Photo of the "Memphis" letters on Mud Island with the city skyline in the background
Alex Shansky
Memphis Postcard Edge District Mural
Memphis Postcard Edge District Mural by Allie Mounce
Craig Thompson

Photo Tour: Your Memphis Bucket List

If you’re planning a visit to Memphis, we hear you: there’s a lot to see and do! Whether your planning a day in Memphis or you're here for a weekend trip, we'll help you discover what Memphis is famous for. From visiting shrines to musical icons and listening to live music on Beale Street to exploring the Mississippi River and eating all the barbecue, we’ve created this Memphis bucket list by theme. Just flip through the photo tour to find what you’re interested in and go!

Pay homage to Elvis.

Tour Sun Studio, the impossibly small space from which Elvis emerged larger-than-life. (Hold his microphone to imagine his presence.) Visit Graceland for an intimate look at the man, especially in the Music Room, where he shared songs with friends and family. Better yet, hop in a classic car with Rockabilly Rides for an Elvis-themed tour of Memphis guided by local musicians.

For more Elvis-themed attractions, check out the Ultimate Elvis Presley Bucket List

Get down with Memphis Soul.

Memphis is a city of soul and the music tells that story. Take a journey from the blues of the Delta through the very  first rock 'n' roll song ever created and everything in between with Smithsonian curated exhibits found at the Rock 'n' Soul Museum. Then head to Soulsville, U.S.A. for a deeper dive of where the sound revolution sparked in 1960s Memphis at the​ Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Instruments, archive footage and flashy exhibits (Isaac Hayes’ Cadillac!) remember the Stax stars.

Click here to learn more about the legends of Memphis music.

Chase the Blues.

By day, visit the pocket-sized Blues Hall of Fame. Its archives are deep and digitized—dig in via A/V stations to access songs, videos and writing on Memphis’ essential music genre. By night, hit Beale Street, where live electric and acoustic blues float into the night. Listen in at cozy venues like Blues Hall or grab drinks and a set by Barbara Blue at the expansive Silky O’Sullivan’s.

Listen to more live music. Because: Memphis

Memphis’ modern musicians riff on the past, creating new, original music (see: Dead Soldiers, John Paul Keith and Southern Avenue, to start). Catch these and other local standouts at cozy Lafayette’s Music Room and even cozier Bar DKDC, restaurant/bars with buzzy outdoor spaces including Railgarten and Loflin Yard and the Levitt Shell, where Elvis first lit up a live audience. 

You'll find live music all over town. Check out our events calendar to see who's playing.

Trace Memphis' civil rights story.

Find the Smithsonian-affiliated National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where a wreath marks Martin Luther King Jr.’s room and place of assassination. King was here advocating for Memphis sanitation workers, and the museum explores this chapter within America’s greater civil rights story through highly interactive exhibits: trace the Atlantic slave trade with your feet, listen to speeches from 1963’s March on Washington and board a burned-out bus in remembrance of Freedom Riders. 

Continue learning about our city's civil rights story by following the U.S. Civil Rights Trail in Memphis. While you're here, learn how you can support our black-owned businesses

Behold the River.

Experience the Mighty Mississippi in Downtown Memphis. Watch it go by from the grassy roof or splashground at Beale Street Landing. Take a sightseeing cruise with Memphis Riverboats. Join a paddling excursion with Kayak Memphis. Walk/bike/run Big River Crossing, the Mississippi’s longest pedestrian bridge. Downtown rooftops create unforgettable views too, especially the glass-floored observation deck of Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

Then, experience Memphis' new-look riverfront at Tom Lee Park. 

Do something sporty.

Explore historic Overton Park, where you’ll discover the Memphis Zoo, an urban forest with ample trails and access to the Greenline, a pedestrian path that runs for miles through the heart of the city. Follow it to Shelby Farms Park, where paddleboarding, horseback riding, ziplining and one heck of a playground await. Rather kick back and watch others sweat? Catch Minor League baseball at pretty AutoZone Park or go for NBA action at FedExForum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies

Eat all the things.

You know you want to try Memphis barbecue. Ask any local and you’ll get an earful of recommendations, from the gloriously messy bologna sandwich at Payne’s to The Bar-B-Q Shop’s “muddy” ribs (that’s Memphis for dry-rubbed and sauced). Leave room for other cravings, because you’re going to find irresistible soul food, “real food” and foodie-food here too. 

Discover more of the world's best barbecue on the Memphis Barbecue Trail

Hang with the locals.

For an ultra-authentic experience, venture into Memphis neighborhoods that mix residential space with fun stuff to do. Shop for artful accessories and modernist pottery on Broad Avenue. Pick up Memphis-made tomes and vinyl at Cooper-Young’s indie book and record stores. Sample restaurants in Overton Square and the newly renovated Crosstown Concourse. Eat, shop and photograph your way through the gritty/colorful South Main Historic Arts District

Want to eat like a local in Memphis, too? 

Go on an art walk.

Browse the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, where classical sculptures share space with contemporary installations, including a dynamic mural by Nigerian-born Victor Ekpuk (plus a hands-on kids’ gallery). Visit the Metal Museum and its sculpture garden overlooking the Mississippi. Or, hunt for public art in any of the neighborhoods mentioned in #9. 

Find more galleries and exhibits at Memphis' best museums. 

Taking a selfie in front of Elvis Presley's Graceland
Memphis Rock 'N' Soul Museum
Band at Bar DKDC
Exhibit at National Civil Rights Museum - Andrea Zucker
Kayaking on the Mississippi river
Exploring Shelby Farms
Payne's BBQ Pork chopped sandwich
Shopping at Stock & Belle
Gardens at the Metal Museum | 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.