After spending a weekend in Memphis in 2019 with friends I knew I had to return with my children. There are so many things to do in Memphis with kids and it’s the perfect trip for the whole family. My mom even joined us and a city with endless activities that can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages is always a win in my book. We spent three nights in Memphis and this is what we did!
Outdoor Things to Do in Memphis with Kids
We visited Memphis with kids during Covid-19 so I’ll also be including things the city/attractions were doing to ensure our safety. As a start the city has a mask mandate for all public spaces!
Mud Island River Park
Mud Island River Park sits along the Mississippi River and has a cool scale of the whole river with informational signs along the way which gives information on the river. If you want to learn more about the river you can also visit the Mississippi River Museum that is here.
There is a ton of space here for kids to run around and for your family to have a picnic. It’s also where you can take a picture with the gigantic Memphis sign.
Explore Beale Street
While I don’t recommend bringing children to Beale Street at night, it’s a Memphis staple they can enjoy during the day. Take a stroll down and make stops at A. Schwab which has an old-fashioned soda fountain kids love. They will probably also bed you to stop at Sugar Shack which is known for their fudge and will let you try whatever flavors you like! Click here to explore “America’s Most Iconic Street” on a one-hour guided walking tour.
Walk the Big River Crossing and Enjoy the Mighty Lights Show
The Big River Crossing is the longest pedestrian and biking bridge over the Mississippi River. Open from 6AM to 10PM it connects Tennessee and Arkansas and you’ll be able to have one foot in Tennessee and one in Arkansas if you walk it.
If you visit Big River Crossing in the evening once the sun goes down you’ll be able to experience the Mighty Lights Show.This is when 100,000 LED lights create a show on the bridge with a variety of light sequences. The show happens hourly until 10pm and is free light the entire path.
Shelby Farms Park
One of our favorite things to do in Memphis with kids is visiting Shelby Farms Park. The park is massive and offers lots including special events, so be sure to check out their calendar. We spent our time at Shelby Farms Park riding bikes and enjoying the lake on a pedal boat.
We rented bikes at Hyde Lake and rode around the bike path there. If you visited on the weekend reservations are required for rentals but you can walk up Monday through Friday. They do not rent bikes with training wheels but they do offer bike trailers and tandem bikes in addition to regular bikes.
Once we rode around the lake it was time to get on the lake. You can rent stand up paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats. If you have your own boat you can bring it and enjoy the lakes here but if you’re fishing you need a license if you’re over 13!
If you visit during summer be sure to bring bathing suits for your kids so they can enjoy they Water Play Sprayground. You can also book horseback riding (8+) on the trails here or take a pony ride (4+). There is laser tag, paintballing, an obstacle course and more. You can easily spend all day here and never run out of things to do!
We didn’t get a chance to visit the Memphis Zoo on this visit but I previously visited on my weekend in Memphis in 2019. The zoo is Egyptian themed from the outside and has really nice exhibits. If you have time, it’s worth visiting.
Historical Things to Do in Memphis with Kids
Memphis is filled with history and it’s highlighted throughout the city. We enjoyed learning more about the ways the city has shaped the US today.
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
During Covid-19 reservations are required to visit the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum and tour capacity is limited. Before being allowed in the building your temperature is taken and masks are required on property. The museum was the home of abolitionist Jacob Burkle, a german immigrant who used his cellar to house enslaved Africans looking to escape via the underground railroad.
The tour which lasts 1-2 hours depending on your guide goes over the Atlantic slave trade, how enslaved Africans were bought and sold in Memphis, and how enslaved Africans used quilts embedded with cosed to navigate the underground railroad.
On the tour you’ll be able to stand in the cellar Burkle used to protect enslaved Africans while on their journey to freedom. The house sits just two blocks from the Mississippi River and helped many enslaved Africans escape. It’s a must visit while in Memphis.
I Am A Man Plaza
The I Am a Man Plaza highlights the history of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968. The strike is what brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, where he delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech”, the day before being assasinated. The plaza was a key rallying point of the strike and the sculpture lists the names of those who participated.
National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The museum covers civil rights history from slavery, through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and other events through the late 20th century that had strong influences on civil rights.
While the motel is no longer operating the facade of the motel remains and so does Dr. Martin Luther King’s room. Before exiting the museum you’ll be able to walk through this part of the building and see the room.
Be prepared to explore the museum for at least 90 minutes but know it could take you much longer depending on how in depth you go in each exhibit as there are lots of interactive experiences.
Due to Covid-19 the museum is selling timed tickets and only allowing 50 guests in every 15 minutes to maintain social distancing. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the museum, face masks are required to be worn everywhere, and high touch areas are frequently sanitized.
The Withers Collection Museum and Gallery
The Withers Collection Museum and Gallery is the last studio of Dr. Ernest Withers. Withers is a native Memphian who is an internationally acclaimed photographer best known for his Civil Rights photography. The 1.8 million photographs he captured includes him covering the Emitt Till case, serving as a personal photographer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more.
