As you might recall about 6 months ago, we decided to forego birthday parties for our sons. I know that sounds harsh, but this decision was based on wanting to begin a tradition of destination birthday celebrations with our boys instead, by visiting new cities with birthday road trips. This may not last forever, as I know once they get older peer influence will ramp up and I will probably oblige their party requests. But for now, we are enjoying exploring new places and learning new things.
Scout turned 3 on June 24 and for his birthday road trip, we selected Memphis, TN. Memphis is a new location for all of us; full of history, music, great food, and tons of kid-friendly sites. Honestly, I have never even thought about going to Memphis. Not because I had heard anything bad, but it just never came to mind. I Googled “family-friendly road trips,” and Memphis hit the top of the list on a variety of blogs and travel sites. I consulted the boys and both were thrilled with seeing Elvis’ house (who knew!) So, my planning began.
I can only feature a few photos below, but check out our Memphis trip in photos here: https://karitravels.shutterfly.com/5867
We spent Friday – Sunday there and we packed in as much as possible. We did have to skip a few things because we ran out of time, but we are already planning another trip back (definitely one sans children). On our way back to Missouri, we made a stop at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, based on a recommendation from a friend.
It was a beautiful spot to get our and stretch with hiking trails, playground, and beautiful falls. We ate at Wood’s Riverbend Restaurant that overlooks the gorgeous Spring River. The food was yummy and the prices were good too (they even had frog legs) – Check them out here: https://www.facebook.com/woodsriverbendrestaurant/
Here are all the things we did, ate (lots of eating!), and discovered. I highly encourage your to plan a visit to this legendary city…. you leave feeling like you stepped back in time, but in a really warm and fuzzy, nostalgic way!
Sheraton Memphis Downtown –The hotel was in a great location to commute to all our planned spots. There is even a trolley that picks up right outside. WE didn’t get a chance to go on it. My only complaint was the indoor pool, they had a huge kid group in before us and it was a mess! We let the boys swim a little, but only because they begged. The rooms were great though and had beautiful views of Downtown Memphis, Bass Pro pyramid, and Mississippi River. Visit their site here: http://www.sheratonmemphisdowntown.com/
Graceland –As soon as we arrive in Memphis, we grabbed a great bite to eat at Rock ‘n Roll Café, just a block from Graceland (Sawyer had to try out the King, which was Elvis’ famous peanut butter and banana sandwich). I know it isn’t a secret that Graceland is a must-see when in Memphis, but actually going for myself proved why. Seeing how a man of his success lived during that time compared to today’s famous singers, is just insane. Purchase in 1957 for a measly $102,000 for the mansion and 13.8 acres, today getting the same house and land would probably be five-times that! Every room is intricately decorated and so unique. We decided to do the planes and mansion tour having small kids, but there are options to see much more on the property. The boys thought his planes were the coolest! Check out their schedule and pricing here: http://www.graceland.com/
Central BBQ –You know a place is good when there is a wait out the door. We decided to be patient and check out this local hot spot because it has been ranked in the top 3 BBQ restaurants in Memphis since 2003. Like they say, “it’s always best to eat where the locals eat!”
We loved they had an outdoor, fenced-in eating area where the boys could burn energy while we finished eating. They had a ring toss type game to keep them happy. John raved on the pulled pork, my dad loved his ribs, and I was very pleased with my pulled chicken! Check them out here: https://cbqmemphis.com/
The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel– After eating at Central BBQ, we walked over to the Lorraine Motel right across the street. If you are not familiar with the history of the Lorraine, it is the location of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination in 1968. While the museum was closed at the time we visited being evening, just seeing the motel was profound. It has been left in the condition it was in when Dr. King was shot standing on its balcony. 2018 marks 50 years since the event, so the city of Memphis has had various events to honor this tragic day. When we return I plan to do the full tour that takes you through the motel structure, legacy exhibits as well as within the Young & Morrow and Boarding house buildings across the street. Learn more – https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/
Sunrise Memphis –First stop for breakfast before we started our day. I put John in charge of the food decisions and he did not disappoint. Known for their Breakfast Sammies because their biscuits have definitely been perfected! The boys pancakes were delicious. I later learned it is the same owners as Central BBQ where we went on the first night. Check them out here: sunrise901.com/
Memphis Children’s Museum –It was drizzling outside, so we decided to save the zoo for the afternoon. So glad we did because this place is like a kids’ heaven! Full of interactive, hands-on indoor and outdoor exhibits, there is so much to do we could have stayed there all day. The boys loved the outdoor zip lines even when it was sprinkling on them a bit. They have a small water park area that is extra, but with the rain we opted to skip that part. However, we did pay the extra $3 to do the Grand Carousel. Worth it! Check it out here: http://www.cmom.com/
Café Eclectic–Another place where there was a line out the door! Their Midtown location is one block from the Memphis Zoo, so a perfect stop before we headed there for the afternoon. They are vegetarian friendly, which I love! Food was good, service was a tad slow (hence the wait), but the yummy macaroons made up for it. They have a large coffee bar and old-fashioned soda fountain, and nice sunny patio.
