Planning a solo trip to Memphis? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Located in Tennessee, Memphis has a population of about 650,000.
- Founded by James Winchester, John Overton, and Andrew Jackson (7th U.S. President).
- Home to the Sun Studio, famous for recording Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
- Nicknames: Bluff City, Home of the Blues, River City, Birthplace of Rock and Roll.
- Currency: US Dollar (USD)
- Spoken languages: English.
- Best time to visit: from August to October (humid subtropical climate).
- Arriving via airport: take the MATA Bus #64 to downtown for $1.75. Bus stop is at Terminal C (baggage claim level, on outer drive).
- Taxi fare from the airport to downtown Memphis is $30 (there are a number of fixed taxi rates for rides going elsewhere).
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers: Hostel Memphis (that’s the actual name). Safe, clean, and a welcoming atmosphere with friendly staff that will make you feel right at home. Basic breakfast included daily.
- Hotels in Memphis run the gamut from expensive to affordable. The historic hotels are over $300 a night.
- Otherwise, downtown hotels are between $200-$300 per night.
- Right off of I-40, and around the airport, you can find cheaper hotels (between $50 and $100 a night).
- Public Transit in Memphis is run by the Memphis Area Transit Authority – MATA. The largest public transit system in the state of Tennessee, MATA has nearly 40,000 riders daily and serves four cities, including West Memphis (across the border, in Arkansas). Fares are $1.00 for adults, and $2.00 for a day pass. All fares must be paid with cash through the farebox on the bus (no change provided, no pennies accepted).
- Taxi service: your best bet is Bluff City Taxi (+1 901 566 9000). You can also use their smartphone app.
- Instead of a taxi, consider using Uber or Lyft (popular ride sharing apps).
- Renting a car: there are multiple ZipCar pickup locations in Memphis.
- Drinking age is 21, last call is at 2:30 AM
- College scene: University District
- Mainstream scene: Beale Street
- Upscale scene: Midtown, near Overton Park
- Great bars for solo travelers: Cameo (cocktails), The Cove (dive bar), Blind Bear.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland, is open to the public. Here you can learn about Presley’s life, as well as about how his music helped shape rock and roll.
- The 1960s brought the fight for civil rights to Memphis, and with it the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. Visitors can take an eye-opening tour of the National Civil Rights Museum, located in the former motel.
- The Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art has objects in its collection dating from 202 BC. The museum houses the largest collection of Asian art in the Southern United States.
- The Pink Palace Museum started out as the dream home of entrepreneur and founder Clarence Saunders of the Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store Chain. It is now a world class museum.
- The Mississippi Riverwalk offers beautiful views of the river, and runs from Martyr’s Park up to Mud Island.
- For a self-guided tour of the city’s historic downtown, start at the corner of Second Street and Union Avenue, and end at Cotton Row at the Memphis Cotton Exchange.
- Walk through Midtown Memphis, and end in Overton Park. In Overton Park you’ll find the Levitt Shell, a historic amphitheater that was the stage for Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. Levitt Shell currently hosts over 50 free concerts a year.
- Walk down Marshall Avenue. You’ll pass by the Phillips Recording Studio, Hattiloo Theatre, and the Sun Studio. Check out the St. Blues Guitar Factory, where you can watch guitar makers craft original Memphis instruments.
- Memphis has one of the nicest Triple A baseball stadiums in the country, and it’s cheap to catch a game.
- Held annually in May on the bluffs, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest attracts hundreds of cooking teams from all over the world.
- Cafes and dessert: Belltower Coffeehouse, Sugar Ghost Ice Cream and Bubble Tea
- Great restaurants to try: Central BBQ (multiple locations), Ciao Bella Italian Grill, Andrew Michael ($$$ – Italian), Good Fortune Co. (Asian with vegan options), Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant ($), Erling Jensen The Restaurant ($$$$ – French).
- Where to find good cheap eats: everywhere! You’re in for a treat, as East Memphis is replete with cheap and delicious southern soul food. Check out RP Tracks Restaurant & Bar. Great Viet food on a budget: Phở Binh.
- Dangerous areas: avoid the neighborhood around Graceland at night, and avoid Ward 232 altogether. Take care when walking on the streets in night.
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days