Historic attractions and parks abound in Memphis, including Elvis Presley's preserved Graceland mansion, which offers a free-admission meditation garden open at select times. Many area art and culture museums offer free admission daily or at select times throughout the month, with diverse, music-focused cultural festivals populating the city's downtown district throughout the year. For lower-cost transportation to major attractions, visitors can ride the city's MATA public transit system, which offers bus and trolley services. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.The March of the Peabody Ducks
© The March of the Peabody Ducks
The March of the Peabody Ducks is one of Memphis' most unique and iconic attractions, dating back to 1933 at the city's landmark downtown Peabody Hotel. The legend of the Peabody Ducks dates back to the early 1930s, when the hotel's general manager and a friend placed several live decoy ducks in the hotel's indoor fountain upon return from a hunting trip in Arkansas. The act expanded into a daily tradition, aided by circus trainer Bellman Edward Pembroke, who taught the ducks a now-famous march through the fountain. More than 80 years later, five North American mallards still parade through the hotel's fountain at 11:00am and 5:00pm daily, as part of public performances that can be viewed without hotel stay. Between shows, the ducks live within a $200,000 Royal Duck Palace located atop the hotel's rooftop.
118 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 901-529-4000
© Levitt Shell
Levitt Shell, originally known as the Overton Park Shell, is a famed open-air amphitheater within Memphis' Overton Park, best known as the site of the first paid concert by legendary popular music performer Elvis Presley in 1954, widely considered to be the first modern rock-and-roll concert. The bandshell was originally constructed in 1936 by the City of Memphis with assistance from the Works Progress Administration, designed by architect Max Furbringer to mimic similar bandshells in New York City and Chicago. Since its renovation and renaming in 2008, the shell has hosted more than 50 free concerts throughout the year, offered Thursdays through Saturdays during the spring and fall months. Free concert films are also showcased during the summer months at the amphitheater by the organization Indie Memphis.
1928 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38104, Phone: 901-272-2722
3.Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
© Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is a free-admission art museum located within Memphis' Overton Park, home to the state's largest and oldest collection of world art. The museum was originally founded in 1916 and is housed within a Beaux Arts-style National Landmark building originally constructed in 1913 and expanded several times throughout the 20th century. 29 art galleries showcase a collection of over 10,000 works of art, with international pieces spanning from antiquity through the present day. Works include pieces of art from ancient Greece and Rome and works of modern and contemporary art from Europe, Africa, the Americas, and around the world. Major works on display include pieces by Renoir, Winslow Homer, Robert Henri, Childe Hassam, and Nancy Graves. The museum is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours.
1934 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38104, Phone: 901-544-6200
4.The Center for Southern Folklore
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The Center for Southern Folklore is a Memphis cultural organization that was originally founded in 1972 by Judy Peiser and William Ferris to promote the arts and culture of the American South, with a focus on the region's folk, rockabilly, and country music heritage. The center is free and open to the public, hosting a significant audiovisual recording library and collection of historical photographs and artifacts. Photography and folk art exhibits are showcased at its Heritage Hall, which also hosts performances by regional Memphis musicians and dancers. Works by regional folk artists are sold at the center's Folklore Store, which also hosts live performances. Each year, the center hosts the annual Memphis Music and Heritage Festival over Labor Day, celebrating the arts and culture of the Delta region.
119 S Main St, Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 901-525-3655
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Elmwood Cemetery is one of Memphis' most historic cemeteries, originally established in 1852 on 40 acres of land approximately two miles from the city's center. Since then, the cemetery has expanded to more than 80 acres, serving as the final resting place for more than 75,000 residents of the city, including some of its most notable politicians, artists, and civil rights leaders. Since 2002, the cemetery has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, serving as the city's oldest cemetery. The beautiful garden cemetery is home to large stands of gorgeous ancient trees and sweeping vistas, with monuments and mausoleums such as the Stokes Columbarium dotting its landscape. Other attractions throughout the cemetery include the NRHP-listed Morgan Bridge, the 1866 Phillips Cottage, and the Victorian Gothic-style Lord's Chapel, which may be rented for funerals and private special events.
824 S. Dudley Street, Memphis, TN 38104, Phone: 901-774-3212
6.Lichterman Nature Center
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Lichterman Nature Center is a 65-acre arboretum and nature center in East Memphis, open to the public for free each Tuesday afternoon beginning at 1:00pm. The center offers a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including interactive exhibits showcasing animal specimens and fur swatches. Exhibits on the surrounding area's natural habitats are showcased at the Backyard Wildlife Center, while nature-themed gifts and educational materials are sold at the center's nature store. Outside, a three-mile nature path traverses a wildlife observation area, showcasing native flora and fauna, including amphibian, reptile, and mammal species. Public special events are hosted at the center annually, including an Earthfest and a Discovery Days event.
