Making a List, And Checking it Twice
52 things to do in Memphis, one for every week of the year.
photograph by Jonathan Postal
Brian Anderson, Brandon Dill, Jackie Ellison, Jonathan Postal, Larry Kuzniewski, Amie Vanderford, & Andrea Zucker
I can’t believe you’ve lived in Memphis all these years and you haven’t ____________.” Now here’s where you can fill in the blank. It’s been said that more tourists from London have journeyed all the way to Graceland than visitors from Memphis. We can’t say if that’s still true, but there’s little doubt that our city boasts enjoyable — and unique — attractions and events that far too many of us ignore. So here we present you with our own Memphis magazine “bucket list” of things to see and do around town, a list which we feel should be part of anyone’s experience while they live in the Bluff City. And we’ve cut off the list at 52, so you can do just one a week for a year — plenty of time, we say. So, c’mon, give them a try.
Try to catch a set at B.B. King’s on those all-too-rare occasions when the “Blues Boy” himself is in town — and on stage.
Hop aboard the Main Street Trolley, and be sure to take the Riverside Loop. It’s not the fastest thing in the world, but the views make it worth the ride.
When’s the last time you wandered around the tranquil lake, or explored the wooded trails at Lichterman Nature Center? That long, huh? Well, pry yourself off the couch and do it now.
When — not if, but when — you visit the Memphis Pink Palace Museum, find that display showing Civil War battlefield surgery, and see if it creeps you out the same as it did the first time you saw it.
Explore the Old Forest trails in Overton Park, and try to find a tulip poplar tree (most of the species are marked). Why? It’s only our state tree, for gosh sakes.
Try to take the best photo you can of the whirling Sputnik Star sign at Joe’s Liquors. It’s not as easy as you think. (note: Though it’s readily available nearby, alcohol will not improve your photo-taking abilities.)
Take in a Sunday afternoon concert on the grounds of the Old Millington Winery. Be sure to sip a glass of their Crying Angel Red (see “Ask Vance” on page 98 of this issue) to make the experience complete.
Play tourist and enjoy the Duck March at The Peabody. Afterwards, catch an elevator to the rooftop, where you can visit the duck “palace” and admire a stunning 360-degree view of the city.
Pretend you’re a millionaire and can buy any painting or sculpture you like. Visit Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, and other galleries around town, and study the works of art carefully because you can only buy one. It will really give you a new perspective on the sheer amount of wonderful art on view here.
Say hello to Hebe. You simply have no excuse not to visit Court Square, a lovely oasis in the heart of downtown, and admire one of the most beautiful fountains anywhere.
Try — at least try — to eat the four-pound “Kookamonga” burger at Kooky Canuck.
While most of us scurry away from danger, many brave men and women firefighters run right into it, to save lives and property. Find out more about them at the Fire Museum of Memphis, where you can pay tribute to those heroes.
Say hello to Justin Timberlake the next time you’re playing golf at Mirimichi (oh, and tell him to call us).
Spend the night in the Elvis apartment at Lauderdale Courts. Restored to its 1950s period, it gives you a chance to see the King’s humble beginnings.
Still feeling spooky? Look for the ghost of Molly at the Woodruff-Fontaine House. Wait — did you just see that rocking chair move? Yikes!
Hop aboard one of the boats of the Memphis Queen Line. Standing alongside the river is fine, but you’re not a real Memphian unless you actually get out on it.
Get a tour of the Sears Crosstown building for one of the best views of the city.
Go star-gazing. Outdoors is always nice, but this time, go to the Sharpe Planetarium at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. We bet you haven’t been since you were schoolkids, have you?
Stroll Belvedere from Central to Union at dusk, definitely one of the nicest walks in town.
Go to something — anything — at The Orpheum, celebrating its 85th year, and specifically ask for seat C-2. It’s Mary’s favorite seat, and if you don’t know who Mary is, then you don’t know the story of the Orpheum.
