Took a quick weekend trip to Memphis with Michael to get out of Bozeman for the weekend, see his boyhood home, eat an irresponsible amount of BBQ, and laugh at the Bass Pro Shop. Figured I’d put together a mini guide of the highlights based on our three days there.
#1 : DON’T GET MURDERED
This is genuinely important. My protip on this one would be to have a local navigate or stick to the main-est of the main drags. When we’re in Memphis, Michael says things like, “I’m not saying this for the shock value; my brother genuinely used to find bodies in the dumpster where he worked.”
#2 : Peabody Duck Parade
Memphis weirdly has more than its fair share of live animal displays and the Peabody ducks are the most famous. Every day at five pm, the Duck Master gives a grand speech about the history of the duck parade, then marches the ducks out of the fountain, down a red carpet, and into the elevator where they retire for the night to what I can only assume is the duck penthouse. During duck parade time, the lobby is thronged with people, so either snag a spot on the second floor mezzanine looking down, or get there early and get a table near the fountain where you can sip adult beverages (if you’re an adult) and luxuriate in your rockstar seating.
#3 : Barbeque
And fried chicken. And beef brisket. And then more barbeque. Gus’s Fried Chicken is the famous fried chicken hot spot. Their fried chicken was good. Their fried pickles made me want to cry. For barbeque options, Central and Rendezvous are two of the most popular. I can personally vouch for the glory of Central barbeque. We didn’t get to make a complete lap of the barbeque scene, but we did hear a story about a dude who was blogging about eating at all the barbeque spots in Memphis and wound up in the hospital with what felt like heart palpitations. Being confronted with the Memphis barbeque scene on a short weekend trip is like being presented with a million dollars and told you have one minute to spend it. I was specifically instructed not to underestimate the amount of BBQ in Memphis.
#4 : Sun Studios
Pretty much the most famous stop in Memphis, all I can say is that my upbringing left me wildly under-educated regarding the early days of Rock and Roll and the rise of The King. I’d never heard of the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ before and I’m sure there are a lot of people who will never speak to me again now that they know that.
#5 : Beale Street
Beale Street is the famous portion of town with bars and music and, my personal favorite, Silky Sullivans. As mentioned in the Peabody duck paragraph, Memphis really shines on the random animal front. Silky Sullivans has goats in the patio area that, much to my disappointment, did not do anything interesting while we were there. This was very much a ‘DANCE, CLOWN. DANCE.’ situation and they refused to participate. We also caught some really great blues at the Blues City Cafe. So. There is still truth in advertising.
#6 : Bass Pro Shop
Not the best of the Memphis must-dos from a purely objective standpoint, this is by far the one I found most amusing. The Bass Pro Shop is located in a pyramid that resembles the Vegas Luxor. Inside are live fish and alligator displays, enough taxidermied animals to shame a natural history museum, an under-the-sea themed bowling alley, lodges that you can rent, and an outrageous amount of outdoor apparel, hunting and fishing gear, and four-wheelers. It is hillbilly redneck amusement park central and I loved every second we spent in there.
#7 : Train Bridge
The one Memphis activity that might offset all the BBQ and fried chicken, the train bridge has been converted to include a walkway. You can walk all the way across the Mississippi to Arkansas. What you do when you get there is a mystery, but I loved the view back to downtown and seeing the mighty Mississippi below. I loved the whole river walk as well, and if you look closely on the left portion of the skyline in the photo below, you can faintly see the outline of the Bass Pro Shop pyramid. It is genuinely difficult to find a view in Memphis not dominated by its Bass Pro glory.
#8 : Sears Crosstown Building
This one snuck in under the radar, but it was such a cool stop. The Sears Crosstown Building has been renovated from the days when, to quote Michael, “Bums lived here and we used to hear screams coming from this building.” It’s the old Sears building that the city has rebuilt in a live / work / eat style and there are even mini galleries scattered throughout. If I lived in Memphis, I would spend a lot of time hanging in the Sears Crosstown Building drinking coffee and double-checking my hipster status.
#9 : Ponchos Cheese Dip
Also known as Southern Crack. This deserves its own category. It is literally the best cheese dip on the planet and I honestly think making sure you encounter this Memphis specialty is more important than Sun Studios, Stacks, Graceland, and anything else you might confuse as slightly more relevant than a bucket of cheese.
#10 : Graceland
We didn’t make it to Graceland but I’m not going to make a list of top things to do in Memphis and leave Graceland off. Next time.