The Top Fun and Unusual Things to Do in Memphis, Tennessee

A visit to Graceland, where Elvis Presley lived, is one of the coolest things to do in Memphis
A visit to Graceland, where Elvis Presley lived, is one of the coolest things to do in Memphis | © Fotan / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alyson Krueger
28 September 2020

Memphis is filled with quirky places and attractions, from a buffalo range in the city to a fancy hotel that parades ducks daily. While some are silly and fun, others are historic and meaningful. Here’s our roundup of the top things to do in this Tennessee city.

Witness the march of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel

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The Peabody Hotel ,Downtown Memphis, Tennessee.Peabody Ducks
© moris kushelevitch / Alamy Stock Photo

The Peabody is a grand hotel in downtown Memphis with an eccentric tradition: it keeps and parades pet ducks. The practice started in the 1930s when a general manager, drunk after returning from a hunting trip, put the creatures in a fountain. A circus trainer came along and taught them how to parade along a red carpet. Now the hotel shows them off twice a day, at 11am and 5pm, when they march to and from the fountain. For the rest of the day, they live in a duck palace on the roof, which you can also visit.

See how century-old whiskey is recreated at the Old Dominick Distillery

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In 2016, the Old Dominick Distillery reopened in Memphis after a 150-year hiatus, marking the first time whiskey has legally been distilled in the city since prohibition. Sure, the distillery makes excellent whiskey and gin, but a lot of places do that. What’s really special about this place is that it has recreated hundred-year-old drinks by reverse-engineering dusty bottles found in the attic. Don’t miss the Memphis Toddy made this way. Order one at the bar and then head to the rooftop, which has beautiful views of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River.

Pay homage to Elvis at Graceland

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Elvis Presley's Living Room, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
© Martin Thomas Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Rock-and-roll fans from all over the world flock to Memphis to visit Graceland, the 14-acre (6ha) home of Elvis Presley. (It’s still owned by his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.) The tour is comprehensive. You get to see the mansion where he entertained in the jungle room and watched television on multiple screens at once. You can see his customized private jet, his collection of cars (including the pink Cadillac) and the family’s chapel. After your visit, make your way to the nearby Guest House at Graceland, where you can drink Elvis-themed cocktails and snack on the King’s favorite foods, including fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Go shopping inside a pyramid at Bass Pro Shops

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The Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tennessee.
© David R. Frazier Photolibrary, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
In downtown Memphis, along the Mississippi River, is a 535,000sqft (49,703sqm) pyramid. Formerly a sports and concert arena, the venue was turned into a mega-store by Bass Pro Shops in 2015. You could spend days exploring the space. There is a bowling alley, an archery and pistol range, and a wetlands educational museum, as well as a stream with real fish and alligators. It’s home to the world’s tallest freestanding elevator, which takes you to a lookout platform on the side of the pyramid. There are two restaurants, both with great city views, as well as a 103-room hotel where guests lounge on balconies with rocking chairs overlooking the store.

See buffalo roam in the city at Shelby Farms Park

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Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. (It’s more than five times the size of Central Park!) Inside is a plethora of fun and nature-filled activities for the entire family. There is a buffalo herd that roams freely on 50 acres (20ha) of land. At the Outback, a 100-acre (40ha) dog park, pets can roam off leash, swimming and playing in multiple lakes. There are playgrounds, splash pads, boating rentals, zip lining facilities and even stables with horses to ride. Start your visit at the state-of-the-art welcome center that teaches you about the park and all its opportunities.

Go where locals hang out at Mud Island River Park

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A view of Mud Island River Park in Memphis, Tennessee
© Karen Cowled / Alamy Stock Photo
Mud Island isn’t technically an island; it’s a small peninsula that juts out into the Mississippi River. Since the 1980s, it’s been a place where locals go for recreation and cultural experiences. The park features an open-air amphitheater where concerts are held under the stars in an intimate setting, as well as the Mississippi River Museum that includes a scaled replica of the river. You can walk barefoot along it, exploring the mighty river’s twists and turns by foot.
These recommendations were updated on September 28, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.