Fun Weekend in Memphis, Tennessee: 2-3 Day Travel Guide

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aereal city photo of memphis with a view of the downtown buildings, the memphis pyramid, and the mississippi river

Hello Memphis!! In 2022, I went on a 2-month road trip around the Southern (and Southern-adjacent) region of the USA. After about a week and a half navigating my way through the Deep South (Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi), I headed north to a state I hadn’t been to before: Tennessee! And as my city in Tennessee, Memphis really set the bar HIGH. Going into it, I hadn’t really known anything about the city, so I didn’t have many expectations for my 3 day weekend in Memphis (well technically it was over the weekdays, but I digress).

Memphis was way cooler than I ever imagined.

But hey, look at me, giving away the ending right at the start of the blog post. But what can I say? MEMPHIS WAS DOPE! So with that in mind, whether you’re planning just a weekend in Memphis, or looking to stay a little longer, let’s get into it!

The Basics

  • State: Tennessee
  • Nearest Cities: Little Rock, AR (2hrs) ; Nashville, TN (3hrs) ; Jackson, MS (3hrs) ; Birmingham, AL (3.5hrs) ; St. Louis, MO (4hrs)
  • Closest International Airport: Memphis International Airport (MEM)
  • Ancestral Lands: Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Quapaw Nations
  • Best season to visit (in my opinion): Summer (I technically visited in early spring, but all the residents say summer is the best.)
  • Transportation: I recommend a car because I like to explore, though if you stay in the city center it’s pretty walkable

Where to Stay

Typically, I prefer staying in hotels, but since we were almost 2 weeks into our road trip, we desperately needed to do some laundry. Since we wouldn’t have much time to scope out and use a laundromat, we settled on choosing an Airbnb for our weekend in Memphis.

I chose this Airbnb due to its free parking, central location, and…well, a washer and dryer. It WAS super convenient and I could basically walk to all of the hotspots, but it was also on top of a restaurant and it was a bit loud. I personally didn’t mind because I can sleep like a rock, but you can hear EVERYTHING. Like…you can hear the words people are saying. So keep that in mind.

I’m usually more of a hotel gal though, so if I hadn’t stayed in an Airbnb, I did tag a few hotels that looked super cute. Mind you, I didn’t stay in them so I don’t have first hand experience, but they looked really promising! Whenever I get a chance to revisit for another weekend in Memphis, I’m definitely picking from this list. I’ll note them below so you can take a peak!

  • Moderate – MOXY Memphis: super cute and fit the relaxed urban vibe of the city (imo). Parking is not free ($25 a night) but super walkable to the major attractions. Fitness center, outdoor terrace, and pets allowed (fee).
  • Ball Out – Big Cypress Lodge: it’s located in the Memphis Pyramid. That’s the selling point. But also it’s a resort with room service, spas, and even a bowling alley! It’s not very walkable and parking is $20 a night, but it’s super cool.

Getting Around

Okay, if you’re just spending a weekend in Memphis, then you can get around well without a car IF you are centrally located. There’s enough stuff in the downtown area to keep you occupied for a 2 or 3 day weekend in Memphis. Most of the big attractions are about a 10-20min walk from most the downtown hotels.

However if you are spending more time in Memphis, orrr you’re like me and just like to explore odd corners of the city, then I recommend renting a car. Street parking was largely free (outside of downtown, which I walked to anyway) and the city is a bit spread out so having the freedom of movement was useful to me without having to add up multiple rideshares back and forth as I darted between cafes and shops.

From what I heard, the public transit in Memphis isn’t the greatest, but they do have a bikeshare program if that’s your thing! Super convenient AND they’re E-bikes!

What to Eat

Ah yess, this is always my favorite section to write. Whether you’re spending a weekend in Memphis, or a week, you’re gonna eat some good food! For the sake of brevity, let’s assume you’re just doing the weekend in Memphis so you only need a handful of recommendations. That and…that’s how long I spent in the city, so I don’t have more recommendations than that anyway haha.

That said, it’s…food. You go there and eat/drink, so I’ll keep this mostly quick and just give you the highlights of what made these spots my favorite in Memphis. And – once again, y’all know I’m no food blogger so give me grace here, hahah.

