Best Attractions in MemphisIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
Memphis has music running through its veins, so it's no surprise that one of its top visitor destinations is Elvis Presley's Graceland . Home to the King until his death in 1977, the 14-acre estate, a AAA GEM attraction, comprises the white-columned Graceland Mansion, said to be the second-most visited private home in the country (topped only by the White House). A tour of the mansion includes a peek at Elvis' glittery jumpsuits, awards and rows of gold records, a stroll into the over-the-top Jungle Room and a stop at the Meditation Garden, Elvis' permanent resting place.
The tour of Elvis' Automobile Museum includes his 1955 pink Cadillac and other cars and motorcycles. Serious fans looking for more intimate details about the life of the rock ’n’ roll legend should visit the Graceland Archives, which features photographs and even more memorabilia.
After visiting Graceland, a trip to the tiny Sun Studio is mandatory, as it was here that Elvis recorded “That's All Right (Mama)” the tune that launched him into international fame and introduced the world to a new sound that came to be known as rock ‘n' roll. You can also check out the W.C. Handy Memphis Home & Museum , a small frame house where the Father of the Blues lived while he created the syncopated rhythms of “Memphis Blues.”
A number of museums celebrate Memphis' musical roots. Stop at the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum , a AAA GEM attraction, to learn about how the Memphis sound played a role in the creation of the blues, country, rock 'n' roll and soul music. Galleries are chock-full of music memorabilia. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music honors American soul music and its musicians through exhibits and such notable pieces as B.B. King's “Lucille” guitar.
Other museums present impressive collections of art and artifacts: The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art , a AAA GEM attraction, boasts works by French Impressionists, American paintings and sculpture, Renaissance and baroque paintings and 18th- and 19th-century English and American portraiture. Housed in a giant pink marble mansion, the Memphis Pink Palace Museum , also a AAA GEM attraction, contains changing historical and anthropological exhibits as well as a 3D theater. Featuring Asian art, the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art houses one of the most extensive collections of Asian art in the country. Created for Chinese nobility during the Quing (Ch'ing) Dynasty, pieces include jade sculpture, intricate ivory carvings, imperial textiles and red lacquer furnishings. And find vibrant folk art on display at the Center for Southern Folklore , which also serves as a venue for blues, jazz, soul, gospel and folk music concerts.
To get a taste of life on the Mississippi, opt for Sightseeing Cruises Aboard the Memphis Riverboats . The triple-decker paddle wheelers take passengers on leisurely, breezy voyages up and down the Mississippi River. Speaking of the river, if you're interested in learning more about its muddy waters, visit the Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island Park . The 52-acre island park sits amid the river and is reached by bridge or monorail. The museum educates about the river with the help of thousands of artifacts, a huge aquarium and a replica of an antique steamboat, among other displays.
Back on solid ground, the Memphis Botanic Garden is a great spot from which to take in the serenity of nature. More than 25 specialty gardens sport roses, irises, daylilies, hostas, azaleas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, wildflowers and magnolias. An urban oasis, the Lichterman Nature Center offers gardens with native plants set on 65 acres of lake, meadow and forest that are home to birds, reptiles and mammals. Polar bears, sea lions and bald eagles reside in the Northwest Passage exhibit at the at the Memphis Zoo , sharing space with some 3,500 other mammals, primates and amphibians in nearly-natural habitats.
The Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s, assassination, provides the locale for The National Civil Rights Museum . Excellent exhibits at the AAA GEM attraction share about African American history and culture up to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. A large wreath hangs on the balcony outside rooms 306 and 307, which appear as they did on April 4, 1968.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
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.
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.
Time and Temperature
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.
3205 Elvis Presley Blvd. Memphis, TN 38116. Phone:(901)543-5300 or (888)633-9099
Domestic and foreign airlines serve
Discounts are offered to AAA members by Hertz, (901) 345-5680 or (800) 654-3131.
Amtrak offers passenger service from Central Station, 545 S. Main St.; phone (901) 526-0052 or (800) 872-7245.
The Greyhound bus station is at 3033 Airways Blvd.; phone (800) 231-2222.
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.
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.