This first of 3 journals, I tell you all about the places we visited that make Memphis a favorite spot for travelers.
by vampirefan on June 3, 2010
There is nothing that says classic Memphis like enjoying this amazing city while being chauffeured around in style…by horse drawn carriage. Day and night you will find these carriages lined up in the Beal St. area. After seeing the most awesome Broadway show..ever, Wicked at the grand and glorious Orpheum Theater, Aunt Ellen and I stopped by our room at the Peabody, changed clothes, and made our way to Beal St. While out during the day, I mentioned to Aunt Ellen that I really wanted to ride one of the carriages. I love carriage rides and have taken rides all across the country and even in the Bahamas. She said they lined up in the evening on Beal and she was up to a carriage ride when we got through seeing the show. Now donning comfy clothes instead of an evening gown and flip flops (no you might be a redneck jokes..I had my heels in my bag) we headed for Beal St. After walking around for a bit and just seeing what the fuss was about, we decided to rest our tootsies and climb on a carriage and let someone show us around. There are several types of carriages here. Most are the classic open carriage like you see the Royal Family clopping around in. There are also some that light up and look like Cinderella’s coach. I loved it, but I thought that looked a little to romantic and would have taken it with John, but not my aunt. Thought when I watched Adam on Man VS Food episode in Memphis, we was tooling around in one. Another thing I think must be a law…all carriages are required to have a dog..or two. Everyone we saw had one with them. I picked the one that had 2. We hopped up on the carriage and 1 dog stayed up front with the 2 drivers while one joined us in the back. So I got to see Memphis in style and pet a puppy the whole way…life is good at the moment! We spend about an hour touring downtown. We hear the history of the down and our guide (we have a driver and a guide) points out major landmarks. We make our way down to the park and well defined pathway near the Mississippi River. We make our way up through the park and into another park. We stop on occasion and take pictures. We are both enjoying talking with our guide and since Aunt Ellen used to live here, she and the guide talk about living here. I just snap away. When I see the Sleep Inn, I do pop in and interrupt and ask her if she recommends the place since budget is always a concern for many of my clients I book. Not everyone can afford the Peabody (or get my travel agent discount) so I am always on the lookout for nice but budget friendly options. She confirms indeed that it is nice. We make our way past the AutoZone Park, which is current home of the Memphis minor league team the Redbirds. We pass by the Orpheum where we just saw Wicked and head back to the waiting line of carriages. Carriages just line up on Beal Street and can be found during the day and evening hours. Average cost is about $50 per hour. If you would like to make reservations or for a customized ride try any of the following websites below: www.bealstreet.comwww.memphiscarriagerides.comwww.wegoplaces.comwww.horse2go.com So is that a recommended? Sure is! What A way to see this amazing a wonderful city. Just saddle on up to Beal St. and enjoy the city like you haven’t seen it before.
Whether you’re a fan of the blues, bar fly, or destination diva..when your in Memphis you have to come downtown and spend time on one of the most famous streets in the world..Beal Street. Beal Street was started in 1841 by developer, Robertson Topp, who named the fame street after a war hero. Though at the time it was Beal Ave. Beal St. actually starts down at the Mississippi River, so at the time the street was filled with merchant shops and was a vital link it the cities economy. In the 1860’s because of segregation, African-American performers were not allowed to perform in the affluent areas of Memphis. So they began performing on Beal St. In 1867, Sam Thomas, formed the Young Men’s Brass Band, which would be the first African American group to called this famed street home. In the 1870’s a yellow fever epidemic ravished the town and forced many business along the street to close. A young man by the name of Robert Church began buying up land in the area. It would eventually make him the first African American millionaire in the south. In 1880 the grand and opulent Grand Opera House was built as the area underwent revitalization. Today the opera house is the Orpheum Theater. In 1899 Robert had the city to build Church Park on the corner of Beal and 4th. It would serve as a multi-culture center mainly for musicians to get together and play. It housed the 2000 person Church Auditorium. Some of the buildings most famous speakers were Woodrow Wilson, Booker T Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (or as I call him, husband of Eleanor). The beginnings of Beal Street as it is seen today by millions of visitors from