Coffee & Juice

  • Anti Gentrification Coffee Club #1: I usually don’t start in any particular order, but hands down this spot has the BEST coffee in Memphis (and dare I say, this side of the Mississippi). They even have coffee for non-coffee drinkers, verified by my bf who doesn’t even like tea let alone coffee. They are redefining the coffee industry and a must-visit for a weekend in Memphis!!
  • Muggin Coffeehouse: A close second, Muggin is a super cute coffee spot and really close to Graceland if you’re heading over that way! They have really excellent baked goods as well!
  • Dr Bean’s Coffee & Tea Emporium: This one was right around the corner from my Airbnb, so super convenient if you’re located downtown. Very bright and aesthetic, and is attached to an equally cute shop!
  • ElectroLyfe Juice Bar: Y’all KNOW I love a good juice. There weren’t too many in Memphis, but this one hit the spot. They also have a full lunch menu – I didn’t eat there, but I was eyeing a lot of their wraps!!

Breakfast

  • Eggxactly Breakfast & Deli: Absolutely loved this spot and was one of my favorite meals during my weekend in Memphis period! Very cozy place with delicious comfort bfast food! Service was fantastic! A perfect start to your weekend in Memphis!
  • Biscuits & Jams: If you’re a biscuit person, you HAVE to go here! If you go with more than one person, I loved their shareable fried green tomatoes plate – and I don’t even like tomatoes. As the name suggests, they also have incredible jams so don’t leave without spreading it on your bread!!
  • Sunrise Memphis: Highly recommend this spot if you want more variety for breakfast, but especially if you love a good bfast bowl. Their Bi Bim bowl (with char siu pork, kimchi, and pickled daikon) had me just about ready to move to Memphis.

Lunch

  • The Four Way Soul Food Restaurant: The first thing you notice is their beautiful mural outside. The second is the warmth and love that radiates from everyone there, and it shows in the food! Their catfish was TOP KNOTCH, but honestly you could have a full meal from their incredible sides alone!
  • Plant Based Heat Memphis: Where all my vegan readers at??? Even if you aren’t, this spot in particular will have you reconsidering!! It was all elite-level seasoned and I appreciate that they had a variety of menu options to choose from!
  • Park + Cherry: I originally just went for their cafe and was so intrigued by their food menu that I had to grab something! It’s located in Dixon (art) Gallery & Garden, and I loved the chicken salad I ordered. If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, it’s a very scenic spot!

Dinner

  • Andalusia: Fan-freaking-TASTIC Moroccan food. They blew me out of the water with both the service and hospitality, and literal ANY of their tagine dishes will put you on cloud 9. Also tried their Moroccan lasagna, amazing, and they make a MEAN mint tea.
  • Dory: This was our “ball-out” restaurant for our weekend in Memphis and it definitely lived up to expectations! They do set course menus so keep that in mind. They really pride themselves on local seasonal ingredients, so I doubt the menu would be the same as when I visited, but it was all divine!
  • Straight Drop Seafood: Seafood lovers, this spot is for you! I also love that they are open super late (midnight-2am!!!) so if you’re still out and about after the night’s activities, they got you covered! I’m a crab girl so I was in heaven – just make sure you grab lots of napkins!!
  • Bala’s Bistro: AFRICAN FOOOD!!! I wish I had more time in my weekend in Memphis, because I swung by this spot on my way out (to Nashville), and I was in SHOCK at the taste! I ordered their oxtail plate (to share) and their house hibiscus juice and it was not enoughhh!! You need to order the whole dang menu here. VEGANS – this is also where you need to go because they have a FULL vegan menu with tons of great options. Honestly, I’m planning another weekend in Memphis just to go back.

BBQ???

And yesss I know. Memphis is one of the BIG BBQ cities. But…it’s also known for its dry rubs, which isn’t my personal preference. So honestly…I don’t have any personal recommendations on that front, BUUUT my friend Agnes from Travel on the Reg is a frequent visitor to Memphis and her husband was a childhood resident – they have a few recommendations! Her husband grew up going to Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, though their favorites now are Cozy Corner Restaurant and The Bar-B-Q Shop (specifically for BBQ spaghetti there!).

All three of those sound fabulous, so please take their word over mine who was just there for a weekend in Memphis lol. I don’t know anything, especially when it comes to dry rub. So give your compliments to those restaurants and Agnes! Thanks for sharing your recs with me homie!

Things to do during a Weekend in Memphis

Alright gang, we’ve made it to the heart and soul (no pun intended) of this blog post: all the fun things to do during your weekend in Memphis! In my humble opinion, Memphis is a very chill vibe city. Sure, you can turn up on Beale Street (more on that later), but even then, I felt like most of the action there is jammin out at one of the lounges dancing to live music in an old brick building.

Yanno, as opposed to taking belly shots off a topless stranger in a Vegas nightclub bathroom.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you can find a consenting stranger in many bathrooms around the world, but my experience in Memphis was more of strolling through museums and chatting to residents over a cup of warm coffee (shoutout to the cafe section above!).

