By Rhonda Osborne
With the summer heat gone and the beautiful, late fall weather here in the mid-south, it’s a great time of year to come to Memphis to experience the infamous Beale Street. Some call Beale Street a “mini Bourbon Street” and for good reason: just as in NOLA, you can meander up and down Beale Street with a libation in hand, enjoying live music wafting into the street from it’s many restaurants, clubs and bars. Or just sit back in a lawn chair at W.C. Handy Park at the center of Beale Street and listen to any of the live bands playing on stage throughout the day. Beale Street is home of the blues, the birthplace of rock n’ roll, known for its world famous BBQ, full of history and offers first class entertainment. Don’t take my word for it — take a trip to Memphis now for a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
Beale Street’s strong history in blues and rock-n-roll stems from the many famous performers who’ve made their mark here during a time when such music wasn’t widely accepted. The most notable performers were discovered and then recorded at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio, including Ike Turner, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, BB King and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few. Check out the Brass Note Walk of Fame along the Street which honors Memphis musicians by sharing their history of their impact to music in the city; you’ll be reminded of the legends that put Memphis on the musical map.
You’ll find lots of places to catch live music, but my favorite spots are the Rum Boogie Cafe (if only to see all of the autographed, musical paraphernalia), BB King’s Blues Club and Silky O’Sullivan’s where you will even be entertained by a live goat in the courtyard while enjoying your musical experience. If you enjoy people watching, grab a seat at Alfred’s upstairs patio and look upon all the activities of Beale Street and Handy Park (located directly across the street). You’ll spy live bands and vendors selling everything from crafts and jewelry, African artifacts, spray painting artwork and an array of souvenirs. This is also a great location to watch the Beale Street Flippers, a group of boys ranging in age from 4-18 that do flips up and down Beale Street with amazing speed and precision.
Now if world class barbecue is your thing, then Beale Street is where you need to be. You’ll find plenty of amazing spots for BBQ, including Pig on Beale and Blues City Café. Come again in the spring to celebrate Memphis in May and the famous World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which brings hundreds of teams to compete for the best of BBQ. Venture off Beale Street for some of the best wet and dry BBQ in town at the Rendezvous, which has served the likes of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush and even Tom Cruise in “The Firm.”
And don’t just plan a day trip to Beale since there’s much more to do in Downtown Memphis. Stay for the weekend at some of the best Memphis hotels, including the Hampton Inn & Suites or the new Westin which are located on Beale Street, or within a couple blocks there is the Holiday Inn Select. Within walking distance or a short trolley ride of Beale Street, you’ll find the Fed Ex Forum for sporting events and concerts, the Orpheum Theater, AutoZone Park (home of the Red Birds baseball team), National Civil Rights Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Don’t forget a stop at the historic Peabody Hotel for the march of the ducks through the lobby from their home on the rooftop.
Rhonda Osborne is a Market Manager for Orbitz. She grew up in Minnesota but always had the dream of moving to Tennessee because of the great vacations experienced to Nashville and Gatlinburg as a child. She is now living that dream as a Tennessee resident and a Tennessee Titans fan — go Titans!