Memphis is no aging sleeping beauty down South. US News & World Report ranked Memphis number 9, just after Portland and San Antonio, among its best affordable destinations in the US.
The city of Memphis lies serenely along the Mississippi River. Though the state of Arkansas is right across, when you look across from Memphis, all you see is empty-looking flat land. That’s because the river comes to flood stage fairly often, and Arkansas, being on a lower plane, gets the brunt of the flooding. So the Arkansans wisely choose not to build anything along their side of the river. Thus, Memphis appears to be a giant settlement teeming with human activity sitting alone atop its elevated perch next to the great Mississippi.
In addition to being the blues and BBQ capital of the US, Memphis is in the middle of a Renaissance – to the tune of $3.5 billion. That’s what they’re investing in the downtown area where tourists love to visit. Memphis tourism is the number two economic driver for the state after agriculture. The culinary scene is rapidly rising above its BBQ roots. James beard-nominated chefs are coming to town to begin catering to the increasing numbers of millennials. Food & Wine magazine ranked the John T Burger at Hog & Hominy – tagline: Italian Cooking. Southern Roots – as number one best in the entire United States. Vogue magazine voted The Gray Canary by chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer as one of the most anticipated American restaurant openings. Fodor’s Go List 2018 ranked Memphis number 6 out of 52 locations. And, of course, don’t forget the barbecue…
Millennials are increasingly attracted to aspects of life in Memphis. They’re finding the weather amenable, the job market cooperative, and the laid-back atmosphere in line with their ideals and conducive to their comfort. Fully one-third of the 600,000 population in the main city are millennials (aged about 25 to 40-ish), many of whom arrived in the last five to ten years.
So, for them and the rest of us non-millennials, why visit Memphis now? Milton Howery, the young and vibrant public relations manager of Memphis Travel, says visitors can immerse themselves in its history, the ongoing culinary revolution, and of course, the Memphis music scene. Along with the legendary Beale Street, the city is rich with music venues that present not just the classics of soul and blues, but also the newer tunes that many millennials crave. Memphis museums honor the city’s deep history, from the Civil War and on to more recent events. Mark your itinerary to include visits to the National Civil Rights Museum, the Blues Hall of Fame, the Memphis Heritage Trail, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, among others.
Unique lodgings abound in Memphis. You can stay at the guest house at Graceland, a new facility built across from the famous mansion. Or the Big Cypress Lodge at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in downtown Memphis. Or choose one of many other four star hotels under construction or in the planning. Getting around while you’re there can be fun. Consider using the bike-share program to make the Big River Crossing, new in 2018. It’s the longest pedestrian and bike crossing bridge over the Mississippi. And also the city now has Birds – personal motorized scooters. These things look much easier to use for us baby boomers then the Segways like we have in Chicago. A really fun way to get around.
Ride your scooter down to where the trolley is blowing its whistle through downtown Memphis. Instead of having to find an official bike storage rack, you can leave your Bird anywhere in the city and the service will find it and pick it up. The city is celebrating its Bicentennial in 2019 that’ll have the city hopping with music and activities. You can stay at the Peabody Hotel as it celebrates its 150-year Legacy as the South’s finest hotel. And don’t miss the Crosstown Concourse. It’s a building that used to be a giant warehouse but is now home to art galleries, retail and even some overnight accommodations. Beautiful lights and lots of activity.
It’s a rising area, it’s a welcoming city, and the sky’s the limit for where it’s $3.5 billion investment is going to take it. It’s a good time to visit Memphis and observe firsthand its continuing dramatic revitalization. And direct flights from Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Nashville and others mean it’s easy to get there.