Grand Carousel

10 Fresh Reasons to Get to Memphis

Need a fresh reason to visit (or re-visit) Memphis in the new year? We’ll give you 10. 

1. Try new restaurants 

In food-and-drink news, 2017 didn’t wind down — it cranked up, with several new restaurants opening late in the year. South Main Market is one example: a food hall decked with options from cocktails and small bites to meat-and-three plates to vegetarian fare. After your meal, stroll over to Old Dominick Distillery, where The Gray Canary is set to open in early 2018. The latest concept from local darlings (and James Beard Foundation favorites) Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, it’s expected to feature a raw bar and wood-fired menu items. 

2. Ride the Grand Carousel at The Children’s Museum of Memphis 

This one just opened Dec. 1, 2017, so it’s as good as new. Technically, the carousel was new in 1909, but it’s been out of service since 2005. After two years of restoration, it’s spinning again with 48 distinct, colorful horses; reaffirming its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. Get involved in MLK50

Memphis’ National Civil Rights Museum launched MLK50 in April 2017. The year-long project encourages reflection on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and renewed commitments to his call for peace and action. It wraps April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel (now part of the museum). Check out the MLK50 events here or visit the museum for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration, a day of free activities that ends with a ceremony in King’s honor. 

4. Dig deeper into Memphis’ African-American heritage

At the time of his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis advocating for sanitation workers striking for fair working conditions. Their gathering place, Clayborn Temple, was named in late 2017 to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Treasures portfolio and will soon have a beatiful new I Am A Man Plaza commemorating the 1968 sanitation workers strike which includes a 15-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture with quotes from speeches by civil rights leaders. Through 2018, catch periodic events hosted at the site, and learn more about its ongoing restoration here. The site is one of many on the developing Memphis Heritage Trail — check out their online maps for a DIY walking tour of African-American heritage sites in and around Downtown Memphis.

5. Book new digs Downtown

Cranes are in the air and some new hotel choices will be available. One is the Marriott International is giving a $3-million makeover to one downtown hotel, transforming it into Moxy Memphis Downtown. Expect snappy design, ready access to technology (fast and free WiFi, internet TV and the like) and communal spaces indicative of Marriott’s experiential brand — all for an affordable rate. With just 118 rooms, your stay should feel personal, too. Browse the new options or find a historic spot.

Memphis Airport
Memphis Trolley
Walking by I Am A Man Mural
Stage at beale street music festival
New lineups, new buildings and new ways to discover our legends and history

6. Explore Bike Share

Memphis has earned national acclaim for radicalizing its bikeability over the last few years. The crowning achievement is set for spring 2018, when the nation’s largest BCycle bikeshare fleet will arrive in the city. That’s 600 bikes featuring built-in GPS with turn-by-turn directions, plus curated routes to help you explore Memphis’ musical legacy, African-American heritage and more. Pedal on.

7. Tour by trolley

After careful restoration, Memphis’ antique trolley cars are expected to be running again by spring 2018. Hop aboard for a moving view of Main Street. 

8. Fest it up

Tickets are already on sale for the 42nd annual Beale Street Music Fest, May 4-6, 2018. For newbies, that’s one weekend, 60-plus artists and four stages, all in Downtown Memphis. If you voted in the 2017 poll for the artists you’d like to hear, come see if your picks won. (The ballot included Jack White, Three 6 Mafia and Margo Price among others.)

9. Anticipate airport upgrades

Memphis International Airport’s B Concourse is getting modernized. Think: larger gate areas with more seating, additional charging stations and lounge space, a children’s play area; even a stage for live music. It’s going to be awesome when it’s complete (2021). In 2018, construction begins, but there are plans in place to help you work around it.
Learn more 

10. Keep an eye on performing arts calendar

At the Orpheum through mid-2018, you can catch broadway shows including The Color Purple and Wicked at Memphis’ grand historic theater. But stay tuned for the 2018-2019 season announcement, when the dates for Hamilton will be confirmed.