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Hot Spots in Cool Memphis

Blues, a zoo and barbecue by the river



Elvis Presley’s mansion, Graceland, was built in 1939 in Colonial Revival style.

 


Think of Memphis and what comes to mind? The mighty Mississippi, blues, ‘cues and kings – as in Dr. Martin Luther and Elvis. It’s all that and more. Here’s a checklist of things to do and see that I’ve seen and done.
 

This is the No. 1 tourist attraction in town, and if you’re an Elvis fan, it’s an obvious must. A total experience would include a stay at the new Guest House at Graceland, a four-star hotel and resort with great amenities, located right across the street from Elvis’ mansion.

Mansion tours have been updated so that visitors use iPads to guide their steps. The house is a time-trip – not the palatial digs one might expect, but a blast from the past complete with shag carpet. Tours include public rooms plus out-buildings with more exhibits, ending in the Meditation Garden, site of Elvis’ grave.

 An entire new complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, comprises many more exhibits, including Elvis’ car collection, costumes and displays of musicians who were influenced by the King.
You’ll need to check out packages to determine how much you see – and how much you’ll spend. Go to graceland.com.

 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, and the motel where he was assassinated is now part of the museum complex. While there is a great deal of information about this Nobel Peace Prize winner, the museum covers much more than his own life and work.

Beginning with the first Africans brought to America, the exhibits use all sorts of graphics, artifacts and technology to give a comprehensive picture of the ongoing struggles of black residents in this country. Several exhibits give visitors the opportunity to examine state histories; Oklahoma’s Clara Luper is featured in the area concerning the sit-ins of the ’50s and ’60s.

There’s so much to see here, you’ll need to plan hours to experience it all. I was there two hours – scanning and running – and I only saw about half of the complex. For me, this museum is the most important thing you can see in Memphis. It says so much about our past … and gives so much food for thought for the future. For more, visit civilrightsmuseum.org.

 

Definitely wait until dark for this one – the neon alone is worth the trip. But it’s the crowds and the vibe that make this historic drag famous: Street performers draw attention, while music and the aromas of barbecue and beer float on the air and beckon visitors in for distinctive, vibrant entertainment of all kinds. Don’t miss the Elvis statue.

 

A nighttime stroll on Beale Street is a Memphis must.


 

Both of these museums, within walking distance of each other, are worth a visit, and you can save a couple of dollars by buying a combined ticket. The Rock n Soul Museum is more about the history of music in Memphis, while the Hall of Fame highlights inductees from Elvis to Justin Timberlake. The Smithsonian did all the research for the Rock n Soul Museum, established it, then gave it to the city – making this a truly unique institution. The Hall of Fame, tucked between the Hard Rock Café and Lansky Brothers, Clothier to the King, is as quirky as the artists it salutes. Criteria for inclusion specify that the honorees must either have been born in Memphis or played a significant role in the development of the music scene here. My favorite exhibit is two-thirds of Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1983 Cadillac El Ballero: The other third is on display in the Jerry Lee Lewis Café and Honky Tonk, a couple of blocks down Beale Street. Be sure to visit both these tributes to the city’s sounds; find more info on their websites at memphisrocknsoul.org and memphismusichalloffame.com.

 

Taste-testing all the barbecue Memphis has to offer would be more than a full-time job. I loved Blues City Café on Beale Street, where the ribs are hickory-smoked, the sauce has a maple-y sweet flavor and the meat did fall right off the bones. There’s live music on the menu, and they also offer lots of other southern favorites, but when in Memphis … I finished my meal with an apple dumpling served in a cast iron skillet and topped with ice cream.

Another great choice is Central BBQ, who smoke their meats with a combo of hickory and pecan. Expect a line here – they’re so popular that they had to open extra locations.