Check them out here: cafeeclectic.net/
Memphis Zoo – John had read that the zoo was award winning and we never miss a chance to check out a new zoo! The zoo has been open since 1906 and features 3,500 animals! It was super hot that day but the park provided a lot of shade. We spent a few hours there, even rode the tram through the whole park. They had some great wading pools that kids were enjoying; we decided to not get wet because we had plans to hit up Beale Street after. Otherwise, I say bring a suit and change of clothes because it looked like a blast. While we were there the Lion was so loud with his roars, it was so cool to hear. I later learned while writing this blog that the famous lion roar heard at the beginning of classic MGM movies was recorded at the Memphis Zoo…how crazy is that? Learn more: https://www.memphiszoo.org
King’s Palace Café – A quaint and cozy eatery serving southern and Cajun cuisine. My mom and I both ordered the Shrimp & Crawfish Etouffee, it was good but a little more runny (like soup) than we had had before. There was a musician playing off the lounge area, which made the experience so much better. He played a variety of blues and rock classics. Attached to the café is the Beale Street Tap room, definitely worth checking out with no kids in tow, as well as the Absinthe Room directly above it.Learn more: kingspalacecafe.com/
A. Schwab Soda Fountain on Beale – Established in 1911 on Beale St. the shop still maintains that old-fashion experience. We hit it up after dinner for ice cream, but lots of customers were opting for their original soda drinks (with and without alcohol), as well as their milkshakes, malts, and gelato. They have a great gift shop too that the boys enjoyed perusing through. They each came home with their own bag of Big League Chew. Learn more: a-schwab.com/soda-fountain/
Beale Street – It is coined Tennessee’s Top Tourist attraction and for good reason. I had heard about how lively this historic street is and stepping foot on to Beale you immediately feel the life. There are street performers, music, the smells of BBQ, and lots of great people watching. It even felt safe with police officers always within sight. Our boys sat on the curb, taking in all around them, while John, my parents, and I enjoyed $3 cold beers. It was busy, but we were told the real crowds come out after dark.I’d love to come back and explore all the historic business and try one of their famous fish bowl drinks!Learn more: http://www.bealestreet.com/
Arcade Restaurant – You are probably sensing a theme here…history! Everything we went to had such a great story, making each experience so special. The Arcade restaurant is the oldest café in Memphis, opening in 1919, and is listed as an historic landmark. It’s charm and authentic design has attracted photographers, artists, writers, and movie makers and has been featured in scenes in movies like Great Balls of Fire, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, Elizabethtown, Walk the Line, to name a few. Plus, the Travel Channel and Food Network have done specials on the restaurant. I ordered the Food Network’s recommended Sweet Potato Pancakes (sorry keto diet!) and it was incredible! My dad ordered the Travel Channel’s recommended Eggs Redneck and he loved it too. You really can’t go wrong!
Check it out: arcaderestaurant.com/
Sun Studios – Our last stop before heading back to Missouri.If you don’t do anything else in Memphis touristy wise…. visiting Sun Studios, the birthplace of Rock N Roll! I love music and love the history of music, so yes, I might be biased…but this place is magically. I got goose bumps being there and hearing the original recordings, holding the mic that Elvis held, and standing in the same spot that Johnny Cash recorded. The boys loved it too. Plus, huge shout out to their staff who went above and beyond during our visit. Let’s just say I didn’t read there website very well and brought an under 5 year which is typically not allowed. So, keep that in mind if you plan your visit with kiddos. The tour guide, a local musician, was fantastic. He performed and made the tour so special. Check them out: https://www.sunstudio.com/
We can’t wait to get back to Memphis and check out the places we didn’t get to see. I would love your recommendations of your “must-see” places in Memphis for our next visit. With only a 4-4.5 hour road trip from Springfield, MO, it is a great destination for a quick weekend getaway!