Our 7 Favorite Spots in the New Tom Lee Park

For two years, Tom Lee Park underwent a major renovation to transform it into an oasis along the riverfront. Here are our favorite features of the park.


The new Tom Lee Park is something you definitely need to experience for yourself. Please note some of the photos were taking during construction and have since been completed.

aerial photo of new tom lee park with sunset canopy
Julian Harper

All the Spaces to Sit and Appreciate the Riverfront Views

a woman sitting looking at the river
Jalyn Souchek
First Horizon River Lounge

There were very few places to sit and appreciate the view of the Mississippi and catch or shoot a breeze. The new design was very intentional about providing many, many places for you to kick back and relax. There is ample seating in every space we’ll mention in this blog. Be sure to take a seat at the First Horizon River Lounge along the water.

There is also a hammock grove where hammocks will be set up for you to relax away. There's one near the fitness area and playground too.

Creatures of the Mississippi River Playground

playground that resembles giant otters
Jalyn Souchek
Mississippi River Playground
playground with skywalk climbing
Jalyn Souchek

In this playground, creatures of the Mississippi River come alive. Cute creatures, we promise like two massive otters, a salamander, sturgeon, and more. Kids of all ages are going to love this space that allows them to climb, slide, and zip-line. This is one of the best playgrounds we’ve seen.

For those looking to work up a sweat, hit the fitness zone sponsored by the Campbell Clinic. There are various fitness stations and obstacles including some that give an American Ninja Warrior vibe.

slide on playground
Jalyn Souchek
two slides under canopies
Jalyn Souchek
fitness area of park
Jalyn Souchek
Portion of Fitness Area

The Legacy of Tom Lee is Honored Well

bronze statue of Tom Lee reaching for person from inside boat
Jalyn Souchek

I think it's really special how much more river hero Tom Lee is honored. The stunning bronze statue featuring Tom Lee at one of his rescues remains a centerpiece of the park in its original location.

There is also "A Monument to Listening" -- a new sculpture by renowned artist Theaster Gates. This space challenges park visitors to reckon with their own humanity in context of Tom Lee's legacy and is supported by the Mellon Foundation's Monuments Project.

There are 32 seating sculptures in this space and along the river near the monument to represent each life Tom Lee, a Black man in 1925, saved when he acted quickly and with great bravery pulled them from the waters and swift river currents after a steamer had overturned. Tom Lee did so without knowing how to swim.

You can also see a view of the Tom Lee Monument in Heroes Plaza, a gift of Baptist Healthcare, from A Monument to Listening.

A Monument to Listening sitting structures in circle
Jalyn Souchek
A Monument to Listening
view of tom lee monument from A Monument to Listening
Jalyn Souchek
Tom Lee Monument in Heroes Plaza

Bringing Food, Coffee, Ice Cream, and Cocktails to the Riverfront

future building of vice & virtue being built
Jalyn Souchek
Wooden Pavilion that will house Vice & Virtue

Something that has been missing from the riverfront experience for too long was food options. The new Tom Lee Park will include two Wooden Pavilions (permanent structures) which will feature Paper Plate Pavilion and Vice & Virtue. Paper Plate Pavilion is a food truck getting its first brick-and-mortar and Vice & Virtue is a coffee shop located inside Arrive Hotel.

Expect cocktails soon once permits are acquired and a Ben & Jerry's ice cream stand. The pavilions are near expansive patio options. We're looking forward to that first coffee morning stroll through the park.

Sunset Canopy Named in Honor of Tyre Nichols

sunset canopy structure viewed through trees
Jalyn Souchek
Sunset Canopy

Named in honor of Tyre Nichols, this giant structure anchors the park as a community gathering space. It’ll be an area for events, basketball, concerts, and more. Or simply a place to catch some shade. The structure is seriously impressive.

For scale, it's 20,000 square feet and will make for one of the most unique event venues.

walkway with many plants that were planted on the sides
Jalyn Souchek

It's a Nature Oasis with lots of Trees & Plants

Sound Gardens nature area of Tom Lee Park
Jalyn Souchek
Sound Gardens in Habitat Terraces

The new park offers a closer connection to nature and not just in the sense of it being an outdoor park. More than 1,000 trees were planted in the park and way more plants that you couldn't begin to count. All the plants are native to the area and they went through lengths to pick seeds from other parks to grow a natural habitat.

In the Habitat Terrace, the south end feature of the park, you can see in the sound gardens and not feel like you are steps away from a city downtown. It's a quiet space to unwind and really hear the sounds of nature.

These spaces will also be used as education classrooms. Not only that but there is a dedicated space for learning with the Buckman Classroom.

walkway surrounded by trees and plants
Jalyn Souchek
Buckman Outdoor Classroom
Jalyn Souchek
Rhodes Pollinator Lab

AutoZone Plaza to Cool Off In

AutoZone Plaza where misters will come out of ground
Jalyn Souchek
AutoZone Plaza Misters Area

It gets real hot along the river during the Memphis summers and now visitors can cool off at the 7,000-square-foot misting fountain at AutoZone Plaza. It also glows with color-changing lights every evening. It's also gentle enough of to cool off in without getting soaked. This is located at the bottom of the ADA-accessible Carlisle Cutbank Bluff next to Beale Street Landing.

aerial of tom lee park
Julian Harper

Our seven spots we love certainly don't begin to cover every area of Tom Lee Park. It's a start but we want to leave some elements for you to discover along the way.

Memphians deserve nice things and this is a gateway to our city that we can all be proud of. 

About the Author

Hello! I'm Jalyn Souchek, the Director of Content for I Love Memphis Blog! I love calling the 901 home. When I'm not running the blog you can find me cheering on the Grizzlies, at a concert, exploring a new restaurant or kicking back at one of our breweries. I hope you'll love experiencing Memphis with me.

Build your perfect Memphis meal:

I love to eat so if I were to have only one meal left.. I’m going all out. I’d start with an app of Gumbo Fries from Blue City Cafe or Bayou Fries from Chef Tam, wings from Good Fortune or Central’s (honey gold and Jamaican Jerk), potato salad from Fat Larry’s, side of bbq spaghetti from Bar-B-Q Shop, and fried okra from Soul Fish. All paired with a Beale Street Brewing Space Age Sippin’.

Your most memorable Memphis moment:

College GameDay on Beale Street. That was an electric and perfect morning. I was still working in news then and was able to take it in up close and on the stage at some points. The fun and joy of everyone down there that morning is unbeatable.

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