48 hours in Memphis, Tennessee is just enough time to eat barbeque and find iconic moments in American history. Memphis is the birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, home of the blues, and has plenty of soul.
Where to Stay
You definitely want to stay at The Peabody – The South’s Grand Hotel for a couple reasons.
- The Peabody really is grand – Did you know you can have high tea at The Peabody?
- Ducks swim in the lobby fountain during the day – Who doesn’t love ducks?
- Downtown hotel within walking distance of almost everything you want to see in Memphis.
Take a step inside The Peabody’s Executive King room and you’ll know you aren’t in an average hotel. The room is like a small studio apartment in size, some, even have walk-in closets.
The pastel-colored walls with white accents stand out as something you don’t see in every hotel, giving it a very elegant feel.
My favorite part of the hotel was when I called down to the concierge desk to ask about Wi-Fi and they answered the phone with, “How can we help you, Miss Gordon?”
Plan on arriving at the airport in Memphis mid-morning. That way there is plenty of time to hit every stop on day one and you won’t feel rushed during your 48 hours in Memphis.
Catch an Uber to the Peabody as soon as you arrive. Don’t worry if you’re super early and your room isn’t ready, the hotel will send you a text when it is. You can also drop your luggage off at the concierge desk and they’ll give you a tag with a number to claim later.
The Cotton Museum should be your first stop during your 48 hours in Memphis, Tennessee. The museum gives you insight into just how important cotton was to not only the south but the world.
You also get a small taste of slave and plantation history with various artifacts from different points in history.
Plan on spending at least an hour to an hour and a half in the museum. The museum opens at 10 am Monday-Saturday and 12 pm Sunday and costs $10 for an adult, $9 for a student, and $8 for kids aged 6-12.
In 1953, recent high school graduate Elvis Presley walked through the doors hoping to record something for his mother. When the receptionist asked him who he sounded like, he responded, “I don’t sound like nobody.” The rest, as they say, is history. Besides, I can’t spoil the tour for you.
Tours start at 10 am and last about 45 minutes. But it can be longer if you want to get a photo with Elvis’ microphone. The cost $14 for an adult ticket and free for children 5-11.
Once you make your way back to downtown, hop on one of the historic trolleys and head to The Arcade. The Arcade diner used to be a favorite of Elvis where he would order a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.
National Civil Rights Museum
After lunch, walk about a block back towards the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum is located in the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the second-floor balcony.
The museum takes you through decades of history from the slave trade to the Civil Rights Movement in the 20th century. You could easily spend the whole afternoon here.
Admission to the museum costs $16 for an adult and $13 for children 5-17. The museum is closed on Tuesdays.
Haunted Memphis Walking Tour
The Haunted Memphis Walking Tour is the perfect way to end the first day of your 48 hours in Memphis.
The tour takes you on a two-hour journey through paranormal history in the city. You’ll make stops in Dead Man’s Alley, The Orpheum Theater, Ernestine and Hazel’s, and more.
Each stop has its own unique story and circumstances that led to the ghosts sticking around. Some are benign, others not so much.
I am convinced that Ernestine and Hazel’s, a former brothel, has at least one ghost. When we were exploring the room, I had the strongest feeling that we were not welcome. And one of the girls in my group was able to capture a video of an orb flying around.
The tour starts and ends at BB Kings on Beale Street. Make sure to bring a water bottle with you. I’m glad I had mine!
Tours cost $20 for adults and $13 for kids 7-12.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music
The Stax Museum is about 2 miles from downtown Memphis and well worth a visit. I’ve heard of soul music before, but if you were to ask me to name an artist and song in the genre I would give you a deer in the headlights look.
After hearing some of the music, I had my ah-ha moment. I knew tons of the songs.
You will definitely want to take an Uber there and back. Entrance to the museum is $13 for adults and $10 for children 9-12. Plan on spending an hour and a half at Stax.
You cannot spend 48 hours in Memphis and not stop at Gus’ World Famous Chicken. It’s not far from Beale Street Landing where the riverboats dock at. Get lunch early, because it can be a half hour wait just to get a table.
Don’t forget to stop across the street after lunch at Old Dominick Distillery for a Summer Smash (delicious and is definitely my new favorite cocktail) made with their Tennesse Tody. It’s never too early for a drink and if you can, catch a quick tour through the distillery to see how they make everything. You can even try the mash as it is fermenting!
Mississippi Riverboat Cruise
One of the best ways to get to know more about the history of the area is to go on a paddleboat river cruise. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable about the area and history of the river. They even talk a little bit about the 1812 earthquake in the New Madrid fault zone when the Mississippi flowed backward. I could honestly write a whole paper on the topic, from the geological side, of course.
Plan on being there at least a half hour early so you can get one of the good seats on the top deck. You have to go up two flights of stairs and there are no tables and not much shade, but the view is worth it.
The cruise lasts about 90 minutes. The price is $20 for adults and $10 for children 3-12.
There is so much to see during your 48 hours in Memphis. Take your time wandering around and take it all in.
Neon signs paint the pavement in vibrant colors and live music can be heard coming out of almost every establishment on the block. Beale Street reminded me of Freemont Street in Las Vegas, except with a ton more soul than Vegas can muster.
What to Eat
Capriccio Grill inside the Peabody – Breakfast
Breakfast is served buffet style with eggs, potatoes, biscuits and gravy made from real butter and cream, sausage, to die for bacon, pastries, and more.
Room Service – Breakfast
If you can’t be bothered to get dressed to head downstairs for breakfast, room service is always an excellent option.
Central BBQ – Lunch or Dinner
If you only order one thing of the Central Barbeque menu, make it barbeque nachos.
Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken – Lunch or Dinner
Take one bite and you’ll know why they call themselves world famous. The chicken is to die for delicious. So is the mac and cheese and coleslaw.
Getting a table can take about a half hour, so plan your trip accordingly.
Loflin Yard – Dinner and Drinks
Loflin Yard was originally used as a stable for horses. Now it has been renovated and turned into a cool place to hang out with friends, have dinner, and have a beer.
Railgarten – Dinner and Drinks
Railgarten is the sister property of Loflin Yard located in the Midtown neighborhood. Like Loflin Yard, Railgarten is an excellent place to hang out with friends on a nice summer night.
Blues City Cafe
Blues City Cafe is located at the start of Beale Street across from BB King’s. It’s a cute, small place, but the ribs are better than any I can find in North Dakota. And the ice cream topped chocolate brownie afterward is chocolatey heaven.
Memphis is hot and humid during the summer. If you are out wandering in the heat make sure to always have water with you.
Have you spent 48 Hours in Memphis, Tennessee? Did you love it?
Tell me in the comments below or tweet me!
Many thanks to Memphis Tourism, The Peabody, and Mediavine for partially hosting my stay in Memphis, Tennessee. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.