couple listens to music at overton park shell

Free Things To Do In Memphis

Seeing some of Memphis’ biggest attractions can mean spending a good chunk of your trip’s budget on tickets. But there’s a lifetime of fun to be had in Memphis without ever reaching into your wallet. Did you know that one of the 23 Best Places to Go in 2023 is also the Best U.S. Destination on a Budget? 

That's right: Conde Nast Traveler named Memphis one of the 23 Best Places to Go in 2023. We can think of a lot of reasons why, but affordability makes Memphis an even sweeter vacation destination. Read on for the top things to do in Memphis for free or on a budget, and you'll see why USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice ranked us No. 1 for Best U.S. Destination on a Budget (May 2023). Some of our suggestions may require planning around specific days or requirements, and keep in mind that prices and times are subject to change. Call ahead to confirm details before enjoying these offers and planning your next low-cost trip.

While nationally, inflation is increasing attraction ticket prices, some of Memphis' most iconic attractions and experiences are free, including Beale Street and the Peabody Ducks
Memphis hotel rates were 28% lower than the U.S. average according to a 2023 study, another reason Lonely Planet & USAToday 10Best have called Memphis out as an affordable destination.

Read on for our full list of ideas, or skip right to the section you're most interested in:

Free Days at Museums & Attractions
Free Things to Do With Kids
Free Live Music & Entertainment
Free Parks & Recreation

 

National Civil Rights museum sign at Lorraine Motel

Free Days at Memphis Museums & Attractions 

You'll find that many of Memphis' best attractions offer "free day" admissions.

Graceland, home of Elvis Presley
3734 Elvis Presley Blvd.
Going down to the Graceland Gates, snapping a photo and imagining the King rolling down his driveway in a vintage pink Cadillac is always free. Graceland also offers free-admission walk-up visits to the Meditation Garden, the resting site of the King, 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. daily.

Memphis Zoo
2000 Prentiss Pl. 
Rated as one of the best zoos in America, the Memphis Zoo houses 3,500 animals including polar bears, lions, elephants, hippos, and more. The Memphis Zoo is an interactive and fun experience for the whole family. Residents of Tennessee can take advantage of free admission on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to close.

Mighty Lights
Located downtown on the riverfront 
Head down to the river for a light show! Each night you can see Memphis' iconic Hernando de Soto and Harahan bridges emblazoned with state-of-the-art LED lights. Watch these Mighty Lights as they dance off the Mississippi River. You can enjoy the free, nightly light shows from downtown’s riverfront parks, rooftops, Mud Island, the Bluffwalk and Fourth Bluff (check this guide for the best spots).

Tom Lee Park
Riverside Drive
Memphis' history and heritage are tied to the Mississippi River. The free-to-visit park recently underwent a $61 million facelift to better connect visitors like you to our mighty river. Kids will love the river-themed playground with climbable large scale river creatures. The Sunset Canopy, mediative walking paths, and habitat terraces make for a relaxing visit.

National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry St.
Housed in the historic Lorraine Motel, the National Civil Rights Museum is an intense, immersive tour through our country’s civil rights struggle, from the early days of slavery to the museum’s moving conclusion. The tour ends at the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Tennessee residents may visit the museum for free on Mondays from 3 p.m. until closing. 

Stax Museum of American Soul Music
926 E. McLemore Ave.
Maybe it’s Isaac Hayes’ gold-plated Cadillac, the Express Yourself dance floor or the hall of hit records. For locals and visitors alike, it’s the opportunity to soak up the sweet sounds of one of the most creative periods in Memphis music history. Admission is free to Shelby County residents from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Tuesday.

Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
191 Beale St.
The Rock ’n’ Soul Museum tells Memphis’ musical story, from rural field hollers and sharecropper songs through the explosion of Sun, Stax and Hi Records. Created by the Smithsonian Institute, the museum offers music-lovers a comprehensive digital audio tour with more than 300 minutes of information, 100 songs and three audio-visual programs. The museum is free for Shelby County residents on Tuesdays.

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art 
1934 Poplar Ave.
The permanent collection at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art encompasses thousands of works across media (and a treasure of local and international artists, from a Civil Rights-era Memphis photographer to a modern-day African muralist). Admission is free on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Dixon Gallery & Gardens
4339 Park Ave.
With one of the region’s largest collections of Impressionist paintings and decorative arts, surrounded by a lush lawn and blooming gardens, the Dixon in East Memphis is an incredible value for art- and nature-lovers. Thanks to donors, the Dixon is free to visit through the end of 2024.

