Getaway to Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee has amazing music and history, barbecue, beautiful parks and impressive museums. Find out more about why the trip is worth it.

by Juliana Goodwin

Apr 01 2024 at 8 a.m.

Outdoor Memphis sign in Memphis, Tennessee
Photo courtesy Alex ShanskyFind out why Memphis, Tennessee is worth the trip from Springfield.

If you don’t have plans this summer, but know you want to take a short trip, consider Memphis. My family loves Memphis and has been there at least 15 times. Memphis has amazing music and history, barbecue, beautiful parks and impressive museums —  especially for music lovers. Located less than five hours from Springfield, it’s a wonderful spring or summer break option. Here are some ideas.

Young Kids

When my daughter was a toddler, the first thing she wanted to do was head to the Peabody Hotel for the march of the ducks. This tradition started in the 1930s after a night of drinking. If you go, you’ll hear the full story. Here’s what you need to know, every day at 11 a.m. five Mallard ducks, led by the “duck master,” get off an elevator and waddle over to the fountain in the lobby and splash around until 5 p.m., when the larger march of the ducks takes place. Hundreds of people can gather in the evening and watch the ducks line up, strut across a red carpet and get back on the elevator to go upstairs where they live. If you’re going to the 5 p.m. one, which is a bigger production, get there 30 minutes early for a spot or one hour early if you want to enjoy a cocktail. The lobby bar has a delicious signature Jack Daniels peach sour.

Our daughter also loves horse drawn carriage rides, and those are readily available downtown– you can catch one in front of the Peabody.  Don’t forget to ask if they take cash or cards before you ride.

Read reviews for the Peabody Hotel.

The Children’s Museum of Memphis is fantastic and worth the drive from downtown. Kids can do everything from climb into a real FexEd cockpit or place a box on a moving conveyor belt, to dress up, sing, build with Legos, race toy cars or ride on a stunning carousel from 1909.  In summer, there’s an amazing outdoor splash park.

Read reviews for the Children's Museum of Memphis.

The Museum of Science and History (MoSH) and Pink Palace is awesome and eclectic (and close the Children’s Museum so you can do these back-to-back). The Pink Palace was a mansion built out of pink marble in the 1920s by a millionaire who founded Piggly Wiggly. Inside, you’ll find an original Piggly Wiggly store replica, a Clyde Parke Miniature Circus from the 1930s that still works,  and the entrance to the palace is grand with stunning murals. In this complex, there’s a T-Rex, dinosaur bones, Memphis history, natural history exhibits, science and more. This variety can satisfy different ages and interests.

Read reviews for the Museum of Science and History.

Duck walk in Memphis TN
Photo courtesy the Peabody Hotel

Older Kids

Sun Studio is where Elvis, Johnny Cash and BB King all got their start and is the birthplace of rock ‘n roll. It is one of the best tours in town and perfect for a music fan. Tours cannot be booked in advance and often sell out, so the best thing is to arrive at 10 a.m. when they open and buy the first available tour. There is so much music history in this place, it’s fascinating. Children must be at least six years old for tours.

National Civil Rights Museum Lorraine Hotel, this is an incredible museum. The hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated was transformed into a museum that chronicles Black Americans' battle for civil rights. There is so much history packed into this space, it’s highly educational and emotional. Ideal for a history buff.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a story of ingenuity, grit and inspiration. It starts with Jim Stewart, a banker and fiddle player, who had no experience as a producer but was inspired by Sam Phillips of Sun Studio who discover Elvis.  Stewart started Satellite records which became Stax, when he brought on a female business partner. After ups and downs, they made it big. They discovered Otis Redding, who was a chauffeur for another musician who came to record but it didn’t go well. Afterwards, Redding was allowed to sing and wowed everyone.  This museum houses everything from a reassembled Mississippi church to Isaac Haye’s Cadillac Eldorado, celebrity clothes, Grammys, records, photos and more.

Parade in downtown Memphis, TN
Photo courtesy Justin Fox BurksYou can catch street performers and much more on Beale Street.

For All Ages

Tom Lee Park is a fabulous river-front park. Trails hug the Mississippi River and there’s a playground with a mega slide, picnic spots, rope bridge, water features and more.

A riverboat cruise is always relaxing if the weather is nice. Sightseeing cruises are 90 minutes.

Beale Street attracts a young crowd at night and can get rowdy, but it is family friendly in the day with shops, restaurants and live music venues. Street performers are fun to watch and there’s a group that is always out doing some impressive flips.

If you love live music, but don’t get to enjoy it too often because you have kids, then BB King’s Blues Club on Beale Street is your spot. They have a lot of live music, good food and are family friendly throughout the day. See the live music schedule on their calendar.

Read reviews for BB King's Blues Club.

Off Beale, but within walking distance, is Rendezvous, one of the most famous barbecue spots. It’s renowned for its ribs, but also has great pulled pork, barbecue nachos and potato salad. It’s down an alley and a long staircase, so it’s almost hidden but is always hopping.

Read reviews for Rendezvous.

If you’re an Elvis fan, then Graceland is essential. It’s tacky, wacky, interesting and crowded. Exploring his airplane was our daughter’s favorite part.

Read reviews for Graceland.

After a day of touring, stop at Terrace at the River Inn, which has a stunning view of the Mississippi. Drink a glass of wine, share small plates like lamb sliders and pimento cheese balls, and watch nature paint the sky pink. They also have full dinners, but we enjoyed the appetizers.  Beautiful sunsets over the Mississippi. Get there early for a good table.

Read reviews for Terrace at the River Inn.

If you want to stay downtown, the Peabody is a fabulous hotel with old-school opulence. It opened in 1869 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Alternatively, there are various Marriott properties and less expensive hotels or Airbnbs away from downtown.