16 Ways to See Memphis Attractions for Free
Seeing Memphis' museums and attractions doesn't have to be expensive. Check out this list of local free days and get cultured without the cost of admission:
Museums with free or pay-what-you-can days during the week:
1. National Civil Rights Museum – Free for Tennessee residents from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Mondays.
The Civil Rights Museum is located inside the former Lorraine Motel, which was the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. Now, it's a museum devoted to civil rights history and the ongoing struggle for equality.
2. Pink Palace Museum – Free from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m on Tuesdays
The Pink Palace has all sorts of artifacts from the Mid-South's natural and cultural history (including a shrunken head, a model Piggly Wiggly and a huge model circus). Admission to the museum is free on Tuesday, but IMAX and planetarium tickets are regular prices.
3. Rock'n'Soul Museum – Free for Shelby County residents, 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Tuesdays
Memphis' music history is pretty dense. The Rock'n'Soul Museum (located next to the FedExForum) is a great overview. Plus, they've got pieces of our music history that you won't see anywhere else.
4. Memphis Zoo – Free for Tennessee residents 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Tuesdays (except in March)
Judging by the crowds at the Zoo on free Tuesday, you already know that we've got one of the best zoos in the country. The rules for free day have changed a little in recent months, most notably that any minors must be accompanied by an adult. Note – there is no Free Tuesday in March.
5. Lichterman Nature Center – free from 1 p.m. – close on Tuesdays
On a nice day, you can't beat the trails at Lichterman Nature Center. They've kept a huge patch of land in the middle of East Memphis pretty much exactly the way it would be if the area was uninhabited by people. They've also got some hands-on exhibits for kids.
6. Stax Museum of American Soul Music – free from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. for Shelby County residents on Tuesdays
Reason number one to go to the Stax Musuem: the Soul Train dance floor. Reason number two: Isaac Hayes' glittery, fur-lined car. Reason number three: it's a fantastic look at Memphis' soul music history in the neighborhood where it all started.
7. Fire Museum of Memphis – buy one get one free admission on Tuesdays
The Fire Museum features exhibits on the history of firefighting in Memphis and educational areas designed to teach fire safety to kids. Check out the Fire Room, which simulates what it's like to be in a burning building (it's a little intense and kind of scary, so keep that in mind).
8. Brooks Museum of Art – Wednesday is "pay what you can" day at the Brooks, all day long.
Pay what you can day at the Brooks means that anyone can access all of the art in the permanent collection as well as the museum's touring and special exhibits (usually located downstairs).
9. Dixon Gallery and Gardens – free from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Saturday, Pay-what-you-can all day on Tuesdays.
The Dixon has a huge permanent collection of impressionist paintings and decorative arts, and their touring and special exhibits are great (in the past year, they've had Lichtenstein, female impressionists, woodcuts and Lucite handbags). Their well-kept gardens are included in the admission.
10. Ghost River Brewery – free tours on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The crew at Ghost River swears that their beer is so awesome because of Memphis' great water. You can taste test all of their brews on their weekly tour. It's free, but you have to RSVP in advance.
11. Mud Island River Park – It costs money to get into the museum on Mud Island, but it's absolutely free to walk across the pedestrian bridge and check out the island's park (and the scale model of the Mississippi River). The park opens for the season every April and closes for the winter in the fall.
12. Center for Southern Folklore – the center is a home for all things handmade and Southern. They've got great music, arts and crafts by local artists and plenty of storytelling, videos and history. They host special events year round, so check their calendar before you go.
13. Crystal Shrine Grotto – Located in a fake cave in a cemetery in East Memphis, the Crystal Shrine Grotto is a series of dioramas depicting the life of Christ. It was built by sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez, and it's one of the most unique pieces of public art in town.
14. Elmwood Cemetery – Elmwood is the final resting place of some of Memphis' most notable residents. The cemetery is massive and some of the headstones are extremely creative. Stop by the gatehouse to pick up a map and audio tour equipment.
16. Oaklawn Garden – Oaklawn Garden is a privately owned piece of land with a sprawling garden filled with historical artifacts from suburban Memphis. They've got trains, the original Germantown jail, loads of municipal ephemera and plenty of photo opportunities.