Food, Fun, And Music in Memphis

Posted 12/13/2009

Memphis is one of the hottest - and the coolest- cities in the South. This city has got the whole Southern charm thing going on, but it is really much more than that: There are so many things here that you just don't see anywhere else in the country. Quirky things like the Peabody Hotel duck parade, inspiring things like the Beale Street music, the craziness of Graceland, and then of course there is the world's best barbecue. Memphis is all the more awesome because you can get the best out of the city and have a wonderful weekend for a lot less than in most other cities of this size. Even with all the traveling I do, I still have not found a city that gives a better value for the travel dollar than this one.

I finally took my friends Shelly and Bob up on their long standing invitation to visit, and arrived on a Friday afternoon, just in time for the one activity I absolutely insisted upon: I had to see those famous Peabody ducks! Following an adventurous drive in the crazy downtown traffic, we arrived with just seconds to spare, for the 5pm "duck march". Twice a day every day (the first performance is at 11am) the mallard ducks, who live in the Peabody Hotel duck palace atop the building, parade through the hotel and down to the fountain out front. This is one of the most "Memphis" things to do, and I think it may just be more entertaining to watch these ducks strut about on the red carpet than it is to watch celebrities walking the Hollywood red carpets!

For dinner in Memphis, barbecue is practically a requirement, and with very good reason: I have never truly tasted barbecue until I had the pork ribs at Central BBQ. I had no idea that barbecue could taste like this, and be literally melting away from the bone tender. Amazing, and did I mention it is also cheap? The whole massive slab of ribs, plus sides, came in at under 20 bucks. Although it took us a while to move after we had eaten ourselves in a BBQ stupor, we finally got in gear so that we could head over to some of the Beale Street clubs for some great live music.

You can hardly go wrong with music on Beale Street: The Jazz here just does not get any better or more authentic. My favorite spot here is B.B. King's Blues Club because there is always great live music. We arrived after 7pm, so had a minimal $5 cover charge, but before then it's free. For my Friday night visit, we got to see the Will Tucker Band and the BB King All-Stars. Both bands were awesome and really had that true Memphis jazz sound. There are tons of cute little shops scattered all over Beale street that I really enjoyed ducking into. These are the tourist type shops, but they have some great Beale Street themed tee shirts and funny little souvenirs.

I toured Graceland the next day, and while it was an amazing experience, I would definitely say that Saturday is not the optimum day to take on the frenzied masses of Elvis lovers. Hey, I love Elvis as much as the next girl, but I can do without the wall to wall bodies. The guides mentioned that earlier in the week is the ideal time to visit. Apart from the crowds, I have to say that Graceland is truly a special place, even if you are not a fan of the King. This is an eye-popping display of 60s and early 70s decor, and it really does give you the sense of living in the world that Elvis lived in. Standing in the jungle room, in the mirrored stairway, and by his final resting place made me feel a real connection here, and I can understand why so many fans visit repeatedly.

Memphis was a great weekend trip, and I feel as if I had two hosts: My dear friends, and the gracious city itself. This city opens its arms wide to tourists, and the warm Southern hospitality will insure that I return as soon as possible.

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