The gallery highlights his photography covering the Civil Rights movement, music from Elvis to Aretha, sports, and lifestyle. The collection is beautiful and you can purchase prints of anything you see here. During Covid, the gallery is accessible for private tours only where your group will be alone without other guests.
Things to Do in Memphis with Kids that Highlights Music
Memphis is the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll so you cannot visit here and not dive into the music culture. So many greats were born in Memphis or made legends in the city including Al Green, B.B, King, Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, Johnny Cash, Justin Timberlake and more. They’re highlighted at several attractions in the city, some which we were able to visit.
If you love the Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin and other soul music musicians you have to visit the Stax Museum. The Museum goes over the history of Stax Records and is located on the original site of the studio. These tickets allow you to explore the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of American soul music.
My girls had the time of their lives dancing throughout the museum, especially at the Soul Train section. Next to the museum is the Stax Music Academy which has been serving at-risk youth since 2000 through mentoring and music education programs. Your support of the museum supports this program!
Graceland is the famous home of Elvis Presley which he purchased in 1957 and lived with his parents until his death. He along with his parents and grandmother are buried on the property. Graceland is much more than a house tour; it’s a massive compound that includes showrooms of his cars, planes and personal belongings. This tour gives you VIP access to Graceland as well as a tour of Nashville.
While part of the tour is outside a lot is inside and Graceland is checking temperatures upon entry, requiring advance reservations and limiting the number of guests on the shuttle. The tour starts with you walking through the downstairs and basement of the home which is still decorated the way it was when Elvis passed.
With only 3 days in the city we couldn’t visit every musical attraction but hope to visit these the next time we’re in Memphis with kids.
- Memphis Music Hall of Fame
- Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum
- Blues Hall of Fame
- Sun Studios
Where to Stay in Memphis with Kids
When deciding where to stay we thought about the things to do in Memphis with kids and how we could be in close proximity to them. We chose the Canopy Downtown Memphis which was walking distance to a lot of the things we did. This helped with not having to constantly load the kids in and out of the car and let us discover things that weren’t on our itinerary.
The Canopy Downtown Memphis opened October 2019 and is part of the Hilton family. The hotel has King, double Queens, deluxe rooms and one bedroom suites. The hotel also has a lush lobby, gym, and meeting room.
Onsite is a small cafe serving breakfast and the celebrity chef ran restaurant, Curfew, which serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. We ate here for dinner and it was absolutely amazing, so good we snuck in another meal here before we left!
Masks are required in all public spaces of the hotel, elevators are limited to those in your party, housekeeping is by request only and
Where to Eat in Memphis with Kids
Memphis is foodie heaven and while the city is known for BBQ there is so much more to eat here.
Breakfast in Memphis
Hustle & Dough
If you want a good breakfast but want to avoid the crowardness of a typical sit down restaurant, Hustle & Dough is the place for you. They don’t have the most extensive menu but what they do have is excellent. My husband said this was the best avocado toast he’s ever had! They have two small tables for outdoor seating.
If you like to visit restaurants featured on the Food Network you have to come to Arcade Restaurant as it’s been on just about every food channel. They’re famous for their Sweet Potato pancakes. There are about four tables outside for table service.
This was personally my favorite breakfast in Memphis. There are so many options available here and they actually have turkey bacon, for someone who doesn’t eat beef or pork visiting Memphis I felt like I was in heaven. You order and pay at the register but if dining in you’re given a number for your table and staff will bring your food out. They have lots of outdoor seating and the indoor seating is also open air.
Lunch and Dinner
Gus’ Fried Chicken
If you leave Memphis without having the world famous Gus’ Fried Chicken some people won’t believe you ever came. Their chicken is so juicy and it’s the only meat they offer. If coming for lunch order ahead or arrive early as they are extremely popular and you’ll encounter a line otherwise. Their downtown location does not have outdoor seating but it’s two minutes from River Garden Park so you can take your food to go and have a picnic.
The Slider Inn has a huge outdoor section and on Saturdays they have live music starting at 1pm. They have a large food selection and they aren’t stingy with the portions. We really enjoyed our meal here and the kids loved dancing while waiting for their food.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous
Infamous for their charcoal ribs, they have the cutest outdoor seating section in the alley. My mom and husband who do eat meat said they were very tender! If you don’t eat red meat like me they have a delicious BBQ chicken option!
We spent 3 days exploring the city and while there are more things to do in Memphis with kids coming for a long weekend is the perfect getaway. Memphis was just one of the stops on our Tennessee road trip. If you have time while in the state it’s worth visiting other cities. Check out our itineraries for Nashville, Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, and Franklin. Did you find this article helpful? Please share it!
The Traveling Child is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
This is a great list I’m bookmarking for later when I hope we can do a Southeast roadtrip. I went to Memphis pre-kids so its helpful to have kid-friendly spots!