How To Do Memphis In Three Days (If You’re Me)

Well Memphis, it’s been fun.

I think it’s safe to say that I used up every available moment enjoying what this city has to offer, except for the two hours yesterday afternoon when my back and the blister on my foot indicated that laying on my hotel room bed watching “Friends” would be a better option than sightseeing.

Memphis is incredible. It might be my new favorite town in Tennessee, and I lived in Knoxville for five years! (Shhh, sorry Knoxville.) There is no shortage of things to do (or places to eat), and if I had a few more days (and more travel money!) I could have easily filled them up with more fun.

I toured the legendary Sun Studio, the “birthplace of rock and roll”. It’s most famous for being the place where Elvis Presley launched his career but many, many other notable artists recorded there too, including U2 (swoon), who recorded several tracks off of their “Rattle and Hum” album. The tour was fantastically interesting and educational. As I’ve said about just about every Memphis experience, I’m so glad I went!

Sun Studio Memphis

During the tour I got to hold the actual microphone Elvis used.

Sun Studio Elvis' Microphone

Speaking of music, I also took the Gibson Guitar Factory Tour. I was terribly disappointed that they didn’t allow photographs for security reasons, because I was hoping to be able to show J what the factory looked like. I’ll have to bring him back because it was one of the best factory tours I’ve ever been on. It was cool to see thousands of guitars in every stage of formation, and now that I’ve seen the work and care put into these quality musical instruments I’ll never question why they’re so expensive again. A couple of things I learned at Gibson:

1. “Sunburst” is their most popular finish, followed by Cherry Red and then Ebony.
2. While it takes about a week to complete each guitar from nothing, the factory workers finish about sixty-four of them each day.
3. At the last station after the electronics are installed, a quality check is done on every guitar, and it’s either pass or fail. About four percent fail due to things as small as a blemish on the finish, and failed instruments are stripped of parts that can be saved and then the rest DESTROYED. (oh my gosh, ack.)

I got this great picture of two guitars in the gift shop…

Gibson guitars

The best view of Memphis can be found at the Lookout in the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid. No, I’m not kidding.

Memphis Bass Pro Shops Pyramid

I wasn’t too excited about visiting a Bass Pro Shops because I’m no sportswoman but I have to say, the store was incredible. I actually browsed after visiting the Lookout.

The elevator up is a free-standing one, right in the middle of the pyramid. At the top there are two observation decks and a restaurant/bar.

Memphis Pyramid elevator

Mississippi River Memphis

I briefly visited the Memphis Farmer’s Market. I didn’t come away with anything other than pictures but it was still fun.

Memphis Farmer's Market

Memphis Farmer's Market

I visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel. I can’t recommend this enough (to everyone) and wish I had been able to spend more time there. Ninety minutes was not nearly enough. I took pictures in color and black and white but wanted to share the black and white ones because the colorful ones of the outside were a little too colorful for what is sacred ground in our nation’s history.

Lorraine Motel

National Civil Rights Museum

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I enjoyed the brief spectacle of the Peabody Hotel ducks: every day at 11:00 am they come out of the elevator and walk (run!) up the red carpet to the lobby fountain, where they stay and swim until 5:00 pm when they go back to their quarters. It’s a Memphis tradition.

Peabody Memphis Ducks

This Duckmaster is only the fifth one since the tradition started almost 90 years ago.

Peabody Memphis Duckmaster

The National Ornamental Metal Museum was fascinating and I found a bench I’d love to have. (It wasn’t for sale and I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to afford it if it had been.)

Memphis Metal Museum Bench

Exploring the South Main area, I came across a beautiful sign for what used to be the Frank James Hotel. I couldn’t find much information on it when I returned to my room but will be researching it soon.

Frank James Hotel Memphis

Just like all great trips, I’m sad to be leaving but happy to be going home. I did a lot of reflecting in the land of the Delta Blues, and had an important revelation. I mentioned in my last post that I kept alternating between being thrilled to be a solo explorer and wishing that I had someone with me. What I realized is, I’m never really alone. I “saw” my friends and family everywhere I turned. Sometimes I took pictures of things that reminded me of loved ones and sometimes I picked up souvenirs that I thought would be appreciated by someone in particular. I shared my experiences not only online by by text and phone call. New memories reminded me of older memories, and to sum it up I am just so lucky to have a wide network of loved ones who can travel virtually with me when they can’t actually be by my side. I’m counting my blessings again and again, which is one of my favorite (and highly recommended) habits.

A couple of you, including my mom (hi mom!), asked me to make a list of the places I enjoyed in Memphis for future reference. So, here’s what I did in the three full days I spent in Memphis, in no particular order (and much of it on foot, from my downtown hotel).

*deep breath*

National Civil Rights Museum
Gibson Guitar Factory Tour
B.B. Kings Blues Club
Club 152
Memphis Farmer’s Market
Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma/West Elm Outlets
Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken (okay twice)
Gibson’s Donuts
Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies
Sun Studio
Charles Vergos’ Rendezvouz
Love Pop Soda Shop
Ghost River Brewing
Peabody Hotel Ducks
Bass Pro Shops Pyramid
National Ornamental Metal Museum
Silky O’Sullivan’s
Beale Street
A. Schwab
Tater Red’s Lucky Mojos and Voodoo Healings
South Main

Thanks again, Memphis. I’ll be back.

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