Top 5 Things to do In Memphis | The Peabody Ducks and More
As the mighty Mississippi river travels south on it's journey towards the Gulf of Mexico, it winds through the city which has been dubbed 'The Home of the Blues' and 'The Birthplace of Rock-and-Roll'. Memphis has long been revered for both it's music and food, with locals happy to share the rich history that their city holds.
Famous residents like Muddy Waters and BB King put a stamp on the city in the mid 20th century as it helped to evolve musical genres such as gospel, blues and jazz. Elvis Presley called the city home as he recorded timeless hits for Sun Records along with Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. His home sits as a monument to his life and achievements.
Tragedy also holds a place in the city as it is where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on that fateful day in 1968. His contributions to the Civil Rights movement are memorialized at the spot in which spent his last hours. Visitors can pay respects to his memory and browse through a museum which holds stories of the struggle.
For anyone with a weekend to spare, it can be a worthwhile destination that provides a variety of entertainment and activities. Next time you are looking for a good way to pass the time, consider Memphis. This article will take you along to some of the things you should not miss.
As you approach the Lorraine Hotel you will instantly feel as if you have been transported back in time. This is no accident. The hotel has been preserved as a monument to where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Everything from the hotel room, to the building facade and sign, to the cars parked outside have stood still for decades. At times the atmosphere is downright eerie.
At the northeast end of the hotel lies the National Civil Rights Museum which houses a pictorial history of the struggle faced by African Americans throughout the course of US History. Exhibits to Rosa Parks, Slavery, and Jim Crow laws are presented. Visitors can revisit the series of events that led us to where we are Today.
While this is not in the category of a "fun" attraction, it is one that deserves a visit when in Memphis. It is a monument to a time that we cannot forget as we move forward. Seeing an area of such historical significance is a requisite and a good educational opportunity for parents and children alike.
If you just want to see the memorial outside, there is no admission. For those who want to see the exhibits inside the National Civil Rights Museum there is a fee which is currently $15 for adults and $12 for children under 18.
The Memphis Street Cars
While not as well known as those in San Francisco, Memphis also offers visitors a chance to ride vintage street cars. Three separate routes take passengers along the Mississippi River and through the downtown area for a nominal fee. Multiple stops allow visitors to jump on and off while enjoying the sites.
The last of the original street car lines ceased operation in the 1940's, but were resurrected in the early 1990's to boost tourism in the area. All the cars are actual antique models that were restored to operate on overhead wires. Over 1.3 million people ride them yearly.
For the nominal price, it is worth it to take a ride on the line. The Riverfront Loop gives you a scenic view of the Mississippi while the Main Street and Madison Avenue Lines give you a tour of the downtown. It is an enjoyable experience that helps you to see areas of the town that you otherwise would miss.
The Peabody Ducks
The Peabody Ducks
If there were such a thing as a royal family of ducks, they would no doubt be the ones that take up residence at the Peabody Hotel. A tradition that dates back to the early 20th century entails five Mallard ducks (one male and four female), put on a daily show that is watched by not only guests of the hotel, but tourists who also arrive daily to watch the proceedings.
Each day at 11:00am, the ducks are led from their penthouse on the roof of the Peabody to the elevator and down to the Hotel lobby. With regal music blaring, they then march ceremoniously on a red carpet to a grand marble fountain. There they are then given the day to swim amongst hotel guests. Their schedule dictates a return to the roof in the same manner at 5:00 pm sharp.
Kids will especially love the show as the ducks waddle past them onto the elevator. The hotel makes sure that each instance is presented like a show for the entertainment of all, with a bellman giving a speech and history. Be there early if you want to be up front to see the ducks as they walk past. There is no charge to attend.
For an added bonus, take a ride to the roof of the hotel for one of the best views of the city. Note that when on the elevator this would be the "S" button. While the roof is actually the 13th floor superstition dictates it not be labeled that way. Rather it is called 'The Skyway'.
" ...and I was walking in Memphis.. walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale" -Mark Cohn
If asked to name the most iconic streets in the United States, one would inevitably have to mention Beale Street. With a past that would take a book to hold, the street was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966. It's buildings house the echos of the many black musicians who created the musical genre of Blues in the 19th century.
Today the street is a must-see for anyone visiting Memphis. With top notch restaurants offering authentic Southern fare to bars serving up live shows there are few places more well known for having a good time.
For food, BB King's Blues Club and Restaurant sits at the top of Beale street teasing passers by with the sound of live music and the smell of authentic Southern fare such as catfish, fried pickles and cajun pasta. Further down 'The Pig on Beale' offers bona-fide prize winning barbeque and smoked ribs created with authentic Memphis style flavoring. While the atmosphere is casual the food speaks for itself.
Live music is a must and on any night or weekend you will find musicians playing everything from gospel to blues to rock-and-roll. There are a few open air bars where you can sit outside and enjoy the weather as the sound of blues guitar hits your eardrums. For those lucky enough to visit in May, Memphis hosts the annual Beale Street Music Festival which pulls musicians from all over the country. Rosters of no less than fifty artists each year are the norm.
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For past generations, there was no musical icon bigger than Elvis Presley. Fans would line up for blocks to catch a glimpse of their idol, with women sometimes passing out at the mere sight. For most kids Today, Elvis Presley music is an unknown commodity. Shutter to think that for some they have never even heard the name mentioned.
As a testament to his historical significance, Graceland was created and thrives as a full fledged amusement park dedicated to his memory. One can spend an entire day going through exhibits ranging from Presley's actual home, to his car collection, to his plane, to his record catalog, to news clippings. It is overwhelming how large the attraction has become.
One would think that they need to be a fan of Presley's to enjoy the attraction but they couldn't be more wrong. Yes, for some it is a pilgrimage to pay their respects to a fallen idol, but for far many more it is an opportunity to see a moment preserved in time.
When visiting the actual home where Elvis took residence, it is striking to see it's actual size. When compared to the mansions that entertainment figures live in Today, it may seem underwhelming. A tour of the home and grounds takes you through the everything from the infamous jungle room, to the billiards room, to the TV room where Elvis watched three monitors at a time, one tuned to each network. For older generations try explaining to your kids that ABC, CBS and NBC were the only stations available during that period!
From there you can tour the racquetball court, the grounds, and then to his final resting place in the meditation garden where he is buried next to his parents and grandmother. Note that you will most likely see at least one person shed at tear at that point in the tour.
Graceland is truly a marketing marvel and it will be hard not to be impressed at how they have taken things to such a high level. If one wanted they could spend an entire day going through everything the site offers. There are different tour options and packages each of which you may need to study to understand what is included.
For those on the fence because they are not really a big fan, remember that there is more to it than just the man and his music. Graceland has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in America because it preserves the memory of someone who played an integral part in bringing rock and roll music into the mainstream. Indulge and give it a try.
© 2014 Jeff