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One Day In Memphis Itinerary

How to spend one day in Memphis, Tennessee.

I guess I’m not alone in my love of ducks. When I arrive at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, I’m surrounded by hundreds of tourists (like myself).

I squeeze onto one of two narrow strips along a velvety red carpet. We’re all slightly squatting, cameras puckered out, getting ready for the ducks.

The elevator dings, cueing the start of my one day in Memphis.

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One Day In Memphis Travel Guide

old peanut shop in Memphis

About

Memphis, Tennessee has a lot of names: The Birthplace Of Rock N’ Roll, Home Of The Blues, Grind City (the last of which has caught on as much as Gretchen Weiners’ fetch).

All those titles make up Memphis in some way but none of them are truly Memphis. They fail to capture the city’s deeply gritty vibe, upbeat nightlife venues, and push for inclusivity.

Safety

Frequently featured on “top 10 most dangerous places in the USA” lists, Memphis has a reputation of being dangerous.

But it’s a huge city, spread out over 300 square miles, with a population of over half a million. There’s going to be good and bad bits. Don’t let that turn you off from visiting for a weekend!

And the tourist attractions are concentrated in a small area (so when I first visited, I didn’t pass through any of the “rougher” Memphis neighborhoods).

Getting Around

street in Memphis

Although you can catch a Lyft or Uber to the main tourist areas in Memphis (and walk from there), I opted for a rental car (so I could visit Germantown and Collierville, two cute small towns about an hour away from Memphis proper).

There’s also Explore Bike Share, a nonprofit organization targeted at pushing more affordable transportation into Memphis (all you have to do is download this app).

Where To Stay

Peabody Hotel atrium in Memphis

James Lee Hotel

The James Lee Hotel is an abandoned 19th-century mansion turned into a lush and luxuriously romantic bed and breakfast. Each of the rooms looks like a spread from an interior design magazine.

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The Peabody Memphis

The Peabody Memphis might be known for its ducks, but the wide atrium, French cuisine, and sweeping views of downtown make this one of the most popular places to stay in Memphis!

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Mary’s AirBee-n-Bee

This cozy little AirBnB is in the gentrifying Cooper-Young neighborhood. It’s a bit far from downtown so it’s not ideal for a first-time visit (but once you fall in love with Memphis, you’ll want to stay here).

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One Day In Memphis Itinerary

visiting Beale Street during my one day in Memphis

11 AM rings the true start of my one day in Memphis. But earlier this morning, I grabbed a flat white from Low Fi coffee (an unfussy neighborhood spot), strolled along Beale Street (since the crowds trickle in after lunch), and paid my respects to Elvis (you can see the Meditation Garden where Elvis and his family were buried for free between 7:30-8:30 AM).

Peabody Ducks

The Peabody Ducks are famous. They’ve been on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Oprah Winfrey Show (talk about goals), and Sesame Street.

Back in the 1930s, General Manager Frank Schutt drunkenly stumbled back into Memphis after a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas. He had one-too-many sips of whisky and (happily intoxicated) decided to leave his call ducks in the fountain (with no supervision).

When he woke up (hopefully more sober), he thundered towards the atrium.

Travel Tip: The duck march is popular. To get the best view, you’ll want to arrive at least 30 minutes in advance.

And (*gasp*), everything was just as in-place as the night before! The ducks hadn’t thrown a bird-brained tantrum. They quietly swam in the atrium all night and the guests were in love with their new feathered friends. Thus began the legend of the Peabody Ducks.

Now, the ducks march from their rooftop home (which resembles a mansion) at 11 AM and 5 PM every day. Locals, tourists, and children all wait for the ducks to waddle across their very own red carpet (led by a duckmaster). The music played is grand and steady.

And the ducks are just as adorable as you’d expect.

General Info

Address: 118 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38103

COST: FREE

Crosstown Concourse

Crosstown Concourse glittering lights

Crosstown Concourse is a mixed-use development space in Memphis. It’s a local-loved spot – a place to relax, grab a bite (or two or three), and check out the latest in-house artwork.

