36 Hours in Memphis
Everything moves just a little slower in Memphis. From the ease of traffic to the ease of city dwellers, you’ll relax, unwind and find some unexpected treasures here. Although we only spent 36 hours here, each attraction really deserves more time. It’s a simple and easy hop out of George Bush’s Terminal B to Memphis. It feels as though, as soon as you get in the air, you are touching down, and you’re ready to experience a fun weekend getaway.
Day One 7:00 a.m. Get a room
Catch a flight to Memphis and check into the Peabody Hotel. This historic hotel opened to the public in 1925. It has been restored and is in pristine condition. Notice the photos on the wall that chronicle the old hotel in all its glory.
11:00 a.m. The Peabody ducks
When you checked into the hotel, did you notice the ducks frolicking in the fountain? Probably not. That’s because they don’t arrive until 11:00 a.m. At this time, they come down from their penthouse on the roof, waddle in on the red carpet and swim around the pond until later in the day, when they go home – not for the winter, just for the night. The story is that an old employee brought his hunting decoy ducks with him to work one day. They were such a big hit, they started a tradition.
11:30 a.m. Step back in time
The National Civil Rights Museum has been added to the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. For a mere $10 you march along the civil rights movement right up to his assassination. The audio tour points out the highlights and makes sure you don’t miss anything critical to the story. A key point is a full-sized bus with a statue of Rosa Parks. The background music on the audio ads to the drama as you get to see King’s motel room and the view from the patio and sidewalk where he died. In a new $10 million expansion, the museum continues across the street to the boarding house where James Earl Ray stayed.
2:00 p.m. Who’s hungry?
Meander down to Beale Street for lunch. King’s Palace Café has great pulled-pork barbecue and a fabulous chicken salad. 5:00 p.m. Bid farewell to the ducks At 5:00 o’clock the red carpet rolls out, and the ducks march back up to the elevator on their way to the penthouse of the Peabody Hotel. It may sound childish, but it packs a crowd every day. You can also enjoy high tea with great pastries in this bustling, historic lobby.
9:30 p.m. Historic Beale Street
Known as the Home of the Blues, this street brings the best of Sixth Street in Austin and Bourbon Street in New Orleans together. They say that this city changed the way the world hears music. In fact, many of the hits performed by Elvis were originally heard on Beale Street. This pristine area is user-friendly and includes B.B. King’s Blues Club, Pat O’Brien’s and the Memphis Blues Museum.
10:30 a.m. We’re going to Graceland
What can we say about Graceland that hasn’t already been said? It’s a must-see. It’s the reason to come to Memphis. In 1978, I insisted that my family drive out of our way just to see this historic landmark. Back then, you weren’t allowed inside the house, you only saw the grounds and the grave. Today, you can take a tour of the home and see how Elvis lived his final days. You’ll get a kick out of the shag carpeting on the ceiling in the jungle room. The trophy room is great for its historic stroll down memory lane. You also have the opportunity to tour his two planes, the Lisa Marie and the Hound Dog II, as well as view his car collection. You’ll also find many gift shops, all directly benefiting the Elvis Presley Foundation. Yes, all the money goes to Lisa Marie.
2:00 p.m. “That’s All Right Mama”
Sun Studio is the actual recording studio where Elvis got his start. This studio was also a second home to Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. When Elvis recorded “That’s All Right Mama,” the owner took an entire year to even notice Elvis. Then, when the studio was about to go under, they sold Elvis to a major label for $35,000. Hey, back then it was enough money to keep the studio afloat.
5:00 p.m. There’s a museum in these strings That’s right. At Gibson Guitar Memphis they make guitars. Big surprise, but it is a really informative tour where you can watch the process take place. Then, the treat begins. The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is located on the grounds and is a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. It guides you through 100 years of blues, soul and rock’ n’ roll.
7:30 p.m. How about some great food and great music? “Eat, drink, boogie, repeat” is the slogan at the Rum Boogie Café. We tried the funky chicken salad, which is named after the dance created by Rufus Thomas. If you’re really hungry, go for the Southern feast: a full slab of ribs – only pork ribs per Memphis tradition – red beans and rice, gumbo, patriot fries and slaw. The ribs here are served with special spices wet or dry and are finger-lickin’ good. Stick around for some of the best live jazz and soul music around.
10:00 a.m. Brunch at Paulette’s
If you’re a fan of John Grisham, you’ve surely heard of Paulette’s, his favorite restaurant in Memphis. We’re not sure if it’s famous because of Grisham or for their oven-fresh popovers. These light and fresh bread pastries are eaten with strawberry butter. Don’t miss the crepes with Louisiana shrimp, grilled brochette of chicken or the spinach soufflé. You’ll love the autographed page from “The Firm” hanging on the wall, and the pictures of France add to the charm and character of this historic restaurant.
11:30 Mud Island River Park
Mud Island is truly an island made out of mud. It appeared, then sunk, reappeared and now is protected by man-made engineering to make sure it doesn’t sink again. Here resides the museum that includes a replica of the Mississippi River from its origin in Cairo, Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. This working replica of the river includes flowing water and historical markers throughout, and the changing landscape depicts the changing environment along the river. You’ll also learn how modern engineering tries to tame this ever-changing body of water. Along the way, you’ll also learn the history of the river, which is rich in Civil War, logging, engineering and travel. Wear your walking shoes; reading each historical marker can take hours.
3:30 Great Barbecue at Rendezvous
Stashed away in an alley and down a flight of old stairs is one of the city’s most famous and unusual eateries. Antiques and novelties cover every inch of wall and ceiling space, and the crusty waiters are actually reputed for being brusque. Even so, folks have clamored to the Rendezvous since 1948 to sample the most tender and delicious ribs anywhere. Charcoal-broiled and rubbed with a special seasoning mixture, these ribs take barbecue to a new level. By the time 5:30 rolls around, it’s time to head to the airport and back to Houston.