around the world would start to take shape by the early 1900’s. Restaurants, stores, and night clubs began to spring up and many of them were owned by African Americans. In 1905 Mayor Thornton needed a music teacher for his Knights of Pythias Band. He hired a well regarded trumpet player named WC Handy. In 1909 Handy wrote the song Mr. Crump for politician, E.H. Crump’s campaign. That song would later be renamed Memphis Blues and later he would pen Beal Street Blues . In 1916, due to the song, Beal Avenue would become Beal Street. From the 1920’s to the 40’s legendary musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Memphis Minnie, and BB King played at the clubs here and helped established the musical style known as the Memphis Blues. Even today almost 100 years later, the blues remain a popular genera. Due to the urban flight that took place in the 1950’s and 60’s, Beal Street became a shadow of its former self. Business moved out and the street became a haven for crime. But remember I told you when the Peabody reopened in 1981 that it began a revitalization of the downtown area? Well along with the Peabody, Beal Street would once again rise up, knock the dust off, and became the center of the downtown areas nightlife and one of the most visited areas of the city. Today millions of people from all over the world come to immerse themselves with the Memphis sound or bar hop. In 1966 the area from 4th to Main would be designated a National Landmark. And yes it literally took an act of congress, but in 1977 Beal Street was declared the home of the blues by congress. In May performers representing all musical genres converge on Tom Lee Park on Beal overlooking the might Mississippi for the Beal Street Music Festival. Fans from around the world come to the event so advanced hotel reservations are highly suggested. It kick starts the renowned Memphis in May BBQ Festival. Beal Street actually cover 1.8 miles starting down by the river. What is considered "classic" Beal Street starts at about 4th Street in the area of the Orpheum Theater. The streets today are once again lined with famous blues clubs, restaurants, and stores. There are over 25 bars and restaurants down this infamous stretch of pavement. The Hard Rock Café, Wet Willies, Rum Boogie Café, Blues City Café, Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall, and legendary BB Kings are just a few of the places that call this place home. You can shop here for everything Beal Street T’s, art, and one of kind goodies. Near the Hard Rock, musicians can tour the Gibson Guitar Factory (which I figured my husband the guitar player would want to see). Every TV food personality that has been here always stops in on Beal Street. This summer Memphis and Beal Street will once again be in the spotlight with new TNT Series Memphis Beat which stars actor Jason Lee (of My Name is Earl fame). While the show will be shot primarily in New Orleans (subbing for Memphis..why I don’t know) some shooting will be done in Memphis. And Lee’s character plays a cop who is also a musician and often performs in Beal Street clubs. This tourist attraction draws guests anytime of the day, but once the night heats up so does Beal Street. The main area is blocked off to traffic. The streets fill with visitors to the amazing city and the neon from the bar signs light up the Memphis sky. Street performers come out including the well know Memphis Flippers. You can get your fortune told here, get your face painted, or take home a caricature drawing of you to remind you of your time spend on Beal Street. One of the best ways to see Memphis is by carriage ride. Carriages line up on Beal and costs about $50 for an hour ride. Just watch how you act here as the area is well patrolled with some of Memphis finest watching over the throngs of visitors. Bars often stay open until 5 am.After my aunt and I returned from the Orpheum, we quickly stooped in our room, changed clothes, and hit Beal Street. I don’t drink and the blues are no where to be found on any of my MP3 players. Yet, just like Graceland I had to go see what the fuss is all about. How much time you will spend here depends on you enthusiasm level. I just loved the atmosphere on Beal Street. And I certianly enjoyed taking pictures. I had to get a picture of the famous Beal Street neon signs that are as much a part of this area as the neon Las Vegas sign. The first night we would take a carriage ride around this lovely lady and just enjoyed hanging out on Beal Street. We would come back the next night as our Ghost Tour started from here. Afterwards we ate at the Hard Rock café. Website: www.bealstreet.com . Would you recommend it? . You bet ya! I think when making that act of congress, they also made Graceland and Beal Street required for first time visitors. No matter if it is your first trip to the city or 100th, you will find the lure of Beal Street tempting. So don’t fight it, just go with it, and let the party animal in you out to enjoy some of the best music, food, and atmosphere in the world!