Every Memphian needs to know the Martin Luther King saga, and there’s no better way to do it than by visiting the National Civil Rights Museum (which will officially reopen in March).
Get a map and try to find as many of the University of Memphis “Centennial Tigers” prowling around town as you can, then pick your favorite.
Pay tribute to the King at Graceland and then pose for a picture next to the larger-than-life Elvis statue on Beale. (Elvis lives!)
Straw-shoot a toothpick into the ceiling at Huey’s.
Watch the sunset from the Twilight Sky Terrace high atop the Madison Hotel.
Find your way to the Mason Temple. Dr. King did.
Climb the 84 steps — yep, we counted ’em — near the south end of the Bluff Walk. Then turn around and gaze at one of the grandest vistas in America.
Challenge the bartender with a cocktail order in the Peabody lobby. You probably won’t win, but it’s worth it just to visit “The South’s Grand Hotel.”
Eat lunch on a Friday at Felicia Suzanne’s, the only day they offer lunch (and celebrating their 10th year downtown). It’s a meal you’ll remember.
Set up a folding stool near the 11th green (“island”) at the FedEx St. Jude Classic
Order a Joe’s Special milk shake at Wiles-Smith. Yep, the name fits.
Stop and stare at the bison at Shelby Farms. They’ll stare back.
Find your favorite flavor at Jerry’s Sno Cones. Take your time; they’ve got plenty to choose from.
Get a hug from B.J. Chester-Tamayo: If you did, it means you’re about to eat one of her amazing soul food meals at her restaurant, Alcenia’s.
Take a selfie — that’s a self-portrait for you oldsters — in front of the “Memphis” painting/mural in Cooper-Young.
Wave your “growl towel” with the rest of Grizz Nation at the FedExForum.
Picnic on the leftfield bluff at AutoZone Park (we suggest an evening game). It’s a great place for a wedding proposal. Take our word for it.
Split a famous “Diver” bucket with friends at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale, and raise a toast to our dear departed friend.
Walk like an Egyptian over to the U of M and visit Ramesses II, formerly by The Pyramid.
Enjoy a sausage and cheese plate and rack of ribs at The Rendezvous, and when the waiters smart-talk you (it’s part of the experience), just smart-talk ’em back.
Dip your toes into the river — not the real thing; that’s risky — but the five-block-long model, complete with towns and bridges, at the Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island.
Listen to the carillons play at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, and test your eyesight by trying to find the carving of the building’s architect on the bell tower.
Take a driving tour of Elmwood Cemetery, a resting place for our city’s first citizens, and a collection of the best Victorian gravestones you’ll find anywhere.
Feed a giraffe at the Memphis Zoo — one of the few places where they don’t mind you playing with the animals.
Hop in a horse-drawn buggy (outside The Peabody) with your one and only for a twilight tour of downtown. See Beale Street the Cinderella way.
Take a FedEx hub tour. If you really want to see how packages get from New York to San Francisco overnight, this is absolutely, positively the best way to do it.
Walk a dog or pet a cat at the Humane Society or the animal shelter or other rescue organizations. It will make you — and them — feel good.
If you’re about to kick the bucket, you’d better go to church — specifically, a worship service at the Full Gospel Tabernacle, Rev. Al Green’s place.
Picnic in Shelby Farms Park or the Mississippi Greenbelt Park on the river.
Take in a movie at the annual Indie Memphis Film Festival in the elegant venue of Playhouse on the Square.
Engage in an antiquated form of geekery by renting a cult classic from Black Lodge Video in Cooper-Young. Pop it in your VCR or DVD player, and you’re ready to go: no buffering!
End your year of Memphis moments with a quiet, contemplative sunset stroll along the Mississippi in hidden-away Martyrs Park, south of Downtown.
Greg Akers, Anna Cox, Michael Finger, Frank Murtaugh, Kenneth Neill, and Marilyn Sadler.