South Main Arts District

With its authentic blend of dining, shopping, history, creative class residents and, of course, nightlife, the South Main Arts District is a shining example of Memphis’ downtown revitalization.

National Civil Rights Museum

Dig into the movement that changed our country and continue the conversation about human rights and equality. Named "Top Museum"by Trip Advisor Traveler's Choice, The Lorraine Motel has been transformed into an interactive learning center that you will never forget. 

Trolley Night

Every last Friday of the month the art galleries and shops on South Main are open late, the restaurants have killer specials, and there is live music on the street. Catch a ride on the trolley bus for free on Trolley Night from Beale to G.E. Patterson, and join the party! 
 

Blues Hall of Fame

The Blues Foundation opened the Blues Hall of Fame in 2014, you'll be greeted by the statue of Little Milton hanging out on a bench outside with his six string. Enjoy 10 individualized galleries inside with interactive touch screen displays alongside master databases where you can hear the music, watch videos, and read the stories of each of each of the inductees. 

Local Restaurants & Bars

Whether it's one of the best known and oldest diner's in the country, a bar with a ghostly history, a new restaurant by James Beard nominated chefs, or a coffee shop named for the Bluff, there are a lot of fantastic choices for places to wine and dine in South Main. 

Shopping and Galleries

They don't call it the arts district for nothing. Find your next canvas to hang on your wall or stop in a boutique to find your next one-of-a-kind vintage piece. What won't you find in South Main Arts District? Chains and big box stores. 

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Visit South Main

If you’re traveling to Memphis and you want to spend a day on foot exploring South Main, we suggest you start off with a strong cup of espresso at Bluff City Coffee. With an artisanal espresso-only approach to the morning start, Bluff City Coffee has been serving residents since 2006, providing pastries, donuts and hearty breakfast sandwiches. However, If you’re in Memphis between April and October, you can skip Bluff City’s shop on South Main and hit their coffee stand at the Memphis Farmer’s Market. A weekly marketplace, the Memphis Farmer’s Market features local farmers and artisans, as well as kitchen and garden arts and crafts from the greater Mid-South region. 

Both Bluff City Coffee and the Farmer’s Market are both a short walk away from one of the city’s most important historical attractions: The National Civil Rights Museum. Designed around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum literally traces the civil rights movement from the dawn of slavery to the present. With a recent infusion of more than $27 million, the walking tour through history is visually driven and emotionally complex. 

A parallel history to the civil rights movement can be found directly across the street at 421 South Main in the brand new Blues Hall of Fame. Though officially started in 1980 by the Blues Foundation, the new building gives the organization’s efforts a permanent home people can visit. Using clothing, paintings, records, artifacts and rare memorabilia, the Blues Hall of Fame creates an immersive and interactive experience that not only honors artists like B.B. King, Robert Johnson, and Dr. John, but gives visitors a deeper understanding of the role the blues played in shaping American culture. 

After spending a few hours at these museums, you’ll probably need to clear your head and unwind with a bite or two to eat. A few blocks south on South Main, you’ll find another historical landmark, the Arcade Restaurant. A classic diner in every respect, the Arcade Restaurant offers your traditional biscuit breakfasts, patty melt fare, fries, shakes and daily specials. But its calling card is its connection to Elvis. Yes, there are many spots in Memphis claiming Elvis as a patron, but the Arcade was a regular stop for The King. He had his regular booth, which you can sit in, and his regular meal, a fried peanut butter ‘n’ banana sandwich. Another great spot for lunch in the South Main Arts District is Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken. A hole-in-the-wall joint on South Front Street, Gus’s hot birds have gained recent notoriety from being featured in a number of different food and travel shows, including the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

There’s a good chance that no matter where you grab lunch in Memphis, you’ll need to walk it off. South Main Arts District is a great place to do just that, especially with its many locally owned boutiques and shops. You can check out the Downtown Candle Company, which offers candles made with 100% soybeans and carefully selected botanical oils. Or if you’re looking for some new digs be sure to hit Hoot + Louise for some vintage gear or cutting edge designer wear and furniture from Stock +  Belle.

Art and creativity have played a big role in making South Main a destination within Memphis. In fact, since 2000 the monthly Trolley Night has a galvanizing event for both locals and visitors. Organized around the trolley stops, the Trolley Night unites the district’s galleries, restaurants and shops in one big block party featuring dining and drink specials, live performances, and sales.

Some of the South Main restaurants featured on the tour are also popular destinations in their own right. South of Beale, aka SOB, is an easy-going gastro-pub with a focus on “chef-driven” food and expertly crafted cocktails, while Pearl’s Oyster House is a fun family atmosphere featuring their famous grilled Gulf Coast oysters. And Café Pontotoc is the perfect place to nosh on wine, craft beers and small plates before hitting a show at the historic Orpheum Theatre.

And finally, for those who like to burn the midnight oil, your day in South Main will find no better ending than with a stop at Earnestine and Hazel’s. Once a brothel house, Earnestine and Hazel’s is now known for its eclectic jukebox, long list of beers, and late-night favorite snack the Soul Burger.