Goalpost at the Liberty Bowl

Fan Guide to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl

How to Make the Most of Your Bowl Game Trip to Memphis

So, you’re traveling to Memphis for the 61st AutoZone Liberty Bowl, where the Kansas State Wildcats will take on the Navy Midshipmen. This Big XII-American Athletic Conference matchup kicks off Tuesday, December 31 at 2:45 p.m. You know you could watch it from your couch—ESPN will televise the game nationally—but you want to be in the sea of 50,000-plus fans that descend on Memphis annually for this showdown. (Because you know that you’ve got more than those four quarters to look forward to—you’ve got tailgating, a parade, and Memphis to tackle.)

Here’s what to know before you come:

Liberty Bowl Stadium. Photo by Chuck Lajeunesse.

Liberty Bowl Stadium. Photo by Chuck Lajeunesse.

Parking, transportation, and lodging

There is plenty of parking around the stadium, but using ride-sharing apps, like Uber or Lyft, or calling a cab (901-577-7777) are great ways to avoid traffic and cut down on drive time. While most lodging options are 10-20 minutes from the Stadium on a regular day, expect traffic delays – there are a ton of you going to the Liberty Bowl!

If you want more detailed info on tickets, tailgating, parking, and game day tips, click here.

As for lodging, there are lots of hotels in downtown Memphis and East Memphis. Downtown hotels will be within walking distance (or a short trolley bus ride) from things to do and about five miles to the Stadium. If you stay in East Memphis, you’ll need transportation to get to nearby things to do and will be about seven to ten miles from the Stadium.

Click here for info on local hotels.


No Liberty Bowl experience is complete without tailgating along Tiger Lane, where the smoke from slow-cooking barbecue intensifies the excitement of fans. Basics on parking and tailgating are provided here; it’s up to you to bring something tasty.

To make tailgate small talk, you could express your excitement about the coming halftime spectacular, a bona fide pageant with marching bands, dancers, baton twirlers, cheerleaders, and a performance by country music sensation Scotty McCreery. Or, share some bowl trivia: this year marks the 61st annual Liberty Bowl, making it one of the oldest college bowl games. The competition got its start in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which explains its name (and why its trophy resembles the liberty bell). The bowl has been played in Memphis since 1965, showcasing greats from Archie Manning to Bo Jackson. 

Five Things You Must Do In Memphis

“What are the top things I must do when I visit Memphis?” This is a hard question to answer, since the city is full of fantastic attractions. But if you only have a few days to spend in town, here’s a quick run-down of five Memphis must-dos.

Graceland Record Room

Record Room at Graceland

1. Get A Dose Of Memphis Music History 

If you’re an Elvis fan, or you have an afternoon to spend, a pilgrimage to Graceland is the perfect choice.

If you don’t have the time/budget for Graceland, I recommend a visit to Sun Studio, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music (think Sam and Dave), or the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.

The Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame should also be on your list if you’re a music buff.

Central BBQ

2. Eat BBQ

Barbecue is the official cuisine of Memphis. The quintessential must-go is The Rendezvous downtown (get ribs or the sausage and cheese plate). You'll find Central BBQ close to Liberty Bowl Stadium but expect to wait in line (get ribs, a pulled pork sandwich, or BBQ nachos with house chips), The Bar-B-Q Shop (go for ribs, sandwiches, and a side of BBQ spaghetti), Tops BBQ (pulled pork sandwich or burger with BBQ), Corky's (ribs with a side of potato salad), and Payne’s BBQ (try the pulled pork sandwich or ribs) among many others. Want to learn more about the 101+ barbecue joints in Memphis? Click here. 


View of Mud Island, bridge, and Pyramid from the top of Beale Street Landing

3. Photo Ops and History

Stop by Beale Street Landing and Tom Lee Park to take in the views of the mighty Mississippi. Don’t forget to get a photo with the iconic bridge.

The historic Peabody Hotel downtown has a beautiful lobby, a rooftop with a great view, and two daily duck marches that the kids will love.

Beale Street is the historic music and entertainment district. Take a daytime stroll past the shops and establishments, then stop in A. Schwab general store for sundaes. At night, enjoy all the live music, have a few drinks, and watch the Beale Street Flippers do their thing.

Take a ride on the newly restored Grand Carousel, walking distance from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The original Grand Carousel classic merry-go-round was hand-carved in 1909. The beautifully restored Grand Carousel recently returned to service in an all-new facility located in The Children's Museum.

Grand Carousel in Memphis

Restored Memphis Grand Carousel at the Memphis Children's Museum

4. Attractions

The Memphis Zoo is consistently rated one of the best zoos in the country and is worth a visit, especially if you have kids with you.

The National Civil Rights Museum is an engaging, comprehensive museum focused on the civil rights movement.

You have several options for tours of Memphis: Backbeat Tours offers musical sightseeing bus tours as well as walking “ghost tours.” The Memphis Hop is a hop-on, hop-off shuttle with 10 stops. Historical Haunts guides ghost tours. A Tour Of Possibilities van tour focuses on civil rights and African American history. (Check schedules for availability).

bass pro pyramid exterior

5. Wild Card

This one depends on your interests. Here are some options for a choose-your-own-adventure in Memphis.

