“The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Memphis is home to Graceland, Beale Street and Sun Records. But, there’s more to the city than just music. On a visit, tour the National Civil Rights Museum, explore the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid and much, much more.
For Tweens and Teens
Two of Memphis’ best-known attractions, Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum, are probably best for older kids who can better appreciate them. Younger kids, unless they’re big Elvis Presley fans, probably won’t be impressed by the singer’s mansion, airplanes, vintage automobile collection and memorabilia. If you do decide to go, though, ask for a free kids’ activity book for each child at Guest Services when you arrive.
On the other hand, the National Civil Rights Museum can be emotionally overwhelming, especially for younger kids. In fact, the museum’s website even has a disclaimer and offers an online family guide for discussing exhibits from slavery to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (The museum is built around the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King died in 1968.)
Memphis has several excellent music museums. Created by the Smithsonian Institution, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the story of music, from field hollering to rock ‘n’ roll. You’ll receive headphones, allowing access to songs and narrated content, as you navigate the museum.
You can also visit historic recording studios, like Sun Records, where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B. King and others made records. Sun offers 45-minute, guided tours every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Children under 5 are not permitted.)
Or, tour Stax Records on your own at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. During the visit, you’ll see memorabilia from greats like Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Otis Redding, plus see the studio where they cut their hits.
Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid
Anyone who has visited a Bass Pro Shops knows the megastore caters to families, but this one, housed in a 32-story steel pyramid, goes all out. Inside, you’ll find a giant swamp with 100-foot cypress trees and alligator pools, more than 1,800 fish in 10 aquariums, an interactive wetlands and waterfowl education museum, a 13-lane bowling alley “in the ocean” and more.
For a more traditional science center and children’s museum, head to the Pink Palace, which has displays on everything from dinosaurs to the Civil War and a small-scale Piggly Wiggly store. There’s also a giant 3D theater and planetarium on site.
The Peabody Memphis
Kids will love the march of the ducks held daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the lobby of The Peabody Memphis, a tradition dating back to the 1940s. Come early for good seats (kids get to sit at the edge of the red carpet the ducks march on), or book a Ducky Day package for reserved seating and the opportunity to assist the duckmaster during the ceremony.
If you don’t stay at The Peabody, consider staying at The Guest House at Graceland near Elvis’ mansion. Every night at 10 p.m., the hotel offers a peanut butter and jelly buffet with premade sandwiches, make-your-own sandwich options and ice cold milk.