Memphis Cheat Sheet: Must-Dos, Must-Sees, and Must-Eats

Memphis Cheat Sheet: Must-Dos, Must-Sees, and Must-Eats

Coming to Memphis? Only have a few days or a weekend? Here's your cheat sheet for the best things to do in Memphis, the best places to visit in Memphis, and where to eat in Memphis.

Five Things You Must Do In Memphis

I realize that this is technically more than five things, but bear with me. I'm distilling hundreds of options for things to do in Memphis down to five "categories", if you will.

Rockabilly Rides at Sun Studio
Dad and daughter at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music
The Traveling Child

1. Pick A Memphis Music History Attraction (or two or three...)

  • If you're a big Elvis fan or you have an afternoon to spend (and the budget) a pilgrimage to Graceland is the perfect choice. Reserve your tour time in advance online to skip the ticketing line. 
  • If you don't have the time or budget for Graceland, I recommend a visit to the hallowed ground of Sun Studio, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music or the Smithsonian's Rock 'n' Soul Museum for a unique overview of Memphis. 
  • The Memphis Music Hall of Fame (just steps away from Beale Street) should be on your list if you're a music buff, for sure. You can even get a combo ticket with Rock 'n' Soul.
  • The Blues Hall of Fame is another excellent stop for blues and music fans.
Central BBQ Nachos
Alex Shansky

2. Eat Memphis Barbecue

Barbecue is the official cuisine of Memphis. Ask anyone "where is the best bbq in Memphis?" and you'll get a dozen (or maybe 100) different answers. Here are a few to get you started. Be sure to call ahead for hours and availability.

  • The quintessential, visitor-friendly spot with a great atmosphere is The Rendezvous downtown. Get ribs, sausage and cheese plate, and brisket. 
  • Locals love Central BBQ's locations, especially the downtown location near the Civil Rights Museum. The original Central Ave. location is temporarily closed for renovation. Get ribs, a pulled pork sandwich, or BBQ nachos and ask for the house chips...or fries if you're feeling frisky.
  • The Bar-B-Q Shop in midtown is a top-rated local favorite as well. Order ribs, sandwiches on Texas toast, and a side of BBQ spaghetti.
  • For a beloved hole-in-the-wall, eat like a local and go to Payne's BBQ for pulled pork sandwich with slaw or ribs.
  • Cozy Corner is an award-winning Memphis favorite. Order ribs and Cornish game hens.

There are many, many, many more. If you're still hungry, check out this guide to 101+ Memphis BBQ Joints.

runners gathering along ms river at martyrs park

3. Do Some Memphis Sightseeing

While Tom Lee Park is being renovated, I recommend to stop by the River Garden at Mississippi River Park to take in the views of the mighty Mississippi. Don't forget to get a photo of the iconic "M" bridge.

  • Mighty Lights is a nightly light show on the Hernando de Soto and Big River Crossing bridges. Catch these moving, colorful displays every hour at the top of the hour from sunset until 10 p.m.
  • The Big River Crossing allows you to walk all the way across the river from downtown Memphis to Arkansas on the Harahan Bridge. It's about a mile long and a pretty easy walk, and offers up some amazing views. You can rent electric bikes from Explore Bike Share (dozens of stations around town) if you want to ride across.
  • The historic Peabody Hotel downtown has a beautiful lobby and two daily duck marches that the kids will love. Arrive early if you want a good spot! Don't forget to head to the rooftop for great views and to see the duck penthouse. Here's a full guide to rooftop bars in Memphis.
  • Beale Street is our historic music and entertainment district. Take a daytime stroll past the shops and establishments, stop in A. Schwab general store for sundaes. At night, it's usually a big party with dining and live music.
  • I may be biased, but checking out the I Love Memphis murals is fun and a great photo opp! The most popular murals are located near 768 Cooper Street, in the parking lot behind 422 N. Cleveland Street, and on Beale Street by Wet Willy's. Check out the full list here.
  • The Dixon Gallery & Gardens and the Memphis Botanic Gardens offer plenty of outdoor strolling, gardens, and indoor gallery spaces.
Crosstown Concourse / Phillip Van Zandt

