Tour the ultimate celebrity home: Graceland
Don’t fight it - even if you’re not an Elvis fan, the pilgrimage to his famous home is a non-negotiable Memphis experience. You take a tour bus over to the mansion where John Stamos (yes, the guy from Full House) voices your tablet tour that takes you through the house, including the famous jungle room, around the grounds and concludes at the memorial fountain where Presley and his parents are buried. Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis TN 38116. +1 901 332 3322. https://www.graceland.com. Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 9am-4pm. $38.75.
Buy almost anything at the Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid
This giant glass pyramid encasing a hunting supplies shop, bowling alley, restaurants and fudge shop (why not) is so American it’s almost parody. The building used to be a basketball arena but now houses an artificial swamp with fish ponds, alligators and a dedicated gun shop. You have to see it to believe it. 1 Bass Pro Dr, Memphis TN 38105. +1 901 291 8200. http://www.basspro.com. Mon-Sat 8am-10pm; Sun 8am-7pm.
Get a taste for that old soul sound Stax Museum of American Soul Music
If when you think of soul music you think Motown it’s time to expand your knowledge because the legacy of Stax Records is an essential part of Memphis’s music scene. Stax artists included Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Booker T. & the MGs, and Rufus and Carla Thomas, and hearing their stories makes you pine for an era of American creativity the likes of which may never come again. 926 E. McLemore Ave, Memphis TN 38106. +1 901 942 7685. http://staxmuseum.com. Daily 10am-5pm. $13.
Stand in the same studio as your musical heroes at Sun Studio
Even if you’re not that into music history, there’s something pretty magical about standing in the original studio where Elvis, Ike Turner, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison recorded the music that defined rock’n’roll. 106 Union Ave, Memphis TN 38103. +1 800 441 6249. https://www.sunstudio.com. Daily 10am-6pm. $14.
Feel all the feels at the National Civil Rights Museum
It won’t take you a whole day to visit this profoundly moving museum built inside the very same motel building where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, but the effect of your visit will be hard to shake. It’s an incredibly difficult part of history to delve into in detail, but extremely important that you do so, and rarely will you find a museum as carefully constructed and as thorough as this one. 450 Mulberry St, Memphis TN 38103. +1 901 521 9699. http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org. Wed-Mon 9am-5pm. $14-$15.
Visit the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
Of all the broad spectrum music museums in the city, this is by far the most approachable. It follows the rise of popular music thanks to the spread of the radio, and there are playlists that you can access as you tour the museum that perfectly soundtrack your visit, taking you from old country and gospel through to modern rock’n’roll. You’ll want to add them all to your spotify. 191 Beale St, Memphis TN 38103. +1 901 205 2533. https://www.memphisrocknsoul.org. Daily 10am-7pm. $12.