Celebrating a vibrant life spanning 200 years, many are aware of the history that accompanies Memphis but few people outside of the 901 area code are aware of the future it’s envisioning. It’s this future that has caused the city to top travel lists such as Frommer’s 19 places to visit in 2019, TripSavvy’s Best Overall Travel Destination 2019, and Travel Channel’s Hottest Southern Destination 2019. With the hospitality of an “everyone knows everyone” community coupled with all the comforts of a “big” city, delicious food, unique attractions, and vibrant natural scenes, it’s no wonder the locals refer to Memphis as “America’s biggest small town”. As we blow out the birthday candles on a bicentennial for the books, pack your bags and head for the birthplace of blues, soul, and Rock N Roll.

Sculpture made out of giant sized words stack on top of each other.

Pretty in Pink
Kicking off the birthday celebrations happening across the city in 2019, the
Pink Palace museum will host an exhibit on Making Memphis: 200 Years of Community, running now through October 20th. Featuring a 3D word cloud compilation of Memphis as defined by the locals (The number one word Memphians used to describe their city? Home!), this exhibit allows guests to create their own soundscape of the city, and experience an interactive installation to trace their Memphis identity. In addition to this singular exhibit, guests can learn about the local geographic history as well as the impacts of the Yellow Fever and the Civil Rights Movement in the region, among many other exhibits.

Outside view of the storefront of The Beauty Shop Restaurant.

Look Good. Eat Good.
No trip to the home of Graceland would be complete without a touch of Elvis. For a full collision of the past-meets-present head to Cooper-Young and experience 
The Beauty Shop restaurant where the promise is: “Look good. Eat good.” Priscilla Presley’s former curl and dye haunt has now been thoughtfully updated into a beloved Memphis hotspot. While the restaurant features the original beauty shop’s hair dryers, salon stations (now turned booths), as well as, rinse sinks built into the bar serving counter, it also highlights modern amenities such as a community table, outdoor seating and one of the best Bloody Mary’s in town.

Children's Library with books on wooden shelves and a play mat.

Driving Crosstown
Serving as a perfect representation of where Memphis has been and where it is going, non-profit Crosstown Arts has facilitated the creation of 
Crosstown Concourse, a multi-use vertical urban village occupying the former Sears distribution building near downtown. Currently, housing 42 vendors, including Church Health’s Community Kitchen (which sponsors free cooking classes), permanent homes for local festival and event treasures, MEMPopS and the Amurica Photobooth, a community library, farmers market, and several restaurants are complemented by numerous art exhibits and murals spread throughout the campus. To really immerse yourself in the Crosstown Experience be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt pamphlet from the security desk in the Central Atrium. Individual activities vary on any given day; on a Saturday in early February there were simultaneously multiple photo shoots, a TEDx Talk and a ukulele flash mob.

Brightly painted mural along a street in Memphis.

Touch of Nostalgia
To round out your experience, head downtown to gather a touch of nostalgia wrapped in layers of what’s to come. With the recent addition of rentable bicycles and scooters scattered about, it’s never been easier to zip from the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel down to the reimagined Bass Pro Pyramid and back to the ever-growing area around Beale Street. This area includes Main Street, home to the reinvigorated Main St. Rail Car Trolley, which you can ride to view the ever-expanding street art and mural scenes of the city. Here alone can you experience such pieces as Marcellous Lovelace’s interpretation of the iconic ‘I am A Man’ photograph; The Memphis Mural Brigade, Nelson Gutierrez, and Cedar Nordbye’s Memphis ‘Upstanders’ piece; Damon Lamar Reed and Pugs Atomz’s ‘The Sound of Memphis’.

Welcome Home
With just these experiences in consideration, it’s no wonder the annual Memphis in May International Festival has chosen to highlight its home city for the first time in its 42 year history. So what are you waiting for? Memphis cordially invites you “home” to join in celebrating the past 200 years of history while helping to write the landscape for the next 100.

Know Before You Go

  • The National Civil Rights Museum is at the Lorraine Motel, which is known for being the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.
  • The Fire Museum of Memphis is unique with entirely interactive exhibits along with a Fire Escape Maze and a Fire Safety Arcade.
  • Known as “The Official Home of the Blues,” Beale Street is the ideal spot to hear the best music Memphis has to offer.
  • Elvis Presley’s home Graceland will provide hours of exploration, entertainment, and history. The tour of the property is entirely interactive with an iPad tour.
Girl in a blue flannel shirt enjoying a cup of coffee.

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Paula W. Are you interested in traveling to Memphis? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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