I’d always thought of Memphis as the home of Elvis, a city synonymous with Graceland. I didn’t truly appreciate everything it has to offer until we spent a weekend walking in Memphis.
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
While Beale Street is nearly two miles long, an area of roughly three blocks is the place to visit. This section is prime for restaurants and entertainment, where Memphis-style barbecue meets Memphis-style music. Blues, soul, jazz and rock and roll blend as perfectly together as the barbecue’s dry rub of cumin, garlic, paprika and pepper.
B.B. King’s Blues Club is utterly iconic. The interior is large with plenty of spots to hear multiple performers. Blues City Cafe has a delicious menu and the Rum Boogie Cafe has an eclectic vibe. But you can’t go wrong with any spot along this cobblestoned area.
Touch down in the land of the Delta Blues
Just 90 minutes south of Memphis is the part of Mississippi considered the birthplace of blues. Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Museum appears deceptively small. Inside, the building is packed with anything related to the blues, its history, musicians and perspective. A true blues fan could spend days here; even someone with a passing interest will be fascinated by the depth and breadth of information.
Just a stone’s throw away is Ground Zero Blues Club. It’s open for lunch and is fascinating in the daylight, but the true fun happens at night when local, regional and occasionally national acts grace its stage.
WC Handy, won’t you look down over me
From rooftop of the Peabody Hotel you can enjoy views of the Mississippi River and downtown. We toasted with happy hour cocktails and visited the hotel’s most famous residents – the ducks – when they returned from their day of hard work. They spend the day in the lobby fountain, then in the evening ride the elevator back to their palace penthouse.
The hotel itself is historically charming. Rooms are small but luxuriously furnished with comfortable bedding and bathrooms. Plenty of sites are within walking distance, whether the trolley, Mud Island River Park, the National Civil Rights Museum or Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous around the corner.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous is best found by following your nose. The restaurant is located down an alley and a staircase into the basement of a nondescript building. It’s been on these premises for more than 70 years. The menu has true Memphis-style barbecue, so popular that they’ll ship meals across the country.
Down in the JungleRoom
Could a trip to Memphis be truly complete without a stop in Graceland? While there’s a certain level of somberness to the visit – after all his gravesite is part of the tour – it’s difficult not to feel a bit lighthearted when hearing Elvis’ music played over and over. The home’s decor, especially the Jungle Room, are too much fun to feel despondent.
A visit to Graceland is more than just walking through the mansion’s front door. It encompasses an entire complex across the street with theaters, restaurants, shops and the Elvis Sirius XM radio station. Ticket packages now include viewing Elvis’ private jet and special exhibits. The base option for 2021 starts there, then visitors can add a tour of Graceland, or a VIP shuttle and exhibits, or the ultimate VIP experience with all of the same exhibits and an expert guide. While there’s plenty of Elvis’ history to explore it’s not a true trip without entering Graceland. So whatever ticket package is selected make sure you’re able to visit the home of the King; head up to the gates of Graceland, and walk right through.