Memphis Botanic Garden
Andrea Zucker

Plan Your Best Day in East Memphis

Whether you’re looking to zipline through the treetops or indulge in some retail therapy, the city’s garden district has something for everyone. Here’s how to spend your perfect day in East Memphis.

Fuel up with breakfast

Get the full Southern treatment—biscuits, gravy and scrambled eggs—when popular downtown eatery Sunrise Memphis expands to East Memphis, or head to Staks for some buttermilk pancakes. They’ll even let you man the griddle to cook your own.

Choose your own adventure at Shelby Farms Park

Rent bikes to explore the park’s 4,500 acres of green space before heading onto the 10.65-mile paved Shelby Farms Greenline. Hot day? Cool off with kayak, paddleboard and canoe rentals from the boathouse or let the kids hit the splash pad. If everyone in your group is 10 or older, zipline and explore treetop crossings and obstacles with Go Ape. Younger kids will love the Woodland Discovery Playground, named one of the 16 coolest playgrounds in the world by Mental Floss Magazine. Take it easy with short walking trails, fishing or a view of the park’s bison herd. When it’s time for refreshment, reserve a table (encouraged but not required) at Coastal Fish Company for craft cocktails and elegant entrees with a view of the park's main lake.

Or, stroll through a garden

Get some culture in your day at Dixon Gallery & Gardens, where you can take in an art exhibition indoors, then explore 17 acres of woodlands and cutting gardens outside. Horticultural enthusiasts and families alike will love Memphis Botanic Garden, featuring 28 specialty gardens and My Big Backyard, a playground and family-oriented garden with more than a dozen unique areas for splashing, digging and actively enjoying the outdoors. Families can also walk easy trails alongside meadows, lakes and forests at the Lichterman Nature Center, though kids might not want to leave the backyard wildlife center, which features live animals, a two-story-high forest boardwalk, an underwater viewing area and more.

Kayaking at Shelby Farms Memphis
Dixon Gardens
Gibson's Donuts / Allen Gillespie
Live at the Botanic Garden
Find your East Memphis lunch spot

If you’re at the Dixon, stay for lunch at Park + Cherry, which features tantalizing seasonal options like watermelon salad with garlic-ginger shrimp. For fancy-yet-funky fare in a unique setting, check out Libro at Laurelwood, a cozy restaurant inside Laurelwood’s Novel Bookstore. The menu features hearty fare like house-made pasta and chicken Chardonnay. Or, check out local institutions like Huey’s, where you can get your burger fix, and Leonard’s Pit BBQ. Founded in 1922, Leonard’s was Memphis’ first barbecue restaurant, and it’s still serving up classics like pulled pork, ribs and lemon icebox pie.

Browse Boutiques and Antiques

Laurelwood Shopping Center is a well-curated collection of original boutiques for high-end fashion and home décor. It’s also home to indie bookstore Novel, where you might pick up a local bestseller as your next vacation read. Adjacent to Laurelwood, you'll find Memphis' large Nordstrom Rack store. And if you head just east down Poplar Avenue, you can enjoy the thrill of shopping for treasures from days gone by at La Maison Antiques, featuring more than 40 vendor stalls packed with beautiful finds for the home. For Latin-inspired wares and clothing, browse Primas Bakery + Boutique. From local art to ultra-colorful dresses and accessories — as well as French macarons and other beautiful confections crafted onsite — this spot offers a whimsical shopping experience.

Or, find a thrill

With kids, hit Memphis Escape Rooms to see if you can escape a locally engineered puzzle room such the Magician’s Code or Jester’s Revenge. For maximum thrills, head over to Amuse: The Adventure Museum for 30+ rooms of interactive social games.

Discover how Memphis does fine dining

Reserve a table in advance to experience Andrew Michael Italian KitchenAcre, Dory or Erling Jensen, four of Memphis’ fine-dining standouts. For something more casual, try Hog and Hominy. Just across the street from Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, it’s the brainchild of the same chefs with crowd-pleasing cocktails and wood-fired pizzas.

Choose the evening's entertainment

Take in a show at Theater Memphis, or jam out to tunes from national acts like The Doobie Brothers at the Live at the Garden summer concert series at Memphis Botanic Garden. Check the garden’s full calendar—and the events' lineup at the Dixon—for year ’round affairs such as happy hours and wine tastings onsite.

End on a sweet note

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a classic taste of Memphis: Head to Gibson’s to experience the glazed donut that Alton Brown calls the best he ever had.

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