Offbeat Museums in Memphis

Family Fun at Unexpected Places

Spend enough time in Memphis and you’ll realize it’s not an ordinary city. It’s got personality and quirk. Some might even call it a bit weird. That’s OK. In fact, we take it as a compliment. We embrace what makes us different, and we love sharing it with the world. And one of the most different, most unique destinations in Memphis is the Metal Museum.

The Metal Museum is the only institution of its kind in the United States. Committed to the advancement of the art and craft of fine metalwork, the museum offers visitors a variety of exhibitions and collections. But what truly makes this museum unlike any other is the fact that it’s an actual working blacksmith shop. With classes, artist residencies and apprenticeships, the museum gives people the chance to not only see metalwork in progress, but also experience it firsthand. For families with high-energy kids, this is an absolute must-see experience. For families without high-energy kids, check it out anyway. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Similarly unique to Memphis is thCotton Museum on Front Street. Housed in the old Cotton Exchange room and trading floor, the Cotton Museum tells the story of how a soft, fluffy fiber made a river port city like Memphis the center of the economic universe. A small but highly educational attraction, the Cotton Museum offers visitors a look at our city’s history through documentary film, original photography, documents and a few tangible examples of the role cotton had in literally building our city and making it what it is today. 

If cotton isn’t your kids’ thing, then they might like spending an hour or two at the Fire Museum of Memphis. Located just a few blocks away from the Cotton Museum in downtown, the Fire Museum gives kids a history of firefighting, educational exhibits and a few tips in fire safety. But let’s be honest here -- your kids already know how to stop, drop and roll. What they want to really do is take a slide down the museum’s brass firepole and sit on top of the 1900s-era fire engine.

National Civil Rights Museum exterior sign

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Photo by Brand USA

The Metal Museum is the only institution in the United States devoted exclusively to the advancement of the art and craft of fine metalwork. Photo by Craig Thompson

Cockpit at Children's Museum of Memphis. Photo Credit: Andrea Zucker

Kids love the flight simulator, wind tunnel and hot air balloon at the Children's Museum of Memphis. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Memphis Zoo: Commercial Appeal by A.J. Wolfe

Memphis Zoo seal with kids

Memphis Trolley: Dan Ball

Take a ride on the vintage trolley in downtown Memphis. Photo by Dan Ball.