J Travels: Memphis, Keeping Old Promises

The mural across the street from the Civil Rights Museum. Photo by J. Sylvester.

This year, I really only had one official resolution – to travel outside of the D.C.-area every month. I knew it wouldn’t be easy given how fast a month can go, and how expensive traveling can be. The #majorkey would be planning out, at least, the first 4-5 months of my travels at the beginning of the year. I have some exciting trips ahead; I will make sure to document all of my new experiences here.

It was fitting that I traveled to Memphis first because it was the one trip I’d promised a friend I would make in 2016 that never happened.  I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never ventured to Middle (to me), Southern America, but Memphis definitely had some surprises in store.

Best Time to Visit

Summer. I visited Memphis is late January, and it was as if everyone was hibernating for the winter. I saw very few people on the streets, the tourist attractions were largely vacant and there was a quiet eeriness that hung over the city.

Although I was taken off guard, I could easily imagine how different it is in the summer. Beale street crowded with young people, outdoor concerts, joggers running along the Mississippi River.

The former Lorraine Hotel, now the Civil Rights Museum, at dusk. Photo by J. Sylvester.

Sightseeing

  • The first tourist attraction people mention when you talk about Memphis is Graceland. Graceland, Graceland, Graceland. So where did I got 10 minutes after landing? Graceland. But, from the hefty price (start at around $50), to the dated Graceland complex, I was underwhelmed. My suggestion would be to skip it if not for the major renovation they were undergoing while I was there. Hopefully the exhibits I was unable to visit will provide for a much better experience.
  • Now if you want to get your money’s worth, go to the National Civil Right Museum. I can’t say enough good things about it, I only regret that I didn’t allocate 4-5 hours to exploring all that the museum has to offer. You will want to watch every video, listen to every story, read every placard. The one good thing about going during the off-season – I basically had the museum to myself.
  • The duck walk at the Peabody is a whole ‘lotta hoopla for a 5-minute affair, but it was a fun experience. If you go to the show (there are two a day), make sure to check out the rooftop of the hotel which has an amazing view of the city.
The gorgeous view from the Peabody Hotel. Photo by J. Sylvester.

Nightlife

  • Beale Street. When the weather is nice, I’m sure Beale Street is a blast.

Eats

  • Central BBQ. My first meal didn’t disappoint. There’s a few locations depending on where you’re staying in the city. Rendezvous is another great option (or so I’ve heard).
  • Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. We went to the downtown location, and let me tell you that chicken was fried to perfection.
  • Second Line. If you’re looking for a place a little more upscale, low-key, with great ambience, food, and drinks, head here. Note this restaurant is in midtown so it’s a bit of a trek if you’re staying downtown.
The infamous Peabody Hotel, home of the duck walk. Photo by J. Sylvester.