5992 Quince Rd, Memphis, TN 38119
7.The Art Museum at the University of Memphis
© The Art Museum at the University of Memphis
The Art Museum at the University of Memphis is the main art museum of the University of Memphis campus, originally opened to the public in 1981 as the University Gallery. Since 1994, the museum has showcased a permanent collection of art and artifacts spanning from antiquity to the present day, including ancient Egyptian works, traditional African art, and modern and contemporary pieces. The museum is open to the public Mondays through Saturdays during business hours, with the exception of times the university is closed to the public. Free admission is offered daily, with free guided tours of museum exhibits available for small groups with advance registration.
142 CFA Building, Memphis, TN 38152, Phone: 901-678-2224
8.Shelby Farms Park
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Shelby Farms Park is one of the United States' largest urban parks, spanning more than 4,500 acres, over five times the size of New York City's famed Central Park. The park sits on land that formerly belonged to the Nashoba Commune, which was later used as a penal farm until its conversion into a recreational area in the 1970s. Today, it offers a chance to observe wildlife in its natural habitats, including a herd of over 45 bison that graze on 56 acres of pasture lands. Hiking and biking trails are offered throughout the park, including wildlife observation trails for watching deer, turtles, beavers, and birds. Two lakes at the park offer opportunities for boat rowing, with rental boats available to visitors. A 120-acre off-leash dog area is also provided for visitor use, along with an 18-hole disc golf course and a BMX racing track.
6903 Great View Drive North, Memphis, TN 38134, Phone: 901-222-7275
9.The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium
© The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium
The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium is the Mid-South's premiere family science and history museum, attracting more than 240,000 annual visitors of all ages. The museum, which is housed within the former mansion of Piggly Wiggly store founder and supermarket entrepreneur Clarence Saunders, is open to the public for free Tuesday afternoons beginning at 1:00pm. Permanent exhibits include a replica of the original Piggly Wiggly grocery store, a miniature circus attraction, and exhibits on Memphis' music scene, cotton industry, and civil rights movements. Collections of 15th-century indigenous pottery are also showcased, along with dinosaur fossils and taxidermies. The museum is affiliated with the Pink Palace Family of Museums, which also encompasses the Lichterman Nature Center and the Coon Creek Science Center.
3050 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38111, Phone: 901-636-2362
10.A. Schwab General Store
© A. Schwab General Store
A. Schwab General Store is historic Beale Street's only remaining original business, originally opened to the public in 1876 by Jewish immigrant Abraham Joseph Schwab. As the oldest operating store in the Mid-South, the family-owned store has become a major Memphis tourist attraction, spanning two floors and selling unique, quirky merchandise and home goods, including Memphis-area souvenirs and folk art items. Visitors can explore the second-floor Beale Street Museum for free, which houses artifacts connected to the historic thoroughfare and its role in blues music history. Other attractions at the store include a turn-of-the-century replica soda fountain and cafe area, which serves light sandwiches, Sweet Magnolia ice cream, and sodas crafted with homemade syrups.
63 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 901-523-9782
11.Graceland Meditation Garden
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Graceland Meditation Garden is the premiere free attraction at Graceland, the preserved former mansion and estate of legendary rock music performer Elvis Presley. The mansion, which is located on 13.8 acres in Memphis and is preserved today by Presley's daughter Lisa Marie, is one of the city's biggest tourist attractions, offering home tours for a ticketed upcharge. Walk-up and drive-up visitors can explore the meditation garden, which serves as Presley's burial site, each morning between 7:30am and 8:30am. All guests must enter the garden's gates by 8:30am and must leave the garden before daily tours at Graceland begin. Visitors should note that the garden is not open to the public on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.
3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38116, Phone: 800-238-2000
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The Greenline is a seven-mile trail that connects Memphis' Midtown district to nearby Shelby Farms Park, transforming the route of a former railroad line track area into a walking and cycling trail. The flat, paved trail encourages Memphis residents to remain active and engage in outdoor exercise and is a favorite for visitors and area residents alike. Entrance points to the trail are offered at Tillman, Graham, Podesta, and Highland Streets, Waring and Sycamore View Roads, High Point Terrace, and Farm Lake. The rails-to-trail line is managed by Shelby Farms Park, which also offers walking and biking trails throughout its 4,500-acre campus, along with areas for horseback riding, children's playgrounds, and a number of protected wildlife population areas.
