I used this board a lot to get info on Memphis so thought I'd repay the favor and write my first trip report. These are just my opinions but I hope they help someone. I was more frustrated with planning a 2-day trip to Memphis than I was planning a 3-week trip to Europe last year. I did NOT have high hopes for a good time, a clean hotel, or good weather ~ I was wrong!! We had a fantastic time in Memphis and since it is only a 3.5/4 hour drive from our home, we plan to spend a few more weekends in Memphis instead of Branson, our normal hangout! :-)
We drove to Memphis on Friday at noon (09/17). We easily found our hotel despite the one-way streets and a road being closed. We stayed at the Comfort Inn at 100 North Front Street. Prior to going to our hotel, thanks to my taking the South Front Street loop by accident, we were able to get a beautiful view of the rivefront homes and condos in that area. GORGEOUS! Five minutes later we were parked in front of our hotel (they have plenty of parking). We checked-in and we were quickly impressed by the staff, the hotel, and the room. I would recommend the Comfort Inn Downtown to anyone. We plan to stay here on future trips, for sure. The hotel was clean, beautiful, and in very good shape. I will be posting pictures with my Trip Advisor review of the hotel. We had a smoking (king) room on the 12th floor because my husband smokes (I do not). It was a very big room with a fantastic view of the pyramid and the water. We were very pleased. We found the outdoor pool on the 9th floor just as the sun was setting. We took some amazing pictures of the bridge and the water and the sunset.
We walked out of the hotel and directly up to the trolley line ~ three minute walk MAX ~ and the includes your time on the hotel elevator if you are a fast walker!! We took the the fantastic trolley to Beale Street ($1 per person - must have exact change). The trolley driver asks where you are going and then when he/she gets there, they loudly announce your stop. It is super easy to use, clean, friendly, and full of tourists. Very safe. Very convenient. The trolley, btw, will drop you off at the Civil Rights Museum (directly in front of it), the Peabody Hotel, Beale Street, Mud Island, and a slew of other destinations and hotels (I consistently heard Spring Hill Suites, Marriott, Doubletree, etc..). There is also a beautiful Court Square park with a gorgeous fountain in the middle which I recommend everyone go see in the day ~ it's free, it's on the trolley stop, and its a good place to sit on a bench and people watch.
We spent Friday night on Beale Street watching the street performers, noticing how clean the streets were, listening to some great music (we saw three bands this night alone and a sax player), and we were overwhelmed at the police presence everywhere ~ I've never felt this safe in ANY city and my one concern about traveling to Memphis was feeling unsafe. We both had several drinks ~ and be prepared ~ the small cups are $8 and the bigger cups are $16 ~ and the drinks are strong, strong, srong. If you are like me and don't like strong alcohol drinks, I recommend not trying the frozen blue hurricanes but get the frozen strawberry thing instead. My husband loved all the other drinks and we dropped a few twenties, got happy, and left Beale probably by 9:00 pm.
There are horse-drawn carriages everywhere and we decided to take one ~ she told us it would be $35 for a half hour ride or $30 to take us to our hotel with a loop around historic sites with a history lesson included. We chose the taxi to the hotel and she was worth every penny!! The lady had a cute white dog on the carriage (they all do) named Chloe. She took us all around the neighborhood ~ to the court square park to tell us about the fountain from France when the city of Memphis was sick from the yellow fever, past the Sterick building, the Peabody Place, Jerry Lee Lewis' former condo, etc.. The carriage ride was comfortable, the weather was wonderful (great breeze all night), and the historical information she gave us on everything was fascinating to me! The ride ended-up being well over a half hour and she dropped us off directly in front of our hotel ~ we tipped her well and hokey or not, we would definitely recommend a carriage ride.
Back to our hotel and watched some HBO before deciding to go back to Beale because one of the bartenders had told us the place really starts hopping around 11pm. The second time we arrived the streets were completely closed off from any outside entrances and there were more police than the first time ~ and you had to go through a security checkpoint and get frisked before going-in. I took a pic of this happening to my husband because I thought it was funny. Very nice cops, by the way.
We stayed on Beale for another hour, had another drink (or two), and realized the place was getting packed quickly and we might be drunk. :) By the way, you cannot leave Beale Street AT NIGHT with drinks. I have no clue why because you definitely can during the day. We took the trolley home and slept well.
Saturday was another day and we slept-in because our hotel check-out time wasn't until 12:00! Wonderful. We went downstairs for the clean, well-stocked, free breakfast the hotel offers from 7am to 10am (6-9 on weekdays). I had cereal and coffee (they have lots of different creamers so you can make a hazelnut coffee, etc). Hubby had yogurt, banana nut muffins, and orange juice. They also offered sausage gravy, biscuits, eggs, etc for the heartier breakfast eaters. Again, highly recommend this hotel. We took some cranberry juice up to the room and took fantastic showers ~ I love their showerhead ~ it was spa-like.
