Memphis is located right on the Mississippi River in the state of Tennessee, directly bordering Alabama to the south and Arkansas across the river to the West. Sitting on the edge of America’s Deep South, the city occupies a unique niche in both geography and culture.
As a city of great historical significance, Memphis has a lot of cultural sites to visit, including Graceland, Elvis’ old mansion. Outside of this, the city also offers a lot of the amenities that visitors can enjoy anywhere, including the renowned Memphis Zoo and the Wolfchase Galleria.
In the rest of the article, we’re going to learn about the people of Memphis, its history and what it’s known for, as well as the kinds of places you can visit and stay in while in this historic city.
Who Are the People of Memphis?
The population of Memphis boasts a rich and varied history. Starting from the first Spanish soldiers to establish the fort there, many waves of migration have brought a number of nations to the city. The Irish Potato Famine sent scores of Irish settlers to Memphis in the mid-19th century, supplementing the existing Anglo-American population.
The American Civil War led to another demographic shift, when the Union Army’s occupation of the city led to it becoming a place of refuge for fugitive slaves. This presence continued and grew, and today Black Americans make up the majority of Memphis’ population, sitting at around two thirds.
What is the History of Memphis?
The first European settlement in Memphis was built in 1795 when a fort was commissioned by the governor of Spanish Louisiana to sit alongside the Mississippi River. This fort was dismantled very shortly thereafter, but the site remained of interest to potential future settlers.
The city of Memphis was incorporated in 1826. Its location on the majestic Mississippi gave it its inspiration for the name, from the ancient Egyptian city that sat alongside the Nile River. The mid-19th century saw turmoil with both its occupation during the Civil War as well as a series of clashes that occurred during this time between the civil government and the new settlers.
The 20th century saw a very different kind of economy, starting with a Ford factory in 1913 and continuing with other plants for manufactured goods. The combination of this industrial base and its large Black population made Memphis a center of the Civil Rights Movement, culminating in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel, now part of the National Civil Rights Museum.
What is Memphis Known For?
Although the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. remains one of the most notable historic events of the city, Memphis is known for a lot of positive things as well. As with the state of Tennessee as a whole, Memphis is also individually renowned for its prominence in American music.
Memphis served as the base not just for a lot of famous musicians – most notable of whom is Elvis Presley, whose old mansion Graceland is there – but for entire genres. The city is responsible for a lot of the development of gospel and rock, and also the outright creation of sub genres such as Memphis blues and crunk.
Where Should a Visitor to Memphis Go?
Whether you’re interested in Memphis for its status as a musical hub or its seminal history in the Civil Rights Movement, you’ll find a host of attractions to draw you in. If you’re visiting the city for neither, you’ll still find no shortage of amenities to suit your needs.
The old home of Elvis Presley, the large estate offers everything you can take in about the singer in a one-stop tour. From his clothing and equipment to the airplane he used to tour, it contains the most extensive collection of Elvis memorabilia in existence. For an unforgettable experience, you can even have your wedding in the attached Chapel in the Woods.
National Civil Rights Museum
Located at the old Lorraine Motel, the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum is a sobering look at the world-changing history of Memphis. First opened in 1991, the museum has a varied collection of events and exhibits to experience the city’s history in a way that hadn’t been possible before.
Memphis Zoo, located on Prentiss Place, has around 4 500 animals from across the globe, making it not at all surprising that it was ranked as the best zoo in the United States by TripAdvisor. Whether you want to take your little ones for one of the many Just For Kids events or grab a bite to eat surrounded by the rich menagerie of animals, you won’t be disappointed.
Staying true to its history, Memphis is a premiere destination for live music. You can attend live outdoor concerts on a weekly basis at settings such as Midtown’s Railgarten, complete with all associated amenities, or you can attend any of the numerous clubs and music rooms for a more intimate show, experiencing nightlife in a quintessentially Memphis way.
If you’re after the modern shopping experience, Memphis has indoor shopping centers with enough stores to fill up your car, including the Wolfchase Galleria with its 120 units. If you want a more traditional shopping day, the Laurelwood Shopping Center offers the commerce you need in an open air setting that allows you to enjoy the beautiful weather while you shop.
Where Can a Visitor Stay in Memphis?
Memphis has the usual array of hotels you could expect, ranging from the standard Hiltons to the eccentric Big Cypress Lodge, built in the shape of a pyramid, recognizing the city’s ancient Egyptian namesake. For something a little more lowkey, you can stay in a quaint bed and breakfast and experience the city’s culture more directly.
Although the city’s reputation is so centered around its contributions to the world of music, we’ve learned that Memphis has a range of amenities and attractions to suit any traveler’s needs, whether they’re interested in a cultural vacation or just a relaxing trip.