10 Must-Do Attractions In Memphis Not Related To Elvis


Memphis, Tennessee, is synonymous with Elvis Presley, but this city, nestled on the banks of the Mississippi, has so much more to offer the visitor. Here are our favourite non-Elvis Memphis attractions.

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1. Cooper-Young District

Cooper-Young is an eclectic neighborhood and historic district in the Midtown section of Memphis, named for the intersection of Cooper Street and Young Avenue. The entrance to the neighborhood is marked by the Cooper-Young Trestle, a 150-foot (46 m) long steel sculpture which depicts homes and businesses found in the neighborhood. In 2012, Cooper-Young was listed on the American Planning Association's 10 Great Neighborhoods in the U.S list. The neighborhood is known for its mix of shops, bars and restaurants, which reflects the creative spirit of the neighborhood. Our restaurant choice was The Beauty Shop - a whimsical New American eatery & bar in a former '60s beauty parlor complete with hair-dryer chairs!

Revolutions Bicycle Coop, Cooper-Young District, Memphis

Cooper-Young District, Memphis

The Beauty Shop, Cooper-Young District, Memphis

The Beauty Shop, Cooper-Young District, Memphis

2. The National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum offers 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films, oral histories, interactive media and external listening posts that guide visitors through five centuries of 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 museum is built around the former Lorraine Motel, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Two other buildings and their adjacent property, also connected with the King assassination, have been acquired as part of the museum complex, where you can see the bathroom where James Earl Ray fired his rifle. Among the guests of the Lorraine Motel during the 1960s were musicians such as Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers and Wilson Pickett.

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

3. Music Related Museums

Memphis has been highly influential in the development of music, especially the blues, rock and roll and soul. Sun Studios is perhaps the most famous music related museum in Memphis, being the recording studio where Elvis was first discovered and recorded. But Memphis also has The Blues Hall of Fame, The Memphis Rock’n’Soul Museum, and The Stax Museum.

The Blues Hall of Fame honors those who have made the Blues timeless through performance, documentation, and recording. Members are inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in five categories: Performers, Individuals, Classic of Blues Literature, Classic of Blues Recording (Song), Classic of Blues Recording (Album). Since 1980, The Blues Foundation has inducted 350+ performers, industry professionals, recordings and literature into the Blues Hall of Fame.

The Blues Hall of Fame, Memphis

The Blues Hall of Fame, Memphis

The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum tells the complete story of Memphis music history, as researched by the Smithsonian Institution. The museum’s digital audio tour guide is packed with over 300 minutes of information, including over 100 songs, and takes visitors through seven galleries featuring 3 audio visual programs, more than 30 instruments, 40 costumes and other musical treasures.

The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

The Stax Museum is a replica of the Stax recording studio, the former Capitol Theatre, even down to the sloping floor of studio A. It is a 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) museum with more than 2,000 videos, films, photographs, original instruments used to record Stax hits, stage costumes, interactive exhibits, and other items of memorabilia. Some of the standout exhibits include an authentic 101-year-old Mississippi Delta church to help show the gospel roots of soul music; the Soul Train dance floor, Isaac Hayes' restored 1972 gold-trimmed, peacock-blue Cadillac El Dorado. Find out about this studio’s artists such as Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, Booker T. & the MGs, and Rufus.

The Stax Museum, Memphis

The Stax Museum, Memphis

The Stax Museum, Memphis

The Stax Museum, Memphis

4. The Cotton Museum

Before music, Memphis was famous for cotton. The Cotton Museum tells the story of how Memphis came to be. Engaging exhibits help visitors understand the city's place in time and explain how the art, history and music that is so important to the culture of Memphis evolved from the confluence of people that were originally gathered here around the cotton industry. The main exhibit is located on the Historic trade floor of the Memphis Cotton Exchange- where cotton traders once stood at the center of the global cotton economy. This grand space is now filled with striking artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of "King Cotton" and its impact on the world.

The Cotton Museum, Memphis

The Cotton Museum, Memphis

The Cotton Museum, Memphis

The Cotton Museum, Memphis

5. The Peabody

The Peabody hotel is legendary for its charm, elegance, and gracious Southern hospitality. However, it is their five resident Mallard ducks, who march daily through the Grand Lobby at 11 am and 5 pm, that the hotel has become known for nationally. The luxurious downtown hotel opened in 1869 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, and continues to carry the distinction as the "South's Grand Hotel." The tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain began back in the 1930's, when Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas and placed some of their live duck decoys in the beautiful Peabody fountain. The tradition of the having ducks in the fountain was developed in 1940, when Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became the Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991.

The Peabody hotel, Memphis

The Peabody hotel, Memphis

The Peabody hotel, Memphis

The Peabody hotel, Memphis

The Peabody hotel, Memphis

6. Historic Houses

The cultivation of cotton brought Memphis great prosperity during the 19th century. This has been reflected in the many beautiful mansions that are still standing between Downtown and Uptown Memphis. Some are open to the public, with two in particular - The Mallory-Neely House and The Woodruff-Fontaine House - being fantastic examples of period architecture and design.

The Mallory-Neely House was built from 1852 by Isaac and Lucy Kirtland. In 1883 Columbus and Frances Neely bought the house and moved in with their five children. The Neely’s made significant changes, adding a third floor with an additional level for the tower and were responsible for the magnificent period interiors we still see today. The décor and furnishings date to circa 1890 and include pieces the family bought at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and later from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

The Mallory-Neely House, Memphis

The Mallory-Neely House, Memphis

The Mallory-Neely House, Memphis

The Mallory-Neely House, Memphis

The Woodruff-Fontaine House was built by the successful carriage maker Amos Woodruff in 1871. Noland Fontaine was the second owner of the mansion. Noland came to Memphis in 1861 and quickly established himself as a businessman and a Cotton Factor. The estate was sold in 1929 and became a public property in 1961. Woodruff-Fontaine has one of the most extensive Victorian era fashion to 1920’s textile collections in the South. They have over 4,100 pieces in their collection from wedding gowns to undergarments and everything in between.

The Woodruff-Fontaine House, Memphis

The Woodruff-Fontaine House, Memphis

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