Groups exploring the historic best of Memphis won’t want to bypass an opportunity to see the glorious sights along the fourth longest river in the world while enjoying true Southern Hospitality and a colorful, well-presented river history lesson from the spotless decks of one of Memphis Riverboat’s magnificent and masterfully-captained paddle wheel vessels. This family-run business tenders potential passengers an exciting range of popular options including entertaining and educational narrated cruises, romantic sunset trips, exclusive holiday events, private charters and delightful two-hour “dinner and music” tours featuring buffet-style BBQ meals of pulled pork or grilled marinated chicken and delicious southern-style fixins accompanied by fantastic live music; each and every outing promising guests on Memphis holiday a satisfyingly authentic and personalized riverboat experience! The hands-down favorite is the 90-minute sightseeing cruise on the 100-foot Island Queen, during which guests embark on a charming voyage across Tennessee history via a comprehensive and captivating narrative delivered by a knowledgeable guide and detailing decades of life on the mighty Mississippi River; light snacks and perfect refreshments are served on board. Ready to go? Let the capable travel team at Exploring America make a Memphis Riverboats Cruise adventure part of your rock-and-soul itinerary and get rollin’ on “dat Ol’ Man River”!
Groups of nature loving historians exploring Memphis and the surrounding area will truly enjoy a rest stop at Northern Mississippi’s premier family recreation area in Holly Springs National Forest – “Lands of Many Uses” – a wonderfully quiet and inviting woodland wonder split asunder by deep gullies marked by old split-rail fences, dotted with dozens of sparkling lakes, forested with loblolly and shortleaf pines, dogwood, magnolia, sweet gum and oak and sprinkled with flowering native shrubs, all twined about in the Summertime with grape-scented Kudzu. The park is a breathtaking feast for the eyes year-round: in Spring, when the dogwood blooms and again, when the hills are ablaze with splendiferous Autumnal color; the woods and wetlands provide all manner of resident and migratory wildlife ample habitat and excellent spotting and bird-watching opportunities abound. Holly Springs National Forest is the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch and break from a hectic travel agenda – revel in the beautiful surroundings and enjoy magnificent views of 260-acre Chewalla Lake from the day use/campground area – once an Indian Burial site – threaded with miles of well-marked, peaceful and scenic hiking trails. Kick back on the beach, grab a handful of sweet berries to fortify you along the way as you head for the hills, hunt the elusive wild mushroom, do a little bird watching, explore the tiny island on Chewalla’s western shore, fish for your lunch, jump in a kayak or go for a refreshing swim. Get out of the lake and hop in the shower – (bathhouses are available ) just a few miles away, the historic and colorful plantation town of Holly Springs awaits, offering visitors a fascinating look at the old South when cotton was king; explore well-preserved antebellum homes, slave dwellings, museums, churches and other intriguing points of interest – there are hundreds in the area – then sit down to some tasty Southern cuisine at one of the great eateries in Holly Spring, “Mississippi’s Best Kept Secret!”
At one time, Cotton was King in Memphis. For hundreds of years, African people were shipped across the seas to America and sold into the booming slave trade that ensured the Delta’s cash crops were planted, tended and harvested; the city of Memphis rapidly became Tennessee’s leader in the trade business. Eventually, the anti-slave movement saw the uprising of noble citizens who enlisted themselves in the abolition wars to assist runaways seeking their freedom in the Northern states. Jacob Burkle, German immigrant and stockyard owner, was one of them, a man who risked his life and livelihood to help slaves on their way by operating an “underground railroad station” from his modest home near the banks of the Mississippi. Visitors to the Burkle Estate, just a few minutes from iconic Beale Street, are treated to a well-presented tour of the white clapboard house and grounds, wonderfully preserved and recreated in the manner of its day of service with historical documents, period furniture, quilts and other relevant artwork and well-attended by knowledgeable guides who supply – in animated detail – heartrending stories of the dark days of slavery during Jacob Burkle’s time, and the way in which many were aided, en route to possible freedom, with safe haven provided in his home. Guests will learn how slaves creatively transmitted coded information to escape captivity, and see the cellar, crawl spaces and secret passages they used to hide in the Burkle home before continuing their perilous journey North.