– If you’re the outdoorsy type, go to the Bass Pro Pyramid. Inside you can ride the nation’s tallest freestanding elevator to the top ($10 per person) for an incredible view of the city.

– If you’re looking for the local live music scene, venues like Lafayette’s, the Hi-ToneMinglewood Hall, and Bar DKDC regularly host local bands. Beale Street has plenty of live music as well. All these venues have totally different vibes.

– If you’re into craft beer, check out Memphis’ brewery scene: Click here.

– If you're a car lover, you won't want to miss the Edge Motor Museum, Memphis' home to "American Speed."

– If you're traveling with kids, click here for numerous family-friendly trip ideas.

Places To Eat And Drink

Make reservations anywhere you can, especially for brunch. Speaking of brunch, check out our extensive brunch guides for Downtown, Midtown, and East Memphis.


– Earnestine & Hazel’s offers up beer, soul burgers, and late-night music in the divey-est of dive bar atmospheres
– Majestic Grill is crowd pleasing cuisine in an upscale, art deco atmosphere
– Gus’ Fried Chicken’s spicy, crispy chicken is world-famous for a reason
– For bar hopping/late-night eating: SOBBardog TavernLocal, Flying Saucer, Blind Bear, plus Beale Street
– For breakfast: Arcade Restaurant, Bardog Tavern, Blue Plate Cafe

East Memphis:

– Hog & Hominy is a Memphis favorite that serves Southern-Italian cuisine family-style, plus craft cocktails
– One & Only BBQ has three East Memphis locations with tasty barbecue ribs, pulled pork, and more
– RP Tracks is a college bar with surprisingly great food; if you’re a vegetarian who wants barbecue, the BBQ tofu nachos there are A+
– For breakfast: Another Broken Egg, Blue Plate Cafe, Brother Junipers (the latter is immensely popular, expect a wait)
– Elwood’s Shack is in a tiny, actual shack in a Lowe’s parking lot; folks love their bbq, fish tacos, and breakfast
– Char is an upscale steakhouse, which often has live piano music.
– The Bluff is the perfect spot for live music and casual Cajun eats.  


– Beauty Shop serves fusion food in a swanky atmosphere for lunch, dinner, and brunch
– Second Line serves New Orleans-style food (especially po-boys) and craft cocktails
– For breakfast: Cafe Eclectic, Celtic Crossing (brunch only)
– For bar hopping/late-night eating: Young Ave Deli, Alchemy, Sweet Grass Next Door, Local on the Square
– Soul Fish Cafe serves soul food in a casual atmosphere
– Aldo’s is a chill pizza joint next to Memphis Made Taproom (they also have a downtown location)

Night Life

Along with phenomenal food, Memphis offers a stellar night life scene. All over town you’ll find unique dives, juke joints, clubs and bars. Discover the next batch of Memphis music legends, as you explore the various music rooms and lounges the city has to offer.

Beale Street and Downtown: 

Historic Beale Street is a must-stop for visitors. Visit this world-famous street and its eclectic bars and clubs for the real Memphis experience. Surrounding Beale, downtown Memphis offers night clubs, discos, bars and so much more. You’ll find a bevy of hotspots on South Main St., as well as unique odds and ends that’ll make this a trip to remember.  

–  Alfred’s On Beale
B.B. King’s Blues Club
King Palace Café
Club 152
Jerry Lawler’s Hall of Fame Bar & Grille
Jerry Lee Lewis’ Café & Honky Tonk
Rum Boogie Café
Silky O’Sullivan’s
Tin Roof
Wet Willies
Hard Rock Café
– Coyote Ugly
Paula and Raiford’s Disco
– Bardog Tavern 

University of Memphis & Highland Strip:

Head over to the Highland Strip for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Located near the University of Memphis—and just a couple miles from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium—the Highland Strip offers a collection of restaurants and bars to take your party late into the evening.
The Bluff
R.P. Tracks

Midtown’s Historic Cooper-Young Entertainment District:

The historic Cooper-Young Entertainment District is known for its artistic, creative vibe. Visit this eccentric neighborhood–just blocks from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium—to find bars, entertainment venues, rail-yard hangouts and more.
Sweet Grass
Celtic Crossing
Hammer & Ale
Young Avenue Deli
Memphis Made Brewing Company
Cafe Olé

Overton Square in Midtown:

From piano bars to music rooms, and plenty of other lively joints, Overton Square in midtown is one of Memphis’ most popular scenes for night life.
Babalu Tacos and Tapas
Bayou Bar and Grill
Local on the Square
Lafayette’s Music Room
The Zebra Lounge

Other Events in Town:

For fans craving more sports action while in town, the Memphis Grizzlies will take on the Charlotte Hornets, Dec. 29 at FedExForum. The Memphis Tigers men’s basketball team will also host games at the FedExForum against New Orleans (Dec. 28) and Tulane (Dec. 30).
Head down to the South Main Historic Arts District for South Main Trolley Night, Friday, Dec. 27. Bakeries, coffee shops, boutiques, galleries, street performers and more line South Main for this wide-ranging, family-friendly event that will give you a sense of Memphis.

Also, check out this Guide To New Year’s in Memphis.