Tour of Tennessee {Memphis: The Peabody, BB King, Graceland + More}

The seventh day on our Tour of Tennessee brought us from Nashville to the last stop on our road trip, Memphis!

Day 7 (continued): Memphis

On the way in to town, our first stop was The Whimsy Cookie Co.!  It was just as cute as could be inside and the iced cookies were delicious.  They reminded me so much of Two Smart Cookies in Savannah.

We made our way right into town and checked in at The Peabody Memphis.  This is another “always wanted to stay there” hotel from the pages of Southern Living and I knew we were in for a treat when we walked into the gorgeous lobby abuzz with activity.  (The others on my list are The Breakers, The Greenbrier, The Cloister and the Grove Park Inn…  in case you’re keeping track :-) )  Peabody history dates back to 1869 and the legacy of being the “South’s Grand Hotel” continues today.

The Peabody is probably most known for the March of the Peabody Ducks, a nearly 90-year tradition like nothing you’ve likely ever seen in your life!  Back in the 1930s the general manager of The Peabody and a friend returned from a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas. Having imbibed in a little too much Tennessee whiskey, they thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys in the Peabody fountain. Since that day in 1933, five mallard ducks have been swimming day in and day out!  A few years later in 1940, a former circus animal trainer offered to help deliver the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now famous Peabody Duck March.  That man, Bellman Edward Pembroke, served as The Peabody Duckmaster for 50 years until his retirement in 1991!  Both of the boys were literally amazed by the ducks swimming in the fountain, but Whit was beside himself.  He could not contain his excitement!

Finally able to tear Whit away from the ducks, we headed up to our room which was very spacious and comfortable.  The bathroom was tiny but made up for that in the darling duck shaped soaps :-).  Overall, we really enjoyed our stay here and found our room to be very nice, not that we spent much time in it.

The boys were itching to go to the pool since we didn’t have one in Nashville, so they threw on their suits and we headed down to check it out.  We were the only people there but it was nice and had a hot tub as well.  You could order drinks to be delivered to the pool, which was nice but we didn’t take advantage of that.  Because…

… we had a BIG surprise in store for the boys.  I had booked the package to make them Honorary Duckmasters for the day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I knew that Whit would be all over this but wasn’t sure about John.  As we headed down the elevator we broke the news.  Whit was squealing and John was unsure.  But, when we walked in the lobby and he saw the “reserved” table just for us HE WAS IN!!!!!!!!!!

People were gathered all over the lobby and mezzanine and children lined both sides of the red carpet.  The Duckmaster started things off by introducing the boys and reading a proclamation to officially declare them honorary duckmasters.  He gave them certificates, lapel pins, rubber duckies, a firm handshake AND real duckhead canes just like his!!!  At one point, Whit looked over at us just beaming and I thought I’d never seen him this happy since the day we brought Elsa home.

After all the pomp and circumstance, it was time to march the ducks out of the fountain.  The Duckmaster had a board he put in the fountain to interrupt the flow of the swim.  As soon as he did that, they just marched right out and down the red carpet.  It was SO neat!

The boys fell in step right behind The Duckmaster and walked the red carpet straight to the waiting elevator.  

We were all so giddy and asking The Duckmaster so many questions that the ducks escaped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  They all left the elevator, much to the crowd’s delight.  

And, after the little encore show, we were headed up to the roof.

The Royal Duck Palace is on the hotel’s rooftop.  It is made of marble and glass and the ducks have their own bronze fountain as well as a small house (made as a replica of the hotel) and a grassy front yard.  They waddled directly from the elevator to their home like no big deal.  All the while my boys peppered The Duckmaster with questions.  We learned that the ducks are wild and are not named, and that there are always four females and one male.  He told us that a local farmer throws down feed to attract wild ducks.  Every three months he collects up five that fit the bill and delivers them to The Peabody.  They “work” for three months in the fountain and then are released to live in the wild again.  We also learned that duck is not served anywhere at The Peabody, quite possibly making Chez Philippe the only French restaurant in the world that does not offer duck!  It was all pretty incredible.

While up on the rooftop, I couldn’t help but admire the views of the city!