We checked-out around 11:45 and were told we can leave our car in their parking garage all day while we visit Memphis ~ fantastic!
We took the trolley to the National Civil Rights Museum. We bought all-day passes ~ on the trolley ~ for $3.25 each. The trolley stopped in front of the museum and I was immediately disappointed that I hadn't brought my camera. Everything I read online said "no cameras" but in reality, you should definitely take pictures outside of the Lorraine Motel and the boarding house across the street where someone shot Martin Luther King Jr. You can also take your cell phone, purse, inside with you. Had I known, I would have put my camera in my purse and followed the rules inside (which everyone I saw did) however, I would have had my camera available outside to take pictures. Well, I didn't. :( Regardless, we spent nearly two hours touring this museum and we did the audio tour with pauses here and there to interact with exhibits, etc. I don't know what to say about this place besides it is a must-see and the amount of info is overwhelming. We could have spent two full days here. Instead, we were just completely exhausted by the end. : ( Still, I would suggest if you only have 2 hours, go through semi-quickly and get to the end point where they show Dr. King's marching, the balcony where he was shot, etc... and then.. we were reminded by THREE employees.. make sure you go ACROSS the road and into the boarding house where the shot was fired. There is some information on conspiracy theories, who may have shot Dr. King, and etc. They really point the finger at James Earl Ray despite the fact that the King Family completely disagrees with this theory ~ Dexter King met with James Earl Ray prior to his death and learned many things about his dad's death and there is much more to this story ~ all over the Internet ~ that the museum does not have information about ~ interesting, we thought. Still, we highly recommend you see this museum just to learn about the Civil Rights Movement long before King's assassination and to see a bit about Gandhi, etc. It is A LOT of info and well worth the $13 admission plus $2 for the headsets ~ which I recommend. Try to go at your own pace, however. It's tough keeping-up with someone else and vice versa. :)
We then went back to the hotel parking garage and got my camera, purse, etc. It was hot in Memphis today ~ in the 90s ~ and sunny ~ but the trolley ride and the trees everywhere made it perfectly okay ~ and I am not someone that likes hot weather. We were hungry by now so we went to Beale Street and had the worst meal EVER. Some locals recommended Blues City Cafe and I cannot imagine why. It was terrible. There was an old man sitting outside who had great character and was really nice and that is the ONLY thing I can say good about this place. The a/c didn't seem to be working well, there were flies buzzing around, and our waiter literally ignored us from the time he took our order to the time we left. We had mediocre bbq, horrible baked beans, and an overpriced meal with empty tea and water glasses after being there about ten minutes ~ neither of us were ever offered a refill or a wetnap for the bbq, etc. My husband and I were greatly disappointed. This was the worst part of our trip. :(
We left the horrible Blues City Cafe with the blues... what an appropriate name... and quickly picked-up some drinks on Beale Street.... non-alcoholic for me... hubby got a fake spray-on tattoo that said "mom" ~ just to freak his mom because she (and he) hate tattoos ~ it was only $6 and the gals doing this on Beale Street had great personalities. We bought some cute, cheap jewelry at the craft stands, listened to another good band, bought the cutest apron ever at the Alley Cat souvenir store (I loved this store!), got our shot glasses, fridge magnet, etc and finally headed to our hotel around 5pm. One thing I will point-out ~ we went to a souvenir store about three doors down from Blues City and I picked-up TWO jars of "Tennessee Toe Jam" as gifts ~ I made sure they were both Apple Butter because they also were selling Strawberry Jam and I did not want Strawberry Jam. I had to dig through the selections to find the Apple Butter. Well, I didn't pay attention when the bagged-up everything we bought. They wrapped our items on another counter. We got home and our Tennesse Toe Jams were wrapped in newspaper ~ and they were both strawberry jams! I was NOT happy because I had specifically dug through the shelves to find the Apple Butters since I only originally found one ~ and kept digging to find the second one. This is just a little detail but one that peeved me. When we go back to Beale, we will NOT go to this store.
So, we left Memphis close to 5/5:30pm. We were literally there only 24 hours. We loved it. It was super clean, the locals were friendly, the graffiti I read about was non-existent, the prices were right-on, the atmosphere was great. Next time we are going to do Mud Island, possibly the Cotton Museum, definitely another carriage ride, Peabody Hotel, Graceland, and Pig on Beale for bbq (comes recommended from a trusted co-worker). All in all, this was a cheap, quick trip to see what Memphis was about and we found it was great and we will be returning!! I felt like Memphis is really trying to cater to the tourists and very welcoming ~ and everyone likes to go where they are welcome! We LOVED the people, loved the atmosphere, loved the trolley, and highly recommend everyone give Memphis a try!