Then I’m walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel
“Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn has probably been my dive bar jukebox song of choice for the past decade, and yet I’ve never realized until my most recent trip to the River City just how personalized the song is to some of the city’s main attractions.
Most notably: Beale Street.
I’ve raved about this heavenly avenue when I blogged about my first Memphis trip in 2011, and it really is the stuff that dreams are made of. I’ve never been to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but until I do, I can safely say that Beale Street is the greatest street I’ve ever set foot on.
While major cities will often condense their bars and restaurants into one area, Beale Street is so committed that they actually block off the street to prevent vehicle access. This layout essentially allows for you to leave each bar with drink in hand and stroll into another. Heck, the majority of bars have outdoor to-go stations where you can order a beer without ever stepping inside. All the while, cops regularly guard the street’s perimeter to ensure relative order.
In short, if you visit Memphis and don’t go bar hopping on Beale, then you’ve made the biggest mistake of your lifetime.
But outside of this street, there’s still much more to do. Want to learn about the history of our nation’s struggle for equality? Check out the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Want to eat barbecue? Head, well … anywhere. But I’d recommend Central BBQ just outside the museum.
Want to see the water? Take a boat ride down the Mississippi River, and perhaps even float into Arkansas. Or walk to Mud Island, a pleasant strip of land that holds a walk trail, park, restaurants and an amphitheater.
If the season allows it, check out a Memphis grizzlies game at the FedEx Forum.
And if you want to see a real-life grizzly (or a giraffe), go to the Memphis Zoo.
And of course, if you want to absorb yourself in the city’s musical history, then your choices are endless, starting with Graceland, the home of Elvis; the Gibson Guitar Factory; Sun Studio; and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
But the coup de grace of my trip to Memphis – in 2011 and in 2017 – was the Beale Street Music Festival, an annual three-day concert that had no shortage of well-known artists.
While I enjoyed listening to the likes of Jimmy Eat World, MGMT, Silversun pickups, Tori Kelly, X Ambassadors, Death Cab for Cutie, Sturgill Simpson and Memphis’s own Kings of Leon, the main event for me was hearing two vintage 90s rock ‘n’ roll bands back to back: Bush and Sound Garden.
Both were absolutely electric. But it was a special thrill to see Bush, which produced some of my favorite rock songs of my youth, and sounded just as great and brought just as much energy as ever.
And what made my last visit to Memphis extremely memorable was the fact that it coincided with the death of Osama Bin Laden.
This time, no terrorist ring leader was killed, but we did receive the news that Marine Le Pen handily lost the French presidential election.
I was the only one in Memphis who cared.