Music fans heading to the the river city blues birthplace of Memphis will be thrilled to find a stop at this historic institution – a shining tribute to decades of struggle, upheaval, change and triumph that inspired people everywhere to re-think the way they listened – at the top of their itinerary. Visitors to this popular attraction located on legendary Beale Street on the corner of Highway 61 at the world-famous FedExForum sports complex and across from Gibson Guitar are introduced to the fearless musical pioneers who overcame daunting racial and socio-economic barriers to craft the music that would ultimately shape a city and shake the world to its core. The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, developed in unique cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution, tenders guests a personalized Blues City music experience they won’t soon forget, with a convenient digital audio tour showcasing more than five hours of music – more than 100 songs – and fascinating information accompanying guests at their own pace through seven galleries jam-packed with musical instruments and artifacts and surprising treasures, serving up a comprehensive cross-section of the rich history of that unmistakable, unforgettable sweet Delta sound. Summarily? The Memphis Rock and Roll museum delivers a toothsome “biography” of the transformation of a gritty southern city mentioned in more songs than any other on EARTH – to a music mecca and the heart of the rock and soul industry – the whole story – through its amazing series of exhibits and presentations. Ready to listen? Step inside.
Groups looking toward an unforgettable Memphis holiday will definitely want to plant a visit to Davies Manor Plantation – Century Farm, National Wildlife Federation-certified Backyard Habitat, and site of the oldest family home in Shelby County, Tennessee. The extensively-restored 1807 two story white oak chink and log plantation home rests on a lovely wooded piece of what was once a thriving 2000 acre operation, along with an assortment of wonderful outbuildings including a small cabin at one time occupied by Moses Frazier, a slave who toiled at Davies Manor for 50 years; prior to the Civil War, the Tennessee plantation supported approximately 23 enslaved African Americans. Tours begin with a short familiarization video and take guests through the log home and around the grounds and a series of carefully planned demonstration gardens and interpretive exhibits, providing an informative and realistic cross section of Colonial plantation/farm life while highlighting the inevitable changes to the estate that resulted from multi-generational occupancy. Careful excavation of a small “mound” in the front yard of Davies Manor revealed a few very small potsherds from the Woodland Indian Period; this is not surprising due to the presence of an Indian trail that wanders from Stage Road through the property and over Anderton Springs. The well-preserved structures and their rough-hewn contents are a testament to the true rigors of life on a typical southern plantation, and visits afford guests a priceless opportunity to trace the Davies family history through most of the 19th century and on to the present day with its challenges of maintaining and preserving the historic property for future generations.
Groups exploring the birthplace of the blues won’t want to miss a fabulous and FUN Memphis area tradition – which started at the Peabody Hotel back in 1933 when Frank Schutt, general manager of the hotel, returned from a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas. A group of his best hunting buddies, likely having enjoyed a bit too much Jack Daniels, thought depositing a trio of their live decoys – three small English ducks – (later replaced with five Mallards) in the hotel’s luxurious Italian fountain would be an appropriate homecoming welcome; the public’s reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Eventually the ducks would fall under the tutelage of a former circus animal trainer and a routine was perfected, with the current “duck team” residing in “The Duck Palace” on the hotel roof – living the “Life of Riley,” duck-style. Daily, at 11 am, the Peabody Duck March commences, and the ducks are led by the Duckmaster into the elevator and down a red carpet to the beautiful travertine marble fountain in the lobby to the tune of John Philip Sousa’s King Cotton March; the crowds of guests and admiring spectators go wild! The beloved show is reversed, nightly, at five pm, when the mallards return from a hard day of play in the fountain to their Palace atop the hotel. A freshly trained team of five is brought in every three months, with the previous group retired and returned to the farm they hatched on to live out their days. The Peabody Ducks have become quite the sensation and regularly enjoy the escort of honorary celebrity Duckmasters including Patrick Swayze, Larry King, Paula Deen, Emeril Lagasse and Kevin Bacon.