With the ducks secure in the palace for the night, we headed back down to the lobby and said our goodbyes to The Duckmaster.  Honey and I said later that this was the favorite thing we’ve ever seen our boys do in a really, really long time.  They were both just so genuinely happy, beaming with joy really.  It is something we think they will both always remember.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share that my favorite cocktail in Tennessee was the Peabody Signature Jack Daniel’s Peach Sour.  I have tried to hunt down a recipe for a similar drink to no avail.  It was SO yummy!!

Later in our stay we spent time exploring the historic hotel.  On the mezzanine level there were so many wonderful old details like phone booths, gorgeous ballrooms and even a fabulous water fountain.

You will also find a small Peabody museum with artifacts from throughout the decades.  There is the RCA recording contract that Elvis signed at The Peabody…

Towels, soaps, room keys and menus from so very long ago…

… and pictures of fabulous looking roof parties.  They still do them today!!

There are restaurants on the main level, as well as a yummy bakery where you can find the cutest duck desserts!

After the duckmaster experience, we headed off to Beale Street for the night.  Our first stop was a little shopping at A. Schwab.

Unfortunately the old fashioned soda fountain was out of soda (?!) so we didn’t get to have a drink.

But there was plenty to explore.  The store was full of interesting and quirky items.

And on the upper level there was a little museum of sorts.  It was pretty interesting to look through a bit of the history of this 1876 Memphis institution.

After poking in a few other stores (Tater Red’s was a hit), the sun was setting and it was time for dinner.

We made reservations for BB King’s Blues Club well in advance and were really excited to visit for some Memphis barbecue and blues music.  They do have a cover charge to get in, but there was some confusion with our reservation so they did not make us pay it.  :-)

The band was excellent and the food was good.  We got a table upstairs overlooking the stage and dance floor and we really, really enjoyed ourselves!

Day 8: Memphis

At the suggestion of a local friend, we headed out to Brother Juniper’s for the “best breakfast in Memphis”.  It has an interesting back story, with the original Brother Juniper being a cook for St. Francis of Assisi.  We all agreed that the breakfast was in fact excellent and that it likely IS the best breakfast in Memphis!

After breakfast we were off for the main event of the day – Graceland!!  We didn’t know how well the boys would enjoy it so we spent most of breakfast trying to explain how big Elvis is/was and what an impact he made on the entire world with his music.  Honey and I visited Graceland 17 years ago and, while the mansion is the same, there is a whole complex now and you can quite literally spend a day here exploring!!

There are countless museums, one connecting to the next, that take you through every facet of Elvis’ life.  The boys were particularly in awe of his cars, carts, motorcycles and vehicles.  I was particularly in awe of the pink ones and the ones with monograms.  Ha!

There were tons of artifacts and it was all self guided in this part so you could take as much or as little time as you wanted.

One of my favorite parts was learning about his time in the army.  It was so fascinating to see the pictures, read the letters and telegrams and learn about his service to our country.

The costumes were another incredible exhibit.  I mean, if this isn’t Elvis I don’t know what is…

We arrived at Graceland around 10:30AM and the first available shuttle over to the mansion was at 12:45PM.  We were so excited to finally pull up to Elvis’ beloved home!

We all loved the i-pad audio tour that tells the story of Graceland and features commentary and stories by Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie. The tour starts in the living room and music room…

… and then continues into the dining room where the family still celebrates holiday meals today!

The kitchen is just off of the dining room and was the heart of Elvis’ home.  You will also get to see the famed Jungle Room on this level, with its carpeted ceiling, and Elvis’ parents’ room and bathroom!  The basement is available on the tour and includes an impressive tv room with a mirrored ceiling and billiards room with a gathered fabric ceiling.

Outside the tour continues to his father’s office, the Raquetball building where he spent his last day, and the Trophy Building.  I loved how home videos were paired with memorabilia in this section.  You saw footage of Lisa Marie in her crib right next to her actual crib.  It was all so well done.

Next to the pool is the Meditation Garden and the graves of the Presley family.

Both times I’ve toured Graceland I left with an increased sense of appreciation for Elvis and my heart feeling heavy in my chest over the world losing him too soon.  The tour left no doubt in my mind that he loved God, his family and Graceland deeply and dearly.  Many, many thanks to Graceland for having our family as your guest for our visit.  We had a wonderful time!