4. Pick Another Memphis Must-Do Or Take A Tour (or two or three...)

  • The Memphis Zoo is consistently rated among the top zoo's in the country and is worth a visit, especially if you have kids with you. There's also a great splash park there during warmer months.
  • The National Civil Rights Museum (located at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968) is an engaging, comprehensive museum focused on the civil rights movement. Purchase tickets ahead of time.
  • NBA team Memphis Grizzlies play their home games at FedExForum, adjacent to Beale Street in downtown Memphis. See the schedule here.
  • The Memphis Redbirds are two-time Triple-A baseball Pacific League Champions and the 2018 Triple-A World Series Champs. They play at the award-winning AutoZone Park from April through October. See the schedule and get tickets here.
  • Don't forget about Memphis' USL team 901 FC. They also play at AutoZone Park. Led with chants and bagpipers, the pre-game fun is a must with a crowd assembling to walk from the bar through the alleyways to the stadium. 
  • The Crosstown Concourse is a one-million-square-foot vertical urban village in a former Sears distribution center. It houses offices, schools, and apartments, but visitors can enjoy the picture-perfect atriums, restaurants and bars, the Crosstown Arts gallery (including a cafe and bar), and regular arts, film, and music events.
  • Head out to Shelby Farms Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. The state-of-the-art park offers countless activities—hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, ropes adventure course, horseback riding, bike rental, the award-winning Woodland Discovery playground, a buffalo herd, and more.
  • Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum offers a walk through history in a former home that was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad for people escaping slavery. Temporarily closed.
  • You have wonderful options for tours of Memphis: Backbeat Tours offers musical sightseeing bus tours as well as walking "ghost tours". Historical Haunts guides ghost tours, haunted pub crawls, and a Memphis Brew Bus for local breweries. A Tour Of Possibilities van tour focuses on civil rights and African American history. The Memphis Hop is a hop-on, hop-off shuttle.
Exterior of Bass Pro Pyramid and Big Cypress Lodge
Alex Shansky

5. Pick a "Wild Card" Activity

This one depends on your interests. Here are some options for your choose-your-own-adventure Memphis number five must-do.

  • If you're curious, go to the Bass Pro Pyramid. It's the largest single retailer location in the world. Inside you can ride the nation's tallest freestanding elevator to the top ($8 adults, $5 kids) for an incredible view of the city (and at night, the Mighty Lights).
  • Check out the local live music scene at venues on Beale Street (Rum Boogie Cafe and B.B. King's especially) plus Lafayette's in Overton Square, the Hi-Tone in Crosstown, Hernando's Hide-A-Way in Whitehaven, and Railgarten and B-Side in midtown.
  • During the summer and fall, you can catch a free concert at the historic Overton Park Shell.
  • If you're into craft beer and local spirits, check out Memphis' microbreweries: Guide To Memphis Breweries and Taprooms. Want a one-stop shop for all the local beer? Hammer & Ale in Cooper Young serves all the local brews, offer flights, and a small food menu. Old Dominick Distillery downtown (across the street from Gus' Fried Chicken) offers tours and samples of their whiskey, vodka, and gin. 
  • For kids and families, check out the Children's Museum of Memphis and the Museum of Science and History, My Big Backyard play area at Memphis Botanic Gardens, or Rainbow Lake Playground at Overton Park. A few fun, kid-friendly places to eat include Huey's (many locations, burgers), Aldo's (pizza, two locations), Soul Fish (fried catfish, etc., many locations), and Belly Acres (burgers).
  • Know that Memphis has a lively visual arts, theatre, film, and performing arts scene. From ballet to theatre to opera and more, there are many chances to see live performances during "normal times". Check out the Arts & Culture in the city and our arts calendar.
  • There's plenty of public art in Memphis as well, plus museums and galleries like the Brooks, Dixon, David Lusk, Marshall Arts, Crosstown Arts, Metal Museum, and more. Check out ArtsMemphis for more.

