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If Memphis is part of your travel plans anytime soon, you’re going to want to keep reading. Paying tribute to the city’s cultural, musical and artistic history, the following attractions are both educational and entertaining, ensuring your trip is full of enlightenment and adventure. From Graceland to the Blues Hall of Fame, here are 25 places you must visit during your stay in Memphis, Tennessee.
Originally called Memphis Recording Service, the Sun Studio recording facility was opened in 1950 by radio engineer Sam Phillips. It shared the same building with Sun Records and is where many prominent blues and rock ’n’ roll musicians recorded in the early 1950s. One of them was Elvis Presley, who walked into Sun Studio shortly after graduating high school and recorded two songs that he claimed were going to be a gift to his mother. Tours of the facility run hourly from 10:30am to 5:30pm.
Peabody Park, in Midtown, is a great place to take the kids on a nice day. It has a playground, a splash pad and is home to the Raymond Skinner Center, which is a recreation center for people with disabilities. The splash pad is an outdoor area with fountains and misters and is open during the summer. Many local festivals are held at Peabody Park throughout the year. Also found at the park are large metal sculptures by local artist Yvonne Bobo.
Located in East Memphis, the Lichterman Nature Center is a certified arboretum and nature center, dedicated to increasing people’s understanding of nature through hands-on exploration and environmental education. There are several indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a 65-acre (26ha) wildlife observation area with a three-mile (5km) nature path, where a variety of plants and animals live. The attached Backyard Wildlife Center explores the three habitats represented at the Lichterman Nature Center: lake, meadow and forest.
Outdoorsy travelers will find plenty to do in Shelby Farms Park, an area of greenery five times the size of New York’s Central Park. Cyclists and joggers can take advantage of 40mi (64km) of trails, including the 10mi (16km) long Shelby Farms Greenline, while fishing enthusiasts have over 20 ponds and mini-lakes to choose from. Also on offer are treetop adventures, horseback riding and an 18-hole golf course. Be sure to go and meet the resident herd of buffalos while you’re there.
Since it was established in 2012, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame has inducted close to 60 Memphis individuals or groups for their lifetime achievements in the music community. Each inductee, who is selected by a nominating committee of nationally recognized leaders in the music industry, receives a Mike Curb award. An induction ceremony and concert is held each year at the museum, which opened an exhibit hall in July 2015 featuring interactive panels, video interviews and memorabilia.
Commissioned by millionaire businessman Clarence Saunders (founder of the Piggly Wiggly chain of supermarkets) in the early 1920s, the Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium is one of the Mid-South’s largest museums. Its permanent collection focuses on the cultural and natural history of the region, featuring animal skulls, fossils and Native American pottery. There’s also a full-size replica of one of the first ever Piggly Wiggly stores. Attached to the mansion is a planetarium and Giant Screen Theatre.
The Crystal Shrine Grotto (officially the Cave of Machpelah) is one of the most bizarre attractions in Memphis. Located in the center of the Memorial Park Cemetery, it’s the work of Mexican-born sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez, who was tasked with giving the grounds a facelift in 1935. Clearly inspired, he burrowed 65 feet (20m) into the hillside and filled the resulting cave with dozens of Jesus statues carved out of cement and quartz crystal. The grotto is surrounded by incredibly lifelike trees, also made out of cement.
Additional reporting by Mark Nayler