Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Matt Johnson |
There’s more to Memphis than Graceland and Grizzlies: Here are 18 recommendations for the next time you cross the Mighty Mississippi
WHAT TO DO >>
Experience the city’s famous blues and barbecues at annual and monthly celebrations.
Memphis in May
Downtown Memphis, Begins May 4
Tens of thousands gather at Tom Lee Park for the Beale Street Music Festival (May 4-6), three days of music that kick off the city’s month-long celebration. The fest’s lineup is famously varied, usually including a mix of rock, pop, country, hip-hop, and indie acts. Another MIM favorite is the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (May 16-19), where teams from all over the country compete for the championship title in mouth-watering categories such as Whole Hog, Beef, Vinegar Sauce, and Hot Wings. Visit memphisinmay.org for more information about the many events during Memphis in May.
Cooper Young Garden Walk
Cooper Young District, May 19-20
Meet at the gazebo at the corner of Cooper and Young in midtown Memphis to grab a map and start the third annual Cooper Young Garden Walk. The event showcases more than 75 beautiful urban gardens, plus art installations, artist studios, urban farms, and shopping in the surrounding neighborhood. Catch speakers Dr. Doug Tallamy (author of Bringing Nature Home) and horticulturist Chris Cosby throughout the weekend for inspiration on how to incorporate native plants into your garden. Visit cooperyounggardenclub.org for ticket information and more details.
South Main Historic Arts District, May 25
This street festival happens the last Friday of every month and has become a staple in the burgeoning arts scene in downtown Memphis’s South Main Historic Arts District. Galleries and shops along South Main stay open late, restaurants and bars celebrate with drink specials, and there’s often live music spilling into the street. It’s the perfect opportunity to soak in the city’s creative energy. Visit gosouthmain.com for more information.
WHERE TO GO >>
We recommend walking (or Ubering) more than 10 feet off of Beale to some of Bluff City’s growing arts districts.
Take a Taste
Three locations means three chances to sample one of Memphis’s most iconic eateries. Even if you “aren’t a barbecue person,” now is the time to try the dry ribs. cbqmemphis.com
This little hole-in-the-wall shop in South Main specializes in sweet and savory crepes as well as gelato made locally by The Creamery. scoopsparlor.com
The Liquor Store
Located inside, you guessed it, an old liquor store on Broad Avenue is this retro-inspired diner. Cozy up to the bar for a Bloody Mary or a slice of pie. thebroadliquorstore.com
The Beauty Shop Restaurant
Like the Liquor Store, this spot takes its name and inspiration from its location’s previous occupant. The menu is Southern with a worldly flair; we recommend one of the many international egg dishes at Sunday brunch. thebeautyshoprestaurant.com
Grab a Drink
Old Dominick Distillery
This distillery’s history dates back to 1843, when its founders’ ancestors first made their way from Italy to Memphis. Sample the brand’s whiskeys, vodkas, and special Memphis Toddy following a tour of the distillery. olddominick.com
Memphis Made Brewing
Among the city’s many craft breweries, Memphis Made is your go-to if you’re in the Cooper Young district. Snap a pic with the nearby “I Heart Memphis” mural while you’re there. memphismadebrewing.com
City & State
Peruse the artisan gifts on one side of the store before moseying over to the other for a cup of joe in a to-go cup that reads “Yay Coffee!” cityandstate.us
Shop & See
Stock & Belle
An eclectic mix of midcentury furniture, modern clothing, local art, and inspired home goods fill this expansive shop on South Main. facebook.com/StockandBelle
Like its sister store in Jonesboro, Blu D’or in Memphis showcases a sophisticated collection of furniture, lighting, rugs, case goods, art, and home accessories. bludorinteriors.com
Falling Into Place
This quaint Broad Avenue boutique is a must-visit for hand-poured candles and modern Memphis souvenirs. fallingintoplace.net
Blues Hall of Fame Museum
Pay homage to Buddy Guy, RL Burnside, Mavis Staples, and the many other talents who helped shape this Southern musical tradition. blues.org
National Civil Rights Museum
Explore the history of civil rights in America through a museum complex built around the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1968 assassination. civilrightsmuseum.org
Five in One Social Club
Get your craft on at one of Five in One’s workshops, where the staff will take you through projects like silk marbling (May 9-10) and gold-leaf taxidermy (May 31). fiveinone.org
Can’t decide if you’re hungry, need some fresh air, or are craving a lively game of ping pong? Head to this repurposed rail yard where you can, surprisingly, do all three. railgarten.com