36 Hours - Memphis, Tennessee

Every city has its own unique tale. Deep in Memphis’ DNA is a cross-stitch of music, cotton, blues and barbecue. Sure the southern politesse is still there, but today Memphis has hit a new stride. New generations are looking to put their own stamp on the city - new bands, fresh takes on traditional cuisines and a can-do culture.

Friday 2 p.m.
Music pioneers lay roots
Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum lays the groundwork for American music history (and your visit to Memphis). You will learn how sharecroppers planted the roots of Blues, Country and Gospel music in the 1930s. Over the next few decades, a bountiful crop of sound from Stax Records, Sun Studio and HI Records set the country on fire. Created by the Smithsonian Institution, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is located at the corner of legendary Highway 61 (the Blues Highway) and Beale Street.

4 p.m.
Walking on water
On a sunny day, shake off the cobwebs with a run or walk along the banks of the Mississippi River. Tom Lee Park is situated downtown on the bluff and is the primary park used for major events like the Beale Street Music Festival and World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. A picture-perfect view scene, barges and river cruises floating nearby, will think you’re walking on water.

7 p.m.
Flavor, flavor, flavor
Make reservations for Felicia Suzanne’s - a downtown Memphis restaurant specializing in American cuisine with a Southern, low country flair. You’ll die (no, not really) once you taste West Wind Organic Crepes served with lemon butter sauce and a spoonful of tomato jam. Owner and executive chef Felicia Willett buys locally-grown, organic ingredients so everything you taste will be as fresh and flavorful as Memphis itself.

For more dining options and award-winning restaurants, see our dining page.

9:30 p.m.
Your sweet tooth meets its match
The self-serve frozen yogurt craze has taken Memphis by storm, but only YoLo in Overton Square features toppings from local bakers, farmers and artisans. Top your creation with Delta Pecan Orchard pralines, Lady Bugg Bakery cheesecake, Makeda's butter cookies and Jones Orchard peaches. If yogurt isn't your thing, their homemade gelato is an awesome alternative.

Saturday 9 a.m.
Early to bed, early to rise
Arrive early and beat the breakfast rush at Brother Juniper’s. The humble house located just off Highland Ave. on the campus of the University of Memphis is an award-winning and nationally acclaimed restaurant. Sample the San Diegan, a Rachel Ray favorite that layers  feta, tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, bacon, green onions and cheddar cheese over a bed of home fries and sour cream. Wash it down with a dark cup of coffee coffee and a piece of banana nut bread (you know it was calling your name from the time you walked in).

11:30 a.m.
Green thumbs
The fine art museum and public garden at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens houses over 2,000 objects including French and American Impressionist paintings and exquisite German and English porcelain. Outside you’ll find 17 acres of woodland tracts, formal sitting areas and blooming flowers. Look for their pay-what-you-can and other special admission prices throughout the week.

2 p.m.
Groovy, man
Midtown Memphis is packed with antique shopping and many are within walking distance from one another. Second Hand Rose is packed with Scandinavian and South American leather bound books, oil paintings, light fixtures and more. If vintage clothing is your thing, Flashback Vintage Department Store has you covered with rare finds from the 1920s through about 1980. Burke's Books in Cooper Young is where new, used and rare books have come to flock together since 1875.

6 p.m.
Wet or dry?
You’ve resisted this long without famous Memphis barbecue, but that streak is about to come to an end. At Central BBQ, the ribs are patted down with special “rib rub”, marinated overnight and smoked to perfection. The pig Gods smile down as you bite into mouth-watering sweet pork balanced with a crispy outer layer of bark.

In Memphis, when you see a barbecue joint with smoke bellowing from the chimney and a line out the door you know you’re in the right place.  

8 p.m.
Folk tales
The Center for Southern Folklore is an organization dedicated to showcasing the people of Memphis and the Mid-South through art, lifestyle, food and music. Catch the Main St. Trolley and stop in for an intimate Saturday evening concert. You’ll often catch the Bluff City Backsliders - a super band of high-octane artists that produce a sound resembling early jazz, old-time country and bluegrass sounds. Picture banjos, fiddles, trombones, bottlenecks and just about any other instrument they can procure.

11 p.m.
Drink ‘til the spirits go to sleep
Mollie Fontaine’s Lounge is Victorian mansion (built in 1886) turned trendy hangout. For a quick back story; Mollie grew up in the Woodruff-Fontaine House across the street, but the lounge is located in the Fontaine-Taylor House that was built as a wedding present for her.

Mollie’s life was a series of unfortunate events. Her first child died of yellow fever, her husband drowned in a boating accident and her second child also died as an infant. Though she eventually moved away, many people say her spirit still haunts the lounge because that’s where she was happiest in life.

On a late night, you’ll find the eclectic bar filled with a diverse crowd sipping on rosewater martinis, mojitos and munching small-plate tapas. Explore the unique rooms, mingle with the locals and drink ‘til the spirits go to sleep.