Thursday, September 11, 2014

Have kids, will travel: Memphis

My husband had a training for work scheduled in Memphis and asked if we'd like to come along. At first I was like, "What's in Memphis?" But, you know I'm always up for an adventure, so I started researching things to do with kids.

Day 1: I called this day "Water & Fire Day"
I started the day off by taking the kids to the Civic Center Plaza, which has cool fountains that spray up from the ground, so they could run around just like they were at a water park - but for free ;)
Next up we went back to the hotel pool, which was on the 10th floor and overlooked the Mississippi River, so the kids could get some serious swimming in.
After becoming waterlogged - it was time to warm up with some fire! We headed over to the Memphis Fire Museum. The downside was that we found out most of the exhibits were closed, the upside was that it was free to see what exhibits were open! The museum has since reopened, so I'd recommend checking out the updates!
We rounded out the day with a trip to the Peabody Hotel, which is known for it's duck parade at 5pm. The ducks parade out of the fountain in the lobby, go to the elevator, spend the night on the roof, then come down the next morning to swim the day away in the lobby fountain and do the whole routine over again.
We had dinner at the Blues City Café on Beale Street and I've got to say: the #1 thing I like best about Memphis is that when you say you're from Detroit, people excitedly reply, "Detroit! That's Motown!" which is a lot different from other responses I've heard around the country.  The #2 best thing about Memphis is all the live music! And there is no shortage at the restaurants, cafes and bars on Beale Street.

Day 2: Mud Island
Memphis has a super cool Island, Mud Island. You can walk over for free, but we took the monorail which also included tickets to the Mississippi River Museum. The most famous part of Mud Island is the scale model of the Mississippi River that is 5 blocks long!!! It shows a lot of detail too, including river heights and cities and other landmarks along the river's path. Definitely something to check out if you are in Memphis!
After this long walk in the sun, we headed down the street to Riverfront Bar and Grill. My kids had passed it the day before and wanted to eat there since you could eat outside overlooking the Mississippi. The food there turned out to be YUMMY!
We also toured the Gibson Guitar Factory. And got a fascinating lesson on how their guitars are made.

Day 3: Memphis Museums
So, while poking around on Pintrest, I found that the Memphis Museums offered a FREE family pass for the summer just for signing up! Their largest museum is The Pink Palace, which has a little bit of everything! Fossils, dinosaurs, skeletons, Tennessee and Memphis history, music, and more! There were hands-on exhibits for the kids and the whole museum took up the morning.
After a yummy Mexican lunch we headed to the Lichterman Nature Center, which was also under the free museum membership. There was a small visitor's center with displays and tons of walking paths. However, my kids were pooped from the morning at the museum and the hot Tennessee sun, so we stayed just long enough to get some amazing views of the American lotus pond.
Dinner was at Central BBQ, famous for giving you a ton of food!

Day 4: Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum
After being thrifty and doing free or close-to-free things all week, we splurged and went to Graceland. After living in the Detroit area for so long, and touring the homes of the auto barons from the early 1900s, I was surprised at how small, unadorned and modern Graceland was. Still it was interesting to see the place of legends and to hear more of Elvis' history. The kids demanded we add the jets to the tour, so we saw Elvis' personal airplanes, and there was also a car museum that the Detroiters in us loved.
We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Café in Memphis, yep, we were going all out on the regular tourist thing. Then we went to the National Civil Rights Museum at the site of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. What a sobering time. We've come so far, yet have so much work still to do. I would love to go back to this museum sometime when I don't have two young kids trying to hurry me through! I highly recommend visiting, but make sure you have the time to spend uninterrupted so that you can take it all in.
We ate dinner at The Kooky Canuck, because, you know Detroit isn't close enough to Canada, so we had to get Canadian cuisine while we were in Tennessee!

Day 5: The End
We only had the morning to sightsee, so we went to The Mallory-Neely House, another included in the Memphis Museums! We were the only ones there for the first tour of the day - so we got a personal tour! This house was absolutely AMAZING! So carefully preserved, thankfully because of having few owners. THIS is what I was missing when we toured Graceland. Original woodwork, stained glass, turn-of-the-last-century furnishings. I didn't take any pictures because this place because it just seemed disrespectful, so just take my advice and visit it!!!
So, after not really knowing why I'd want to go to Memphis, I've concluded that it is a WONDERFUL city, with lots to see and do. Yes, I'd visit again!