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Flights to Memphis

About Destination

While country music fans tend to visit Nashville, it's to Memphis that fans of blues and rock 'n' roll tend to flock. It was here that both of these influential music forms originated, and the city boasts numerous related places to visit to prove it, from iconic Beale Street to star-studded Sun Studios and Elvis Presley's famous Graceland estate. Foodies are also drawn to the city and should plan on sampling as much of the famous Memphis Barbecue as they can, in between visiting attractions like the Rock 'n' Soul Museum and STAX Museum of American Soul. And while downtown, be sure to catch the Peabody Ducks as they make their march down the red carpet at the Peabody Hotel, as they have done for nearly 100 years.

ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Memphis

1. Graceland: The Home of Elvis Presley

Graceland, the former estate of music legend Elvis Presley, has become the ultimate pilgrimage for fans of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Elvis purchased the 14-acre property in 1957, and today tourists come to tour his former home, admire memorabilia, and visit his tomb, which sits in the Meditation Garden.

Tours of the mansion include most of the house, from the elegant foyer and living room where he entertained numerous celebrities to the famous Jungle Room, complete with shag carpets and Polynesian décor. The Trophy Building, designed to tell the story of Elvis's personal life, contains memorabilia like Priscilla's wedding dress, numerous flashy suits once worn by the singer on stage, jewelry, awards, and even toys from Lisa Marie's childhood.

2. Downtown and the Beale Street Entertainment District

A stroll down Beale Street, nicknamed the "Home of the Blues," is one of the first places to visit in Memphis. Here, you'll find iconic attractions like the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum and WC Handy's House, now a museum where the "Father of the Blues" composed Memphis Blues and St. Louis Blues. It's also home to the famous A. Schwab dry goods store. Founded in 1876, the store's motto is, "If you can't find it at A. Schwab, you don't need it!"

This central area is also home to many other fun things to do — music-related and otherwise — such as pay a visit to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, with its exhibits of local music legends, instruments, memorabilia, and rare recordings.

3. Sun Studio

Sun Studio in Memphis is famous as the recording facility where such greats as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King, and Roy Orbison began their careers. The studio itself is still used by recording artists, with more recent recordings being made by John Mellencamp and Chris Isaak. It's a fascinating look into the recording process, and a free shuttle service is available from Graceland and the Rock 'n' Soul Museum.

A great way to maximise your enjoyment of this top-rated Memphis attraction is to join a popular guided tour that includes Sun Studio admission. These fun 45-minute tours include admission, a professional tour guide, free parking, and a discount voucher for use in the on-site souvenir shop.

4. Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum was created by the Smithsonian to highlight musical pioneers from the 1930s through to the 1970s. There are seven fun galleries to explore, each with a digital audio tour including 100 songs. Other exhibits include costumes, more than 30 instruments, and other music-related items, including the costumes worn by the early stars. Featured galleries deal with the early years of music in Memphis, Sun Records, soul music, rural music, and culture, as well as disco.

Another Memphis music attraction worth a visit is the famous Gibson Guitar Factory, which offers a fascinating look at the making of these fine instruments.

5. National Civil Rights Museum

A short distance south of Beale Street, at 406 Mulberry Street, is the infamous Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in 1968. The building is now occupied by the National Civil Rights Museum, which traces the history of civil rights movements in the US. Its centerpiece is the hotel room and balcony on which King was killed, now marked by a white wreath.

This thought-provoking museum includes a number of excellent interactive displays, as well as artifacts from the Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka case and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

6. Mississippi River Park and Museum

Mud Island — also known as Festival Island — houses the Riverwalk, a three-quarter-mile-long model showing the course of the Mississippi all the way from Cairo, Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. At the scaled-down gulf, visitors can hop aboard a pedal boat and relax on the water while enjoying views of the Memphis skyline.

The model is part of the Mississippi River Museum, the central attraction of this family park, with its excellent galleries and a reproduction of an 1870 steamboat. Other highlights include the Hall of River Music and a collection of native artifacts.

7. The Memphis Zoo

Established in 1906, The Memphis Zoo, home to more than 3,500 animals representing 500 species, is one of only four zoos in the country to house giant pandas. Other popular inhabitants include polar bears, sea lions, black bears, bald eagles, and ravens in a naturalistic environment called the Northwest Passage, while Cat Country is home to both predators and prey, including lions, tigers, cheetahs, and antelopes.

Other habitats have family favorites such as elephants, giraffes, penguins, several species of primates including the adorable bonobo, and even a farm animal exhibit. A must-see is Butterflies: In Living Color, open seasonally from Memorial Day through October. Concessions, rides, gift shops, and a discovery center are also available. Guided tours and fun behind-the-scenes encounters are also available.

8. STAX Museum of American Soul

The STAX Museum of American Soul — one of only a handful of museums worldwide dedicated to the genre — is an exact replica of the original Stax Records studio. The museum features "everything soul," including detailed exhibits relating to the stars, the music, and its history, as well as artifacts such as instruments and costumes. Other highlights are a century-old Mississippi Delta church used to display soul's roots in gospel music, and the Soul Train TV show dance floor.

9. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Established in 1916, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is Tennessee's largest (and oldest) art museum. The building itself is something of a work of art and includes an interesting cylindrical design in the extension added in the 1950s. Spread across its 29 galleries is an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures, including works representing the Renaissance and Baroque periods, as well as Impressionist paintings and American prints. Highlights include works by the likes of Gainsborough and Renoir.

Decorative arts, including fine examples of textiles and furniture, are also on display. The grounds are also pleasant and include a large terrace area and garden. The museum also includes a gift shop and café, along with educational spaces (art classes are available), a research library, and an auditorium.

10. Children's Museum of Memphis

The Children's Museum of Memphis (CMOM) is a godsend for traveling parents and features numerous things to do, including hands-on displays to keep young ones entertained. Highlights include a fun cityscape with kid-sized businesses, including an auto mechanic shop and dentist office, as well as an interactive model of Times Square and a giant Light-Bright wall.

Kids can also sit in a flight simulator and a real airplane cockpit, explore the Mississippi River, climb through the arteries of a giant heart, and ride a bicycle on Mars. Other highlights include a ride on the 1909 Dentzel Grand Carousel, a big-top circus experience, painting and sculpting in the art studio, and fun special events. Snack outlets are available, and picnic space is provided.