Travel Tips and Tricks

All Things Touristy: Memphis

Unique spots, a rich culture, ducks and absurdly decadent food.

Last week I took a 14-hour road trip from my hometown in Florida to Memphis, Tennessee with my older sister. I’m always excited to venture to a place I’ve never been, so on our way there I did some research of the top spots of Memphis tourism to visit. During our 3 day stay, my sister and I did just about every noteworthy thing there is to do. So, without further ado, here’s the spots worth visiting and the ones you can go ahead and skip.

Beale Street

Of course, Beale Street is a must-see when visiting Memphis. It is home of the blues and you can tell immediately when you step foot there. Regardless the time of day you visit. there is some sort of hustle and bustle happening.

There are loads of delicious restaurants and shops filled with Memphis memorabilia. If you are interested in the spookier side of things, visit Tater Red’s Lucky Mojos and Voodoo Healing for some enchanting products. On the other hand, if you just want a Memphis magnet or a postcard go to A. Schwabs. This store has every piece of Memphis merchandise you could want, milkshakes, and record bins upstairs.

Bass Pro Shops Pyramid

Image via Bass Pro Media Center

I’m not necessarily interested in fishing or hunting, but the sheer absurdity of this Bass Pro Shops beckoned me to enter. In the center of Memphis sits a massive silver pyramid, in it is Bass Pro Shops, the hotel Big Cypress Lodge, Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center, Beretta Fine Gun Center, Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill, an archery and pistol range, an aquarium and the most popular attraction, the lookout.

The lookout fee is $10 and can be worth it depending on when you go. After you reach the top of the 28-story freestanding elevator (the world’s tallest) you can see every inch of Memphis.

Unfortunately, I went on an overcast day that only emphasized the dullness in color of Memphis’s architecture. Although, I’m certain if you timed your visit for sunset or a sunny day it will be worth the cost.

Crystal Shrine Grotto

This spot initially seemed just plain weird and borderline creepy. Long story short, artist Dionicio Rodriguez was hired to beautify the grounds of Memorial Park Cemetery. The fruit of his labors ended up being a 40-foot tree which inside holds a cave adorned with crystals, documenting Jesus’s life and broadcasting soft melodious music from its doorway. Read more of the story here.

When my sister and I visited the cave it was pouring rain, which only added to the creepiness of the grotto. However, once we entered the cave I was overcome with peace. This crystal ridden cave isn’t creepy at all, it’s actually calming in its own peculiar way. Definitely worth the visit.

The Peabody Hotel Ducks

Every day at 11 A.M., a group ducks march from their home on the rooftop, down the elevator, and goes to a pond in the lobby of the hotel. Then at 5 P.M. the ducks return to their rooftop home.

The “Duckmaster” conducts the event in its entirety. An intricate red-suede coat and a cane bearing a duck’s head adorns the master of ceremonies. He gives a brief history of the ducks and then moves a set of tiny stairs for the ducks to begin their move accompanied by upbeat marching music.

This process is so hilariously strange it is completely worth seeing, and its free! Read more about the history here.

Lauderdale Courts

Image via Trip Advisor

Previously the home of a young Elvis Presley and his family, Lauderdale Courts was mentioned as a noteworthy spot.

You can even rent out their old apartment which is decorated just as it would’ve looked when the Presleys resided there.

The courts now are now called Uptown Square Apartments. Driving past, we couldn’t spot Elvis’s original home or anything about the Presley family. My advice would be: skip this visit unless you are staying in the Presley apartment.

Shangri-La Records

This record store is known for housing tons of independent label albums, and all sorts of local bands. They also host live shows every now and then. If you are interested in vinyl definitely visit Shangri-La they carry loads of rare, modern, old, popular, underground and most importantly clearance records.

Mud Island

Image via 10 Best

Sitting right on the Mississippi River, Mud Island is a scenic stop. Visit the Mississippi River Park to bike, walk, or even pedal boat on the Mississippi. Also stop by their scale model of the Mississippi River from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans.

Restaurants:
Pearl’s Oyster House

Image via Pearl’s Oyster House

A lively stop, Pearl’s offers just about any type of seafood you could want. I ordered a veggie plate with green beans, spinach and broccoli with a cup of the shrimp and crawfish étouffée. The étouffée surprised me with how delicious it was. Growing up visiting Louisiana, I have a high standard for all things Cajun and this étouffée met my standards!

LYFE Kitchen

It’s hard to miss LYFE Kitchen in Memphis. Atop the building is a massive sign with the restaurant’s name.

Make sure you go at an off time if you eat here. We went the night Justin Timberlake was performing at the FedEx Forum and waited over half an hour for a table before we eventually left. We returned the next day for dinner and it truthfully was worth it.

They have tons of options for vegetarians. I got the quinoa crunch bowl and substituted the quinoa for the brussel sprouts and sweet potato side.

Central BBQ

Image via Foodosophy

Let me preface this with the fact that I’m not a huge barbeque fan in the first place and really don’t like eating meat much at all. That being said, I wasn’t a huge fan of Central.

I ordered the roasted turkey with greens and green beans. The sauce was too tangy for my taste and the sides were plain at best. I’ve heard other spots in Memphis serve better barbeque and will definitely try those next time.

Carolina Watershed

Image via Memphis Flyer

Located in a silo, this is a unique dining experience. The menu may seem plain but it’s tasty in its own right. I ordered the turkey sandwich without bacon and a side of the cucumber and tomato salad. Although simple, every element of the meal was good!

Bedrock Eats and Sweets

Image via Memphis Flyer

This stop was by far my favorite. I love creating dishes with protein powders and healthier alternatives and this place does just that. Now, note that most of the dishes aren’t “healthy” but they are healthier than their traditional counterparts.

For my meal I had the peanut butter and banana waffle. For someone that rarely eats food like this due to a fear of processed ingredients, this honestly tasted like a piece of heaven. Peanut butter maple syrup accompanies this crispy waffle. Let me repeat that, PEANUT BUTTER SYRUP. Go as far out of your way as you must to visit this place.

Fuel Café

Image via Vegan Crunk

Another super cool healthy alternative stop for vegans and non-vegans alike! Fuel specializes in pizza, most of which can all be made vegan. We ordered their Hawaiian pizza which substituted ham for carrot slices.

It sounds lame, I know, but it was amazing. The sweetness of roasted carrot perfectly mimics the sweetness of ham. Their dough was also fantastic, perfectly crispy on the outside while the inside was doughy as can be.

All in all, Memphis is home to tons of unique spots, a rich culture, and absurdly decadent food. Next vacation you have, take a drive to Memphis you won’t regret it!

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Also published on Medium.

Sarah is a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Miami. She...