On your travel plans to Memphis, the question is usually where to start, and then what to do next. One glance at a Memphis calendar of events is overwhelming, and any other search will just be the same. There’s no way to run out of things to do! Here are our top picks of the best things to do in Memphis.
Memphis Calendar of Events
When planning what to do in Memphis, you might want to take a look at their calendar of events. After all, you can tell a lot about a city by what they choose to celebrate. You can even pick an event and arrange your stay around it.
Memphis For The Music Lovers
Memphis is renowned for its music tradition. W.C. Handy published the first published blueat s song, “Memphis Blues,” and is now called “Father of the Blues.” Elvis Presley was a product of the Beale Street style, and the first rock ‘n’ roll record was made in Memphis.
Beale Street Music Festival – May
The Beale Street Music Festival is the kick-off event of the famous Memphis in May celebrations. The 2015 Music Festival had such internationally known names as Ed Sheeran, Paramore, Hozier, Lenny Kravitz, and more. It is a no-less than 3-days event, with crowds of over 100,000 that increase steadily until the ending performances on Sunday.
Elvis Week – August
Graceland, the “home of Elvis Presley,” throws a glorious 10-day tribute to the King every year. This 2016, stay tuned for updates on the exact dates of this August event. There is something for everyone: Elvis-themed films and concerts, contests for art tributes to the King. The main event is the Candlelight Vigil from August 15 to 16 at the Meditation Garden.
Memphis For The Sports Lovers
Memphis is not only for the music-lovers. Their calendar of events includes festivals for the sports lovers and athletes as well. If you want to enjoy the sights and feel of Memphis in a different way, join these events.
Bikesploitation – May
This Bikesploitation this year is only Bikesploitation 4, but it has already made a reputation for itself. It is the central event for bike lovers all over the region. The event opens with a bike parade, but it does not stop there. Artists will love the bike-themed sound sculptures, painting gardens, and mural competitions. There are film screenings and even an after-party.
Southern Heritage Classic Cultural Celebration – September
The Southern Heritage Classic Cultural Celebration is usually held on the second Saturday of every September. The entire event revolves around an annual football game held between Jackson State University and Tennessee State University. The halfway point, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, hosts the game and a number of family-friendly events.
Memphis For The Culture and Heritage Lovers
Memphis has one of the most diverse populations in the United States. The largest ethnicity is African-American, over 60%; following them are whites, almost 30%; and 10% are of many other cultures and ethnicities. These are only two of the cultural festivals held annually.
Memphis Italian Festival – May
The Memphis Italian Festival is held by the Holy Rosary Parish for the benefit of their schoolchildren. It is a family-friendly event overloaded with good Italian food provided by Luigi’s Cafe and Market, and you can catch cooking demonstrations at almost any Italian restaurant. Taste and test at the Spaghetti Gravy competition, and come for a friendly game of Bocce.
Memphis Botanic Garden Festival – September
The Memphis Botanic Garden Festival is a celebration of Japanese culture and art. The Botanic Garden is a place both for family and individual enjoyment. For a single entrance fee, families can try their hands at Japanese calligraphy, traditional origami, and Japanese food. There are also taiko (Japanese drum) and martial arts presentations.
Memphis For The Food Lovers
Memphis is not only for the music, sports, and culture lovers, but for the food lovers as well. Memphis has at least 9 food festivals in a single year, one revolving around Cajun crawfish, and another around ice cream! Here are two other cannot-miss food festivals.
Southern Hot Wing Festival – April
The Southern Hot Wing Festival is a showcase of the best chicken (particularly the wings) Memphis has to offer. Over 50 teams of the best hot wing cooks in the city come together to compete for your tastebuds. With live music and the whole of the Jefferson Davis Park to sit in, it is a perfect time to schedule your Memphis trip.
Best Memphis Burger Fest – October
The Best Memphis Burger Fest is organized by Memphis Paws, a non-profit that fund-raises for the animal care and shelter community. This Festival is a competition for all burger-makers and therefore heaven for all burger-lovers. Visit booths with names such as Pirates of the Grillibean and Blood, Sweat & Beef, and enjoy the Festival.
Free Things To Do In Memphis
Sometimes, the best part of a trip is a casual walk-in trip without worrying about entrance fees and how to stay with your tour group. Here are three places you can go for some walk-in, walk-around, walk-through fun.
Graceland is the estate of Elvis Presley, and it is free and the Graceland Gates are open for walk-ins at any time of the day (you would have to pay for tours). You can still go around the estate grounds taking pictures. The Meditation Garden, where Elvis is buried, is always free to visit. It is perfect for a free but memorable Memphis visit.
Center for Southern Folklore
The Center for Southern Folklore is a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the music traditions of the south. The Heritage Hall and Galleries are walk-in, and you can come around in the evenings and catch local performers on the scene. You can even find the media lounge for documentaries on Southern traditions and folklore.
