Fun things to do in Memphis

  • the legendary Orpheum Theater
    the legendary Orpheum Theater
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  • Civil Rights Museum
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  • Civil Rights Museum
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Memphis

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    Gallina Exchange Building on Beale Street

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    Gallina Exchange Building (1891), view 02, 177-81 Beale St, Memphis, TN, USA

    designed by B.C. Alsup for Squire Charles Gallina (c.1860-1914) • known as "The Pride of Beale Street" • originally contained 24/7 saloon with gambling and up to 14 bartenders, hotel w/ marble fireplace in every room •Gallina lived with family on top floor • temporary girders installed, 1980, after fire gutted building • rebuilding plans too difficult and expensive • proposal to move girders to back side of façade rejected partly because girders have become part of Beale St landscape • now patio for Silky O'Sullivan's • Beale St Historic District, National Register #66000731, 1966 • designated National Historic Landmark District, 1966
    Judge Charles Gallina built the structure in 1891. Designed by B. C. Alsup, it was known as the Pride of Beale Street, housing a bustling saloon which was open 24-7, and a hotel favored by the Orpheum Theatre crowd. Every room had a marble fireplace. Judge Gallina lived on the top floor and held court on the 2nd. After he died in 1914, the building was a pharmacy, clothing store, and dentist's office. The steel girders were added in 1980 as a temporary measure after fire gutted the interior. They are now an "art piece" and are probably permanent.

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    Daisy Theater on Beale Street

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    The Daisy Theatre is a prime surving example of nickelodeon architecture from the early cinema era. The tiny hall features a grand half dome entrance on Memphis’s famous Beale Street. It was constructed in 1912 and a loan was secured on a handshake.

    The Daisy Theatre is unusual in that the stage and screen are on the sidewalk end. Double doors on either side of the half-dome enter into small vestibules one on either side of the stage. Emerging from the vestibules, you have the audience looking at you!

    There is a small balcony, vaguely horse-shoe shaped, supported from above with iron rods. This is the reason for the reverse design, the fire escapes from the balcony and booth could only open onto the alley behind the building. There was no lobby at all, just hallways.

    During much of the 20th century Beale Street served as the business and entertainment center for African-Americans from all over the Mid-South. Despite its tiny stage, the Daisy Theatre was a prime performing venue on the so-called “Chitlin' Circuit” from the 1930’s up into the 1960’s.

    In 1941, the New Daisy Theatre was built directly across the street. It too survives and is used as a concert venue.

    During the 1980’s the “Old Daisy” was extensively renovated and reopened as a Beale Street Blues Museum. Today it is in use as a banquet hall providing live entertainment.

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    Martyr's Park in Memphis

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

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    Opening in 1972, this newer park was a long-time coming. It's dedicated to those who did not flee from the yellow fever epidemic in 1878 and stayed to help those who were infected, and to bury the dead. Almost 80 percent of those who stayed caught the fever and one-quarter of them perished. The centerpiece of the park is the sculpture by Harris Sorrels

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    Memphis Bluffwalk Park

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

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    The Bluffwalk along the Mississippi River started as an idea in the 1970s to help in the downtown Renaissance. Today it runs atop the bluff from Union Avenue to Martyr's Park. Although the Bluffwalk had been a trail for decades, getting it officially developed was so controversial that it almost didn't happen. It is so popular now, that this almost seems unimaginable. The first section officially opened in 1999.

    While this is not actually a park and because it's new, it doesn't quite fit on a "Historical" page. However, it is felt that because of the popularity of this walk, it will be here a long time.

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    Spanish War Memorial Park

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

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    This memorial park honors the American Volunteers who fought Spain in Cuba, the Philippines and the Boxer Rebellion. The centerpiece statue of this small park was erected in 1956 with funds raised by Spanish War Veterans of Memphis under the leadership of Fred Bauer, Commander

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    Courthouse Square Park in Memphis

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

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    Court Square provides the perfect place to sit in peace amid the hustle of Downtown Memphis. The quiet oasis is surrounded by office buildings and busy streets and offers a shady area with fountains, statues, and a gazebo, and places to relax and enjoy the restored antique trolleys going by on Main Street. The square is located between Main and Second Streets at Court Avenue. Of all the 4 original municipal parks laid out by the city planners in 1819, Court Square is the only one left in its original form. Ironically the land was set aside to build a court house, but no courthouse was ever built on Court Square. It was however, the site of Memphis' first schoolhouse. The land for Court Square was donated by John McLemore, one of the founders of Memphis

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    W. C. Handy Park on Beale Street

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    W. C. Handy Park, located on Beale Street, was dedicated to "Father of the Blues", W. C. Handy in 1931. Since its creation, the park has been a meeting ground for musicians, with Blues artists still playing in the park for tips. Today, the area is an outdoor performing arts park, where in good weather, street musicians start wandering about noon. The old Beale Street Market House from 1899 originally occupied this site but was torn down to make room for the park. The statue of Handy was decidated in 1960.

