- North America,
- United States
The Westin Memphis Beale Street will offer a retreat from the rigors of business travel. Located just behind the world-famous Beale Street, home of the blues, you’ll be minutes away from the excitement of the city. Designed to enhance your relaxation, all 203 beautifully appointed rooms and suites feature our signature Heavenly Bed®, complete with a pillow top mattress and 250-thread count sheets. Enjoy all that the city has to offer and find total renewal at The Westin Memphis Beale Street.
The Westin Memphis Beale Street
See + Do
Beale Street, Tennessee
New Orleans has Bourbon Street; Memphis has club- and bar-lined Beale—"The Home of the Blues." Cornetist and Beale Street resident W.C. Handy published the first Blues song, "Memphis Blues," here in 1912; his house is now the W.C. Handy Home and Museum (352 Beale St.; 901-527-3427; closed Sun and Mon).
Elvis, in his adolescence, revolved through the clubs here, infusing himself with the ingredients he would later use to shape rock 'n' roll at Sun Studio, just a few blocks away. When shopping on Beale, the King patronized an establishment that has become the oldest continually operating shop in Memphis: A. Schwab Dry Goods Store. Opened in 1876, it serves customers with the motto "If you can't find it at A. Schwab's, you're better off without it"—the wares range from penny candy to overalls to souvenirs (163 Beale St.; 901-523-9782; closed Sun).
To experience the bluesy heart of Memphis nightlife, head for Beale on a Saturday night. For about $12, you can grab a wristband in lieu of paying individual cover charges and amble to and from participating clubs (Fridays and Saturdays only). Live music hot spots on Beale include B.B. King's, where the "Queen of Beale Street," Ruby Wilson, reigns many a weekend (143 Beale St.; 901-524-5464; memphis.bbkingclubs.com); Rum Boogie Café, which has the best house band in town, led by soulful James Govan (143 Beale St.; 901-528-0150; www.rumboogie.com); and the New Daisy Theater, a former movie house that now hosts national acts (330 Beale St.; 901-525-8979; www.newdaisy.com). In late spring, the Beale Street Music Festival showcases dozens of renowned musicians, blues and otherwise, at Tom Lee Park, where Beale terminates at the Great Mississip'.
See + Do
Tel: 901 332 3322
While a few cynics dismiss rock 'n' roll's Xanadu as a tourist trap, Graceland (designated a national historic landmark in 2006) remains the predominant reason to visit the region for anyone with an interest in Elvis or Memphis's musical heritage. In the spring of 1957, at the age of 22, the King spent $100,000 on this house, part of a 500-acre farm named Graceland. He lived here until his untimely death in 1977 and is buried, along with his closest relatives, by the swimming pool out back. His widow, Priscilla Presley, opened Graceland to tours in 1982, and now millions come to celebrate the majesty of the King. Elvis commissioned a redecoration in 1974, and much of that look remains intact. With a 15-foot couch, avocado- and gold-colored kitchen appliances, a fake waterfall, and the green shag-carpet ceiling of the "jungle room," the home exudes fun, loud 1970s style. Tours of the mansion start at the visitors' plaza across the street, where tickets are sold and souvenir shops and cafés serve the masses. On busier days the staff will assign your tour time, or you can book ahead. The recording that accompanies the one-and-a-half-hour mansion tour includes a narration by Priscilla and sound bites from Elvis himself. If that doesn't entirely satisfy your curiosity, dig deeper into the mystique by viewing additional memorabilia in the "Sincerely Elvis" collection, such as 56 of the King's stage costumes, or touring his too-cool car museum and private, decked-out jet, the Lisa Marie. For a one-of-a-kind experience, join the thousands of visitors to whom Graceland plays host during mid-August's annual Elvis Week (a.k.a. Death Week), which culminates in a candlelight vigil; or check out Paul McLeod's estimable collection of memorabilia at Graceland Too.
Closed Tuesdays from December to February.
Memphis, Tennessee 38103
Tel: 901 523 2746
If you only have time to hit up one Memphis barbecue pit, Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous should be it. You'll find it in the basement of a nondescript building in an alley across from the landmark Peabody Hotel. Red and white checked tablecloths, local memorabilia, and news clippings dating from the '40s serve as décor in this cavernous 750-seat space. The waitstaff is strong-willed—don't dare ask 45-year-veteran server Robert Stewart, Sr., to change your order—and the pork ribs are quintessentially Memphian. There are two barbecue rib camps in town: "wet" (the gooey sort cooked in sauce) and "dry" (marinated in a vinegar-based solution, then cooked with spices). Vergos' technically fall in the later category, but Rendezvous management feels the term "dry ribs" unfairly maligns the chef's well-marinated, lovingly seasoned masterpieces. Other menu items include a simple sausage and cheese plate and a pork shoulder dinner, served with a side of beans and slaw. But hordes of locals and tourists swear by the tender, moderately spicy ribs.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
See + Do
South Main Arts District, Tennessee
Between Beale Street and G.E. Patterson Avenue, long-abandoned storefronts are steadily being repopulated with boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Art Village Gallery showcases Nigeria-born—now Memphis local—Ephraim Urevbu's colorful Cubist depictions of African-American culture (410 S. Main St.; 901-521-0782; www.artvillagegallery.com; closed Sun and Mon). Zanzibar café is next door—go on the weekend for live jazz (412 S. Main St.; 901-543-9646; www.zanzibarmemphis.com). Flower and gift shop Gestures stocks silver trays, Memphis Mary Bloody Mary mix, and the inevitable Elvis paraphernalia (509 S. Main St.; 800-370-3023 or 901-525-4438; www.gesturesgifts.com; closed Sun), while you can pick up Emily Ray's freshwater pearl-, semiprecious stone–, and Swarovski crystal–studded jewelry and denim by Odyn and Delta Blues Jeans Co. at Mode du Jour (509 S. Main St.; 901-527-7970; www.modesomain.com). The area's culinary star is Spindini. Its industrial-chic decor—exposed pipes and bricks, chocolate-brown walls, and a prominent bar with blown-glass sculptures—doesn't exactly mesh with Judd Grisanti's homey Italian fare, but it's always packed, and the food (thin-crust pizzas cooked in the wood-burning oven, and Tuscan butter, Mascarpone, and goat cheese fondue) is divine (383 S. Main St.; 901-578-2767; www.spindinimemphis.com).
