A Good Tour of Downtown Memphis
Old and new mingle as Memphis progresses with its riverfront development and urban renewal. Peabody Place, a collection of offices, shops, restaurants, and apartments, is a development in the area surrounding the Peabody Hotel at 2nd Street and Union Avenue. For travelers who want to tour the area without parking worries, the downtown trolley system runs a north-south route down Main Street, connecting major attractions. A new loop adjacent to Riverside Drive completes the 5-mi circle.
Pick up a map of the city at the Tennessee Welcome Center on Riverside Drive, where free parking is available. Take the Main Street trolley south to South Main Street to Peabody Place to visit the Center for Southern Folklore, where the region's colorful past is chronicled in poignant exhibits. Continue south on foot to Beale Street and sneak a peak at the stately Orpheum Theatre; walk east to A. Schwab Dry Goods Store, a most unusual emporium. A few blocks east on Beale is Handy Park, where the father of the blues is immortalized. You can learn all about him at the nearby W. C. Handy Memphis Home and Museum. Walk farther east on Beale to the Hunt-Phelan Home for a tour. Head for the south end of downtown (take the Main Street trolley five blocks) to tour the National Civil Rights Museum, on the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, or north to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame Museum. Take the Main Street trolley north to Adams Avenue and walk west to the Mud Island Monorail to catch a ride over to the Mississippi River Park and Museum. When you come back, the Pyramid is several blocks away from Mud Island parking and can be visited by trolley. Afterwards, pick up your car and drive east on Adams, first to the Fire Museum of Memphis, then on to the Victorian Village Historic District for tours of the Magevney, Mallory Neely, and Woodruff-Fontaine houses. On the way out of downtown, stop at Sun Studio for a dose of Memphis music history.
Spend the morning in the Beale Street Historic District—the Hunt-Phelan Tour alone will take an hour—and work in lunch while you're there. The rest of downtown Memphis will take more than a day to cover, so depending on your schedule, you may want to pick and choose. Most of these attractions are closed Monday; the National Civil Rights Museum is closed Tuesday.