500 N. Pine Lake Drive, Memphis, TN 38134, Phone: 901-222-7275
13.South Main Trolley Nights
© South Main Trolley Nights
South Main Trolley Nights is a regular cultural street festival held within Memphis' eclectic and historic South Main neighborhood, located one block from historic Beale Street in downtown Memphis. The neighborhood is known as a central hub for the arts, home to the birth of the rock and roll genre and the world's first modern supermarket. The festival was inaugurated in 2000 and is held on the last Friday of each month, presented by the South Main Association. Visitors can explore the neighborhood's galleries and shops during the event, many of which remain open late and offer special exhibitions and events. Live music performances are showcased at several locations, and many restaurants in the area offer food and drink specials for the duration of the event. During the winter holidays, a holiday market is offered in conjunction with the event, featuring artisan vendors and live holiday music performances.
© Courtesy of Georges - Fotolia.com
Overton Park is a 342-acre urban park in Memphis' Midtown district, best known as the site of the famed Levitt Shell, where rock performer Elvis Presley gave his first paid concert. The park is the home of the Memphis Zoo, which showcases more than 3,500 animals for a ticketed upcharge, and the nine-hole Overton Golf Course, which was constructed in 1926. Massive outdoor recreational spaces may be accessed for free, including hiking and jogging trails and an off-leash 1.3-acre dog recreation area. Lovely formal gardens span between Morrie Moss Lane and Veterans Plaza, while more than 32 tree species are showcased at the 172-acre Old Forest Arboretum. Other attractions include the free-admission Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the 142-acre Tennessee State Natural Area.
1914 Poplar Ave #202, Memphis, TN 38104, Phone: 901-214-5450
15.The Wolf River Greenway
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The Wolf River Greenway is a pathway in development along Memphis' Wolf River, eventually intended to span 36 miles from the northern portion of Mud Island to the nearby cities of Collierville and Germantown. The project's initial phase, opened to the public in 2010, stretches between Walnut Grove and Shady Grove Roads as part of the Germantown City Greenway system, spanning more than two and a half miles. It is managed by the Cities of Memphis and Germantown, with an additional 23-mile section currently in development to link the trail to Mud Island in downtown Memphis. The greenway's trail is open to walkers, cyclists, skateboarders, and inline skaters, with a speed limit of 10 miles per hour maintained throughout. Well-behaved dogs are permitted on leashes along the greenway.
P.O. Box 11031 Memphis, TN 38111-0031, Phone: 901-452-6500
16.Beale Street Historic District
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Beale Street Historic District preserves one of America's most iconic urban business districts of the 20th century, known around the world as a hotspot for blues and rock and roll music. The street, which was originally founded in the 1840s and rose to prominence as a popular African-American cultural district at the turn of the 20th century, spans approximately 1.8 miles between the Mississippi River and East Street in downtown Memphis. Its major three-block span is preserved as a National Historic Landmark and is home to a famed neon row of blues nightclubs, restaurants, and shops, considered to be a major melting pot for musical acts across genres, associated with iconic acts such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Louis Armstrong. Each May, the Beale Street Music Festival serves as the kickoff for the citywide Memphis in May celebration, bringing major popular music performers to the street's Tom Lee Park.
Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 901-526-0117
17.Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival
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Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival is the unofficial celebration to start spring in Memphis, hosted each year in mid-April along Wagner Place and Riverside Drive near Beale Street in the city's downtown district. More than 18,000 pounds of crawfish are served at the free-admission festival, which hosts a wide variety of food, drink, and art vendors. Unique crawfish-themed special events are hosted throughout the day, including crawfish bobbing events, crawfish eating contests, crawfish races, and an annual crawfish toss. Live music performances are hosted on three stages, featuring nationally-known artists across several genres. A children's play zone is also offered, along with an annual Louisiana Gumbo Cook-off, which features cash prizes and gumbo tastings.
Wagner Pl, Memphis, TN 38103, Phone: 901-577-2500
18.Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
© Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid offer a chance to explore Memphis' iconic Great American Pyramid, which was constructed in 1991 as a 20,000-seat sporting arena, located along the banks of the Mississippi River near Mud Island. Though the 321-foot Egyptian-themed venue ceased operating as a sporting arena in 2009, it was reopened in 2015 as a megastore for national chain retailer Bass Pro Shops, offering 535,000 square feet of shopping and unique visitor attractions. Visitors can stay at the 103-room Big Cypress Lodge hotel, housed within the pyramid, or explore the Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center, an interactive wetlands educational museum. A nautical-themed restaurant, archery and shooting range, bowling alley, and aquarium are also hosted at the pyramid, along with an observation deck at the structure's tip which may be reached by riding the world's tallest freestanding elevator. Visitors should note that while the pyramid is free to enter, many attractions require a purchase or ticketed upcharge.