Overton Park Old Forest Trail Hikes
If you are an outdoorsy person with a love for physical activity and hiking–and need something free to do in Memphis–Overton Park Old Forest is a perfect place for you. The 126-acre State Natural Area has fully 4 miles of unpaved trail hikes, and even more paved trail hikes. Admission is free, so just pull on your boots and visit the forest.
Things To Do In Memphis With Kids
Family trips in Memphis can be some of the most fun. Memphis has a number of things to do that the entire family can enjoy. These places are unique to Memphis, which will make your family memories unlike any other.
The Memphis Zoo is turning 110 years old this year. It has progressed from being a one-bear show (Natch, a black bear baseball mascot) into the #1-rated U.S. zoo in 2008. Your children will enjoy hopping from continent to continent of animals: from the African Veldt to China, from Cat Country to the Primate Canyon. This ever-growing zoo is a can’t-miss destination.
Shelby Farms Park
When it comes to family activities together, there are few better places to go in Memphis than Shelby Farms Park. The Park is thousands of acres of woodland and plains, but a thoroughly modern park your children will enjoy. They can swing through the trees in their best Tarzan-style at Go Ape, and run and bike through paved and unpaved roads in the Trails.
Mud Island River Park
The Mud Island River Park is the perfect place to spend a relaxing day with your family. The Riverwalk is a Mississippi replica river running with water and ending in the Gulf of Mexico, a 1-acre lake of water. The kids can play in the Mississippi, walk through the river itself, and the entire family can take the pedal boats in the “Gulf of Mexico.”
Memphis Events This Weekend
Planning to run down to Memphis for a quick weekend? Pick from an every-weekend event or annual weekend events to schedule your trip around.
The Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market
Every Saturday, all the year around, the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market is open. The vegetables and fruits found there are season, depending on what time of the year you are in the city. However, if you simply want to pop down to Memphis for a quick weekend trip, the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market is a good place to visit.
The Blues Music Awards – May
The Memphis-based, internationally-known Blues Foundation holds an annual Blues Music Awards. There are such categories as Best New Artist Album, best Historical Album, the Rock Blues Album of the Year to look forward to. There are 24 categories, and if you love blues and its evolution you will love coming down this May weekend for the Blues Music Awards 2016.
HOG TN State Rally – June
If you would like to come down one weekend just to see a mass of Harleys in one place, or if you are a Harley enthusiast, the HOG TN State Rally in June is the perfect place to be. This is an annual rally, and the weekend activities from June 2-4 include a demo of new 2016 models, rides through the Shelby Forest, and an event-end party at the Cook Convention Center.
Things to Do in Downtown Memphis
Downtown Memphis is the business and commercial center of Memphis. Its rich history still makes it one of the not-to-be-missed Memphis spots to visit. You can go for the night life, or discover some of the more history-focused places.
Withers Collection Museum and Gallery
On renowned Beale Street, where you will find yourself if you go anywhere near Downtown Memphis, you will find the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery. Ernest C. Withers was a photojournalist, and his photographs cover the period from World War I to the 21st century. It is, especially, a photo-history of Black communities and personalities.
B.B. King’s Blues Club
The B.B. King’s Blues Club was started by, and is named after, Blues Boy King–better known as B.B. King. This literal King of the Blues is famous for a distinct guitar style, and for his guitars named Lucille–named after a barfight nearly destroyed his guitar in the resulting fire. The B.B. King’s Blues Club is now a center for some of best Downtown Memphis blues.
Blues City Cafe
The Blues City Cafe is famous for its ribs-to-die-for, and for its catfish and steaks and tamales. Their ribs are already nationally famous, thanks to media networks and channels such as the Travel Channel and Bon Appetit Magazine. In the Band Box, you can experience live music daily and even join the D.Y.M.O.: Dance Your Meal Off!
Things to do in Midtown Memphis
Midtown Memphis is a charming mix of the commercial and the cultural. The main educational institutions are there, as are a number of museums and other cultural destination spots. Midtown Memphis is perfect for light shopping and hanging out.
The Trolley Stop Market
The Trolley Stop Market is one of the best places to go in Midtown Memphis for an overall feel of the place. You can sit to dine in the Trolley Stop Market Cafe, come in a bit later for the bar, or browse the market. Fresh farm produce is sold there, as are homemade jams and jellies, and artisan crafts. Small enterprises showcase there as well–true local Memphis.
What is a trip to Midtown Memphis without a treasure-hunt? Gary’s Antiques is nothing less than a treasure-hunt in one store. This haphazardly-arranged, bargain-and-buy store has shelves full of unorganized antiques and surprising old pieces. If you are inclined to shopping adventures of historic Memphis, this is the place to go.
If you cannot quite decide where it is you want to go or what you want to do, Overton Square is a perfect place to start. In the mood for some shopping? Drop by The Attic or The Ivory Closet for clothes and accessories. Memphis Pizza barCafe and the Local Gastropub are perfect for a local taste, and the Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar is there for variety.
Schedule Your Trip To Memphis!
Memphis has something for everyone, from individuals to families, from outdoorsy people to food-lovers. Its rich music history is sure to delight music-lovers, while its cultural heritage deepens the overall experience. See you there!
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