On Business in Memphis

By: Samantha Crespo

September 7, 2015

If your next business trip lands you in Memphis, Tennessee, follow this guide to make the most of your free time. From where to rest your head after a hard day’s graft to the best after-hours restaurants and watering holes, there’s plenty to see and do in this vibrant city. Take a look at our guide to getting the best out of your time on business in Memphis.

On Business in Memphis
Aerial view over Beale Street © Wendy Whittemore / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011. All Rights Reserved

Where to stay: What’s your business travel personality? If it’s cool and quirky, book a room at the boutique Madison Hotel. The sleek décor and guitars in the lobby (pick one up anytime to jam) set a uniquely Memphis tone for your stay, and on-site options for drinks and dinner are stellar.


For luxury wrapped in history, it has to be The Peabody Memphis. This circa-1925 hotel is famous for its opulent lobby that swells with guests during cocktail hour and the twice-daily “march” of The Peabody Ducks, a 70-plus-year tradition. Hotel amenities are generous, including shops and several restaurants.


For a contemporary vibe, check into Westin Memphis Beale Street. It sits steps from the excitement of its namesake street and FedEx Forum, where international touring musicians and the Memphis Grizzlies play.

On Business in Memphis | FedExForum
FedEx Forum is home to the Memphis Grizzlies, a professional basketball franchise owned in part by Memphis-area native Justin Timberlake © Marvin Garcia / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Where to eat: If time’s on your side, The Arcade Restaurant is an essential experience during your time on business in Memphis. A breakfast platter such as Eggs Redneck (eggs your way, hash browns, biscuits and sausage smothered in white gravy) should keep you going ’til dinner. The diner itself, founded in 1919, is something of a catalogue of Memphis music and film history. For a quick caffeine hit and a fresh, from-scratch pastry, hit Bluff City Coffee between meetings.

On Business in Memphis | Arcade Restaurant
Memphis’s Arcade Restaurant is part diner, part retrospective © Phillip Parker / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011. All Rights Reserved

For lunch, downtown Memphis packs two Southern food favourites: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Charlie Vergos’s Rendezvous. The former serves golden-fried chicken based on an old family recipe; the latter is known for dry-rubbed, charbroiled pork ribs. (Don’t be put off by the Rendezvous’s alley entrance: It’s the barbecue joint of choice for visiting dignitaries and celebs.)


For dinner, Rizzo’s Diner and McEwen’s are spot-on: Both are intimate (read: quiet enough to let you chat with associates or regroup on your own) and the menus make stunning presentations of local ingredients. Don’t miss Rizzo’s Vegetable Plate for a prime example.

On Business in Memphis | Rendezvous Pork Barbecue
Order’s up at Charlie Vergos’s Rendezvous in Memphis, Tennessee © Craig Thompson

If you’re watching calories, check out the paleo and gluten-free grab-and-go options at Bedrock Market & Café. You might even find pulled pork among the offerings.


Where to go for evening cocktails: Cocktail hour in Memphis pairs perfectly with a sunset view of the Mississippi River. Take your pick of rooftop bars to drink it in: Stylish Twlight Sky Terrace atop the Madison Hotel serves hand-crafted cocktails, wine, local beer and tapas; The Peabody Memphis rooftop flaunts a gorgeous view – order a cocktail at the lobby bar and take the elevator up. Or venture to The Lookout atop the new Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid to toast 32 storeys up on a glass deck overlooking the river.

On Business in Memphis | Twilight Sky Terrace
The Twilight Sky Terrace atop Memphis’s Madison Hotel © Justin Fox Burks / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011. All Rights Reserved

Top sights: If you only have an hour or so, the Sun Studio guided tour is a must. This impossibly small studio on the east edge of downtown Memphis has been kept – down to the actual mic – just as it was when Elvis made his first recordings here. Alternatively, visit the Memphis Music Hall of Fame or the Blues Hall of Fame – both new as of summer 2015. They’re pocket-sized, but listening stations and touch screen activities invite you to spend as much (or as little) time as you like.

On Business in Memphis | Sun Studio
Memphis’s Sun Studio launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, among other music legends © Brand USA / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011. All Rights Reserved

If you have a little more time to kill, get the entire Memphis music story at the memorabilia-packed Rock “˜n’ Soul Museum or experience the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel – a recent $20M renovation made the museum more interactive, and the view of the room where Martin Luther King Jr. spent his last night is as moving as ever.


Great gifts: You can find any trinket you like on Beale Street, but for the most authenticity, shop A. Schwab, the sundries store that’s been hawking its goods on the street since 1876. Schwab has you covered whether you’re seeking Memphis music, a mojo bag or an old-school children’s toy. For men’s and women”˜s fashions with Memphis flair, round the corner to Lansky Bros., a modern iteration of the clothier that gave Elvis and so many Stax Records artists their signature stylings.


South Main Street is another boon for souvenir-hunters, with several boutiques selling fine jewellery, vintage clothing, books and more (try Sachë for cheeky, made-in-Memphis t-shirts).

On Business in Memphis | Beale Street
Beale Street is Tennessee’s most visited attraction, and one of the most iconic streets in the U.S.A. © Brand USA / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Going local: Want to keep pace with the locals while on business in Memphis? A wide sidewalk traces Riverside Drive along the banks of the Mississippi River. (Start at West Georgia Avenue to the south and continue north to the Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid parking lot for a 3-kilometer run.) Detour at Tom Lee Park to work out at a circuit of riverfront fitness stations. Celebrate your achievement with a Memphis-made beer at the High Cotton Brewing Co. tap room near Sun Studio.


Where to break curfew: Beale Street, obviously. Music drifts out of nearly every open door along this fabled street, book-ended by clubs named for B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis. As you walk, listen for blues, rockabilly, soul, beat-boxing . . . and duck in when you like what you hear. For an (allegedly haunted) jukebox loaded with Memphis music, get to Earnestine & Hazel’s on South Main Street, where artists including Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke used to hang.

On Business in Memphis | International Blues Challenge
For a dose of Memphis blues on Beale Street, listen for a local favourite like Ghost Town Blues Band or Brandon Santini © Andrea Zucker

For a dose of Memphis blues on Beale Street, listen for a local favourite like Ghost Town Blues Band or Brandon Santini. Image courtesy of Andrea Zucker.


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What’s your favourite thing to do on business in Memphis? Tell us in the comments below.


Written by Samantha Crespo


Samantha Crespo

Samantha Crespo is a native of Florida, which she believes set her up to be a career tour guide. (It helps that she’s keen on playing tourist in her own town and beyond – Ensenada, Mexico, and Nafplio, Greece, are favourites – though she feels most at home in the American South.) Since 2005, Samantha has mixed pleasure with business as a travel writer and editor. She admits to squealing when assignments call her to listen to live music in her adopted hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, or to discover new campgrounds with her husband and daughter. Get her insider's perspective on exploring Memphis in her book, 100 Things To Do in Memphis Before You Die.

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