Memphis is, to rock and roll and blues fans, the birthplace, cradle, and hometown of soul. The list of musical genius to come from this Mississippi Delta area includes Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and Robert Johnson. An estimated population of 650,000 makes it the biggest city in the state of Tennessee. Situated in the southwest corner of the state, the Memphis metropolitan area includes counties and towns in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This tri-state metropolis has a population of 1.3 million.
Memphis is one of the few areas in the Deep South that actually has four distinct seasons. The average high and low temperatures are 72 and 52 respectively, not too shabby. Add to that a couple of days of snow, about 110 days of rain and nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine and you’ve got a year-round climate that’s not only tolerable, but pleasant.
Now, on to some of the interesting things to do while visiting.
In 1906 the Memphis Zoo opened with a black bear named Natch, a retired baseball mascot, as its main attraction. Today, the zoo is 70 acres of exhibits and habitats and it’s home to more than 3,500 animals, representing 500 plus species. Since 1990 there have been more than $77 million in renovations and expansions. The Memphis Zoo, ranked as America’s #1 zoo by TripAdvisor.com in 2008 and rated the top zoo in the country in Morey Associates’ 2009 National Survey, is one of only four zoos in the country exhibiting giant pandas. The three acre Panda habitat also features Chinese architecture, horticulture, and many other indigenous animals.
The Children’s Museum of Memphis is a place of exploration. Visitors can pilot a flight simulator, see an indoor thunderstorm, experience what it’s like to perform on stage, or become an artist in the painting and sculpture studio. There is a miniature city where youngsters can drive a fire engine or a sheriff’s car, they can climb a skyscraper, or even live their dream to be a dentist or reporter. The museum has a TV studio and even a place just for the little ones to enjoy. There are daily educational programs and traveling exhibits as well.
Every rock and roll fan should visit Graceland at least once. Elvis Presley’s mansion and the 14 acre grounds are an exhibit of the King’s life. Touring the property will allow visitors an inside look at his life, from modest beginnings to super stardom. The home is maintained just as it was when he lived there, and tours are self-guided and paced. While touring this tribute to the King, you’ll see his awards, movie props and costumes, some of his vehicles – including the famous pink Cadillac among others. The tour also includes the 1958 Convair 880 that Elvis purchased in 1975, named the Lisa Marie, and spent over $800,000 customizing and remodeling.
While we’re on the subject of music, no trip to Memphis could ever be complete without a stroll down Beale Street. The 1.8 miles that make up Beale Street run from the Mississippi river to East Street. The area is significant in the history of Memphis, as it’s where people would, and still do, gather to mingle and discover new music. The blues run this street like a river and flood out of nearly every door along the way. There are far too many interesting stops along the path to adequately mention here, but B.B. King’s Blues Club, The Beale Street Taproom, the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum, and the W.C. Handy historic home are definite musts. Although less than two miles long, this street is mentioned in several rock, blues, and soul songs. Visit and you’ll understand why.
Of course, music and family entertainment aren’t the only reasons to visit Memphis. Let’s not forget barbecue! A lot of places across the country claim to serve “Memphis Style” barbecue, but you can only get REAL Memphis barbecue in Memphis. Break out your smartphone or dust off the hotel phone book and pick one. If you’re really interested in finding the best of the best, ask a local. They’ll shoot you straight, and your belly will be happy.
Your ears and belly want you to know that this is a direct flight from Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, FL from the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.
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