Memphis: Couple’s Trip

Memphis: Couple’s Trip

Why We Went to Memphis:

We visited Memphis as a weekend anniversary trip-no kids!

Where We Stayed in Memphis:

The Peabody

The Peabody is the crown jewel of Memphis, best known for the ducks that reside in the hotel’s fountain. The ducks certainly add an element of fun (there are even duck-shaped soaps in the bathroom!), but this historic hotel is all class.

peabody ducks Memphis
Duck march to the fountain

The lobby is stunning and in the evening you can enjoy a nightcap there while indulging from a well-stocked dessert cart.

chocolate peabody duck Memphis
Chocolate duckie

The chocolate ducks are the only ducks on the menu at The Peabody-real ducks are friends, no food!

If you venture up the staircase to the mezzanine, you can see the original telephone desks and poke your head in the ballrooms to check out the architecture there. There’s also a tiny museum to explore a bit of the hotel’s history.

You can also go up to the rooftop and check out the ducks when they’re not on duty.

peabody duck house memphis
Rooftop Duck House

 

peabody duck house Memphis
Inside the duck house

 

This hotel is in a great location–just blocks from Beale Street with tons of bars and restaurants. I absolutely recommend staying here or at least making a visit to see the ducks and check out this awesome historic venue. (And no, I was not compensated in any way for this post!)

The Guesthouse at Graceland

We also spent one night at the Guesthouse at Graceland, right next door to Elvis’s homestead. Unfortunately, this hotel had just opened when we visited and seemed completely overwhelmed by the large crowds it was hosting.  We had cocktails and snacks in one of the restaurants and breakfast the next morning, and the restaurants were equally overwhelmed.

We were also disappointed that there was little Elvis memorabilia to be found. I think big Elvis fans may be disappointed.

Also note that the only thing really near this hotel is Graceland. That could be problematic if you don’t have a car.  I suggest staying near Beale Street where you can easily walk to restaurants and bars.

This hotel missed the mark in nearly every area, but hopefully that was due to circumstance and its operations have been improved over time. It might be worth a try for a great rate and if you keep your expectations low. 

How we Got to Memphis:

Road Trip! Memphis is only 6 hours from Dallas, so it makes a great long weekend. I can definitely see more road trips to Memphis in our future.

Getting Around Memphis:

Since this was a road trip, we had our own vehicle.  However, we did use Uber a couple of times when we wanted to have drinks with dinner.  Once we were at the Peabody, we were able to walk to many of the places we wanted to visit.

What We Did in Memphis:

The National Civil Rights Museum

One of the main purposes of our visit was to visit the National Civil Rights Museum.  We stumbled upon this museum during our a quick stop on another road trip, but the museum had just closed for the day that time.

Lorraine Motel Memphis
The Lorraine Motel home of the National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum is located in the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed.  The exterior of the building is preserved as it was on that day, as are the rooms where Dr. King and companions were staying on the day he was murdered. The remainder of the building has been renovated into an excellent museum covering civil rights from the early days of the slave trade to modern times.

Lorraine Motel Memphis
The exterior of the Lorraine Motel

In addition to the Lorraine building, the museum also owns the building across the street–the former rooming house where James Earl Ray stayed and fired from. This is a much smaller exhibit than the main building, but also well worth the visit, and admission is included in your ticket to the main museum.

This is one of the best and most poignant museums I have visited. An absolute must see in Memphis. And if you are just passing through like we were when we stumbled upon the Lorraine, you can still take a moment to view this incredibly significant historical location. There are several video kiosks outside to provide information about the history of the Lorraine and the King assassination.

Graceland

Is any trip to Memphis complete without a trip to Graceland? Graceland is both less and more than you expect.  Less in that the actual home is fairly modest (in size, not decor) by today’s standard.  But there are also several outbuildings, and the area across the street–where you purchase your tickets–has several additional museums and exhibits, gift shops, restaurants, and, of course, Elvis’s airplanes.

Graceland Memphis
Graceland

We bought the “Elvis Experience” tour, which gave us access to all of this, and weren’t disappointed.  After purchasing our tickets, we joined the queue for the shuttle across the street to Graceland.  There we were provided with iPads that provide a video tour along the way.  I wasn’t particularly interested in the video and found it annoying to have to carry around the iPad.

Only small groups are allowed into the house at a time.  Once you arrive on the shuttle, you hang out on the porch until they are ready for you.  You can grab photos of the exterior of the house after your tour while waiting for the return shuttle.

When we arrived at Graceland it was all decked out for Christmas.