Groups out and about enjoying a rockin’ Blues City holiday may want to enlist the talents of the good, capable folk at Backbeat Tours in providing a unique specialty entertainment excursion with that “personal touch” – their fantastic outings have been featured on CNN and Fox 13 News, and in Forbes, USA Today, Southern Living, Memphis Magazine, and newspapers around the country and treat guests to an extraordinary Memphis sightseeing extravaganza! They offer something for every age, interest and adventure appetite, and promise to leave you with a smile on your face and a song in your head – with a Memphis memory you’re certain to cherish. Memphis owns a compelling and influential history which has helped shaped popular culture to a degree far beyond imagining; Backbeat Tours’ knowledgeable and talented guides bring that history to life on immersive, creative, interactive, informational and truly entertaining forays into the very heart of the home of the Delta Blues. The Memphis Discovery Tour tenders guests the ultimate Memphis dining and shopping experience; Memphis Mojo combines live music and killer comedy on a wild musical heritage discovery, while Elvis fans exploring the area during Elvis Week trip over their blue suede shoes running to the acclaimed and ever-popular Hound Dog Tour. Ghost hunters of all ages will enjoy tiptoeing through the city’s dark history of voodoo, ghosts and lost souls as guides regale them with terrifying tales of eerie local misadventures, and traditionalists traveling the Delta will be tickled “Pink-Cadillac” to visit Graceland, Backbeat- style!
More than 600,000 adoring fans annually make the big-daddy of all celebrity pilgrimages to 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard, passing through those hallowed, music-booked-shaped gates onto the perfectly preserved and maintained 13.8 acre estate at Graceland, favorite tourist attraction in all of Memphis and place the legendary humanitarian, movie star and King of Rock and Roll loved and called home for more than 20 years; a stop by Graceland is an absolute must on any Blues City getaway! Guests enjoy audio-guided tours of the mansion featuring commentary and stories by Elvis and his daughter Lisa Marie; they see where Elvis relaxed, played, ate, slept and spent time with his cherished friends and family on a very personal look inside the home of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, with peeks into each lovingly, elaborately decorated room, furnished in Elvis’ signature flamboyant style. You’ll love seeing the collection of vehicles Elvis owned at the time of his passing – especially the Pink Cadillac he bought for his precious Mama, as well as his purple Caddy Convertible, his Stutz Blackhawk and the Red MG he drove in 1961’s romantic musical comedy, “Blue Hawaii.” The final stop on every Graceland Tour is the Meditation Garden, rumored to have been Elvis’ favorite place on the Estate, where he would go in troubled times to seek peaceful refuge, and where he and several family members have been laid to rest; yearly processions on the eve of his death have attracted as many as 40,000 visitors, showing up to pay special homage as they file through the Garden and past the grave of the beloved, undisputed King of Rock and Roll. Graceland receives you with open arms into the world of the Elvis: the man, the movie star and the musical legend.
“If music was a religion, then Memphis would be Jerusalem, and Sun Studio its most Holy Shrine.” Visitors to iconic Beale Street must NOT miss an opportunity to stop into this landmark historic attraction, springboard for some of the most important careers in the history of music and comfort food for established modern talent looking to tradition for occasional inspiration. Rock pioneer Sam Phillips opened the doors to his childhood dream and brand new Blues City studio with the slogan, “we record anything, anywhere, anytime” in an effort to drum up business and generate some fast cash. Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats’ “Rocket 88″ was recorded there in 1951 with Ike Turner on keyboards – reputedly the first single ever – earning the studio its golden status as the “birthplace” of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Fast forward through a series of ups, downs, changes big and small, sweet successes and the usual setbacks to the day 18-and-a-half year old Elvis Aaron Presley walked through the doors and recorded his first number, EVER. The rest, as they say, is history. Phillip’s studio ultimately garnered the reputation as the place that nurtured fledgling talent and encouraged it to expand with bigger labels, and heavy hitters that cut their teeth at Sun would move back through those doors, time and again – legends like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison – and of course, Elvis Presley, the undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll . It’s been said Sun Studio oozes grit, blue collar resolve, and unadulterated Americana. The table where The King signed his very first contract sits right at the studio entrance. Tours happen on the half hour, and treat guests to an unforgettable hit of pure nostalgia; if you’re waiting your turn, check out the killer memorabilia on display, browse souvenirs, or pop a squat at the counter, order up a malt and imagine Elvis next to you. It’s not that hard to do.