Tour of Tennessee {Memphis: BBQ, Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio + More}

Well, we are finally on the very last installment of our Tour of Tennessee!

Day 8 (continued): Memphis

We left off yesterday with our tour of Graceland and then headed straight to lunch at Central BBQ.  Honey and I were still full from breakfast so we split a plate of food.  Man, I wish I’d been marvin (does anyone else say that?!) because it was soooooo good!!!  The boys, on the other hand, were like bottomless pits the entire week.  I swear we would eat the biggest meal of our lives and two hours later they are both asking when our next meal would be.

After lunch we stretched our legs on the Harahan Bridge!  At one mile in length, the bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge to cross the mighty Mississippi.  Not only that, it also connects Tennessee to Arkansas!!!!

The views were wonderful over the river.  Honey and I both remarked that we now know why the river is called “mighty”.  It rushed by faster than any we’ve ever seen.

Y’all know I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lay foot on another city/state in our tour :-)  I made the fam pose for a selfie in Arkansas.  HA!

We spent the remainder of the late afternoon relaxing at the Peabody.  After one final peach bourbon cocktail in the lobby bar we were off to dinner.  Honey STILL talks about the dry ribs at Rendezvous from our Memphis trip 17 years ago!

We headed down the alleyway right outside of The Peabody for dinner in the famous Charlie Vergos basement.  I am no expert, but this experience just seems decidedly Memphis.  Now, if you know anything about me you’ll know I don’t eat food on the bone.  Well, I put doing exactly this on my bucket list because it seems so un-southern to NOT eat food on the bone.  More than two years later and I finally crossed that one off the list.  I figured what better place to do it than with a full slab of ribs at Rendezvous.  I must admit… they were darn good.  I’m not going to go so far as to order up a plate of wings on my next visit to the pool, but I didn’t die or gag or have any adverse effect from #13 on the list.  Dare I say I even enjoyed it?!

Day 9: Memphis

Our very last day in Tennessee started at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.

When I visited Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights last fall, I saw this picture taken moments after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel.   I was a mix of emotions when I saw the picture, wavering between extreme sadness and regret to feeling outraged at his murder.  On top of all that, I felt like I had no right to see this picture of such an incredibly great man lying crumpled on the ground outside of a motel room taking his final breaths.  It seemed like such a breech of privacy.  But then, as I continued through the museum and came home and lived my life and wrote a blog post about it, I realized that the picture stuck with me.  I knew he had been fatally shot, but this one picture made it real for me.  And I knew I wanted to go to this place, to the Lorraine Motel, to pay my respects to Dr. Martin Luther King in my own (hard to explain) way.  (So, I realize I sound crazy….)

Outside of the entrance to the museum, there are audio boxes that recount some of that day and King’s history at the Lorraine Motel.  While the boys listened intently to those and Honey stood in line (you can’t imagine the line!), I had to blink back the tears.  I was standing the very place I saw in that picture months before, at exactly 49 years and 4 days from the day it happened.

The men in the original picture are pointing across the street to the boarding house where James Earl Ray fired the gun that day.  Today, the boarding house is part of the museum as well.

Inside, the museum is very well done.  It is absolutely appropriate for kids and my boys both found it engaging and interactive.  They have both learned a lot about our country’s path to civil rights, slavery, segregation, boycotts, protests and more, and were enthralled with how the museum brought these things from the pages of textbooks and words of their parents to life.

One thing that I loved was the use of sculpture throughout the museum.  It was beautiful and unique and extremely powerful.

Through experiences at school, Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Atlanta History Center, we have learned about key moments in the civil rights movement like sit-in at Lester Maddox’s Pickrick Restaurant and the Freedom Rides.  These were done differently here, but were just one more way to drive home America’s story.  (FYI, both of these at the Atlanta Center are MUCH more intense and I feel like may be really hard for some kids, much less adults, to experience.)

The museum wraps up with the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike and Dr. King’s last “Mountaintop” speech given the night before he died.

