Known as a hub for blues, soul and rock ’n’ roll (and barbecue, but we don’t talk about that), Memphis is celebrating 200 years of culture and critical history lessons, from King to the King. Learn about the civil rights movement, explore Graceland, and romp around the city’s children’s museum and botanic garden.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS
Housed in two infamous buildings, the NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM depicts African-Americans’ fight for justice through artifacts and interactive, re-created settings like the Birmingham jail and the Woolworth’s lunch counter. The Lorraine building was once the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated; see Room
306, where King spent his last moments, and watch one of 40 films on topics like slavery and the civil rights movement. The Legacy building, previously a boarding house, contains the room from which James Earl Ray is believed to have shot King. Visit the museum website for resources to engage your kids in conversation regarding racial justice. Admission is $16 for adults, $13 for ages 5–17 and free for littles 4 and younger.
The PINK PALACE FAMILY OF MUSEUMS is home to artifacts from Memphis history (all the way back to A.D. 1200), a 3D theater, and the Sharpe Planetarium, where families can take an adventure through space. The recently renovated pink marble mansion from which the property gets its name has a re-constructed, early Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Admission is $15 adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for ages 3–12 and free for age 2 and younger. Entry to the 3D theater and planetarium costs extra.
FOR MUSIC LOVERS
After a tour of GRACELAND, your littles will be up to speed on Elvis Presley’s legacy and perhaps even have a newfound respect for electric guitars and bell-bottom pants.
Peruse Presley’s home with original decor from the ’50s; the two-hour tour ends at the meditation garden, where Presley and his family members are buried. Tour tickets begin at $41 for adults, $21 for ages 7–12 and free for children 6 and younger.
The likes of Presley and Johnny Cash recorded some of their biggest hits at SUN STUDIO. Retrace the footsteps of these legends during a 45-minute guided studio tour, which includes outtakes from original recording sessions. Tours are $14 for adults and free for ages 5–11. (Unfortunately, kids under 5 are not allowed on guided tours but are welcome to take photos in the studio afterward; Sun Studio will accommodate parents with kids who won’t be going on the tour with one free adult ticket.) Purchase tickets in person.
FOR LITTLE EXPLORERS
The CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF MEMPHIS is great for kiddie play and exploration, with 30 salons and exhibits to delve into. Kids learn about the body and the importance of making healthy decisions at the Healthy Habit section and can create their very own (pretend) cuisine masterpieces at the Little Fixin’s Kitchen. Other must-visit sections include a role-play area for dress-up fun, a tree house equipped with sounds of the wild, an arts and crafts area (aka the Doodlebug Studio) and more to spark your littles’ imaginations.
Don’t leave the museum without letting your kids take a ride on the recently restored 1909 Memphis Grand Carousel. Admission is $15 for adults and children; free for tiny tots under 1.
Explore 96 acres of great outdoors at the MEMPHIS BOTANIC GARDEN—aside from the gorgeous greenery, kids will enjoy moving through the children’s garden, My Big Backyard, where they’ll find a larger-than-life birdhouse, colorful mini houses, puppet shows, worm tunnels to wriggle through and more interactive, outdoor fun. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 2–12 and free for kids younger than 2.