We got in around dinner time and made our way to Beale St. It's a cultural hub of great music, BBQ and street performers. We had dinner at BB King's Blue's Club where we gorged ourselves on everything BBQ while being serenaded by Memphis Jones. Following dinner, we walked the strip and watched as the kids were chosen by a group of street performers to be a part of their act. Their evening was made!
Bright and early Saturday morning, we headed to the Memphis Pyramid, aka Bass Pro Shops. In spite of living in the south for more than a decade, this was our first foray into Bass Pro and we were so pleased we did. We explored the never-ending outdoorsy store which its alligator swamp, two-story aquariums, duck aviary and shooting range. But hands down, our favorite feature was taking America's tallest free-standing elevator 28 stories high to have lunch at The Lookout. With a 40 minute wait, we had more than enough time to take in the breathtaking view of Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. When we finally sat down to eat, we enjoyed a smorgasbord of BBQ everything.
Many hours later, we headed back to Beale Street for our Memphis Discovery Tour. Their website lists all the details, so I will only highlight our favorites.
The Lorraine Motel at the National Civil Rights Museum
You can read about it in the history books, you can watch programs about it on tv, but nothing can truly prepare you for being in the presence. On the spot where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was viciously shot and killed by James Early Ray hangs a large, red wreath. It's quite jarring against the pale exterior. The 60's façade has been preserved right down to the two antique cars parked in front. A granite line in the sidewalk marks the bullet's trajectory from the boarding house across the street to room 306. Quite suitably, there was a somber mood all around, even from the children. I don't think this is something I'll ever forget. (Later that evening, the DH, my Mom and I had an inspiring talk with the kiddoes reminding them that many great people fought and died for the rights they freely enjoy today, including the ability for their parents to be legally married! and to never take those rights for granted.)
We had a mere half hour at this Museum, 10 minutes of which belonged to a movie at the start of the tour. It was about the history of rock and roll in Memphis and how it brought the races together long before desegregation. Hands down, this was the best music documentary I have ever seen. Even the kids were intrigued. Told almost in story form and highlighted with all the musical greats of the 60's, it was totally worth it and lay an incredible groundwork for the artifacts on display. It's a very small museum but it has a large story to tell and it does so impeccably.
Let me start by saying this was not one of my favorite spots, but is included simply because of the build-up to it. The march was a 5 and our tour guide insisted we arrive at The Peabody no later than 4:30 in order to get a decent viewing spot. I was a little skeptical thinking she was grossly overestimating the number of people who would show up to see the marching ducks. Boy, was I wrong.
We arrived promptly at 4:30, where we met no less than 500 people already waiting. Kids are able to sit on the red carpet which is probably the only place to get a decent view. The DH had seen this before in Orlando so hung back on the ground level in case one of the kids needed him. Mom and I went up to the second level where we literally squeezed in between several families to crane our necks to see. What we did have a bird's eye view of were annoyed guests of The Peabody in their Sunday best trying to maneuver around the sweaty crowds. It was almost comical.
At about 4:55 the trainer, in tails no less, gave a brief history of how the ducks came to stay at the hotel. Essentially a drunk bet (are there any others) was made as to whether or not the ducks would stay in the fountain in the lobby area. They did and the owners decided to keep them as residents of the hotel. When not frolicking in the fountain, they march to the elevator where they are led to their penthouse suite twice a day. Since then, a crowd has gathered to see this legendary march.
From our vantage point, Mom and I saw about 10 seconds of the march. Maybe not even that much. However the kids got to see the march in its entirely and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I guess that made it worth the trip. The adults in our party however were largely unimpressed.
After our tour, we headed back to Bass Pro Shop where we burned through another few hours and lots of quarters in the arcade. The DH had the high score and was quite pleased with himself.
After a quick dinner, we retired to the hotel where the kids swam for an hour and then passed out as soon as their little heads hit the pillow.
Viva la Graceland and everything Elvis! We did the full experience and got to enjoy:
- Graceland Mansion
- Graceland Archives
- Elvis Presley Automobile Museum
- Elvis' Custom Jets
- I Shot Elvis
- Elvis Hawaii
- Elvis Tupelo
After the mansion tour, we had lunch in the diner which gave us a chance to unwind. The other exhibits were self-led and were not nearly as crowded. Elvis' wealth and success was hard to miss throughout. I couldn't help but think how he had everything and yet he had nothing.
After a full day at Graceland, we headed over to Southaven, Mississippi for some retail therapy followed by dinner at the Memphis Barbeque Company. The BBQ at BB King's was awesome, but I think this was better. With full bellies and sleepy children, we headed back to the hotel to pack and rest for the long drive ahead.
We left the hotel about 9am and spent an hour driving through a few sleepy, well manicured Memphis neighborhoods. I love getting landscaping ideas this way. Some eight hours later (after several extended breaks, including one at a state park in Birmingham to just let the kids run) we made our way home.
I'm so thankful Stinky and Blinky get to spend a large part of their summers travelling with their grandmas making memories to last a lifetime.