I think somewhere in the Memphis law books it is written that first time visitor’s must stop in at Graceland. Just think about it. How many people do you know that have been here and haven’t been to Graceland?Graceland is of course the home of Elvis Presley. The home was built in 1939 in the Classic Revival style. The home was originally owned by SC Toof who owned the SC Toof & company, a local commercial printing company. Elvis purchased the home in 1957. He moved the home to its current location for privacy and security. Elvis lived there with his parents, Grace and Vernon. His mother dies the following year and his father remarries and his new step mother moved in. Pricilla stayed here 5 years before they were married. One of the first things that strike you about Graceland is the size. Not in the same way as when you see the massive size of a home like the Biltmore Estate. You’re struck by the fact that it isn’t massive by today’s standards. Go into any snooty McMansion neighborhood, and you will find homes twice the size of Graceland. But for the time it was built, it was grand. The home sits on 13.8 acres. The home has 23 rooms and after Elvis’ expansions the home is now over 17,000 square feet. In 1991 the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006 it was declared a National Landmark. While people tend to think the home has been open to the public since his death, it was only opened in 1982. Pricilla Presley was head of the company and she opened the home so that fans could experience the home. No mater what you may think of her, under her guidance the home has been a major boon to the Memphis economy and it allows his fans to get close to their idol. Other than on special occasions, there are not any guided tours of the mansion. It is go at your own pace. You can listen to the recorded tour or just read the information at each exhibit. I started out with the audio tour, but by the end I just read the info. And moved on to the next display. Just remember when you’re here, you will not be the only person at the estate. Just listen to the tape or read the plaque and move on to the display. There was one very annoying family during our visit that had to stop in front of every display and take their picture mugging. Every….freakin’…display! Please don’t be that family. Chances are it will be crowded and other people will want to look! Also keep in mind when Elvis lived here. The first room we walked into was the living room. This room was my favorite. It is furnished with a white couch set, piano, and 2 beautiful stain glassed panes with peacocks on them. Then there was the dining room which is tastefully decorated. Things get a bit different after this. The kitchen looks like any other normal kitchen, until you think about the fact the microwave ovens and dishwashers weren’t common place in the 50’s. You eyes will get a big shock from the bright yellow of the media room. You have to wonder why all the TV’s. After all we only have two eyes! The jungle room was atrocious. The pool room was to busy and about gives you a headache. There are plenty of displays featuring movie memorabilia, everyday items, and his stage costumes. I couldn’t get over how tiny he was when he was young. I mean I knew young Elvis was skinny, but he was tiny! There are also items from his family members and the wedding clothes from his marriage to Pricilla. Then there is what I call the bling, bling room. This room reminds visitors just what made Elvis is legend. The walls are wall to wall awards. Gold records, recording industry awards, etc line the walls from wall to ceiling. You can see his guitars. Then there are some of his most famous (and heavy on the sequins) costumes. The Eagle Suite and the Tiger suite are just a few of the blingy costumes that gave Liberace a run for his money. After you tour the mansion you go to an outbuilding which Elvis used for his office. There is also a large collection of gifts Elvis received from his fans on display. Next to it is where Elvis used to target practice. Then guests walk back outside and head towards the pool and gardens. You can see the pastures where Elvis’ horses often graze. On our visit, none were to be found. Then you reach the gardens and pool area. The perfectly manicures gardens are simply gorgeous compared to the often gaudy displays inside the house. The main focus of this area is of course the memorial gardens. This is the final resting place of Elvis and his parents, grandmother, as well and a small marker for his brother. This is where fans still line up to say their good byes to the king of rock & roll. Fans still spend a few minutes, some crying, but all being respectful. There are no shouts, screams, or kids running amuck. In addition to the mansion there is a whole Elvis experience. There is