Most famous for the influential strains of music that originated in the city, Memphis is also a great destination for families to visit.
Perched on the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee, Memphis attracts huge numbers of music-loving pilgrims every year. But there’s far more to the city than its rich musical heritage. Indeed, in recent years Memphis has undergone something of a transformation, shedding its hitherto reputation for poverty and crime and becoming a welcoming urban centre packed full of opportunities for all ages and tastes. If you’re visiting the city with kids in tow, here are 12 of the best family-friendly things to see and do.
Visit a kid-friendly museum
Situated in Midtown Memphis, the Children’s Museum of Memphis is one of the city’s most popular family attractions. Designed to foster child development through interactive exhibits and programs, among the museum’s highlights are a grand carousel dating back to the early 20th century and still operational today, a firehouse exhibit complete with fire equipment and a real-life fire engine, and a splash park featuring dozens of quirky sprayers designed to resemble flowers, leaves, jet streams, magic mists, turtles, crabs, and snails.
2525 Central Avenue / Tues-Sun 9am-5pm Closed Mon
Another sure-fire winner with little ones is the Museum of Science & History, which is home to a wide assortment of immersive exhibits and displays. Whether your kids are fans of dinosaurs, prehistoric fossils or even (perhaps less likely) Victorian architecture, there’ll be something here to satisfy their predilections. Visitors can also learn about Native Americans and early settlers and see the actual wares and tools they used back in the day. An attached IMAX theatre & planetarium add to the excitement.
Explore Elvis’s childhood home
Even if your kids are more into Ariana Grande than 1970s rock and roll, no visit to Memphis is complete without a stop at Graceland, the childhood home of the iconic singer and actor Elvis Presley. Designated as an historic landmark by the State of Mississippi, the house built by his father for just $180 draws visitors from all over the world and is part of the 15-acre Elvis Presley Park that also features the Elvis Presley Museum, Elvis’ childhood church, and a walking trail that traces Elvis’ extraordinary life and career.
Enjoy a riverboat cruise
There are few children who don’t enjoy a boat trip and in Memphis visitors can combine a boat cruise of the Mississippi River with a guided tour of the city. The sightseeing takes in attractions such as Beale Street, the statues of musicians Elvis Presley and B.B King, and the facades of 19th-century homes in the Victorian Village. You’ll then make your way to the waterfront to board a historical paddle-wheel boat with three decks offering great views. During your cruise down the river, you’ll soak up the sights as you listen to fascinating commentary from your captain. The tour ends with return transport to your hotel.
Check out a legendary music studio
Famously known as a recording studio opened by rock-and-roll pioneer Sam Phillips, a visit to the Sun Studio takes you on an evocative musical journey down memory lane. The place that gave birth to the beginning of Elvis Presley’s legendary career, including where he recorded his first ever song, today it keeps the ball rolling as a recording studio in the evenings, and during daytime hours hosts public tours and educational excursions run by expert guides.
706 Union Avenue / Sun-Thurs 10am-5.15pm Fri-Sat 10am-6.15pm
Immerse yourselves in an entertainment emporium
It may look like something out of a sci-fi film set in Egypt, but the eye-catching Memphis Pyramid is in fact an entertainment emporium packed full of attractions, including plenty that will keep the kids entertained. Among them is an underwater-themed bowling alley and the nation’s tallest freestanding elevator, which rises 300 feet in the air and invites passengers to step out onto a glass observation deck overlooking the Mississippi River. The Pyramid is also home to a waterfowling heritage centre, an Archery and Gun Range, numerous restaurants, and over 500,000 square feet of retail space.
Join a walking tour of an iconic American street
If your kids are old enough to handle an hour of walking, as well as some rather colourful details about Seattle’s most notorious characters down the years, then this guided walking tour of Beale Street – one of America’s most iconic streets – is sure to be a hit. During the tour you’ll learn about the musicians, gangsters, politicians and crooks who made their name on Beale Street, as well as the street’s place in African-American culture. There’ll also be a chance to go behind the scenes by ducking into notable places of interest including Beale Street’s oldest store, and the shop where Elvis used to buy his suits.
Admire an array of exotic wildlife
An ever-reliable option for a family day out, Memphis Zoo is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 different species. The city’s highest-attended attraction, the 70-acre zoo is widely considered one of the finest anywhere in the world, featuring first-class exhibits such as CHINA, Primate Canyon, Animals of the Night, Commercial Appeal Cat Country, Once Upon A Farm and Dragon’s Lair. The Zoo also runs conservation programs across the globe dedicated to causes spanning the preservation of giant pandas in China to local efforts to save the Louisiana pine snake.
2000 Prentiss Place / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Discover Memphis’s spooky side
Perhaps not one for younger children, this two-hour haunted walking tour lets you discover the spookier side of Memphis. In the company of an experienced and entertaining guide, you’ll get to go inside some of the most haunted (we are told) buildings in Memphis, including the Orpheum Theater, said to be home of “Mary,” who has haunted performances since 1921; the John Alexander Austin House, a Victorian-era mansion haunted by star-crossed lovers; and the notorious Ernestine and Hazel’s, a former brothel.
Combine great food and fun in equal measure
Mention pizza to the average kid and their heart will skip a beat in mouth-watering anticipation. Combine it with arcades and there’s no limits to their excitement. That’s what awaits you at the Memphis branch of America’s Incredible Pizza Company, where a steady stream of dough-based treats are complemented by a huge variety of activities guaranteed to keep your children entertained for hours. Pick from indoor go-karts, laser tag, a spinning roller coaster ride and even an XD theatre, along with over 80 arcade games.
1245 North Germantown Parkway Suite 104, Cordova, Germantown Square / Weds-Thurs 11am-9pm Fri 11am-10pm Sat 10am-10pm Sun 10am-9pm Closed Mon-Tues