Let’s rewind a little (LOT) here, I have been so appallingly bad at keeping my blog up to date and I have a heaving pile of blog-post drafts in the recesses of the WordPress dashboard. It was a New Years promise to myself, to sit and finish some of them and post them, cause otherwise what’s the point? I’ve had about fifteen unfinished blog-posts, just sitting there, doing nothing, when they obviously could have been out there, saving the world from bad restaurant experiences and helping with epic travel-plans.
In October, we embarked on our longest, ever road-trip, we took on a number of states, spending more time in some, than others. And boy did we have a blast (so much so, that we’re planning another major road-trip for the near future)!!
Let me tell you about our fave places to eat, fave things to do and where we stayed in each of the cities that we pit-stopped in. Just in case you have some time on your hands and fancy a wee jaunt into some of the neighbouring states.
Overview – Was Memphis worth the drive?
Heck yes! What a culturally rich city. I am SO glad that we chose to hit-up Memphis on this trip. If you like music (of any kind really) and you are interested in Black history (I.E seeing where MLK Jr was shot and killed, Civil Rights museums etc) don’t hesitate. I think something that people don’t tend to thoroughly consider, is the depth of what Memphis has to offer. They think Elvis, Graceland and that’s it. But that’s NOT it. Memphis really has something for everyone – and I’m pretty sure, we barely scratched the surface on our trip.
What to do in Memphis?
Hours: 10am-6pm daily
Parking: Free but limited. Free shuttle that ferries between Graceland/Rock and Soul museum.
You look at the to-do list for Memphis TN and you see 3 music museums (Sun, Stax and Rock and Soul) and you think to your self, is it really worth it? Is there really that much ‘music stuff’ to look at? And the answer is yes. Go to each of them, they are each fabulous, each of them are worth the entrance fee and each of them has a whole different mojo.
This place really is old – and you can tell, it’s creaky, it’s musty, corridors and stairwells are narrow, but know what else it is? It’s HISTORY and you can *feel* it as soon as you walk in. The tour was 40 minutes, (our tour-guide, Rae was great, she was knowledgeable, fun, funny and a great storyteller). plus the waiting time for your tour to start during busy periods (35 mins for us) Parking is limited and to get in to the parking lot there’s a VERY narrow side-street to maneuver down, or you have to circle round, which may be easier.
Stop outside for a moment for a photo-op, you’re standing next to a major piece of history – don’t waste the opportunity! While we waited for our tour to start, we ordered some drinks, since they didn’t have any diet drinks, I had a surprisingly delicious strawberry milkshake and hubby had a great root-beer float, pricing was great and the server was chatty and interesting while we waited.
It felt surreal to me, to imagine that people like Elvis and Johnny Cash stood in that room, recording their hits? That is nothing short of EPIC. You also get to have your picture taken with one of the original five microphones used in ‘The era’ of recording, how awesome is that?!
I was thrilled and amazed to hear that 4-5 times a week, in the evenings, this recording studio still records for modern artists – this is excellent, and now I’m curious to find out who still records here!
Stax museum of American Soul Music
Hours: Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 1pm-5pm
Parking: Free and plentiful (they play music into the car park too)
This museum is one of the most interesting I have been to, a 20 minute short film about the history of Stax before you’re set loose in the main museum. The movie is educational and moving, it also serves to help you realise that you’re a bigger fan of soul than you realise – cause you’re bopping away to songs you’ve known and loved for years. I also never realised how racially integrated soul music was, call me ignorant, but I really learned a lot from both the film and the museum itself. I found it all fascinating!
It’s not in the best part of town, but, at the same time, it’s definitely worth the trip. There’s a lot of loud exhibits, playing very close to one another, so the sound all kind of blurs together into, just, noise and it’s hard to separate, but it was nice to have a self guided tour and see everything as you like and take as much time on the exhibits as you’d like.
The disco ball spinning over a dance-floor with epic songs playing from re-runs of soul train? Dance. You know you want to – plus, you can’t really help yourself, move your feet to the beat!
The rotating Cadillac is fab, the fluffy extravagant exterior and the choons playing in that hall is pretty cool, I just wished I’d had something from Cee-Lo Green’s wardrobe on The Voice and I’d have felt right at home. Excellent display – and hubby loves cars – so it was win-win! Don’t ignore the gift shop, they have some cool things, I couldn’t justify the $60 on the throw, but I was so very tempted. They also have a clearance table with good bargains!
This place is doing great things to preserve the history of soul music in the US, but also educating the future of soul music here too, with the academy next door. You don’t need to love soul music to come here, just to love and appreciate music!
