Known for its barbecue, blues and blue suede shoes, Memphis — hometown to Elvis Presley — makes for a rockin’ family getaway. There’s so much to see and do in this southwest Tennessee city, from Sun Studios, the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll to Graceland, home of the King. It’s easy to snag an affordable, direct flight from Chicago to Memphis and with a one-hour flight time you’ll be there in a snap. Otherwise hop in your family car for a fun road trip. Memphis is 535 miles away. However you get there, wear your stretchy pants and get ready to indulge in a fabulous family weekend filled with finger-licking food, music and fun.
Start your day with breakfast at Gibson’s Donuts (760 Mount Moriah Rd.). Known for their maple bacon donuts and buttermilk donuts coated in blue and white sprinkles (the colors of the University of Memphis), you won’t be able to resist having just one. Seating is available, and since they’re open 24 hours, you’re guaranteed to find yourself craving another donut as a nightcap.
Graceland (3734 Elvis Presley Blvd.), once the home of Elvis Presley, stands as one of the most visited private homes in the U.S. Take the interactive iPad tour, which will give you more insight into the life of Elvis and his family, thanks to music clips and personal narratives from family members.
Overton Square is a shopping and dining hub in midtown Memphis. Enjoy lunch at Belly Acres (2102 Trimble Place), home of farm-to-fork burgers in an upbeat, family-friendly setting. Afterwards, let the kids burn off some steam at The Art Project (2092 Trimble Place), a maker space for little ones. While the kids craft with the onsite helpers, mom and dad can participate or sit right nearby and relax with a drink while overlooking all the fun.
You won’t want to miss the Peabody Duck March, which kicks off at 5 p.m. at the historic Peabody Hotel (149 Union Ave.). The ducks, who spend their days splashing around the hotel lobby’s central fountain, parade down the aisle towards the elevator, where they then head up to their room for the night. If you want to dress like the stars, the in-hotel boutique, Lansky Bros., outfitter of Elvis, features dapper duds for both men and women.
For dinner, head over to Aldos Pizza Pies (100 S. Main Street) for a pizza brimming with toppings in a hip, urban setting.
At Another Broken Egg Cafe (6063 Park Ave.) you’ll find eggs made every way you like, including a selection of six different eggs benedicts and “eggs-traordinary” omelets. Also highly recommended are the biscuit beignets and fried green tomatoes.
The National Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry Street) is an absolute must-visit: this evocative museum, built around the former Lorraine Motel, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, brings the history of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to the forefront.
Make a pit stop at Makeda’s Butter Cookies (460 TN-14) and grab two or three (or four or five) bags of the world’s best butter cookies.
Indulge in award winning barbecue at Central BBQ (147 E. Butler Ave.). All meats are rubbed with a secret combination of dry spices, marinated for 24 hours, then smoked low and slow in the pit over a combination of hickory and pecan woods. Live music and picnic table seating make it a great fit for families.
The My Big Backyard garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden (750 Cherry Road) is a don’t-miss stop for families with kids that love to run, jump, climb and play outdoors. 30 local artists transformed this beautiful garden into an unforgettable play space: imaginative playhouses, swings, slides, and musical elements dot the lovely landscape.
Don’t miss Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (730 S. Mendenhall Road), home of the best fried chicken in Memphis. The chicken has a spicy kick that little ones might not appreciate, but the creamy mac and cheese, zesty baked beans and coleslaw will please everyone in your crowd.
Rock ‘n’ roll was born at Sun Studio (706 Union Ave.) in the summer of 1954, when Scotty Moore, Bill Black and Elvis dreamed up “That’s all Right” in the former Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Services.
If you love playing in the great outdoors, you’ll want to plan on spending a few hours at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid (1 Bass Pro Drive). Formerly a 20,142-seat pyramid-style arena, this megastore features shopping, a hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley and an archery range, as well as many friendly animal residents, including a team of alligators. Ride the tallest, freestanding elevator in America – 28 stories to the top of the Pyramid – where you’ll find an outdoor observation deck at the apex: the beautiful, bird’s eye view of Memphis makes this a perfect final stop of your visit.