In Crosstown Concourse, you’ll find:

Lucy J. Bakery

A neighborhood bakery with a bigger mission: to provide on-the-job training to parents working to transition out of homelessness (the bakery pays all its employees a minimum of $15 per hour). At Lucy J., you’ll find everything from fresh-baked croissants to muffins to danishes.

French Truck Coffee

French Truck Coffee yellow interior in Memphis Crosstown Concourse

This popular yellow-splashed Louisiana-area chain has taken root in Memphis. Pick up a cafe au lait or iced coffee to-go. Or sit (in one of the spots nearby) and chow down on a burger and some fries.

Curb Market

A family-owned grocery shop and deli. It’s pricier than a typical Kroger but a great way to support local businesses (if you’re in Memphis for longer and want to whip up a healthy meal or two during your stay).

Global Cafe

Global Cafe is hands-down my favorite place to eat in Memphis.

When I first heard of Global Cafe, I immediately knew that I wanted to write a feature article on this restaurant (I’ll link the piece here). It’s a unique eatery run by three incredible refugee chefs who serve up authentic slices of their homelands in Memphis every day.

And the food is incredible. Really incredible. From Chef Ibti’s peanut soup to Chef Maria’s asado negro beef in black adobo sauce to Chef Fayha’s baklava.

General Info

Address: 1350 Concourse Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

Read More

Where To Eat In Memphis, Tennessee

National Civil Rights Museum

Iconic blue doors of the Lorraine Motel where MLK was assassinated

When I first step out towards the Lorraine Motel, I can feel the sadness weighting the exterior. This is the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

The sorrow is palpable but the location is too important to forgo.

The motel is now home to the National Civil Rights Museum, a museum that is heartfelt and striking and gutting. Memphis’ Civil Rights Museum doesn’t sugarcoat. And it triggers a range of emotions, making it a must while visiting the area.

General Info

Address: 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103

Cost: $16 Per Adult

Sun Studio

before taking the sun studio tour during my one day in Memphis, I spent a couple minutes trying to snap pictures of the exterior

After a bit of a wait (thirty minutes), our tour guide glides into the entryway and begins weaving the tale of Sun Studio.

This popular Memphis tourist attraction is not just about Rock and Roll (which I mistakenly assumed before visiting). It’s about Blues. It’s about a backlash against pop. It’s about creating music. It’s about inventing music.

As I walk through the building, the panels seem to thin and the stories stare me in the face. Each item has a new meaning. Elvis (surprisingly) doesn’t even enter the picture for the most part.

Instead, I learn about Sam Phillips. I learn of a group of prisoners who came to record in handcuffs and were released because their song was much-loved. I learn that the fast-talking Country accented radio jockey with a commanding voice, who played the new Sun Studio releases, had a raging passion for music more than I could ever imagine.

General Info

Address: 706 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103

Cost: $15 Per Adult

Novel.

Pssttt…I have a bookstore vlog YouTube channel (which is like weirdly niche and just for fun but if you love bookstores as much as I do, we should go book shopping together).

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with bookstores. So towards the end of my one day in Memphis, I head to Novel (stylized novel.), the highest-rated bookstore (that doubles up as a restaurant) in town.

Travel Tip: There are multiple clearance sections scattered throughout Novel so if you want a cheap read for under $5, there are plenty of titles to choose from.

Novel is incredibly aesthetic, but that’s not the only reason why I love it. There’s a huge emphasis on staff picks here (entire shelves curated by employees), which makes the whole experience all the more intimate.

So before I head to Collierville for the night, I grab a book (well, ultimately, three) to read during the car ride.

General Info

Address: 387 Perkins Extd, Memphis, TN 38117

Recommended One Day In Memphis Tours

Did you enjoy this one day in Memphis itinerary? What would you do during your one day in Memphis? Let me know in the comments below! I love hearing from you.