Metal Museum
374 Metal Museum Dr.
Watch a neon-pink sun set over the Mississippi River from the grounds of the Metal Museum. Access to the grounds of the museum, including its sculpture garden and gift shop, is always free. However, there is a fee to visit the full-functioning blacksmith and foundry shop, and the museum.

Elmwood Cemetery
824 S. Dudley
Founded in 1852, Elmwood is the final resting place for so many Memphians, from music legends to victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic. On the National Register of Historic Places (and an official Arboretum), Elmwood is best known for its Victorian-era statuary. Head through the gates, find parking along any of its shady lanes, and walk the grounds. Access is always free.

Art Museum of the University of Memphis
3750 Norriswood
The art museum at the University of Memphis features permanent collections of Egyptian and West African art, and changing exhibits of contemporary art. While you should call before you go (the museum closes on university holidays and between exhibits), it is always free to visit

Memorial Park Crystal Shrine Grotto
5668 Poplar Ave.
Mexican artist Dionicio Rodriguez built this man-made cavern filled with crystals, rock formations and religious dioramas in the 1930s. Located in Memorial Park Cemetery, the grotto is a hidden gem and open dawn to dusk each day. Always free.

Memphis Listening Lab
1350 Concourse Ave. Suite 269
A library-like collection but completely dedicated to music. The Memphis Listening Lab’s collection boasts a curated collection of music and music history of 35,000 45rpm singles, 15,000 LPs, 25,000 CDs, 2000 books, and over 1000 unique pieces of musical history. Sit back and listen in the SoundRoom. The collection is all free to the public for listening and learning enjoyment. Stick around to explore the Crosstown Concourse.

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Bonus! Free Walking Tours of Memphis

Roots of Memphis Music
191 Beale St. 
See those colorful bollards on the plaza outside of FedExForum? Each tells of a different facet of the roots of Memphis music: genres from gospel to hip-hop; artists from W.C. Handy to Three 6 Mafia. Follow the QR code on each bollard to get the full sonic story as you enjoy the graphics designed by local muralists. 

Downtown Memphis Commission Sidewalk Stories
Downtown Memphis
​Follow a series of bronze plaques laid in the concrete of Downtown Memphis. More than 50 plaques tell of the city’s colorful history, including Cotton Row, once the hub of the global cotton industry. 

Orpheum Theatre Sidewalk of Stars
203 S. Main St.
The Orpheum Theatre’s “Sidewalk of Stars” commemorates the appearances of legendary entertainers dating back to Harry Houdini, Mae West, John Philip Sousa, George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Mud Island Riverwalk

Free Things To Do With Kids

From marching ducks to bike rides and park romps, we've gathered some of the best kid-friendly things to do in Memphis for free.  

Peabody Ducks
149 Union Ave.
Every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., “pomp and circumstance” takes on new meaning in the grand lobby of the Peabody Hotel. This is when the Peabody Ducks, five North American mallards, arrive and leave the hotel fountain in a grand procession complete with a red carpet, official introduction and visiting paparazzi. The Peabody Duck March is completely free and open to all.

Shelby Farms Park
6903 Great View Dr. N. 
Shelby Farms Park is a 4,500-acre park in the heart of East Memphis. Full of walking, biking and running trails, an awesome playground, splash area, fishing, a herd of buffalo and plenty of space to fly kites, this is the perfect place to let your little one run about and blow off steam. For a fee, you can also go horseback riding, rent bikes or check out a canoe, kayak or paddleboard to explore the park’s Hyde Lake. This free park is open sunrise to sunset each day. 

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Tom Lee Park
Riverside Dr.
Memphis' history and heritage are tied to the Mississippi River. The free-to-visit park recently underwent a $61 million facelift. Kids will love the river-themed playground with climbable large scale river creatures, basketball courts under the Sunset Canopy, misting fountains, or the ninja style fitness zone.

Memphis Zoo
2000 Galloway
​Rated as one of the best zoos in America, the Memphis Zoo houses 3,500 animals including polar bears, elephants, lions, kangaroos, giraffes, and more. During the warmer months, hit the zoo's splash park for a small fee. Residents of Tennessee can take advantage of free admission on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to close.