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    Jefferson Davis Park in Memphis

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    When Riverside Drive was constructed in the mid-1930s, Jefferson Davis Park was built on what had been an old dumping ground for construction debris and dredge materials from the Mississippi River. It was enlarged to its present size in 1937, using more material dredged from the river. The Park was named after Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, who lived in Memphis from 1869 to 1878 and who was president of an insurance company here. Recently, the city government very quickly renamed this park

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    Confederate Park on the Riverfront Bluff

    by butterflykizzez04 Updated Feb 9, 2014

    Lovely Park located on the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tn. We were down on the river at the Visitors Center leaving when we noticed the Park located on the Bluff overlooking the River. So, we drove across the tracks and up the knoll to the park made a right onto the street and found a parking space. It was very early in the morning but there was a few people moving around and I think some of them were homeless.
    We walked around so I could take some pictures. We read the Historical signs and enjoyed the cannons and the statue of President Jefferson Davis..thus the name Confederate Park.
    I want to enjoy this park when I visit again in the warmer weather. I bet it is very lovely during the spring or summer with flowers.
    I enjoyed the views of the Mississippi River and across the bridge is Arkansas..
    A must when you are visiting the Memphis area!

    Confederate Park was designed by George Kessler as a Memorial to the Civil War, and was dedicated in 1908. It was part of Kessler's original "Grand Design" for Memphis. During the Civil War, the Mississippi River at Memphis was the sight of an intense battle as Southern forces fought to keep control of the waterfront. It wasn't enough. The Union crushed the Confederacy. Many lives were lost as well as the control of Memphis and the entire river. Those troops who died are remembered at Confederate Park. Today, the park provides a great perspective of where the battle occurred and there are markers where you can read first-hand what happened during the battle.

    In spite of the Civil War theme, Confederate park became a dumping ground for a lot of old junk, none related to the Civil War - battered artillery from WWI, E. H. Crump's totem pole, and a concrete block inscribed with the Ten Commandments, as well as numerous fountains. In 1964, the park finally got its Civil War centerpiece, a statue of Jefferson Davis. Davis had lived in Memphis from 1875 to 1878 and a group raised the money to erect the statue. Originally, the park had authentic Civil War cannons, but they were sacrificed for scrap metal during WWII and later WWII cannons were added to the park. Those cannons have been removed and the Shelby County Historical Commission has announced plans to purchase 4 reproduction Civil War cannons to place in Confederate park. Recently the city government very quickly renamed this park.

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    Riveside Park in Memphis

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    iverside Park was designed by George Kessler in 1902 as part of his "grand design" for the Memphis Park system. The park contains 379 acres, a 9 hole golf course, boat ramp and marina, a lake and scenic river views, playgounds, ball field, four lighted tennis courts, picnic areas, and three pavilions. The park is located at S. Parkway and Riverside Drive. The name of the park was changed to "Martin Luther King Riverside Park" in 1968.

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    Forrest Park in Memphis

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    Forrest Park was established in the early 1900s and was another of George Kessler's "Grand Designs for Memphis" parks. The park encompasses 8 acres. The sculpture of Forrest is by Charles H. Niehaus, whose work can also be seen at the Library of Congress. His sculpture is considered one of the finest equestrian public park statures in the U.S. It took him 3 years to model it and nearly nine months for the casting. It's 21' 6" high. The cost of $32,359.53 was raised by private organizations. The bodies of Forrest and his wife were re-interred from the family plot at Elmwood Cemetery to Forrest Park in 1904.



    The park has long been a point of racial controversy in Memphis, with local officials and other groups periodically rallying to rename the park and remove the statue of Forrest, a revered cavalry leader in the Civil War, who also was a slave trader and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan after the war. There are also efforts to move the graves of Forrest and his wife Mary. Forrest was considered an innovative cavalry leader during the war. He enlisted as a Private and was promoted to General by the end. His nickname was "Wizard of the Saddle" and he never lost a battle. After the war, Forrest served as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. In 1875 Forrest was welcomed at the "Jubilee of Pole Bearers" an African-American political group. He received great applause for his speech that focused on friendship between the black and white races.

    Forest Park has now been added to the National register of Historic Places. Recently, the city government quickly renamed this park, but efforts to disinter the bodies buried there have, for now, been laid to rest.