45 Comments

  • Avatar
    Patricia Conte
    August 27, 2016 at 7:12 AM

    I would love to visit there! How exciting!

    Reply
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    Travel Pockets
    August 27, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    Wow, so many legends were at this place! Added to my list of places to visit when I’m in Memphis! Had no idea this was there.

    Reply
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      Anshula
      August 28, 2016 at 5:41 PM

      It is definitely not as popular as Graceland! But there were so many names dropped that are still recognizable today! Hope y’all get to visit soon! xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Joseph Humphreys
    August 28, 2016 at 9:17 AM

    The Sun Studio is one of those places that has an almost legendary reputation. I can understand why you were a bit apprehensive about visiting here: I would’ve entered with high expectations too! I think what helped make it work is that it doesn’t just focus on the big names and brings the stories of others who have recorded there to light as well. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
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      Anshula
      August 28, 2016 at 5:47 PM

      Oh yes! With places that draw such huge amounts of tourists, I’m always a bit apprehensive. Some places are just pretty stops for pictures, but this was definitely not one of them! You are absolutely right though…focusing on the smaller not-so-famous stories was part of the reason this tour was an enjoyable experience! xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Maggie
    August 28, 2016 at 2:14 PM

    We went to Memphis but didn’t have time for this. Now I wish we can go back! Love the pics.

    Reply
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      Anshula
      August 28, 2016 at 5:35 PM

      Oh, there is so much to see and do in Memphis, it is completely understandable. It would take more than a week to cover everything! I hope you had fun during your trip! xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Dash the Map
    August 28, 2016 at 3:51 PM

    I’d love to visit Sun Studios. How long was the total tour time and cost?

    Reply
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      Anshula
      August 28, 2016 at 5:33 PM

      Yes! It is a fabulous place to visit! I believe I mentioned both the cost and tour time in the article 😉 But the cost is around twelve dollars (a little more with tax) and the tour is one hour. Hope that helps! xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kyleigh Glass
    August 29, 2016 at 1:54 AM

    Love Memphis! Hope your trip
    Was fabulous!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Vyjay Rao
    August 29, 2016 at 7:54 AM

    This is a trip full of nostalgia of Elvis. The place seems to have captured the aura of the music legend and enshrined it for all music lovers to experience.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      September 5, 2016 at 5:13 PM

      Yes it was! You captured my sentiments perfectly! xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    TheSoulofSeoul
    August 29, 2016 at 12:32 PM

    Glad it wasn’t a tourist trap in the end. I do love some blues and music tale weaving. But where’s your pic on the X with the mic? ^^

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      September 5, 2016 at 5:12 PM

      Yes! I’m such a huge fan of good storytelling! This is only a mildly embarrassing picture that I dug up 😉

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Travel Pockets
    August 30, 2016 at 12:21 PM

    Memphis is on my list of places to visit next year! At first $20 seemed like quite a bit, but glad to hear the tour was worth it 🙂

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      September 5, 2016 at 5:07 PM

      I was so worried at first because of how popular it is (and how touristy the first floor is)! But I’m so glad that it was worth it! xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Joanna
    August 30, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    I have never visited a music studio, just passed by the one where Beatles used to record their songs, in London. I bet it’s quite a feeling to stand in the same room as Elvis did and see the exact same objects he used. That typewriter is so vintage!

    Reply
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      Anshula
      September 5, 2016 at 5:06 PM

      Ooohhh! I’m such a huge fan of the Beatles, I think I would completely lapse into fangirl moments if I was in that music studio! xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Preschool2Teen
    September 4, 2016 at 1:42 AM

    I attended University of Memphis and did a lot of touring while there. I don’t recall Sun Studio. Must go on my list for a visit when we take the kids to see where we met.

    Reply
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    Clarissa
    October 5, 2016 at 9:22 PM

    Haha, I would LOVE to see this! Such celebrities these ducks have become!

