Rock around the clock during a weekend in Memphis, TN, the birthplace of the blues, rock 'n' roll and soul music.
Where to Stay
The Madison is an upscale hotel where Memphis visitors go to feel pampered. A member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the hotel features bold contemporary furnishings, turndown service, twice-daily housekeeping and a rooftop with breathtaking views of the mighty Mississippi. Located in Memphis' bustling downtown, the Madison also hosts sunset parties with live jazz Thursday evenings from April through mid-October.
Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel
Included in anyone's visit to Memphis should be a pilgrimage to Graceland, and to truly pay homage to the King while in his hometown, the birthplace of blues, rock n roll and soul music, stay the night at the Heartbreak Hotel. Operated by Graceland, the decor replicates that at Elvis's Graceland. Four Elvis-themed suites overlook the small heart-shaped pool in the courtyard.
The Gen X Inn
The Gen X Inn opened in 2006. The trendy, urban boutique hotel is located on the Madison Avenue trolley line, just minutes from Beale Street and other Memphis attractions. This small hotel is clean, courteous and run with the efficiency of its much bigger counterparts. This is the place to stay if you're not looking to splurge on accommodations.
Where to Eat
This hip eatery sits inside an old 1960s style beauty shop and is owned and operated by Karen Blockman Carrier, the creative force behind one of Memphis' hippest restaurants, Automatic Slims. Beauty Shop is casual, kitschy and fun with a menu full of fantastic foods. Order the Thai Cobb Salad or Memphis' best BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado) sandwich.
Pig on Beagle
For some down home, Southern fare, head to Pig on Beagle, home to some of Memphis' best barbeque. Diners thoroughly enjoy the 1950s decor including checkerboard floors and vintage movie posters. The jukebox here is one of Beale Street's finest featuring a mix of Furry Lewis, Elvis, Delta Blues and the Eric Hughes Band. The bar also hosts live blues and Americana music nightly, Thursday through Sunday.
McEwen's on Monroe Avenue offers a relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere in which to enjoy their "Southern fusion" lunch and dinner menus. It's a great place to go with your traveling companions and split appetizers like sweet potato empanadas and barbeque duck confit enchiladas, all of which can be easily paired with McEwen's extensive wine list and followed by the award-winning banana cream pie.
What to See & Do
In a city that spawned so many musical styles, it's mandatory to learn a bit about its creative beginnings. Soulsville USA sits near the site of the original Stax recording studio, which during the 1960s and 1970s laid down tracks by Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin among others. The museum's multimedia exhibitions are the perfect way to experience the heyday of Memphis' powerhouse recording studio. The museum can be enjoyed in 90 minutes if you're on a tight schedule or you can easily lose a whole afternoon should the music move you.
To blues fans, Beale Street is America's most important street; it's here that the Blues were born. W.C. Handy penned "Memphis Blues" while performing here -- the first published blues song. Other famed blues performers who started here are B.B. King, Furry Lewis, Alberta Hunter, Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes. The Orpheum Theater once a home for vaudeville, is now a performance hall for Broadway shows. Historic markers line the street allowing you to soak in as much history as you like while browsing the many shops, boutiques, clubs and restaurants.
Second only to the White House, Graceland is the most visited private home in America; tens of thousands make the musical pilgrimage each year. It follows that it's Memphis' biggest tourist attraction. Visitors can tour Elvis's 2 personal jets, his automobile museum, his home and personal belongings as well as the vast grounds surrounding Graceland. If you're short on time, the best bang for your buck is the Mansion Tour offering the essence of Elvis and Graceland in just 90 minutes.
This is Memphis, so any nightly activity should include live music. For an authentic and gritty night on the town, head to Wild Bills. Far from the lights of Beale Street, locals and music enthusiasts know that Wild Bills is Memphis' best-kept secret and most authentic musical experience. Check it out Fridays and Saturdays nights.
For a more urban and upscale night out, head to Automatic Slim's Tonga Club. On Friday nights, live music accompanies the Tonga Club's fabulous menu. Make sure to order the house specialty, martinis made with homemade fruit-soaked vodka.
Travel Channel Insider's Tip:
If you're visiting in summer, note that in mid-August, Graceland and Memphis come alive with a festival commemorating Elvis' death on August 16, 1977.