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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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