Memphis, US

  • Visited October 2018

Memphis often gets a bad rap. An Uber driver in Nashville told me not to bother going to Memphis and said even people who live in Memphis don’t recommend visiting. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him. I thoroughly enjoyed my two-night stay in the city and actually wish I’d booked to stay longer as there was more to do than I’d realised. Though I have heard that Memphis is not the safest city in the US, if you keep your wits about you, you can stay safe and have a great time here.

I arrived early evening and immediately walked to iconic Beale Street. This is the legendary home of the blues and as expected, Beale Street is full of bars and restaurants providing live music and southern hospitality. I was lucky to have scheduled my stay when the ‘Hot Rods on Beale’ event happens, when classic cars line the street and add to Beale Street’s vintage atmosphere. At the top of the street I spotted a queue forming outside the Blues City Cafe – always a good sign of somewhere decent to eat) – joined the queue and got chatting to two local guys. When the hostess called out for a table of three, it seemed like fate had intervened and the guys invited me to join their table and very kindly paid for my meal. I had my first catfish at the Cafe – the portion size was massive (three fillets of fish plus potatoes and coleslaw) and the fish was good. One of the guys I was with, Kevin, used to be a drag racing star and he introduced me to local reality TV celebrity Jamie Otts from the TV show ‘Street Outlaws Memphis’, who had brought his family into the Cafe for traditional southern food. After dinner, we hit up some of the bars on the street, enjoying some brilliant live music and beer.

The main purpose of my visit, as it is for so many visitors making the trip to Memphis, was to visit Graceland and I had a very personal reason for visiting. My dad is a huge Elvis fan and I am named Lisa after Elvis’s beloved daughter Lisa Marie. Apparently my mum had wanted to name me something else but as I was born a month after Elvis passed away, dad was insistent on the tribute. It was always my dad’s dream to visit Graceland but unfortunately his poor health means that he is never going to be able to fulfil this dream. I came to Graceland for my dad and I know he would have loved every minute of a visit here. Even if you are not a die-hard Elvis fan like my dad, Graceland is an excellent place to visit. There are different tickets available depending upon how much or how little you want to see. You can just do the mansion tour if you wish but I would recommend paying for the Elvis Experience ticket, which gives you access to the mansion, numerous museum exhibits and Elvis’ cars and airplanes, including being able to walk through the Lisa Marie airplane.      

When you arrive at the site, you are shown a short pre-video which remind you just how legendary Elvis was. You are then given an iPad to do the self-guided tour of the mansion before being herded on to a shuttle bus which drives the short distance to the mansion entrance. The iPad tour is very good and you can walk through the mansion at your own pace. The upstairs section of the house is closed to the public – has been closed since Elvis died up there – but there is still plenty to see. The mansion tour ends with a visit to the Meditation Garden where Elvis and his family are buried, and I felt quite moved, thinking of my dad, as I paid my respects to Elvis. You then get back on the bus and go through the museum exhibits – I particularly loved seeing on the embellished jumpsuits on display.   

An extra day would have been perfect – but I’d already booked my stay in New Orleans for Voodoo Music festival – and I would have liked to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the spot Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, and watched the famous Peabody Duck parade at the Peabody Hotel (the duck parade is 11 am and 5 pm daily).

The people of Memphis are very welcoming and keen to give tips and advice to tourists. Beale Street and Graceland are safe but I was advised not to wander off too far from those immediate areas as the surrounding streets can be sketchy. If in doubt, Uber your way to and from the places you visit in Memphis and don’t go wandering around late at night.

Selection of pictures from my stay: