As local travel restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic begin to slowly ease, many of us are itching to get out and about and enjoy some much needed road trip therapy. For this reason, we have taken the road trip idea international for when the time is right to travel overseas again and compiled a list of places to visit both in and around Memphis, ensuring you see the world from the safety of your own bubble.
Visit Tupelo MS, the birthplace of the King of Rock n Roll, Elvis Presley– approximately a 1 hour and 40 minute drive from the city of Memphis is Tupelo, which is most famously known as the place where Elvis Presley was born and grew up before moving on to live in Memphis. The exact site where Elvis was born has since been converted into a historic museum aptly titled the Elvis Presley Birthplace, and is open for visitors to explore. Whilst in town, visit the Parkway Visitors Centre and learn about the Natchez Trace Parkway, or stop by the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo. Johnnie’s Drive In is the perfect place to stop for lunch, with the authentic Americana style diner conveniently located just around the corner from the Elvis Presley Birthplace. One of 12 significant sites in Elvis’ formative years in Tupelo marked with bronze plaques on the Elvis Presley Driving Trail, Elvis and his friends enjoyed dining at Johnnie’s Drive-In. You can still enjoy the food Elvis liked to eat and even sit in the Elvis booth, which sports a photo of Elvis sitting in the same booth.
For the music buff, take a short drive out to Clarksdale, MS – recognised for its Delta blues roots, the North Mississippi town of Clarksdale is located a short 90-minute drive from Memphis. Whilst in town, be sure to stop by one of the state’s oldest music museums and famous landmark, the Delta Blues Museum. If you decide you want to stay late, stop in and visit Red’s Lounge, one of Clarksdale best juke joints, which is illuminated by neon red lighting and the perfect place to experience the soulful sounds of blues music. Ground Zero Blues Club is also a must-visit and is owned by famous actor (and Memphis born) Morgan Freeman.
If you are looking for a small town with big vibes, visit Cleveland, MS– roughly a 2-hour drive from Memphis, is the small and hip town of Cleveland, which is well worth the visit. Offering plenty to do and see, the town actually houses the only Grammy Museum outside of Los Angeles – which makes sense, as more Grammy winners have come from Mississippi than anywhere else. Whilst here, experience railroad history at the Martin & Sue King Railroad Museum, as well as Dockery Farms, an old cotton plantation widely regarded as the place where Delta blues music was born. Cleveland also has a great shopping scene with plenty of boutiques, antique stores and speciality shops to choose from. If you work up an appetite after all of that shopping, Catfish Cabin is one to try if you are looking for good southern food, with the restaurant being locally owned and operated.
Adults are sure to have fun in the city of Tunica, MS – well known for the number of casinos it occupies, Tunica is a short 45-minute drive outside of Memphis and is located by the banks of the iconic Mississippi River. With over six casinos to choose from, Tunica also offers plenty more to do and see beyond gambling. Enjoy a hike along the towns Eco Trail whilst taking in the culture and history along the way, or visit the Tunica River Park & Museum and experience interactive attractions and seasonal exhibits whilst learning about the history of the Mississippi Delta and iconic Mississippi River.
If Blues music is your forte, enjoy a day trip to Indianola, MS – this small city is located a 2 hour, 30 minute drive from Memphis. Indianola is renowned for its music roots and the famous musicians who called the city home, including American singer-songwriter B.B. King, where a memorial now lays in honour of his life. It also houses the B.B King Museum and Delta Interpretive Centre, which is a must for visitors wanting to explore Kings’ life and career, as well as hear stories of the Delta – its history, music and social mores.
The Pinch District is a must for those looking to explore Memphis’ very first neighbourhood – the Pinch District is a neighbourhood situated in Downtown Memphis and right next to the iconic Pyramid. Start off your day with a cup of coffee at one of the neighbourhoods’ newest editions, Comeback Coffee, a funky cafe run by local Memphians. Another one for the Memphis bucket list is the colourful soul café named Alcenia’s, which is located within the district. Here, you would usually be greeted with a hug from owner B.J (pre Covid-19 that is), and have the chance to try her mama’s best homemade dishes and desserts all available on the menu. Be sure to also explore the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, home to a bowling alley, a shooting and archery range, indoor swamp, and an abundance of options across the 32-story building. For those who love shopping, head to Southhaven MS, which is a 25-minute drive from Downtown Memphis and check out the Tanger Outlets.
For the nature lover, the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is certainly worth exploring – if you are looking for the perfect way to get out of the city and explore the great outdoors without venturing too far, the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, makes for the perfect day trip. Here, you’ll find 12,539 hectares, nestled along the Mississippi River where you can enjoy hiking, boat rides or canoe down the cypress swamp. After getting outside and working up an appetite, and being in the presence of wind energy, be sure to stop in at the quant Shelby Forest General Store nearby and enjoy one of their delicious burgers. What makes it even better, is that it is only a short 25-minute drive from Memphis.
Once you’ve seen and done everything that Memphis has to offer (which, let’s be honest, would take months!), why not continue on the great open roads of the South and travel interstate to experience the smaller state highways and amazing sites along the way. Spend time heading to New Orleans, Louisiana, which is just under a 6-hour drive from Memphis. Located here is the French Quarter, which is known for its colourful buildings, and being home to the famous Bourbon Street, where visitors can enjoy jazz clubs, restaurants and bars. The historic Jackson Square can also be found in the French Quarter, with the National Historic Landmark not to be missed.
Explore Memphis and plan your trip: www.memphistravel.com
Imagery sourced from Memphis Travel website and Memphis Travel Instagram page.