Graceland Memphis
Elvis’ Living Room

Visitors are not allowed upstairs.  In fact, it is virtually impossible to get an invitation to the second floor of Graceland.

Graceland Memphis
Upstairs Blocked Off

I don’t want to give all of Graceland away in pictures!  It is really a modest-sized home by today’s standards, but the decor is as spectacular as you’ve always heard.

After touring the actual home, there are several outbuildings with additional Elvis memorabilia.

At the end of the tour, you wander past the pool and the family gravestones.

Graceland Memphis

 

Either before or after you tour the house, you can tour the many additional buildings, restaurants, and gift shops across the street.  There you can find a museum full of his vehicles, walk through two of his airplanes, and see loads more Elvis costumes and memorabilia.

We found the small additional fee to visit Elvis’s airplanes well worth the price.

Sun Studio Tour

Sun Studio Memphis

The Sun Studio Tour is the perfect companion to a Graceland visit. You’ll get some insight into Elvis’s inspiration and his early days, and even get the chance to pose with a microphone that Elvis (may have) actually used.

Sun Studio Memphis

Note that Sun Studio is tiny and this tour is fairly short–around an hour.  It is also not close to Graceland or Beale street, so you’ll need transportation,  However, if you can make your way to Sun Studio, you can catch a free shuttle to Graceland.

Beale Street

Beale Street Memphis

Eat, drink, and get your groove on! This is the place to do it in Memphis.  This walkable street has a bit of a New Orleans vibe, and there is plenty of live music and food to be found.

By day you can pick up touristy trinkets, or hit A. Schwab, the local mercantile that’s been around since 1876, and by night the bars and restaurants are hopping.

Crystal Shrine Grotto

In the mood for something quirky and off the beaten path? Crystal Shrine Grotto is it.  This is semi-hidden man-made grotto in Memorial Park Cemetary was created by artist Dionicio Rodríguez and is filled with biblical scenes made of various materials.

Crystal Shrine Grotto Memphis

 

What We Ate in Memphis:

We ate and ate and ate on this trip.

Flight

This was a great date night option–quiet and cozy. The concept is that both food and beverages are available in flights, so you can try small(er) portions of several different things.  We drank lots of wine, tried many foods, and even managed to make room for dessert. Our table was on a covered patio, so we could people-watch and see the horse-drawn carriages rolling by.

Itta Bena

We actually visited Itta Bena on New Year’s Eve in order to escape the crowds on Beale Street, so we were limited to a pre fixe menu. Itta Bena is “hidden” above the much rowdier B.B. King’s, with access via a hidden staircase.

This was another perfect date-night venue. There is live jazz, but in a quieter, more upscale venue than most of Beale Street.  We had a table for two with a great view overlooking the street, and both the food and wine were good. 

Lafayette’s Music Room

This was another fun dinner option.  Again, we had live music while we ate.  The food wasn’t particularly memorable, but we had a good time at this fun venue.  We were seated in a mezzanine overlooking the stage below, and there was plenty of both table-space and standing room.

The Beauty Shop

I just had to check this place out.  It is aptly named because it is in a former beauty parlor, and some of the seats are in old-school dryer chairs.

Beauty Shop Memphis
That’s not a halo, it’s the hood of a dryer chair.

The food was pretty good–this was a fun place for brunch!

Central BBQ

You can’t visit Memphis without checking out the BBQ, and Central BBQ is a great place to check out. One location is right behind the Lorraine Motel. This is actually how we discovered the Lorraine and the National Civil Rights Museum in the first place–we had stopped off for barbecue during a road trip and my curiosity led me straight to the Lorraine.  Good food and a decent selection of beers.

South of Beale

South of Beale is a self-proclaimed gastropub. We stopped by walking back from the National Civil Rights Museum to the Peabody (this is a long walk in a somewhat sketchy area, so take note if you decide to walk).  It was mid-afternoon, so we just went for the cheeseboard and drinks. This place had a cool vibe and everything looked good–I definitely wouldn’t mind exploring more of the menu on future trips.

Final Thoughts:

We really enjoyed Memphis.  It is a fun city, with lots of good food and live music, and the perfect distance for a long-weekend road trip from Dallas.  I think we’ll definitely be getting to know this city better.

I am a 40-something lawyer and mom of 3 teenage girls. I love exploring new places, and when I can't be on the road, I'm planning my next trip. Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to travel in a pack of five. Our trips range from budget-friendly road trips with the family, to more luxurious trips for work, either solo or with my husband, Kenny.

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