Downtown, the best area to stay in Memphis
Vibrant and soulful, the Downtown area is the without doubt the best place to stay in Memphis. At its core lies Beale Street, declared the Home of the Blues by an act of Congress. Don’t miss the iconic A. Schwab dry goods and souvenir store, and its funny motto "If we don't have it, you don't need it”, that has stood the test of time since 1876. Alongside the blues route, there is also a comprehensive repertoire of arts including the New Daisy Theatre where you can see contemporary bands play and the Orpheum Theatre where you can catch anything from a touring Broadway show to stand up comedy acts. Pop into one of the clubs along Beale Street, such as Rum Boogie Café, B.B. King’s Blues Club, Silky O’Sullivan’s or the Hard Rock Café and soak up this unbeatable atmosphere where the greatest movers and shakers in jazz have all played. At any of these places you are likely to stumble across an impromptu jazz session day or night giving a taster of this city’s rich musical history.
On Beale Street you can get to grips with the city’s musical past by visiting the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to numerous local legends. On the corner of Beale Street you can also visit the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum which was created by the Smithsonian Institution and follow the journey of music pioneers from the 1930s onwards as they fought to overcome racial and social borders and conceive music that would change the shape of music forever.
Head south from Beale Street onto Mulberry Street to visit the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Now housing the National Civil Rights museum, it takes visitors through five centuries of history, from slavery, through the civil war and ultimately to the civil rights movements that changed the course of history forever and inspired people to fight for equality not just in the US but around the world.
From the Downtown area you can also easily access the Mud Island Riverwalk, which is a popular museum that has a 2,000-foot-long scale model of the lower part of the Mississippi flowing from the Ohio River in Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the walk you can learn about the river’s fascinating history and the city’s transformation into the world’s largest cotton and hardwood trader. You will also learn about its central role in the slave trade, which would affect generations to come. The most historic part of the river is found close to Beale Street where you can see the original and still usable historic cobblestone landing that dates back to the 1800s. It is also a great place to spend an afternoon when the heat is in force, to cool down on the banks of the river or take a look at a unique vantage point of the city across the water.
The streets of Downtown Memphis come alive each year during the Memphis in May Celebration as Beale Street hosts its exuberant 3-day annual music festival that features a mix of well known starts alongside local musical acts.