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    Jefferson Davis Statue in Memphis, Tn

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    The statue of Jefferson Davis was erected in Confederate Park in downtown Memphis in 1964, more than half a century after the more famous equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest on Union Avenue. How and why? I wondered in light of the ongoing controversy over Confederate-named parks. What's in a name?
    Honorary names are something of a Memphis specialty. I drove from my house to "Frances Crain" (N. Avalon) to "Sally Wallace Hook Parkway" better known as East Parkway to the McWherter Library (a nod to former governor Ned) at University of Memphis and the Special Collections department on the fourth floor, where curator Ed Frank kindly pulled the Memphis Press-Scimitar newspaper clippings on Jefferson Davis and his statue.

    The statue story is an interesting little yarn. Davis, the first and only president of the Confederacy, lived in Memphis from 1875 to 1878. The drive to honor the "forgotten man" with "a magnificent bronze statue" began in 1956, although the concept was approved by political boss E. H. Crump before he died in 1954. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, later assisted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, were the driving force. The first donation was $26. City officials blessed the project in 1962, when only $1,138 had been raised, but they changed the location from Jefferson Davis Park on Riverside Drive to Confederate Park on the bluff. It took eight years to raise the $17,473 needed for the eight-foot statue and 11-foot pedestal. These were not the days when wealthy benefactors simply wrote a check as they do today.

    "This is a matter of pride for Memphis," said Mrs. Harry Allen (as the newspaper referred to women), leader of the fund drive. "Memphis is the only major city in the South that does not have a statue of this great man."
    This was probably because Memphians, black and white, had bigger things to worry about than statues and symbolism. City schools were desegregated in 1961. Martin Luther King Jr. was speaking to tens of thousands in Washington D.C. and millions on television. The temper of the times can be felt by reading the front pages of The Commercial Appeal, gathered in a fine collection and coffee table book in 1991 on its 150th birthday. From 1962: "Two Men Are Dead in Campus Rioting After Meredith Is Escorted to Dormitory; Soldiers Try to Restore Order at Ole Miss." From 1963: "Sniper Assassinates Kennedy in Dallas." From 1964: "Three Bodies Found by FBI Believed Rights Workers."

    In 1968, the Press-Scimitar reported that "Negro" Aaron Henry of Clarksdale, Mississippi, the state NAACP president, protested the closing of state offices on the anniversary of Davis's birth. Henry said Davis's "only claim to infamy was based on his philosophy of human enslavement of black people by white people." In 1970, the paper reported that Memphis Sesquicentennial Inc. planned to honor both Davis and Robert R. Church Sr., "South's First Negro Millionaire." The Davis statue was lighted. Church got a plaque and a park named for him at Beale and Fourth. The "one of you one of us" process continues to this day.

    Davis, stripped of his rights after the Civil War, died in 1889. He was gone but not forgotten. His birthday, July 3rd, was a legal holiday in Mississippi and ten other states and known as the Confederate Memorial Day. The exact name, number, and dates of such observances today is a morass into which I do not plan fall. Suffice it to say that Davis' rights were officially restored in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, a Southerner.

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    Elvis Statue on Beale Street

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    In 1980 the world's first bronze Elvis statue was unveiled on Beale Street, where the future King of Rock and Roll crafted his early musical style. But the statue, by Eric Parks, proved too delicate for the elements and souvenir-crazed fans, who stripped its guitar strings and tore the tassels from Elvis's suit. It was taken down in 1994 and moved indoors to the downtown Memphis Tennessee Welcome Center.

    That left Elvis Presley Plaza with a big, empty spot. It was finally filled in 1997 with the arrival of a new, completely different bronze Elvis statue by sculptor Andrea Lugar. This Elvis, unlike the original, shows him as he would have looked on Beale Street circa 1955 (pre-tassels), wearing a stage outfit he might have bought at Lansky Bros. down the block.

    Although designed to be more sturdy than the previous statue, it's also kept at a distance from the public behind an encircling fence.

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    Historic Memphis Courthouse Square & Hebe Fountain

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    Court Square provides the perfect place to sit in peace amid the hustle of Downtown Memphis. The quiet oasis is surrounded by office buildings and busy streets and offers a shady area with fountains, statues, and a gazebo, and places to relax and enjoy the restored antique trolleys going by on Main Street. The square is located between Main and Second Streets at Court Avenue. Of all the 4 original municipal parks laid out by the city planners in 1819, Court Square is the only one left in its original form. Ironically the land was set aside to build a court house, but no courthouse was ever built on Court Square. It was however, the site of Memphis' first schoolhouse. The land for Court Square was donated by John McLemore, one of the founders of Memphis
    In 1876 the Hebe Fountain, donated to the City by some prominent city leaders, was erected in the center of the park. In Greek mythology Hebe was the Cupbearer to the Gods. Memphians have enjoyed the fountain, practically non-stop since it was dedicated. The light display at night is especially beautiful. Hard to image but there's one drowning associated with the fountain.

