Home / Travel Guides - Memphis

flickr/Curtis Simmons

Introduction Memphis is the motherland of American music. Here, Elvis made his first recording and W.C. Handy penned the blues. As a result, many attractions at this destination have ties to rock, soul, gospel and blues music, and pilgrims gather to pay homage.

If Memphis had a soundtrack, its title track would be a peppy rock number to commemorate the city's prominence as the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll. Elvis' first-ever recording, which was taped at the renowned Sun Studio, took the world by storm. Now the world takes Graceland by storm.

flickr/Heath Cajandig
Deep, mellow sounds of '60s soul music honor Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Albert King and Al Green, who recorded at Stax Records, a significant R&B label that began as Satellite Records in Memphis. The city's Stax Museum of American Soul Music remembers these artists.

Exalted gospel harmonies hang over the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in 1968. The motel is now the locale for the stellar National Civil Rights Museum.

flickr/Alexander Guerson
And, of course, Memphis can't escape the blues. It was in the smoky saloons on Beale Street where Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis, Memphis Minnie, B.B. King, Louis Armstrong and others built on the gospel-like sounds of the Mississippi Delta. While performing here, W.C. Handy wrote “Memphis Blues,” and hopeful musicians still head to Beale to take their chances in the clubs.

Getting There

By CarExcept for the downtown business core flanking the river, Memphis is circled by a controlled-access highway, I-240, which intersects with all major approach routes. I-40 is the primary east-west route, linking Memphis with Jackson and Nashville to the east and Little Rock and Fort Smith, Ark., and Oklahoma City to the west. As a bypass it runs convergent with I-240 around the northern edge of the metropolitan area, intersecting with Austin Peay Highway (SR 14) from the northeast and Danny Thomas Boulevard (US 51) from the north.

A freeway extension of the eastern portion of I-40 penetrates inside the I-240 loop as far as Highland Avenue, where it is shunted over to Summer Avenue (US 64/70/79) for a straight westward run toward downtown. On the west, I-40 interchanges with Arkansas-Riverside Drive, Second Street, Third Street and Front Street, the most direct entrances to the downtown area.

The major north-south corridor is I-55. From Jackson, Miss., and other points south it connects with the western leg of I-240, loops around the southwest part of the city and then, having picked up US 61, veers west at an interchange with E.H. Crump Boulevard. From St. Louis and points north, I-55 runs southward along the west bank of the Mississippi River, absorbing US 63 traffic from the northwest.

At West Memphis, Ark., I-55 joins briefly with I-40 before the two divide again to cross the Mississippi and circumnavigate Memphis. US 61 brings light traffic through the southern countryside from Vicksburg, Miss., and US 51 repeats the leisurely pace from Kentucky on the north.

The only other major approach routes are US 72 and US 78. The former provides access from Huntsville and Florence, Ala., angling into the heart of the city via Poplar Avenue. US 78 from Birmingham and Tupelo, Miss., enters Memphis as Lamar Avenue. It interchanges twice with I-240—once at the circumferential highway's southern segment and again on the western leg at E.H. Crump Boulevard.

Getting Around

Street SystemAs did nearly every facet of the city, Memphis' street plan developed with the river as a focus. Streets form a compass-oriented grid, running parallel or perpendicular to the Mississippi. Major arterials follow a more or less diagonal course as they radiate from the downtown business section.

Except for downtown, where Front, Main and Second through Seventh streets (all parallel to the Mississippi River) march inland, most streets and avenues are named. Although Madison divides north from south and Main and Florida separate east from west, compass designations are rarely used in Memphis addresses.

Unless posted otherwise, the downtown speed limit is 25 mph. The speed limit is 35 mph on major thoroughfares. Turning right at a red light after coming to a complete stop is legal unless otherwise posted. Similarly, so is turning left from one one-way street onto another. Pedestrians always have the right-of-way, particularly at marked crosswalks. Driving during rush hours, 6:30-9 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m., should be avoided if possible.

ParkingAs in any big city, parking downtown or near the major attractions is often at a premium. On-street parking, when a space can be found, is governed by meters. Commercial garages and parking lots are scattered throughout downtown. Rates average $2-$5 per hour, $7-$15 for all day.

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Memphis, TN

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.

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The Guest House at Graceland

3600 Elvis Presley Blvd. Memphis, TN 38116

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Best Western Plus Galleria Inn & Suites

8635 Ricky Bell Cove. Memphis, TN 38133

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Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton at Beale Street

175 Peabody Pl. Memphis, TN 38103

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Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel

250 N Main St. Memphis, TN 38103

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Travel Information

City Population

646,889

Elevation

337 ft.

Sales Tax

State sales tax is 7 percent; occupancy tax is 6 percent; and Memphis sales tax is 2.25 percent, for a combined lodging tax of 15.25 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(901) 545-2677

Time and Temperature

(901) 526-5261

Hospitals

Baptist Memorial Hospital, (901) 226-5000; Delta Medical Center, (877) 627-4395; Methodist North Hospital, (901) 516-5200; Methodist South Hospital, (901) 516-3700; Regional Medical Center at Memphis, (901) 545-7100; Saint Francis Hospital, (901) 765-1000.

Visitor Information

3205 Elvis Presley Blvd. Memphis, TN 38116. Phone:(901)543-5300 or (888)633-9099

Air Travel

Domestic and foreign airlines serve

Rental Cars

Discounts are offered to AAA members by Hertz, (901) 345-5680 or (800) 654-3131.

Rail Service

Amtrak offers passenger service from Central Station, 545 S. Main St.; phone (901) 526-0052 or (800) 872-7245.

Buses

The Greyhound bus station is at 3033 Airways Blvd.; phone (800) 231-2222.

Taxis

The major company is Yellow Cab, (901) 577-7777. Fares are metered, with the basic rate $3.80 for the first mile, then $1.80 for each additional mile. One dollar is added for each additional passenger. A $3 surcharge is added to fares originating from the airport.

Public Transportation

Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) buses operate Mon.-Fri. 4:30 a.m.-11:15 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. and holidays 8-5. Base fare is $1.75, with increases for zones outside city limits; a day pass can be purchased for $3.50, and covers unlimited bus rides. Ages 65+, students and the physically impaired pay reduced rates with a special MATA ID card. Park 'n' Ride service is available at multiple locations within the city. Not all routes operate nights and Sundays.

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