the ’68 Special Exhibit, the Lisa Marie and Hound Dog 2 planes, Elvis Lives, Sincerely Elvis, and the Automobile Museum. For the Ultimate Elvis fan, you can check into the Heartbreak Hotel and Campground and there is a strip mall with even more ways to bring Elvis into your home at the Graceland Crossing. There are several restaurants on the premises, lockers, ATM's, restrooms, and one HUGEEEEE Man gift shop with everything that you can think of with Elvis on it. Guests can plan to spend several hours here to pretty much the whole day. Currently visitors to the home have a choice of 3 tickets from your basic to the whole hog. You wallet and Elvis fandom dedicates which ticket you will make you happy. I just wanted to see the mansion so we just purchased the basic ticket. But a group of sisters who I sent to Memphis and Nashville about the same time as my trip are huge fans and got the ultimate ticket and pretty much spent the day here. Even just getting the basic ticket, you will need to allow several hours. We checked in, picked up our ticket, and then went and got in line for the shuttle since they were already taking our group. We were still in line 45 minutes. The mansion is across from the complex where you check in and you can not just walk over. You have to take the shuttle over and wait for the shuttle to return. While in line you can get a cool souvenir picture for your scrapbook. After touring, we were hot from the Memphis sun, so we stopped in at the Chrome Grill and grabbed a snack and something to drink. Then we went and I did some souvenir shopping. You can go on line and order your tickets in advanced. There are a number of different packages and many require advanced purchases. During Elvis week (Aug) they offer a number of special packages. Just go on line for current rates, packages, information, or to order your tickets. Website www.elvis.com*Please note…unless you are staying at the Heart Break hotel, if you need accommodations, then look else where. This area is no longer the best part of town and not the safest in the evening when tourists have disappeared. You are closer to the airport here than downtown. Look at hotels in the airport area first and then downtown. But stay away from hotels in this area. So do your recommend it? Of course. It is one of those things you just have to experience. Ok, so maybe you’re not the biggest fan on the planet. But you just have to come see this place for your self. Despite the sometime gaudy, the home is still beautiful.
When my aunt and I were making our plans, she said that we could stay with her friend Beth. Sounded like a good plan. We decided however though, that since our first night didn’t give us much time between our arrival and the 8pm showing of Wicked. We decided to stay in downtown for the first night. Aunt Ellen said she had always wanted to stay at the Peabody and asked if I could get a pretty good rate. One call later, and I would be keeping up my high flalutin’ lifestyle of a low flatutin' budget. The original Peabody was built in 1869 by Robert Campbell Brinkley. It was named after George Peabody who died shortly before the hotel opened. The original was located at Main and Monroe and it closed in 1923. In 1925 it moved to its current location on Union Ave. where the former Fransioli Hotel was located. In the 1970’s the hotel closed. In 1975 The Jack Belz Family purchased the hotel and started a major renovation. In 1981 the hotel reopened and the grand reopening is credited with breathing life back into the downtown area which continues to grow even today. Today the hotel is owned by the Peabody Group. They also own the Peabody in Orlando and Little Rock. Aunt Ellen and I arrived and check in. It was before check in time and the very friendly employee tells us we are too early to check in, but we can check our luggage in and go and enjoy Memphis. That was great since that is all we wanted to anyway. Within just a minute someone comes over takes our luggage for us and tells us it will be waiting when we arrive back later. Were given our keys so were all set to go and enjoy Memphis. After eating at Huey’s, riding the trolley, getting acquainted with downtown, and visiting the Civil Rights Museum, we arrive back 45 minutes before the ducks are due to depart only to find a huge crowd already gathered for this popular daily event. After seeing the ducks, we decide to go check into our room before going up on the roof. When one of the employees sees us with our key in hand, he ushers us to the front of the elevator and tells the crowds, guests of the hotel get on the elevator first! Our room is just beautiful. We have 2 very comfy queen beds. We have a desk and chair and have a flat screen TV. The furnishings are just beautiful and everything about our rooms is just