So if that sounds like your kind of vibe, here are my recommendations for things to do for your weekend in Memphis!

Memphis Pyramid

If you’ve known me for ANY amount of time, then it’s probably no surprise that the Memphis Pyramid is my top attraction recommendation for a weekend in Memphis. It’s a literal must-see and…I mean, it’s a giant pyramid in the middle of the city. Even if you DIDN’T want to see it, you’re gonna see it.

Opening way back in 1991, before I was even THOUGHT of being conceived, the Memphis Pyramid was as a sports and entertainment venue. I mean, the city is already named after one in Egypt, why not keep the theme going? However, it wasn’t exactly the perfect fit for a sports arena, so in 2015, the pyramid reopened as a….no, seriously, try to guess….

A Pro Bass Shop.

Y’all. When I say the REALLY turned this pyramid into a literal themed swamp wonderland with shops, restaurants, and even an archery range and bowling alley??? It’s so randomly amazing! I mean, if you’re not new to Pro Bass Shops, then maybe it’s sounds extremely on brand for them, but as a west coast girlie I was gagged.

I believe it has the tallest freestanding elevator in America, and is like the 7th biggest pyramid in the WORLD or something like that. You can head to the top to the Lookout at the Pyramid at the apex of the building, to take in the view on an indoor/outdoor observation deck. Honestly, you could spend your whole weekend in Memphis just in this pyramid. You can even book a room and stay the night (doing that for my next weekend in Memphis!!), so…the sky is the limit.

Museums

Yanno, Memphis is really slept on as a museum city, but honestly they have some of the coolest and most unique in the country. And you can tell D.C. I said that too!!!

But, ahem, there are some really great museums throughout Memphis, but I’m just going to suggest a few that I went to and that you can only find right here in the city. You can honestly spend your whole weekend in Memphis JUST at the one-of-a-kind museums here!

  • Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum: Honestly, this was my favorite museum in Memphis. As the first (and I believe ONLY) in the country, the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum focuses on the journey many enslaved folks took in their quest for freedom, housed in an ACTUAL stop along the Underground Railroad.
  • Metal Museum: I didn’t know much about the art of metalwork before I took a bike tour in Detroit a while back, but this is actually the only metalwork museum in all of North America! It’s a private nonprofit, so it also supports many community outreach programs.
  • Stax Museum: The birthplace of soul music is the Southern gospel church, and that’s the exact journey you embark on as you visit this museum. You learn ALL about soul music, which most attribute (along with blues) as the seed that grew American music we know today.
  • Blues Hall of Fame Museum: Similarly, Blues is also highlighted in Memphis! There are lots of interactive galleries where you can learn about the celebrated greats in the blues genre, and even if you don’t know much about the blues, you will leave a fan!
  • Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum: Okay, you can tell the theme of museums for a weekend in Memphis is music. If you can only choose one though, this one is bigger and a little more comprehensive of how blues and soul became the genre of rock. Spoiler: Black people made rock n roll.
  • National Civil Rights Museum: And of course, the moving National Civil Rights Museum. Housed in the former Lorraine Motel, the tragic site of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the museum explores the history of the Civil Rights Movement, the culture of resistance, and its impact on our culture today. It is sobering, but definitely an important stop on your weekend in Memphis!

Visit Beale Street

And then there’s the vibrant Beale Street. Even if you aren’t looking for a wild night on the town, Beale Street is a must-visit during your weekend in Memphis. It is currently 3 blocks packed with live music venues, restaurants, blues clubs, small shops, and is even the site for multiple music festivals and outdoor concerts throughout the year.

Beale Street got its start as one of the most iconic streets in the country in the 1860s. What you’ll learn in one of the numerous music museums in the city is that white musicians and Black musicians had completely different audiences – as in literally different studios and radio stations. Which is how Elvis’ team got away with literal plagiarism – but I digress.

Many black traveling musicians began performing on Beale Street, and soon it became THE SPOT for blues musicians. Back in the day, most of the businesses on the street were also Black owned an operated, and the first Black millionaire from the south (Robert Church) accumulated wealth through his property around Beale Street. It was the site for Civil Rights Resistance in Memphis as well!

Beale Street is a big deal, so at the very least, go take a walk down it – in the daytime AND at night. You may just find your soul pulled into a venue or two.

Visit Graceland

And finally, probably one of the biggest draws to the city – Graceland. Memphis is Elvis Presley’s chosen home, and Graceland is…well…his literal physical home. Graceland is a mansion on his 13.8-acre estate in Memphis, and is also the the burial site for Elvis, his parents, his daughter, and a few of his other family members.

