Mighty Lights show has been a Memphis tradition since 2018 and often features local music and sports teams as well as national events. For the best views, head to Tom Lee Park or find a perch above Riverside Drive.
Memphis is a small town for skateboarders. There are 10 established skate parks in the area, spearheaded by projects in Midtown at Tobey Park and in Raleigh at a former mall site.
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The sides have bowls, rails, stairs and ramps that give the skater a place to improve their skills for free. And on weeknights, the city’s downtown traffic is low leaving most of its side streets open to adventurers.
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