Enjoy a two day Memphis vacation by experiencing the history, cultural richness and music of the city shaped by its location on the Mississippi River.
Memphis started out as a supply hub for river workers and settlers making the difficult westward journey. By 1840, cotton growing and trading in Memphis had grown to such an extent that it became the largest inland cotton market in the world. Several important events shaped the city’s character: two devastating yellow fever epidemics which almost wiped out the town, the Civil Rights movement which found its voice in Memphis and the cultural impact of the Blues, the uniquely American sound that evolved from “field hollers, the chanting songs of slaves working the cotton fields around Memphis.”
Day 1. The History and Interesting Memphis Places
Historic Memphis Walking Tour. Start off Day 1 with an interesting, comprehensive 2 hr. narrated walk through downtown Memphis. Sites passed include those related to the city’s founding, the importance of the river, the cotton trade and important events that changed the character of the city. Engaging storytelling by excellent guides brings the city’s history and unique vibe to life throughout the walk along Main Street, historic Beale Street, and down side streets. Get a great view of the Mississippi from the rooftop of the Madison Hotel; stop for a cup of coffee and muffin at a local breakfast hangout. The tour, offered by Trusted Tours & Attractions at a discounted rate, begins a 9:30am on Saturdays only March – November, and at 9:30am Monday- Saturday March – November.
Memphis Mojo Tour. If you’re not into walking, a great 90 minute narrated tour in a vintage 1959 transit bus is the ticket. The vibrant tour covers a mix of important landmarks that shaped Memphis, from Beale Street, Sun Studio, and Stax Music of American Soul to the Lorraine Motel , where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Check out discounted tickets for this great 90-minute ride through Memphis from Trusted Tours & Attractions.
W.C. Handy House. Visit the small, humble home where the “Father of the Blues,” W.C. Handy, grew up. In 1912, as the first to record songs based on the field hollers with their unexpected flattened “blue” notes, Handy began an art form. He also published the first Blues song in America, “Memphis Blues.” Tickets to the home are available through Trusted Tours & Attractions.
National Civil Rights Museum. A compelling one-of-a-kind museum compound whose exciting permanent and temporary exhibitions and events focus on many aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. Exhibits focus on the history of a struggle that started centuries ago and on the hopes and challenges of a people. Through 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films, oral histories and interactive media, visitors are guided through history from the beginning of the resistance during slavery, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow and the seminal events of the late 20th century that inspired people around the world to stand up for equality. The second floor of the Legacy Building, exhibits focus on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968 in the Lorraine Motel across the street.
End a day in Memphis on an evening out in the Historic Beale Street Entertainment District where it all began and where clubs offer music 7 days a week.
Day 2. The Music
The unique Memphis Sound first recorded by W.C. Handy evolved as it was played in clubs and juke joints along Beale Street in the 1940s. It was also played on WDIA Memphis, the first radio station in the country with an all-black line-up. During the 1950s and 1960s, some of the best of Memphis Sound was created. Recording studios sprang up in the city. Several terrific Memphis museums tell the story of the music of this period.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music pays homage to Memphis Soul and the Stax Record label. The Smithsonian’s Memphis Rock n Soul Museum tells the story of musical pioneers, beginning in the 1930s, who overcame social, racial and economic barriers to create innovative music. Both museums have wonderful exhibits, videos, stage costumes, photos, instruments and memorabilia, and admission to both is offered by Trusted Tours & Attraction at discounted prices. Find discounted tickets here.
Memphis Sun Studio Tour. In 1952, Sun Records came on the scene as an influential force in the diversification of the Memphis Sound into Rock n Roll. Sun launched legendary greats Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Ike Turner. One of Sun’s greatest find was Elvis Presley who got his start there in 1954, recording “That’s All Right.” See tickets on sale at Trusted Tours & Attractions for a unique journey through the birth of Rock n’ Roll and to experience how the “Sun Sound” was made in the studio, now a National Historic Landmark. A highlight is listening to jam session recordings of legendary musical artists. Find discounted tickets here.
Graceland. A visit to the Memphis home of “the King of Rock n Roll ” is a must. See how Elvis was influenced by growing up in Memphis, surrounded by the Memphis Sound. Before being signed by Sun, a young Elvis found his voice hanging around the sound, vibe and style of the musicians playing clubs along Beale Street. He adapted it and made it his own. The rest is history. Find discounted tickets here.
There is much to see on the 14-acre property. Plan to spend the afternoon there. Several Graceland tours available through Trusted Tours and Attractions offer different experience levels.
Elvis Experience Tour Plus Planes. Start with an audio tour of the mansion, whose original 50s, 60s and 70s décor gives insight into the life the King of Rock n Roll. Watch wonderful videos, see photos, personal mementos, movie memorabilia, and stage costumes. Walk through his collection of 33 vehicles. See his custom jet planes. Find discounted tickets here.
A Graceland Platinum Tour. Sit back on the vintage Backbeat Bus for a music-filled ride to Graceland. Once there, take an audio tour of the Mansion, the grounds, and the museum. See Elvis’ private jets; watch a film about Elvis’ career. Shop for Elvis-themed gifts, enjoy the restaurants. The return ride to Memphis is just as fun as getting there.
Elvis VIP Tour Plus Planes. For true Elvis fans, this total immersion into the world of Elvis Presley is for you. Begin with an audio guided tour of the Graceland Mansion and grounds. Go on self-guided tours of the following: Presley Automobile Museum where his many cars and famous pink Cadillac are on display and Elvis’ Custom Jets. See how the King’s provocative gyrations shocked the world and attracted fans in Elvis Memorable, hip-shaking, news-making story. See how Elvis influenced pop culture in Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture Exhibit and in the Entertainer Career Museum and the ’68 Special Exhibit. This day-long ticket also has VIP perks too: Go to the head of the line to enter the Mansion; experience a Special VIP Only Exhibit in the Mansion.