I don’t really know much about Elvis or his music, but if you are a fan, it’s definitely a must do for any weekend in Memphis. The lines were pretty wild, so I’d recommend showing up early. Even as a non-fan, I was interested to give it a peak just because of how much energy is around this attraction. Which leads me to my next point….

Graceland is expensive haha.

The cheapest option is $48 USD for adults (11 years old +), but you don’t even get to go in the mansion, just exhibits showcasing his career, cars, wardrobe, and his planes. If you want to step foot in the mansion, the ticket is $77. Then VIP (which includes cutting the lines, private lounges, and exclusive exhibit, and even meals…it can run you up to $196.

SO as a non-fan…that was when I bowed out haha. I saw the tour prices and immediately walked back to the car hahha. There’s no option to just walk the grounds yourself, unfortunately. My good friends Monty and Meaghan are fans of Elvis though, and visited Graceland on their weekend in Memphis – and they said the whole thing is absolutely expertly executed. Even watching their stories as they shared his costume display room…I was impressed!!

So it’s expensive, but it does sound like it’s definitely worth it if you’re a fan of Elvis!

Day Trips on a Weekend in Memphis

Alright, let’s say you have a bit more time than just a short weekend in Memphis. Well there are a few short half-day (or full day) trips that you can take to widen your experiences! I mean, you can spend even more time in Memphis (you saw all those museums!), but I’m someone who loves random nooks and crannies, so understand the pull for adding on a quick side adventure!

  • Gateway to the Blues Museum (33min): If you’re looking for any more music, you can visit the Gateway to the Blues Museum in Tunica, Mississippi! You can make it a quick trip to the story of the blues come to life (and even make your own Blues track!), or continue along the Blues Highway 61 for a longer trip. Either way, I’d also recommend swinging by The Hollywood Cafe just down the road – they allegedly invented the fine art of frying pickles!!!
  • Tina Turner Museum (1hr): Well, technically it is also West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, but their museum on Tina Turner is what drew me. It is a beautiful dedication to her life and legacy, housed in her own childhood school. Then in the rest of the center, you can learn more about other legends from the West Tennessee area!
  • Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (1hr): THE OLDEST BLACK OWNED RESTAURANT IN THE COUNTRY!!! Just an hour away over the bridge in Marianna, Arkansas is Jones Bar-B-Q! Featuring a simple but BOMB menu, you can taste a century old recipe that has kept this spot in business through everything. Insider tip though, go EARLY because they sell out!!!
  • Tupelo, Mississippi (1.5hrs): For Elvis fans, I highly recommend a day trip out to Tupelo to view the childhood home (and school!) of the young Elvis Presley. This was technically a stop on my way driving up from Jackson, MS, so that’s an option too!

Final Thoughts on my Weekend in Memphis

Overall, wow, my weekend in Memphis was pleasant surprise! From the food, to the incredible museums, to even the chill warm vibe of the city…a weekend in Memphis is exactly what I needed to reset during my road trip!

Compared to Nashville, Memphis may not get as much spotlight, but it is definitely just as worthy of a travel destination as anywhere else in Tennessee! Have any of you been to Memphis before? What would you add on to craft a perfect weekend in Memphis? Let me know in the comments below!

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Weekend in Memphis travel guide

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12 Comments

  1. I’m not too far from Memphis! Have always wanted to check it out but wasn’t sure what to do. Now, I definitely know… I’ll eat! Yum

    1. YAYYYY I hope this post can help! Let me know if you go!!

  2. So, I visited Memphis when I was younger on a family trip and had the BEST time – the food was soo good, that stood out to me so much (I was a future foodie in the making even then). I have been wanting to revisit as an adult as soon as I can – thanks for these helpful tips!

    1. YAYYYY hopefully you can go back and eat more good foods!

  3. Gladis Morales says:

    Your weekend in Memphis looks fun! Thanks for the food recommendation. I like that you gave so many details on the food, even adding plant-based options.

    1. Omg yay!! Especially going through the south, it’s nice to get some lighter food options!

  4. Wow, I didn’t know there was so much to do in Memphis and how many museums they had. Graceland prices are extraordinary! Maybe one day I’ll get up there and decide on whether to visit Graceland when I’m there.

    1. Yesss let me know how it is if/when you go!

  5. Memphis looks unreal!!! I’d never even thought about visiting but your guide has changed that!! Next time we’re on a road trip this is sure to be one of our stops!!

    1. Ahhh thank you!! I hope you have a great time!

  6. Memphis has been on my bucket list forever! Can’t believe I’ve still never been. This post has inspired me to get planning!!

    1. Omg have the best of time planning! Let me know if you need any help!

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