At the very end of your tour you learn even more about King’s last hours.  On April 4, 1968, Dr. King and his aides spent the day right here in rooms 306 and 308 at the Lorraine Motel, and you can see inside the restored rooms. (Room 306 is below, MLK’s room)

As the group was leaving for dinner later in the day, an assassin lay in wait across Mulberry Street with a rifle ready to fire.  In the picture below you can see the bathroom window from which that shot was fired – it is the third window in the middle section on the second floor (smallest of the three).

As I mentioned above, the boarding house is now part of the museum.  From inside you can see the vantage point to MLK’s Room 306, as well as the bathroom from which James Earl Ray fired the shot.  The window is still ajar.

If you go:

  • The line just to get in the door was about 30 minutes long.  Go early!!  I was so impressed at the diverse group of people of all ages, ethnicity and backgrounds that were lined up to tour the museum on a Saturday morning.  But the line was brutal :-)
  • Allow a few hours to tour the museum.  There is so much to see, read and explore.
  • I felt the entire tour was appropriate for all ages.  The two we’ve done in Atlanta did not make me feel that way.
  • Parking is free.

Since we all but skipped breakfast, we were starving by the time we left the museum.  Luckily, Gus’s Fried Chicken was just around the corner!  The fried pickles were ah-mazing and our food was really, really good.

Sufficiently stuffed, we were off to the last attraction on our Memphis agenda – Sun Studio.  Opened in 1950 by Sam Philips, Sun Studio is known as the birthplace of rock-n-roll.

The place is quite small and there was quite a large group of tourists on our day.  You will get a tour time when you purchase your ticket and can wait for that in the cafe.

The guided tour takes you through the history of Sun Studio and shares facts and memorabilia from the studio’s stars like B.B. King, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.

I’ve watched a bit of Sun Records on CMT and really enjoyed seeing the actual Sun Studio where it all happened.  Without this context, my boys were not super interested, I’ll be honest.  (They DID enjoy the RCA Studio B tour in Nashville, I think because our guide was amazing and SO incredibly knowledgeable and interesting.)  This one might be best for true music fans, and that is probably why kids are free :-)

If you go:

  • Parking is free in the back lot.
  • Kids must be five or older to visit and kids ages 5-11 are free.
  • The tour takes about 1 hour.
  • The facility is small and they limit the number on each guided tour.  We had to wait about 45 minutes.  I’d go early!
  • Pictures are allowed, but video is not.

Many, many thanks to Memphis Travel for providing our admission to the National Civil Rights Museum and Sun Studio.

After the studio tour, we hit the road for home.  It was a spectacular and memorable week and we did such a variety of different things along the way.  Thank you all of YOU for coming along on the journey with us, and for all of YOUR tips and tricks that helped make our week so perfect!!  We are already throwing around ideas for spring break ’18!


Dixie Delights Tour of Tennessee

in collaboration with
Dollywood  |  Visit Nashville  |  Memphis Travel

Part 1 – Read House, Ruby Falls, Rock City + More
Part 2 –  Wild Cave Expedition, Tennessee Aquarium + More

Part 3 – Dollywood + Dixie Stampede
Part 4 – Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort

Part 5 – a quick morning in the city

Part 6 – Hattie B’s, Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame
Part 7 – Hermitage Hotel, Wildhorse Saloon, Draper James

Part 8 – Peabody, Beale Street, Graceland
Part 9 – BBQ, Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio


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4 thoughts on “Tour of Tennessee {Memphis: BBQ, Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio + More}

  1. Bravo! Bravo! I can’t decide which was the scariest part…crawling through those incredibly narrow caves or your sweet seersucker bag next to that bar-b-que!! ;-) Thank you so very much for all of the honest and entertaining reviews and tips for future reference. What an incredible journey!

  2. What an incredible and memorable trip y’all had! Who knew there was so much to do in the great state of Tennessee?! Thank you for taking us along! xo

  3. Loved following along on your trip!! I may never get to Tennessee, but I know where to go if I do. You could be a travel writer. :)

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