amazing. Shortly after we arrive in our room, an employee comes by to check on us and make sure everything is ok. The rooms include: *Wi-fi*Local newspaper and either USA Today or the Wall Street Journal *Bathrobes*Use of the gym*Delightful amenities basket with duck products*All rooms are smoke free*Some rooms are pet friendlyThe hotel offers: • 2 hotels- Chez Philippe which offers French cuisine from Reinaldo Alfonso. Reservations suggested and there is a dress code. Capriccio Grill is an Italian Steakhouse. • *Peabody Deli and Desserts offers breakfast lunch items including sandwiches and salads and some of the best pastries you have ever had. We had breakfast here and tried several of their desserts. Oh my. • Sunday Brunch and Afternoon Tea. • In room dining• 2 bars• Corporate/meeting space• Wedding services • They also have several shops including the Lucky Duck where you can pick up your own Peabody Duck Rubber Ducky and all things ducky emblazoned. The hotel is just gorgeous. The lobby is massive and inviting. This art deco masterpiece has large chairs that invite you to just curl up with a good book and enjoy this place. They make use of rich woods and in there are beautiful stain glass in the ceiling. Anyone who loves architecture should take the time to just explore. They are in a wonderful location. They are right across from the Rendezvous. The trolley line is just steps away. Beal Street, the Orpheum, and the Civil Rights Museum are all close by. The mighty Mississippi Delta is within walking distance. There are plenty of dining and shopping options close by. The Peabody Ducks . The Peabody is most noted for its ducks. Every day at 11 am people gather to see the ducks and the duck master march into the lobby and the ducks spend the day hanging out in the beautiful marble fountain. At 5 pm, they return back to their home on the roof. The tradition began back in 1933 when the general manager (a man named Frank Schutt) left his live decoy ducks in the lobby’s fountain after a hunting trip. Guests liked it so much the just stayed on. In 1940 one of the employees, Edward Pembroke, offered to take care of the ducks. He was the first official duck master. Edward had worked as an animal trainer in the circus and taught them to march in and out of the lobby. He served in the position until 1991. The ducks arrive and depart to Sousa's King Cotton March . They arrive on a red carpet and guests are kept behind the red velvet rope. They arrive via elevator. The ducks have appeared on TV numerous times and in magazines. People come from all to see the ducks. The duck master tells the crowds that amass about the tradition of the ducks and explain what will be going on. Generally a child is picked to assist the Duckmaster, but a number of celebrities have been given that honor. Oprah Winfrey, Paula Deen, Queen Noor of Jordan, Patrick Swazey, Emeril Lagasse, and Kevin Bacon have all been given the title. In the evening guests can go up on the roof to visit the ducks in the home. In 1998 they built a new "Duck Palace’. They have a huge window that allows guests to see the ducks. The roof also offers some amazing views of the city and the Mississippi. The new ducky home coast $200,000 (more than my home)! The ducks are here from 11 to 5 everyday so you can stop by and see them without the crowds. But if you want to see the 11 or 5 march, you need to make sure you arrive early. We were there 45 minutes before and it was already packed with hundreds of people waiting on two floors. Trust me when I tell you there are lots of people who come out for the event. It is open to the public, so you need not be a guest to come in and see the ducks. The tradition continues at both the Orlando and Little Rock properties. Duck is not served on any menu at the hotels. The ducks live here only 3 months and then they are returned back to a farm when they get to live out their lives as wild ducks. Honors/awards: .*AAA 4 Diamond Rating* Michelin 4 Star Property* Preferred Hotels and Resorts* Forbes 4 Star Property* Historic Hotels of America* Listed on the National Registry of Historic PlacesMy only complaint is a small one. They do not offer a lot on the way of vending machines and what they do have is not cheap. There are not a lot of convenience stores around either. If you are a soda drinker, stock up! Parking Parking is either self park or valet. They have an adjacent parking deck and parking when I was here was $20 a day and it is charged to your room account. Recommended? You bet! This place is great. Website: www.peabodymemphis.comThis place is just terrific and they employees are just wonderful. When we came back down that evening in our gowns for Wicked, they opened doors for us and were so kind. It was a nice change after our stay at the Grand Bohemian in Asheville.