If you go:

  • Purchase your tickets on-line in advance to minimize waiting.  Disney has NOTHING on Graceland.  If there is any doubt in your mind, rest assured that Elvis is still adored by people from all over the world.  We heard so many different languages and fans from every generation were present.  The wait is worth it :-)
  • Allow 3-4 hours to tour the Memphis Complex and Graceland Mansion.
  • Cameras are allowed, but not with flash.  Video is not allowed.
  • There are restaurants and ice cream available at the complex.  You can even get Elvis’ peanut butter and banana sandwich at Gladys’ Diner.
  • Ask for the kids activity book at guest services.  It has coloring pages, a scavenger hunt and more to keep the little ones engaged.
  • The parking fee was about $10.

Tomorrow brings our Tour of Tennessee to a close.  Stay tuned for the final installment!


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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14 thoughts on “Tour of Tennessee {Memphis: The Peabody, BB King, Graceland + More}

  1. What a fun and exciting trip you had! We have visited all these cities except Memphis, we need to plan a trip there in the future. My mother was an Elvis fan, so I would love for her to join us for that trip. As for your “always wanted to stay there” hotel list, the hubby and I have stayed at The Greenbrier and The Grove Park Inn. We enjoyed our stay at both places, however the Grove Park is only about an hour away for us but reminds me of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining for some reason, so I have never desired to stay again :) But it is definitely worth going at least once!

    1. My mom is an Elvis fan as well. They share the same birthday, in fact :-) I looove seeing pics of The Greenbrier but it’s not on the agenda any time soon. We do have a wedding to attend outside of Asheville this fall and I’m thinking of booking Grove Park Inn. I LOVE the Shining and scary movies so that sounds kinda perfect. HA! Honey on the other hand will likely hate that. I am trying to figure out how I could get some time in at their spa on a short weekend trip with the boys. Hmmmmm…

  2. I have the same list of hotels to stay, too!! My husband thinks I am nuts! We did the Peabody for our wedding night 20 years ago! My husband has a work trip to the Breakers next May and I cannot wait!!

    1. What a fabulous honeymoon night!!! SO jealous of your Breakers trip. One day… none of the boys in my family share my enthusiasm over any of the places on my “list” but let me just say the LOVED the Peabody and Hermitage so I think they just don’t know better :-)

  3. So fun! I always hear about how bad the crime rate is in Memphis. Did you feel safe walking around the city, especially at night?

    1. I had heard the crime is high in Memphis and I don’t doubt that one bit. It is also extremely high in Savannah and parts of Atlanta s well. We stayed aware and kept the kids very close to us. We were out at night, but no later than 9:30 either night. We walked to both Beale Street and Rendezvous (about 1 block down a wide, well lit alley) and felt safe.

  4. Amanda, I have loved reading about your family’s tour of Tennessee. So much to see and do and yet close to home!

  5. So fun! My brother and SIL have stayed at the Peabody. I know my kids would love to see the ducks. I have been pinning some of these posts for trip ideas! We are in STL, so we could def. drive over to TN for a mini-Spring break trip!


  6. I have been loving this whole TN series- but this one is my fave. I am obsessssed with the Peabody, and the ducks. My husband got to stay there for work and I had to stay home- what a tragedy!! We visited once before we were engaged, and also toured Graceland and Sun Studios, and it all has such a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to go again. (As an aside, I’d love to know more about how you partnered with Tennessee as a blogger. You were so encouraging when I shared my fledgling blog with you -gulp- a year and a half ago…and this year I am determined to get the ball rolling! Anyways…big fan! Xoxo.)

  7. I thought of your boys this week when we had our own annual Duck Walk. We follow them down to the end of the street to safely find their way to the lake. :-) This year, we had twelve ducklings! The mother nests every year in the ferns beside our pool and patiently sits on the nest for 28 days, only leaving for an hour a day. It is such a blessing to be able to see this up close (as they take their first swim!) and I am so happy your boys got to experience The Peabody version! And I am very glad you made it to The Rendezvous! We have actually ordered their ribs Fed Ex to the west coast because they are so delicious. Your recaps are fun and interesting. Thanks, Amanda!

  8. A great big thanks to you for sharing your trip. I truly enjoyed reading about your adventures.
    I am sure your children will always remember the wonderful times you shared as a family on your vacations.

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