    -Clarissa @ The View From Here

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:02 AM

      Celebrities is definitely the right word! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Sheri
    October 8, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    I would really enjoy taking a trip here and seeing this. I did not know about the history either so it was nice to read about that. The ducks are so cute.

    Reply
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      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:00 AM

      Thanks Sheri! The ducks are indeed super adorable! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Julie Maloney
    October 8, 2016 at 2:52 PM

    Ive never been (would love to go) and I’m sure if we went as a family the ducks would be my kids favorite part!

    Reply
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      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:01 AM

      I’m sure your kids would love the duck march! In fact, young children (twelve-ish and under) can sit on the red carpet with the ducks (which is super fun)! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Amber
    October 9, 2016 at 1:37 AM

    What a gorgeous hotel! I love those ducks. How cute.

    Reply
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      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:02 AM

      Yes, it is so pretty! And the ducks are so adorable! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Teresa Gilbert
    October 9, 2016 at 4:28 PM

    Wow what a lovely eye catching place! Would love to go there one day!

    Reply
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      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:03 AM

      The hotel decor is very grand and it looks incredibly luxurious for mid-range hotel! Hope you get a chance to visit! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Troy
    October 9, 2016 at 7:13 PM

    The Peabody is such a beautiful hotel. We have a Peabody here in Orlando and the duck March is absolutely the cutest!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:06 AM

      Ooohh! I never got a chance to see the one in Orlando (I thought they shut down the duck march there a few years ago) but I’m positive it was just as adorable as the one in Memphis! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Enjoy Freebies (missfrosty1)
    October 9, 2016 at 8:30 PM

    I have been to the Peabody Hotel once when I was in Memphis on business. Unfortunately we did not get to see the ducks due to the time we were there, but it sure is a beautiful and historic hotel!

    Reply
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      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:07 AM

      That’s great! It is a very pretty hotel with such a charming history! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Beth Shankle Anderson
    October 10, 2016 at 7:35 AM

    I love this post! I’ve been to the Peabody in Memphis and I’ve seen the ducks and it was an awesome experience! Thanks so much for sharing yours!

    Reply
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      Anshula
      October 12, 2016 at 5:56 PM

      I’m glad you had a great time! It really is such a fun experience! ☺️

      Reply
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    Editor-in-Style Good
    October 10, 2016 at 5:17 PM

    ooh! I have never been to Memphis but am so intrigued after reading about Peabody! I have written it down to look into further for when we go next year!

    Reply
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      Anshula
      October 12, 2016 at 5:52 PM

      I hope you have a great time! If you are visiting Memphis, be sure to check out Sun Studios as well. And for a small town escape Collierville is less than forty minutes away. ?

      Reply
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    Thirty30Courtney
    October 10, 2016 at 11:56 PM

    I knew I had heard about that hotel! Now I remember why, the ducks! lol I have never been to Memphis but if I get to go, I definitely want to indulge in my touristy experience.

    Reply
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      Anshula
      October 12, 2016 at 5:48 PM

      Yes, it’s definitely a guilty pleasure tourist delight! But sometimes (especially in this case) touristy activities can be such fun! ?

      Reply
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    CourtneyLynne Storms
    October 11, 2016 at 1:46 AM

    What a fabulous hotel! I’ve been to the Peabody in Orlando!

    Reply
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      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:08 AM

      Yes! Isn’t is quite charming? 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
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    Valerie CottageMakingMommy
    October 11, 2016 at 4:48 PM

    I’ve been to Memphis and haven’t heard of the hotel but would love to go.

    Reply
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      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:10 AM

      That’s awesome! There is so much to do in Memphis, I never feel like I’m finished visiting! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    cewtypye
    October 11, 2016 at 10:27 PM

    I love the fountain! I could really see my family enjoying a stay here!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      November 24, 2016 at 1:11 AM

      Yes, the fountain is so pretty (and the ducks adore it as well)! 🙂 xx – Anshula

      Reply

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