    Originally the basin of the fountain was 6 1/2 feet deep, stocked with cat fish and turtles, and no fence. In 1884, 10 year old Claude Pugh, sitting on the edge, leaned too far and tumbled in. The sloped edges were slippery from algae and he couldn't regain his footing. Incredibly, the park was filled with visitors and no one made an effort to save him. After struggling for several minutes, he slipped beneath the surface. The Memphis Daily Appeal reported "Stalwart men stood silently by with staring eyes and gaping mouths. Their hearts must have been made of stone, and the milk of human kindness in their beasts sour whey. More consideration would have been given a dumb beast"

    The fountain is made of cast iron and is 20 feet high, with a diameter of 35 feet and weighs 7000 pounds. It is a copy after the great Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. In 1932 a movement was started to remove the fountain from Court Square (Hebe is nude from the waist up), but their efforts didn't succeed. In 1942, the statue was toppled in a wind storm and in 1949 re-erected after restoration. In 1957, the fish were changed back from goldfish to catfish but so many were stolen that the fish were taken out altogether. In 1980, the fountain was completely renovated

    Court Square appeared in the movie "The Firm" as the backdrop for a meeting between Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. Santa Claus used to make annual appearances in the Gazebo during the Christmas season. A temporary, prototype fallout shelter was erected in 1960 to show Memphians the type of shelter they can build at home to provide protection from a nuclear blast. Today, Court Square remains one of the symbols of Memphis, and is still surrounded by an intact grouping of architecturally significant buildings. In 1982 Court Square was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    Lorraine Hotel @ Civil Rights Museum

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Feb 9, 2014

    The National Civil Rights Museum is a privately owned complex of museums and historic buildings built around the former Lorraine Motel at 450 Mulberry Street in Memphis, Tennessee, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
    Major components of the complex on 4.14 acres include a museum and the Lorraine Motel and hotel buildings. The complex also includes the Young and Morrow Building at 422 Main Street, which was the site where James Earl Ray initially confessed (and later recanted) to shooting King. The complex additionally includes the Canipe’s Amusement Store at 418 Main Street. The store is next door to the rooming house where the alleged murder weapon, with Ray's fingerprints, was found. Included on the grounds is the brushy lot that stood between the rooming house and the motel.
    The Museum traces the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 17th century to the present.
    The complex is owned by the nonprofit Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation. It is located on the south edge of Downtown Memphis, Tennessee in what is now called the South Main Arts District and is about six blocks east of the Mississippi River.
    The first hotel on the site was the 16-room Windsorlorrine Hotel built on the northern side of the complex around 1925 which was renamed the Marquette Hotel. Walter Bailey purchased it in 1945 and renamed it for his wife Loree and the song Sweet Lorraine. During segregation it was an upscale accommodation that catered to a black clientele. He added a second floor, a swimming pool, and then drive up access for more rooms on the south side of the complex converting the name from Lorraine Hotel to Lorraine Motel. Its guests included musicians going to Stax Records including Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and Wilson Pickett.[1]
    Following the assassination of King, Bailey left Room 306 (the room King was assassinated in front of) and the adjoining room 307 unoccupied as a memorial to King. Bailey's wife Loree, who suffered a stroke hours after the assassination, died five days after the assassination. Bailey converted the other motel rooms to single room occupancy.[1]
    Bailey worked with Chuck Scruggs, program director of WDIA and attorney D'Army Bailey, to raise funds to "Save the Lorraine" in the newly formed Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation, and bought the motel for $144,000, following foreclosure in December 1982. The name was changed to Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation in 1984. The Lorraine closed as a motel on March 2, 1988, when sheriff's deputies forcibly evicted the last holdout tenant, Jacqueline Smith, in preparation for an $8.8 million overhaul.[2] Bailey died in July 1988.[3]Smithsonian Institution curator Benjamin Lawless created a design for saving historical aspects of the site. The Nashville, Tennessee firm McKissack and McKissack was tapped to design a modern museum on those portions of the grounds that were not directly related to the assassination.[1]
    The museum was dedicated on July 4, 1991 and officially opened to the public on Sept. 28, 1991.[1]
    In 1999 the Foundation acquired the Young and Morrow Building, and its associated vacant lot on a hill on the West side of Mulberry. A tunnel was built under the lot, connecting the building with the motel. The Foundation became the custodian of the police and evidence files associated with the assassination, including the rifle and fatal bullet, which are on display in a 12,800 sq. foot exhibit in the building. The building opened Sept. 28, 2002.[1]
    In 2012, Michigan State University Press released author Ben Kamin's oral history, 'ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel,' which chronicles the assassination of MLK at the Lorraine Motel site and the difficult campaign that ensued to save the motel from foreclosure or demolition and the eventual transformation of the site into the National Civil Rights Museum.

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Memphis Things to Do

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