Memphis is all about authenticity and creativity in everything we do, from our music to our cuisine to our culture. Dig into the spirit of the city by experiencing its hidden gems, both on and off the beaten path. You'll find anything from marching ducks to barbecue dishes only the locals know about, a secret grotto and more.
1. Watch the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel lobby
Make plans to visit the historic Peabody Hotel, with its elegantly appointed lobby, cocktail bar, shops, restaurants, and...ducks? Every single day at exactly 11 a.m., this adorable team of waterfowl waddles from their hotel rooftop penthouse into the elevator, making their way to the lobby’s marble fountain via red carpet. The Peabody Duckmaster guides these feathered friends on their journey downstairs each morning and back up again at 5 p.m. While the two marches are open to hotel guests only, you can still stop by to see the feathered friends splashing around in the fountain during the day.
2. Eat Some Non-Traditional Barbecue
You already have ribs and a pulled pork sandwich on your list of things to eat in Memphis, but what about some of our more interesting barbecue dishes? We’re talking about barbecue spaghetti, barbecue pizza, barbecue nachos, deep-fried Cornish game hen, and even BBQ tofu for the veggie-inclined. You can find these dishes at many of our ‘que restaurants.
3. Meet the Beer-Drinking Goats of Beale Street
Stop in to Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street for a chance to see one of Memphis’s weirder mascots - the beer-drinking goats. This Irish establishment, known for its mystery cocktail the “Diver” served in a big yellow buckets and nightly piano bar singalongs also has a couple of goats hanging out on their patio in a specially designed pen. As far as the sign “BEWARE: Irish Diving Goats”, this may be more for your entertainment than your safety.
4. See the Shrunken Head
The Memphis Museum of Science and History is odd enough on its own: the father of modern grocery stores and founder of Piggly Wiggly Clarence Saunders built this large mansion out of pink stone in the 1920s and left it to the city to turn into a museum. Among its treasures—which include a Planetarium, enormous flea circus, and taxidermied polar bear—is a shrunken head, donated by a world traveler who visited South American tribes known to take part in this unbelievable ritual. You’ll have to see the head for yourself to decide if it’s the real thing.
5. Walk Through the Crystal Shrine Grotto
Everywhere you look in Memphis, you’ll find awesome public art like murals, sculptures, and interactive exhibits. Perhaps the quirkiest example, though, is the Crystal Shrine Grotto, located at Memorial Park Cemetery. This whimsical site is an entirely man made cave, filled with quartz crystals and unique sculptures depicting religious symbols and the life of Christ. Be sure to sign and read the guestbook to see how this Grotto, created by a Mexican artist over a period of nearly 50 years, has become a worldwide attraction.
6. Dance the Night Away at the Most Wonderful Nightclub in the World
Paula & Raiford’s Disco downtown is a legendary nightclub and dance hall that specializes in a unique atmosphere and unforgettable energy. Get a “sexy” stamp on your hand from Paula, drink from a 40oz beer, dance on the rainbow-lit disco floor, wait your turn for a solo on the drum set, and twirl on the “dancer” pole (at your own risk). The club is hard to define in words, but if you’re up for a late night that leans more towards fun and quirky than scandalous, Raiford’s is a must.
7. Visit a Modern-Day Pyramid and Ride to the Very Top
Did you know Memphis is named after an Egyptian city on of the Nile River? This fact may make our giant glass Pyramid on the banks of the Mississippi make a little more sense. Though it started as a concert and basketball arena, the Pyramid is now a Bass Pro Shops. Inside you’ll find a cypress forest, aquariums, live alligators, a bowling alley, a fudge shop, the nation’s tallest freestanding elevator, a luxury hotel, and every kind of hunting, fishing, boating, sporting or outdoors enthusiast gear you could ever imagine.
8. Go Crazy At Wild Bill’s
Where else but Memphis will you find a full-blown juke joint in the middle of a city? Wild Bill’s is a late-night blues music club and dance hall that brings the spirit of the Delta to an historic city neighborhood. The house band will have you on your feet and dancing—or singing along—and you’re sure to meet a local character or two. This is a bucket list hidden gem for blues fans!
9. Find the Listening Room
Music lovers will appreciate the immersive experience of the hidden Listening Room at Central Station hotel downtown. Outfitted with EgglestonWorks Viginti loudspeakers and comfy seating, this secret spot lets you choose the tunes and surround yourself in music with the most crisp, clear sound available. You’ll find the Listening Room tucked behind the Eight & Sand bar in the hotel lobby.
10. Travel Back in Time at a Time Warp Drive-In Movie Night
One of the few remaining in the country, the Malco Summer Drive-In Theater also hosts a series of movie nights featuring classic and cult films every month. Here’s how it works: show up at the theater and park your car before sundown. When it’s dark enough, the movies start and go all night long. Expect themed evenings with 3 to 6 movies each night, like “Giant Monsters Attack!” featuring Jaws and King Kong v. Godzilla, or “Shocktober” with horror flicks like Psycho and Night of the Living Dead.