1 Bass Pro Dr, Memphis, TN 38105, Phone: 901-291-8200
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GPSMYCITY offers self-guided walking tours throughout many of Memphis' most noted attractions and landmarks, available via the GPSMYCITY app on the iTunes and Google Play smartphone app stores. Visitors can choose from eight different self-guided walking tours available for download on the app, which all include detailed walking tour maps and information on all attractions along the walk. The app works with existing smartphone navigation services to aid visitors in finding walking tour locations throughout the city. Tours include famous architecture walking tours, nightclub walking tours, museum and art gallery walking tours, and tours of sites related to rock performer Elvis Presley. For visitors looking to conserve smartphone data plans, all app data is also available offline.
20.Memphis Made Brewing
© Memphis Made Brewing
Memphis Made Brewing is one of Memphis' premiere craft microbreweries, originally opened to the public in 2014 in the city's Cooper-Young neighborhood. Three year-round brews are offered by the company, including its Cat Nap IPA, European-style Fireside Ale, and Junt Cream Ale. Free brewery tours are offered at the company's tap room each Saturday and Sunday at 4:00pm, elaborating on the brewery's operations and beer-making techniques. Seasonal and limited-release beers can be purchased after tours, including taproom-only offerings. Food trucks are frequently parked on site at the brewery, with free parking offered at the company's lot on York Avenue.
768 Cooper St, Memphis, TN 38104, Phone: 901-207-5343
21.Jimmy Ogle History Walking Tours
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Jimmy Ogle History Walking Tours offer five free guided walking tours throughout Memphis, elaborating on the city's history, architecture, and cultural significance in the American Mid-South. Tours are hosted by popular Memphis history buff and public personality Jimmy Ogle and explore areas of the city's downtown district and famous neighborhoods. Tours are offered weekly, with many showcasing little-known facts about the city's connection to blues, rock and roll, and soul music. Most tours depart on Tuesday mornings, though visitors should check Ogle's website for current tour information. Ogle also appears at a number of public special events throughout the year and is available for hire for private special events and small group presentations.
22.Downtown Memphis Murals
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Downtown Memphis Murals highlight a unique collection of vibrant street art and murals located throughout the city's downtown district, organized into a popular walking tour by the Downtown Memphis Commission. Visitors can explore murals as part of a self-guided walking tour throughout the city or choose select murals to visit for highly-Instagrammable photo opportunities. Murals highlighted on the walking tour include Damon Lamarreed and Pugs Atomz's Sound of Memphis mural, the Artery Murals in Barboro Alley, Jeff Zimmerman's A Note For Hope mural, and a number of cleverly-painted phone box murals throughout the city. Beautiful colorful murals are also located at sites throughout the city's South Main neighborhood, Beale Street Historic District, and Uptown region.
22 Best Free Things to Do in Memphis, TN Year Round
- The March of the Peabody Ducks, Photo: The March of the Peabody Ducks
- Levitt Shell, Photo: Levitt Shell
- Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Photo: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
- The Center for Southern Folklore, Photo: Courtesy of Kim - Fotolia.com
- Elmwood Cemetery, Photo: Courtesy of Tonya Thompson - Fotolia.com
- Lichterman Nature Center, Photo: Courtesy of Peken Rame - Fotolia.com
- The Art Museum at the University of Memphis, Photo: The Art Museum at the University of Memphis
- Shelby Farms Park, Photo: Courtesy of Kurt P. - Fotolia.com
- The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium, Photo: The Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium
- A. Schwab General Store, Photo: A. Schwab General Store
- Graceland Meditation Garden, Photo: Courtesy of white_bcgrd - Fotolia.com
- The Greenline, Photo: Courtesy of mmphoto - Fotolia.com
- South Main Trolley Nights, Photo: South Main Trolley Nights
- Overton Park, Photo: Courtesy of Georges - Fotolia.com
- The Wolf River Greenway, Photo: Courtesy of DonLoucas - Fotolia.com
- Beale Street Historic District, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival, Photo: Courtesy of Yuriy Korzhenevskyy - Fotolia.com
- Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, Photo: Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
- GPSMYCITY, Photo: Courtesy of logan - Fotolia.com
- Memphis Made Brewing, Photo: Memphis Made Brewing
- Jimmy Ogle History Walking Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Bratslavsky - Fotolia.com
- Downtown Memphis Murals, Photo: Courtesy of Alessandro Biascioli - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of The Speedy Butterfly - Fotolia.com