After the day long drive from Chicago to Memphis, after nightfall I arrived in the arts/warehouse district of Memphis Tennessee. As usual, I had no idea what to expect, at all. I just knew that Memphis was a city that intrigued me so, with it’s rich history, it’s homage to birthing great musicians, and the lure of the Mississippi River. I knew I could give it a try for a month and see where the wind took me.
I stayed in the Arts/Warehouse District of Memphis. It was south of Downtown, and walking distance to the Main Street shops as well as the infamous Beale Street (which you should at least spend one night on, but then after that diversify your social life!). I was also a couple blocks from a beautiful park and the Mississippi River, where the sun set each night in radiant colors of oranges, purples, blues and yellows. Each night I saw that sunset was picturesque, and it was serene just to walk along the promenade that paralleled the river.
The one coworking space I would’ve loved to work out of, Cowork Memphis, wasn’t yet open. I did have the pleasure of meeting the founders and getting a tour of the soon-to-be-open space. It was beautiful, and as I walked into the open rooms my mind started to fill them with possibilities. Oh how I wished I had that kind of space at my fingertips when I partnered in Sizeable Spaces in Baltimore. You could tell that a lot of thought and energy was put into the space. At the moment I was there, they were getting ready to put down floors. They had just finished painting accent walls (my favorite!!) and installing large dry erase boards on the walls in certain rooms. It was fabulous. I loved their vision and their energy, and still can’t wait to see what happens with them.
It was also Entrepreneur Week in Memphis, and I had the pleasure of attending a couple events throughout the week, including Ignite Memphis, which took place at Crosstown Arts.
THINGS YOU MUST DO
STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL MUSIC: A wonderful self guided tour through the birthplace of American Soul Music, and it also includes a couple interactive components. Watch the introduction video and learn how the events of the civil rights movement and the death of Dr. Martin Luther King JR forever changed this industry. Also listen to the artists and hear their passion for their craft. Truly soulful musicians making a mark in music and in history.
THE METAL MUSEUM: The only of its kind in the country, the Metal Museum is tucked south of Riverside Blvd in De Soto Park, along the Mississippi River. Within the two buildings that house the museum’s treasures, you’ll find intricately detailed metal work, from exquisite and comical sculptures to intricate iron fences. You’ll marvel over the pattern and detail. My only wish was for there to be more descriptions of the pieces shown, so I could understand their context and intention.
SUN STUDIO: This is the establishment where Elvis was discovered, along with Johnny Cash and other rock legends. The unique tour is led by local musicians, each who put their own interesting twist on the story, providing a different experience each time.
WISEACRE BREWING COMPANY: While they don’t offer tours yet, most of their operation is visible through the floor to ceiling windows in their tap room. You can stop by here most evenings starting at 4pm and sample their local brews right off the tap. In the parking lot you’ll find a local food truck providing local eats (not for the healthy eater, ha ha!) to accompany your brews.
BEALE STREET: If you’re passing through Memphis, you have to spend a couple hours here, particularly in the evening. If you go during the week days, you’ll find there’s no cover. Beale Street is just 2 blocks or so in terms of where you’ll find the action, but what you do is walk up down the street with your ears truly open to the sounds of live music coming from all the establishments. Find the one you vibe with the most, and then go right on inside.
COOPER YOUNG NEIGHBORHOOD: I’m just going to go ahead and tell you what you probably won’t find anywhere online. The Cooper Young neighborhood is definitely where you want to be for socializing. The streets are lined with great places to drink and eat, and it comes to life as happy hour approaches. If you are looking for something off the tourist-path, this is the place to go.
DIXON GALLERY & GARDENS, AND MEMPHIS BOTANIC GARDEN: Here is the ideal spot for a sunny day. Enjoy the outdoor gardens and the indoor exhibit space, featuring changing exhibits and a rather diverse permanent collection of art.
EAT GOOD FOOD
Now, I am a more of a health nut, so my choices were definitely on the healthy side, but if you are a foodie, there’s no reason for you to not live it up in Memphis.
Places I went that I loved :
- Rizzo’s Diner – an excellent spot for lunch during the day
- Bluff City Coffee – where to get your local cup of jo, also a great place for working for the afternoon
- The Majestic Grill – on main street, downtown, diverse selection of American food
- Tamp & Tap – downtown, nicely decorated, perfect for coffee/lunch, great to set up your laptop too
- Mollie Fontaine – the exterior looks like a house, but inside you’ll find a bar & lounge with a piano, good ol’ fashioned drinks and eats. The perfect relaxing way to end a work day.
- Cafe Eclectic – locally owned, a neighborhood favorite, good service, great food, delicious coffee
- Bar Louie Memphis – great drinks and eats, also a local favorite
- Alchemy Memphis – tapas, good wine and drinks, trendy, a little upscale
I most definitely didn’t know a soul in Memphis! And actually a lot of my normal tactics for conquering a city where coming up short. I did connect with a couple friends through Meetup.com, which allowed me to sync up with a new friend for drinks and later to go museum hopping. I saw that the CouchSurfing page for Memphis was rather inactive, but I still managed to connect with one local, who honestly showed me a side to Memphis I promise you I would not have found on my own. I also hung out with my AirBNB host for a couple lunches, trading design and business secrets. Between them, and exploring with my sister and her fiance when they came to visit, I had a well rounded experience in this southern city.
It started to get crazy cold my last couple of days in the city, a change in the wind that made me feel like Mary Poppins and that it was my time to move on. Not sure if the wind will ever blow me this way again, but I do have some great stories from my time in Memphis.