Where To Eat And Drink In Memphis

Make reservations anywhere you can, especially for brunch. Speaking of brunch: 80+ Places to Eat Brunch In Memphis Guide. Most restaurants in Memphis do offer vegetarian options, there are quite a few that cater to those looking for healthy choices.

Here are some of the best places to eat and drink while you're in town!

Four friends dine-in at Gus's Fried Chicken
David Meany


Po-boys at Second Line
Alex Shansky

Midtown + Broad Avenue:

Exterior of Gibsons Donuts
Alex Shansky

East Memphis and Whitehaven:

  • Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen for fine dining, handmade pastas, and a heated patio—across the street is the trendy Hog & Hominy, but you'll need a reservation. Restaurant Iris and Folk's Folly both offers an elevated dining experience. Irish pub Bog & Barley is sure to impress too.
  • One & Only BBQ has three East Memphis locations with tasty barbecue ribs, pulled pork, and more. 
  • RP Tracks is a casual pub with underrated food; if you're a vegetarian who wants barbecue, the BBQ tofu nachos there are A+
  • For breakfast:  Brother Junipers (expect a wait on weekends) and Bryant's Breakfast.
  • Elwood's Shack is in a tiny, actual shack in a Lowe's parking lot; folks love their bbq, fish tacos, and breakfast. A local favorite. 
  • Gibson's Donuts (go early for best selection) is a Memphis-must.
  • Hen House is a hip, Instagrammable wine bar. 
  • Dory's intimate dining room offers farm-to-table fare and a chef's tasting menus with wine pairings. Dory was a 10 Best top new restaurant in the U.S. in 2021! This spot will close soon (UGH!) so be sure to visit asap.
  • Magnolia & May offers a cozy atmosphere and cute patio with Southern-inspired plates. 
  • There is a Gus's Fried Chicken location in East Memphis if you're in a pinch.
  • For coffee—Belltower Coffeehouse or City Silo, both of which have great food on the lighter side.


This isn't close to everything I could tell you about what to see, do, and eat in Memphis. Feel free to leave questions in the comments, or ask me on Twitter.

Don’t miss out on all the Memphis goodness!