Rock and soul museum
Hours: Daily 10am – 7pm
Parking: A couple blocks away and relatively inexpensive
I think this was my favourite museum of the trip – and probably ranks very highly in my list of all-time faves, we parked in the parking garage next to the Peabody Hotel and walked the block or two to get to the museum. I loved the self guided headphone tour, it was easy to use, type in the 3 digit numbers that are posted on exhibits and hit the play button – user friendly, good sound and plenty of information about each exhibit.
There’s a 12 minute introductory film to the museum, you will probably find yourself singing along with both the film and other patrons – like the Stax museum, you can’t help yourself! (or at least I couldn’t!) A blend of country, gospel and blues music – who’d have thought such a fab sound would come of it?! LOL!
I, personally, favoured all of the juke boxes, I loved hearing the info about the machines themselves, and rockin’ out to some of the mu-sac as I looked at the exhibits (I must have listened to ‘Soul Man’ about 10 times, boppin’ every time!) the music is fab and you really could just spend a few hours playing all of the songs in the juke boxes.
Lots to look at, lots to learn and a variety of artists whose music you’ve probably heard but you don’t necessarily know their names. The rich complexity of music of this era and the tapestries and stories woven within the music is amazing and awe-inspiring. At a time where many people were angry and hurt and scared, the music remained hopeful and less racial than one might think. Definitely progressive for its time. What an education in this place!
Put this museum top of your Memphis to-do list!
Disclaimer: I appreciate his music and his achievements, but I’m not a pantie-throwing obsessive fan, so for me, this place was a must-see, but not a crying, screaming, worshiping kinda thing.
As far as the recorded tour guide goes – with SO much information to remember about Elvis, I’m kinda glad it’s all recorded and you can listen at your own speed and it’s not on some poor tour guide to remember it all and recite to you.
The ticket price is high, but for my hubby and I, worth it. We went off-peak (October) and still had to stand in a 30-45 minute line, and it was hot and sunny outside – I’ve no idea how people can do that in August, I imagine the top-price tickets are worth it for the front of the line pass alone!
We went with mid-priced tickets, we got to see the main attractions plus the Lisa Marie airplane, Elvis’ car collection – this was one of my favourite exhibits!!!! As well as a smattering of other minor exhibits that we skipped as they didn’t really rope us in.
I loved his house and grounds, modest, but at the time I imagine it was the one everyone wanted. The decor is what you think would be iconically Elvis (esp the room with the waterfall in it).
Railroad and Trolley museum
Hours: 9am-5pm Friday and Saturday, Noon – 5pm Sun.
Parking: Street-side, free.
It’s worth the entry fee at twice the price, there’s so much to see, lots of interactive exhibits (SOS, lights, children’s display). When this place expands out back, it’ll be even better. Hubby and I spent ages here, the staff were both lovely and friendly, they were knowledgeable about trains and the locale, they gave us suggestions for food and places to visit in town.
Time well spent!
Where to eat in Memphis?
We weren’t hugely overwhelmed by our culinary experiences in Memphis, the BBQ we had was disappointing and we ate in some nation-wide chains that weren’t worth remarking on, cause you can go to them at home. This place, however? This place was worth mentioning to y’all!
Brother Junipers: Hours: Tue-Fri 6:30 am – 1 pm, Sat 7 am – 12:30 pm, Sun 8 am – 1 pm Website: www.brotherjunipers.com
We were quoted a 40 minute wait, the waiting area was packed and most people were standing. They were, however, selling coffee while we waited which made the wait go easier for many, and our wait time was actually 25 minutes.
This place is solely a breakfast place, so when I saw a gyro on the menu, I was immediately sold – I’m not a huge fan of breakfast food, especially here in the USA – I don’t tend to like their breakfast meat and that leaves eggs, which I seem to have an aversion to since I got pregnant. I ordered the gyro with breakfast potatoes – and it was absolutely delicious. The feta was strong, salty and tasty, they gave me slightly too much spinach and not enough meat, but the pita was delicious and the breakfast potatoes, in spite of the generous portion, just weren’t enough – I could have eaten those bad boys all day!!!
Hubby had a more traditional (translation: boring) breakfast, mushroom, cheese and chorizo omlette with breakfast potatoes and he was extremely happy with his food too.
The atmosphere was buzzing, the staff were friendly, service was quick, food was hot and excellent and it was definitely worth the money and the wait – if you’re in the area, go visit this place. The only downside is the difficulty of parking, otherwise this place is seriously a great find.