Kayaking on the Mississippi River in Memphis
Logan Young

Ways To Enjoy The Outdoors In Memphis

From exploring one of the nation's largest urban parks, Shelby Farms, to getting an up-close look at lions, hippos, giraffes and more than three thousand animals at the award-winning Memphis Zoo, there are a whole lotta ways to get out and enjoy the Memphis sunshine. Whether it's a thrilling zip line and ropes course excursion or a leisurely stroll across the Mighty Mississippi River, you can tailor your outdoor Memphis adventure to match your specific pace and style. It’s going to be a gorgeous day outside in Memphis, and here are nearly a dozen ways to enjoy it: 

1. Go on a bike ride

Did you know Memphis has 60+ miles of bike trails and lanes? This includes the Shelby Farms Greenline, a dedicated 10.65-mile paved trail that connects pedestrians and cyclists through the city to Shelby Farms Park and connects to the Wolf River Greenway, and Big River Crossing, the longest bicycle/pedestrian bridge across the Mighty Mississippi into Arkansas, where Ducks Unlimited Park offers more miles of paved trail. 

2. Check out Shelby Farms Park

Zipline through the trees and over lakes with GoApe Adventures, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard on Hyde Lake, let the pups run around the off-leash dog park, let the kids run around the Woodland Discovery Park playground, go find the herd of bison that roam, get in a game of frisbee golf, head to the stables to ride horses or rent a bike to cycle and explore the 4,500 acres of Shelby Farms Park. 

3. Go to the Zoo

Named one of the top zoos in the country, Memphis Zoo sprawls out over 70-some acres and introduces you to more than 3,500 animals. You'll want to spend the whole day discovering lions, tigers, hippos and more. 

4. Post up on a patio

It’s basically a religion in Memphis. If the sun is shining, the patios will be full of people eating, drinking, playing lawn games, listening to Memphis music and having a good 'ole time. 

5. Get on the water

Of course, you know about the Mighty Mississippi, but what about the Ghost and the Wolf Rivers? Explore the waterways and rent a kayak or canoe if you're an experienced paddler or take a tour with Kayak Memphis Tours. Don't want to do any exercise? Then walk on board a Memphis Riverboat, grab a seat, order a drink and listen to your guide as they tell stories about the river city. 

6. Hike Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park has plenty to do outdoors. Fishing, hunting, mountain biking, camping and hiking are just a few of the activities that are available. Just take a scenic drive down One-Way road and you'll be in awe of this 12,539-acre hard wood forest just a few minutes north of downtown. Stop by the Shelby Forest General Store on the way into the park to grab a map, some snacks and some advice from owners Doug and Kristin. And if you happen to be there on a Friday night, you'll find a live bluegrass band and a steak dinner for $13. 

7. See the blooms

Visit the Dixon Gallery and Gardens or the Memphis Botanic Garden to experience beautiful flora and lush landscape design. The Botanic Gardens boast 96- beautiful acres including 31 specialty gardens and My Big Backyard for the kids, while The Dixon Gallery is host to eight to ten exhibitions every year and Cherry + Park, a delicious on-site cafe. 

8. Take in the riverfront

Watch the sunset, run wild on the playground or hit a fitness station in the newly renovated Tom Lee Park. Stroll through River Garden Park surrounded by colorful native plants. You could also just rent a scooter and ride along the Mississippi riverfront as you watch the giant barges go by. 

9. Hunt for art

There is beautiful public art all over the city. Grab your camera and find all the Instagram-worthy walls to shoot. You'll discover local artists that tell the visual stories and collaborations with artists from out of town that were inspired by Memphis. 

10. Discover a neighborhood

Memphis has so many vibrant neighborhoods. Downtown you'll find the trolleys and galleries of South Main Arts District and the Medical District. Just a little east is architectural award-winning Crosstown Concourse. Keep going and you'll head to midtown where you'll find Broad Avenue Arts District, Overton Square Entertainment District connected to the theatre district and the hip Cooper-Young. Don't forget our suburbs: Cordova, Collierville, Germantown, Bartlett, Millington and Arlington. Not only will you find historic main streets and great shopping, but there are parks and attractions to discover there too. 

Bike Share Mural
Exploring Shelby Farms
Polar Bear at Memphis Zoo
Alfred's On Beale Patio
Canoeing on a river in Memphis
My Big Backyard memphis
Group walking the pathways at Tom Lee Park
Family by Memphis mural in the Edge District
Earnestine & Hazel's / Alex Shansky

About the Author

Samantha Crespo has written about Memphis for more than 13 years, including four editions of 100 Things To Do in Memphis Before You Die, a love letter/insider's guide to the city. Find her running along the river, especially in the new Tom Lee Park, listening to her favorite Memphis band: Lucero.