Thursday, August 25, 2016

Walking in Memphis

I have a lot to share about my weekend travels to Memphis.
There's way too much to cover in a single post, so I'm going to do a two-part series. (Yes, it's Two-Part Series Week for me since I'm also writing up the Nike Unlimited Chicago Decathlon in two parts!)

Today, I'm going to talk about the local sights/sounds I experienced in Memphis. In a separate post, I'll cover the Memphis eats.

Let's get started on the sights and sounds!

The Peabody Hotel
The Peabody Hotel was my first stop when I started exploring downtown Memphis. It's a historic luxury hotel that is famous for the Peabody Ducks, which live on the hotel's rooftop. Every day, the ducks are led by a Duckmaster on a march to and from a large fountain in the lobby. During the days, they spend their days splashing around and living the duck life in high luxury.

I didn't see any of the ducks marching, but I stopped by during the daytime to see them in their "office." They are very cute!
L: The Peabody Ducks enjoying themselves in the fountain
Upper R: Plush ducks for sale in honor of the Peabody Ducks
Lower R: Duck hall of fame on the hotel's surrounding sidewalks
Rock N Soul Museum
This museum, which was developed by the Smithsonian Institution, showcases the stories and history of many pioneers in the Memphis music industry.

I learned so much from visiting the Rock N Soul! It was enthralling to discover more about the economic, racial, and social obstacles the musicians faced along the way. Those musical artists have had an enormous impact upon modern-day culture and society. I also loved that the museum had dozens of local artists' songs available for visitors to listen to. The audio selections really helped enrich the experience.
Upper L: Poplar Tunes was a record store that Elvis Presley frequented, and was also the first store to sell his records.
Lower L: Displays depicting rising blues musicians
R: Orange Mound was the first African-American neighborhood in the U.S. to be built by African Americans
Thou shalt not go to Memphis without visiting Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. Admittedly, I considered skipping Graceland because I thought it would be very touristy and kitschy. However, I ended up enjoying my visit tremendously. Elvis was such an iconic figure in history, and Graceland was a fascinating glimpse into his life.

Here are a few of the rooms in the Graceland mansion:
Elvis's grave is onsite, as are graves for his mother, father, grandmother, and brother. Many visitors paid extremely solemn homage to the grave sites. 
The premises also included displays showcasing the hundreds upon hundreds of awards he received for his music.
This is a tiny, tiny, TINY sampling of Elvis's awards
My appreciation for Elvis's music has definitely increased after visiting Graceland! My newly identified favorite Elvis songs include Suspicious Minds and Hunka Hunka Burning Love. SIDE NOTE: Lilo and Stitch is one of my favorite movies, and the latter is inspired by this scene:
I also love this remix of Blue Suede Shoes, which was being played at one of the Graceland displays:
Sun Studio
This is a legendary recording studio at which dozens of famous musicians recorded their works over the decades. Examples include Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis. Sun Studio remains as a working recording studio to this day, and continues to play host to both superstars and rising amateurs.
Upper L, Upper R, and Lower R: Scenes from the studio.
Lower L: Me doing my best impression of a recording artist using one of the original mics in the studio.
Beale Street
The famous neon party street and the center of music and entertainment in Memphis. Beale Street has a lot of storied history dating back to the early civil rights movement.
Top: View while approaching Beale Street
Bottom L: Table artwork depicting singer Rufus Thomas
Bottom R: Musical hall of fame walk on the Beale Street sidewalks 
Admittedly, I've heard the Beale Street venues are considered very touristy and that you needed to venture outside of downtown to visit the true local clubs. But when you're in town for the first time, you still gotta check it out, yes?

Side note - Beale Street had a heavy police presence when Adam and I were there on Saturday night. At some point in the evening, folks had to go through security and pay a fee to enter the area. (Apparently some portion of that fee could be credited for use in certain venues.) We later learned that there has been some recent gun violence on Beale Street leading to the increased security measures. As a result, the restaurants and clubs were not very crowded.

BB King's Blues Club
There were dozens of blues clubs and other music venues to pick from on Beale Street, but I had heard good things about BB King's. I definitely wanted to check out the namesake of the famous BB King.