A. Schwab Dry Goods Store
163 Beale St.
A. Schwab, established in 1876, is the only remaining original business on Beale Street. Its three floors are filled with store relics, voodoo powders, Memphis music, retro toys and the largest collection of hats in town—perfect for browsing around. Free to explore and you'll find prices for old-fashion sodas, milkshakes, and snacks are very affordable.

Find more free things to do with your family in Memphis.

Free concerts in Memphis

Free Live Music & Entertainment

whether you want to hear free live music or join a block party, these ideas are fun and free.

Beale Street Entertainment District
Corner of 2nd Street and Beale Street 
​One of America's most famous streets, Beale Street is where W.C. Handy penned the first blues song and where you’ll find three blocks of restaurants, nightclubs, live music, museums and neon. Peruse the A. Schwab Dry Goods Store, follow the Music Walk of Fame (marked by brass music notes along the sidewalk), see hundreds of motorcycles for Bike Night (every Wednesday night in the summer) or catch the Beale Street Flippers hand-springing down the street.

Of course, you'll hear live music streaming out of those bars and clubs, so ask at any venue if there are free or no-cover options. You can also walk down to the newly renovated Handy Park, an open-air venue where periodic concerts are always free. 

Overton Park Shell Concerts
1928 Poplar Ave.
​Built in the 1930s and recognized as the site of Elvis' first professional rock 'n' roll show, the Overton Park Shell is an outdoor performing arts pavilion located in beautiful Overton Park. Every summer and fall, the Shell hosts more than 50 free concerts – blues, gospel, country and rock represented, and the family-friendly vibe invites kids to dance, hula hoop, run and groove as the bands play.  

Overton Square Activities
2101 Madison Ave.
Also in the Overton Square Entertainment District, follow the tower to open-air Chimes Square. The courtyard regularly hosts free events and activities, whether a free live music series, movie screening or spontaneous game of cornhole.

Playhouse on the Square
66 S. Cooper
Playhouse on the Square is a regional theater company located in the Overton Square dining, shopping and entertainment district. It offers a pay-what-you-can night for every production.

South Main Trolley Nights
South Main Historic District 
The last Friday of each month, Memphis' South Main Arts District hosts an evening of art and music. Shops, restaurants and art galleries in the area open their doors to Memphians and visitors (tip: get there early for adult beverages and a few snacks). Hop aboard the vintage trolley for only $1 a ride.

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee

Free Parks & RECREATION

Memphis is packed with free parks and green spaces where you can play and relax.

Free Activities in Overton Park
1914 Poplar Ave.
Of course, you can visit Overton Park for free on your own anytime. But park staff and volunteers offer periodic free activities in the park, from Wellness Walks to Tai Chi practice.

River Garden Park
51 Riverside Dr. 
Located along the Mississippi River, River Garden is one of the newer parks in downtown Memphis and free to visit. You'll find an innovative playground, an Explore Bike Share station and seasonal coffee stand all within the park.

Martyrs Park
Located just north of I-55 Bridge
​With a majestic view of the Mississippi River, Martyrs Park is home to a stunning statue commemorating the citizens who tended the sick and dying during the yellow fever epidemic that devastated the city in the 1870s. Martyrs Park is just one park down from Tom Lee Park.

Robert R. Church Park
191 Beale St.
​Church Park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Beale Street Historic District. The park was built by the city's first Black millionaire, Robert Church, as a haven for African-Americans during the early 1900s. 

Big River Crossing
Access from Channel 3 Dr./Virginia Ave. W. Street parking is available on Channel 3 Drive; lot parking is available at Martyrs Park.
The longest pedestrian and bike bridge across the Lower Mississippi River invites you to walk from downtown Memphis all the way to West Memphis, Arkansas. The views of the river and downtown Memphis skyline are one-of-a-kind.  

Tom Lee Park
Riverside Drive
Memphis' history and heritage are tied to the Mississippi River. The free-to-visit park recently underwent a $61 million facelift to better connect visitors like you to our mighty river. Kids will love the river-themed playground with climbable large scale river creatures. The Sunset Canopy, mediative walking paths, and habitat terraces make for a relaxing visit.

Bike Routes
Encompassing more than 60 miles of bike lanes, off-road trails and protected pathways, bike routes in Memphis are a fun way to get around. Designed for recreational and commuter riders of all skills and ability levels, our trails allow you to bike along the Mississippi River, down the Shelby Farms Greenline, through city parks and more. Plan your ride here.

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