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Memphis Cheat …
[…] Barbecue is the official cuisine of Memphis. The quintessential, visitor-friendly spot is The Rendezvous downtown (get ribs or the sausage and cheese plate). Locals love Central BBQ (which has three locations -get ribs, a …read more […]
January 12, 2016 11:30pm
No mention of the Metal Museum?! One of the coolest things going!
February 26, 2016 1:18pm
Thank you so much for "compiling" all these events for us!! Great Job!!
February 26, 2016 2:24pm
Memphis Family…
[…] Memphis Cheat Sheet: Must-Dos, Must-Sees, and Must-Eats – Coming to Memphis? Only have a few days or a weekend? Here’s your cheat sheet for things to do in Memphis, places to visit, and where to eat. […]
July 6, 2016 10:12pm
Mark Silva
Thanks. You have been my go to guide during my first trip to Memphis. Today's my last day and I miss the city already. Will try Alcenia's as I loved that picture of you and the owner. In future trips I hope to bring my Mom and Dad from where I live in Olton, Texas. Keep up your labor of love. Mark Silva
July 16, 2016 4:46am
Holly Whitfield
I'm so glad this has been helpful to you, Mark! Hopefully you'll be back with Mom and Dad soon. :)
July 18, 2016 9:22am
Mark Silva
Hopefully I can bring them to see Memphis. Keep up the good work. You can look up Olton Isd principal page for Webb Elementary to see who I am. Take care.
July 18, 2016 8:10pm
THANK you so much for info. Next question, area to stay? 15 to 20 minute commute to Beal street area is fine. Don't need the "Ritz " just clean and comfy. Must have porch/balcony open to room a ling with a fridge. A breakfast buffet inclused would be an awesome perk. Planning our trip for March 2018. Any special events generally during this time. We are very flexible with dates. THANK you again.
August 2, 2017 10:30am
Holly Whitfield
There are plenty of hotels in downtown Memphis, almost all within reasonable walking distance from Beale Street. You can take a look here and see which fits your budget:[0]=mem_listings_neighborhood%3A128&f[1]=mmg_sapi_solr_categories%3A208&date_group=1&date_group=1 As for special events, you can see the following 2 posts for examples of what we had going on this year in March. We should have more announcements and specific dates set in early 2018, but as long as you're following I Love Memphis blog and/or Facebook page, you'll be kept informed! I hope you have a great trip!
August 2, 2017 11:02am
Jay Gibbs
Don’t forget Fox Ridge Pizza which has been serving MEMPHIS for forty years now and Cajun Catfish in Collierville for Cajun Fried Catfish and Crawfish!
April 2, 2019 11:50am
I love the way you broke everything down. I can't wait to try a lot of these places. Traveling from California!
May 21, 2019 12:40pm
Pat Jackson
Memphis is the city, I was born and grew up. Wherever I travel ...East Coast, West Coast, Florida Panhandle, "Big D" (Dallas), Louisianna and outside of the country...I let the other travelers know, "Memphis " is my home. I am the "mouth piece " for Memphis, TN. The banks of the Mighty Mississippi is where, I was born and reared. YES, my roots are deep..."Down in Ole Memphis Town." So, all of you ...traveling down South, don't forget, the real "Home of the Blues".... Beale Street....Memphis, Tennessee .
November 26, 2019 5:13pm
David Haywood
Gotta disagree with all these articles that insist Rendezvous is a must visit. Their quality has fallen far in recent years and it's nothing more than a tourist trap.
November 26, 2019 6:53pm
Holly Whitfield
To each their own! It's a Memphis institution, but if folks aren't interested in something like it, they can try some of the others mentioned.
December 16, 2019 12:45pm
LaShae Miller
Roxie’s Is a great southern comfort food also, do not forget about our mom and pops store/ restaurant.
December 29, 2019 11:04pm
Holly Whitfield
It's amazing! Love Roxie's. Luckily, there are hundreds of great, locally owned restaurants to choose from!
December 30, 2019 1:39pm
Stephanie Jordan

Thank youn for these wonderful recommendations.  My husband is currently on crutches so I was wondering if it is still possible for him to tour Graceland?  In other words, is there a lot of walking to do there?  We have never been there before. 






April 27, 2021 2:25pm
Holly Whitfield

Hi Stephanie—There is some walking through the Mansion, including some stairs, and in the museum spaces. It's not a long distance (you ride a shuttle bus to and from the Mansion) but it's not no walking. I would contact Graceland directly to get specific info and find out about accommodations. 

May 5, 2021 4:45pm
Rena' Billingsley

We spent a 3-day weekend in Memphis. The first day was FABULOUS!  But it rained HARD the other 2 days. 😔 I can hardly wait to get back to Memphis. But I will definitely check the forecast first. Your blog is pulling me in!

May 8, 2021 6:25pm
Anna Longoria

We are taking my mom to Graceland,the Grand Ol’ Opry and Dollywood for her 80th birthday (aiming for June 28 - July 2

Do you know of any events that are happening that timeframe?

also do you know any blogs like yours for Dollywood or Grand ol Opry area?

May 12, 2021 7:06pm
Holly Whitfield

Hi Anna! I don't know of any Dollywood / Grand Old Opry area blogs, unfortunately. As for events you can check out the calendar here: and select your dates. We'll be publishing a Summer Events Guide soon!

May 27, 2021 9:32pm
Nancy Daniel

Slave Haven should be added to the list!  It’s a great tour and most locals don’t even know about it 

May 22, 2021 10:14am
Linda Garlin

You did a great job!!! Only one mistake. Where was Midtown Hueys?  I don’t consider all the other Hureys real. Have been gone from Memphis for awhile 

January 22, 2022 6:51pm
Susan Erdman

I love Memphis so much too! Wonderful recommendations!!!❤️⭐️❤️

August 11, 2022 6:13pm