I have to confess, I’m a beer newbie, so starting my education at Wiseacre Brewing Company was just what the teacher ordered. Public tours are on Saturday with reservations necessary, but I got a great one-on-one with Amanda McQuary. This crew is serious about beer – and enjoying life. I learned lots of facts, tasted lots of beer and came home with a great lesson on brewing. Here’s McQuary’s summary: “In making beer, yeast eats sugar, poops alcohol and farts CO2.”  I wrote down a lot of technical details … but this is the part I remember. They also claim that Memphis is the best place to brew, because Memphis water has no minerals or salts in it. I’ll take their word for it. It was at Memphis Made Brewing that I discovered that I prefer malty beers to hoppy ones. There are several other breweries in Memphis, but I figured two was a good start for me – other, more experienced tipplers should feel free to explore and enjoy.

 

The Memphis Pyramid, originally built as an arena, now houses a huge Bass Pro shop.


 

Housed in a giant pyramid on the banks of the Big Muddy, this stop is a stunner. It’s like the Springfield Mother Ship on steroids. Inside is a cypress swamp with 100-foot-tall trees and even a couple of resident alligators. The tallest freestanding elevator in the U.S. takes you to the top of the pyramid, where a great restaurant with an observation deck waits. Also inside, Big Cypress Lodge features 103 hotel rooms, 90 percent of which have private balconies overlooking the scene below.

 

I go to zoos as often as I can when I travel. The newest exhibition, the Zambezi River Hippo Camp with new addition Winnie (born in March), is well worth seeing. But for me, the big draw was the China area. Stars of this section are Le Le and Ya Ya, giant pandas. There are only three other zoos in the U.S. where you can see these special animals.

As you can tell, I’ve barely scratched the surface of things to do, see and experience in Memphis. Make your own trip for more discoveries; memphistravel.com will help.

 

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April 2019

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
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Celebrate Easter with a trip to Andy Alligator’s Fun Park! On Saturday and Sunday, get $5 off an All-Day Pass with our Eggcellent Easter Special. All-Day Passes include Go-Karts,...

Cost: $23.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
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Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
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Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

The OSU Symphony Orchestra will conclude the 2018-19 season with Schubert's monumental and majestic Symphony No. 9 in C ("The Great"). The concert opens with The European Anthem,...

Cost: General Admission: $10; Students & Seniors: $7

Where:
Oklahoma State University Department of Music
132 Seretean Ctr
Stillwater, OK  74078
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Sponsor: Oklahoma State University Department of Music
Telephone: 405.744.6133
Contact Name: Dr. Thomas Dickey
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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Potbelly Sandwich Shop is giving back to the local neighborhood with Feed Your Smile, a fundraiser supporting Concordia Life Care Community.  Show this flyer on your smartphone or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
8500 N Rockwell Ave
OKC, OK  73132
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Sponsor: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Telephone: 405-792-5112
Contact Name: Katy Fabrie
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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

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A Sporting Chance will host the 25th annual Track and Field Meet at Branson Junior High in Branson, Missouri. A Sporting Chance provides year-round sports and recreation programs designed for those...

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Branson Junior High
263 Buccaneer Boulevard
Branson, MO  65616
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Sponsor: A Sporting Chance
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Contact Name: Hannah Schachinger

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Shop over 200 vendors at this indoor event with everything from vintage furniture, retro and mid-century decor to handmade goods, antiques, industrial finds and architectural salvage!

Cost: $5 at the door, 13 and under free

Where:
Heritage Place
2829 S. MacArthur
Oklahoma City, OK  73128
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Sponsor: Junk Hippy
Contact Name: Kristen Grandi
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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

This one-day festival is rooted in the printing of large-scale woodblocks carved by local Oklahoma artists. We bring in a 5-ton steamroller and print pre-carved blocks throughout the day on Tyvek...

Cost: Free

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Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Contact Name: Evan
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Andy Alligator's is celebrating teachers! On Saturday and Sunday, teachers with a valid ID will receive a FREE All-Day Pass and $5 off for each family member! An All-Day Pass includes...

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Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
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America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

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The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
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Get a sample of the nightlife of Spain at Tulsa Botanic Garden's "Viva La Vida." The Garden is bringing star chef Jamie Bissonnette (Toro restaurants in Boston, NYC, Bangkok and...

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Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Dr
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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Cost: Free, contests have entry fee

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Fassler Hall
421 NW 10th
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Sponsor: Revolve Productions
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