After seeing the most amazing Broadway show ever…Wicked here in Charlotte last year, I decided to go see it again..very quickly. So I came home to see where else it would be playing. Perusing around I noticed it would be in Memphis. Since John is a guitar player who loves the blues, I figured he would jump at the chance to go with me. I was surprised when he turned me down! So I called my Aunt Ellen, who used to reside in the amazing town, and she was an all go. So a few months later..off we went! We would be staying the majority of the time with my Aunt’s friend Beth. But we were very busy our first night and wanted to stay downtown since we would be arriving about 11 and had 8 pm tickets to Wicked. So we stayed at Memphis’ renowned and prestigious 4 diamond property The Peabody hotel . For 75 years now, the well heeled (or travel agents getting the travel agent discount) have been staying at the Memphis gem. Even if your not staying at the Peabody, you will certainly want to be here either in the morning when the Peabody Ducks arrive for the day at the hotel or watch that evening as they return to their home up on the roof. Then afterwards visit them and enjoy the views of downtown. After we arrived and checked into out hotel, then grabbed the trolley and went to the Civil Rights Museum . The museum is the former Loraine Hotel, where in 1968, the great Civil Right leader Dr. Martin Luther King, was assassinated. That evening we headed for the gorgeous and opulent Orpheum Theater where we saw the incredible Wicked . It currently ranks as one of my favorite Broadway shows of all times. After the show we went back to our room and changed clothes. Then we headed out for Beal Street . This famous street is known the world over for the place to go to catch some down home blues. While here we caught a carriage ride around this divine city. The next morning, we got up and did what many visitors to the city do, we headed to Graceland former home and final resting place of the king of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. After that we stopped off at the magnificent Memphis Botanical Gardens before heading out to Beth’s house. The gardens will simply amaze you with their beauty and feature an incredible Japanese garden. Later that evening we would return back to downtown and Beal St. to Backstreet Tours Haunted Memphis Tour . Our guide, Jennifer, gave us the lowdown on some of Memphis most haunted spots. On my last full morning, I left Aunt Ellen to catch up with Beth. I headed out to the delightfully wonderful Memphis Zoo . This is only one of a handful of zoos in the country with the adorable panda bears. Near the zoo, you can catch the magnificent Brooks Museum . Offering up both modern artists and masters, they also have some wonderful traveling exhibits. Memphis is known for their food, and I certainly had to sample some. When in Memphis you have to try BBQ. So I tried ribs at the famous Rendezvous and a pork sandwich from Corkey’s. I had a great burger at Huey’s . As always, when there is a Hard Rock in town then so am I. I enjoyed some delish Italian at Old Venice and Mexican at Mi Pueblo . Suggestions As always, my first suggestion is to visit the Memphis CVB. You can go to www.memphistravel.com. You can look around for all things Memphis or order one of their visitor’s guides. Memphis is really a top destination for many and it is advisable to make reservations in advanced anytime you’re traveling. Certain times it is absolutely necessary. One of the biggest events is Memphis in May when BBQ lovers from all over converge for a celebration of all things Q. Around January 8th and Aug, 16th, you certainly need advanced reservations as Elvis fans come in by the droves to celebrate his birthday (Jan) or mourn his death (Aug). Staying in downtown Memphis can be expensive. If you have access to a car, look outside of the city. If you have to stay in the downtown area and budget is a concern. There is a Sleep Inn located on Front St. overlooking the river. When we were on our carriage tour, I asked the driver about it and she said it is very nice. Memphis is also a huge convention town. While we were here we saw dozens of tour buses all over the place. There is plenty to do here while in town. Be careful of this place in the summer. It is miserably hot here. Even for this southern girl. Take all your normal heat precautions. Wear light clothes, stay hydrated, and stay out of the sun when possible. Getting around If your flying in, you will be flying into Memphis International (MEM). Their website is www.mscaa.com. It is about 15 minutes from downtown. If your coming into the downtown area and staying in that environ, you can get away not using a car. If you are going out beyond there, you will need a car. You can easily pick up one at the airport. I suggest you don’t use Hertz though. Their employees are horrible, don’t know what they are doing, and rude. I have never been treated so horribly. Once you get to the downtown area, you can get around with ease. You can hop on and off the trolley which runs through the downtown area. Taxis are easily available. You can get around by carriage (some are lit up at night) or even limo! Or just simply walk. This is a great town for walking. The downtown area is fairly compact and easy to maneuver. If you are going to Beal St. in the evening, you will have to just walk around. The streets are blocked off from traffic. Some of the attractions in my journals including Graceland, the zoo, botanical gardens, and the Brooks Museum will require a car if you would like to visit. * This disclaimer is for all 3 of my Memphis journals. I do allow teachers to use my journals information for educational purposes only. I do not allow students to use them. Please do not contact me to use journal information or pictures unless it is for media or press. I do not allow anyone to use my journals if they will not properly credited it.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009