One of the most popular cities in America’s South amongst visiting tourists, Memphis, Tennessee is best known for its rich musical heritage, top-tier barbecue and its importance during the Civil Rights Movement, particularly its tragic association with the death of Martin Luther King Jr. The city is one of the most unique in the country, with a singular culture and history like that unseen anywhere else across the country.
Known for being the former home of iconic American musician Elvis Presley, Graceland has since been converted into a museum celebrating the singer’s life. Receiving over 650,000 visitors a year, the museum is the second most-visited home in America after the White House, which gives one an idea to Elvis’ significance to modern American cultural history. The mansion is located on a vast estate and is known for its distinct colonial revival design and its opulent, bizarre interior featuring bizarre themed rooms such as ‘The Jungle Room’. The estate is also the home to the singer’s grave, one of the major draws for tourism. One of Memphis’ most important cultural institutions, Graceland is an essential destination for visitors to the city.
National Civil Rights Museum
A sombre and essential museum experience, the National Civil Rights Museum is a complex centered around the infamous Lorraine Motel, the site of the iconic Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The museum presents the history of the Civil Rights Movement from its lesser-known beginnings in the 17th Century through the abolition of slavery, the progress of the 20th Century and the challenges of the present day. An informative and immersive experience that cannot be missed.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Located in the former site of Stax Records, one of Memphis’ most iconic record labels, the Stax Museum is a cultural treasure. Often compared to Detroit’s iconic Motown Museum, the museum is a celebration of soul music. The museum features an extensive collection of over 2,000 recordings as well as well-preserved original instruments. While the main focus is on the history of the label itself and its artists such as Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes, the museum also celebrates other icons of the genre such as James Brown, Al Green and Stevie Wonder. The museum is an iconic and distinctly Memphis experience.
One of Memphis’ more left-field destinations, the Crystal Shrine Grotto dates back to the Depression days of the 1930’s. A bizarre detour in the middle of Memphis’ vast Memorial Park Cemetery, the grotto is crammed with Christian idols, rock formations and impeccable craft. Designed by Dionicio Rodriguez, an artist tasked with redesigning the cemetery, the grotto is undoubtedly bizarre but well worth seeking out for those in search of a more unconventional experience.
One of the most important landmarks in American musical history, Sun Studio dates back to 1950 and remains one of the world’s most iconic recording studios. With a particular emphasis on country music, the studio was popular amongst a wealth of hugely significant artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. Following Elvis’ death, the studio experienced a resurgence in popularity as a tourist attraction and recording studio. Today, it remains an important institution in both fields and without a doubt one of Memphis’ most important cultural destinations.