See + Do
The Bluff City has a number of lovely parks and outdoor spaces that are an ideal place to work off all that barbecue you've been wolfing down. Tom Lee Park, which runs along the bluffs of the Mississippi River, is a good place for a twilight stroll. Overton Park is home to the Memphis Zoo, where a $23-million Northwest Passage exhibit opened in 2006 and gives visitors an underwater view of sea lions and swimming polar bears (2000 Prentiss Pl.; 901-276-9453; www.memphiszoo.org). The 96-acre Memphis Botanic Garden (750 Cherry Rd.; 901-576-4100; www.memphisbotanicgarden.com) is located across the street from Audubon Park and hosts a hip Live at the Garden summer concert series (901-576-4107; www.liveatthegarden.com). And Shelby Farms, one of the largest urban parks in the country at 3,200 acres, is a good place for canoeing and fishing, though you must bring your own equipment (500 Pine Lake Dr.; 901-382-0235; www.shelbyfarmspark.org).
See + Do
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, Tennessee
Tel: 901 205 2533
One half-block south of the intersection of Beale Street and Third, you'll find this interactive museum on the plaza outside the NBA Grizzlies' home, the FedExForum. The Smithsonian Institute chose this location to host its first-ever permanent exhibit outside Washington, D.C.: "Rock 'n' Soul: Social Crossroads." The exhibit details how the uniquely earthy sounds of Memphis's alleys, juke joints, choir lofts, and fields coalesced to become American popular music at the hallowed grounds of Beale Street, Sun Studio, and Soulsville, USA. A great place for music-loving tourists to start, the museum's seven galleries tie together Memphis's celebrated music forms—the blues, rock 'n' roll, and soul—through 100 music clips that you can choose from five vintage jukeboxes, as well as cool artifacts like the Reverend Al Green's bible and robe, B.B. King's beloved guitar named "Lucille," and the control board that producer Sam Phillips used to record the first Elvis hit, "That's Alright Mama." In addition to the Smithsonian exhibit, the museum devotes one gallery to new exhibits, which often highlight how Memphis music has influenced modern artists.
Erling Jensen, the Restaurant, Tennessee
Tel: 901 763 3700
Presided over by Danish chef Erling Jensen, this East Memphis restaurant works hard to impress its clientele with a French-inspired, seafood-heavy menu. The kitchen uses seasonal ingredients in artistic combinations, and you'll pay for the guarantee of quality. Filled with savory dishes such as lobster pancakes and rack of lamb with pecan, mustard, garlic, and molasses crust, the menu alone will start your mouth watering.
See + Do
Memphis in May, Tennessee
Tel: 901 525 4611
Every May, the Memphis in May committee selects a foreign country and fetes it with a month of barbecue, beer, and blues. Past honorees include Morocco and South Africa. Most people think Memphis in May is synonymous with barbecue, but it's actually a celebration in three acts that attracts about 250,000 attendees each year. Blues, gospel, pop, and classic rock luminaries perform live for the Beale Street Music Festival. Teams such as the Natural Born Grillers and the Notorious P.I.G. compete to smoke the tastiest pork ribs, shoulder, or whole hog in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (a.k.a. the Super Bowl of Swine). For $3, audience members can participate in the "People's Choice" awards, though not all of the competitors enter this segment of the competition. And as the closer, maestro David Loebel leads his Memphis Symphony Orchestra in renditions of the 1812 Overture—and maybe even "Ol' Man River"—at the often-humid, always entertaining Regions Sunset Symphony on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi.
Tel: 901 276 8015
Visions of fried green tomatoes and rightly seasoned turnip greens dancing in your head? You'd better make your way to this Deep South soul-food institution. The veggies alone (22 varieties daily) are cause enough to visit, with the eggplant casserole and the sublime mac 'n' cheese seeming straight from the pages of How to Make the Richest Side Dish at Your Church Potluck. Proprietor Charles Cavallo's meats and desserts also fit the bill nicely, notably the country fried chicken and gooey pecan pie.
Wild Bill's, Tennessee
Tel: 901 726 5473
Locals adore 87-year-old Wild Bill's eponymous social club, not least because rhythm and blues group Memphis Soul Survivors performs here Friday through Sunday. This no-nonsense hole-in-the wall with low ceilings and plastic tablecloths is located in a north Memphis strip mall, unceremoniously flanked by a barbershop and a convenience store. The Southern-style bar menu includes black-eyed peas and fried chicken wings, and beer is served by the quart—especially key in summer, seeing how there's no AC. Things generally get started at 10:30 p.m.