Here was our view of the performance stage:
Civil Rights Museum
As the name implies, the Civil Rights museum chronicles the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The museum was built around the former Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. The Motel has been designed to maintain its same appearance from the time of murder.
The wreath in the left picture marks the approximate spot that MLK stood when the assassination occurred.
As a child growing up, I had learned about the civil rights movement in history class. However, I realize now how much I did not comprehend as a child. The exhibits were incredibly moving and really drove home the magnitude of the struggles. It made me contemplate how our society simultaneously lives in very progressive times while also remaining plagued by ongoing centuries-old challenges.
Upper L: A depiction of Rosa Parks
Upper R: Depiction from the Sit-In Movement
Middle L: Protest signs
Middle R: Depiction of the Memphis sanitation strike
Bottom L and Bottom R: Exhibits describing civil rights beliefs; the one on the right depicts a jail cell
I think this museum should be a requirement for all Americans to visit. It was one of the most impactful sights I've ever seen.

...and that concludes my recap of the weekend's sights and sounds! Coming up: The Memphis food.

I will be inaugurally linking up with Chris and Heather; Lauren; Ashley; Amanda and Brian; and Carolann and Macrae for Weekend Wanderlust.


  1. Memphis is definitely on my to-visit list! What a shame that violence is hitting the tourist areas. Glad you "braved" it and got to see everything! BTW, my mom was in the Elvis fan club back in the 50s! She still has her membership card...

    1. Thanks so much, Wendy! That's awesome that your mom was in the Elvis fan club back in the day. I'd love to see what the membership card looks like! What a great piece of nostalgia!!!

  2. I LOVE Lilo and Stitch! "You look like you're in Elvis fan."

  3. Great pictures. Looks like you hit all of the Memphis highlights! Too bad about Beale Street security. Did you eat a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich (Elvis' favorite) while you were there?

    1. Thanks Pete! At Graceland, I was keeping an eye out for a fried PB&J sandwich at the onsite restaurants, but surprisingly didn't see any on the menus! I did read an article about some of Elvis's favorite eats, though, and was shocked. Apparently at one point he would consume an average of 8,000 calories a day!

    2. 8,000 calories?! Wow, he must have done a lot of hip shakin' to burn that all off! :)

    3. I see what you did there... ;-)

  4. Wow is right on Graceland! You could definitely see the 70s influence in a lot of the decorating scheme. =) What a creative idea to name your daughter Graceland! I am guessing the coworker is a big Elvis fan, too? I also love Fools Rush In. Makes me think of the movie with Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek. =)

  5. Interesting that you would post this today. They just announced on the radio this morning that the group that runs Graceland will be taking over Prince's estate (Paisley Park). I will be curious to see how that shakes out, since it's only a few miles away from me.

    1. Oh wow! I didn't hear the news about Paisley Park! I thought Graceland's exhibits were very well done - although the entry fee was very expensive (upwards of $40 pp or more, depending what type of access you wanted). So yes, it'll be interesting to see how Paisley Park evolves under their management.

  6. This sounds like so much fun! My mom and sister had visited Memphis but I never did. I'd love to visit Graceland. I love all that tacky 1960"s- 70's decor!

    1. I love all the tacky 60s-70s decor, too! Lots of that putrid green shag carpet, mustard-yellow appliances, you name it. It was all there. I bet you'd really enjoy seeing the comparison between then and now. =)

  7. Looks like such a great trip so far! Did you drive down? I'm always looking for long weekend road trip ideas. This one may have moved up my list.

    1. Thanks Alexandra! I think Memphis is about a 9-hour drive from Chicago, so it's doable but is a long distance to cover just for a weekend. We actually found great airfare on Southwest - I think our flight was just under $200 round-trip!

  8. While I cannot wait to hear about the food... this looks like an amazing trip! Take me with you! I have had 2 other bloggers agree to take me with them to Italy and Colorado, so I have great references!

    I love Suspicions Minds, that is my number 1 Elvis song!

    The Civil Rights museum sounds really cool and interesting!

    I would love to visit Graceland, but not before visiting Corpus Christi for the Selena Museum.

    1. Thank you so much, Ana! Absolutely - let's hit the road together on a future trip!!! It would be a BLAST to runcation with you!!!

      Yay Suspicious Minds! (Out of context, that sentence sound kind of funny, right? LOL)

      Oooh, I've never been to Corpus Christi and would love to check out the Selena Museum there, too. Good suggestion!

  9. You saw so much! Awesome! Of course, I am completely enthralled by the ducks living in the hotel. LOL. And the music museum sounds SUPER interesting!

    1. Thank you, Kim!!! The hotel ducks made me think about all the wildlife you've seen in the grounds around your house, too. =) I bet you'd love the music museum!!!

  10. I've always enjoyed Elvis's music, but I have a much greater appreciation for it now! I don't think I've heard Always on My Mind - will have to pull it up on Youtube. =) His Gospel stuff is amazing, indeed! I wish more people would emulate the great MLK, too. They did a terrific job portraying the civil rights challenges at the museum. Thanks again, Karen!!!