East Coast

Best Places for Music in Memphis with Teens

Beale Street
Located in Downtown Memphis, Beale Street offers dining, shopping and entertainment. Credit: Catherine Parker

Located along the Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee, features museums dedicated to music. From recording studios to a rock and roll museum to Graceland, the former home of Elvis, there is a lot to do in Memphis. Then learn about Martin Luther King at the Loraine Hotel. Here are the top things to do in Memphis with kids.

Things to Do in Memphis with Kids

Tour the Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum
Walk by The Orpheum
Visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Take the Guided Tour at Sun Studios
Go to Graceland: The Home of Elvis Presley
Walk Down Beale Street
Stop in A. Schwab Trading Co.
See The Peabody Hotel Duck Parade

Why Visit Memphis with Kids? 

Memphis is the home of rock’ n’ roll, and its name is mentioned in over 1,000 different songs. A visit to Memphis is like taking an Introduction to Rock’ n’ Roll class without sitting in a classroom or doing any homework. Just visit the top museums and attractions for music in Memphis. 

Roll n’ roll started in the 1950s, though music has been an integral part of Mississippi River culture since before record labels. Long before record labels, laborers used music to cope with hard, physical labor. Then, on Sundays, worshippers praised God with gospel music in churches across the Delta. 

Improvising and creating harmonies started at home with family and friends. Out of that experience, bands formed and found a home in Memphis along Beale Street starting in the 1860s. Primarily singing the blues, Beale Street offered an audience, and eventually, The Orpheum was built in the 1920s.

Memphis established itself as a capital of The Blues then a new sound grew. With elements of western swing, gospel and country and western, Sam Phillips recorded the first rock n’ roll songs at the Memphis Recording Studio in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, soul became the sound of Memphis.

For the richest experience, start with the Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum for an overview of music history in Memphis. Then head to the iconic record labels to learn more about the different genres. Each helps explain the Memphis sound and one of the best things to do in Memphis with kids.

Nashville Weekend Itinerary
Memphis Rock and Soul Museum
WHER was a radio station staffed with women only in Memphis. Credit: Catherine Parker

Tour the Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum

Created by the Smithsonian Institute as a research project, it’s the first Smithsonian exhibit outside of Washington and New York. Explore the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum to get an overview of the Memphis sound from the 1930s to the 80s. 

This facility does an excellent job of introducing visitors to important artists and soundmakers. Walk through the exhibits and learn how farming sowed the seeds of creativity and helped laborers overcome poverty through music.

Kids will know about Elvis, though most don’t know about Sun Studios. An Isaac Hayes song might sound familiar, so learn about Stax Records. I was surprised to learn my teen hadn’t heard of Tina Turner, let alone Ike. As a nice bonus, the Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum uses headsets for its interpretive programming and hundreds of songs. This is one of the top things to do in Memphis with kids.

Located at 191 Beale St. at the FedEx Forum. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Adult admission (18+) $14, Kids 5 to 17 $11.

Walk By The Orpheum

Located nearby, walk by the 2,000-seat auditorium on the National Register of Historic Places. On the site of the original 1890s Grand Opera House of Memphis, the Orpheum was built in 1923 and features elaborate detailing. Home to Broadway shows and national music acts, it’s even rumored to be haunted.  

Located at 203 S. Main St. Head to its website for the latest information for upcoming shows. 

Top Things to Do at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky
Stax Records Issac Hayes
See the 1972 Cadillac Eldorado at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Credit: Catherine Parker

Visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music

The music home of artists like Issac Hayes, Otis Redding and Booker T. and the M.G.s, Stax Records crafted the sound of soul. This facility is located where the original Stax Records headquarters was located and part of the Soulsville complex which includes a charter school so it’s one of the top things to do in Memphis with kids.

With a collection of costumes and memorabilia, along with Stax Records music, learn how shared experiences shaped the sound of soul. Influences ranged from gospel to Western swing to country music, and musicians created and crafted a new sound at Stax Records in the 1960s. 

Dive deep into its archival displays and learn how Elvis recorded at Stax in 1973. Then take in other Stax artists, like The Staple Singers or Carla Thomas. And don’t miss the rotating Issac Hayes custom 1972 Cadillac Eldorado with 24-carat exterior trim.

Located at 926 McLemore St. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, closed Monday. Adult admission (13+) is $15 and kids (7 to 12) are $12. 

Sun Studios
Tour Sun Studios for one of the better-guided tours in Memphis. Credit: Catherine Parker

Take the Guided Tour at Sun Studios 

The legendary producer Sam Phillips opened this unassuming studio in 1950. Inside find the recording studio where giants like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley recorded their albums. It’s an iconic destination for music fans and the birthplace of Rock N’ Roll. It’s also a National Historic Landmark. 

It all started with the first rock’ n’ roll album, Rocket 88, by Jackie Brenton and his Delta Cats, with Ike Turner on keyboards. The studio was then called the Memphis Recording Service, and soon after, it became Sun Studios.

A list of who’s who have recorded at Sun, including BB King, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. The tour guides explain the history of the recording studio along with the equipment and the process of recording music. 

Sun Studios Tour. Credit: Catherine Parker

AFor those in the biz, Sun Studios still is an active recording studio in the evenings. Since reopening in 1987, bands like U2, John Mellencamp and Ringo Starr have recorded music at Sun.

The tour starts upstairs with a retelling of the early years with the original equipment. Then, on a guided tour, you head into the actual studio with musical equipment and worn linoleum floors. This is one of the top things to do in Memphis with kids.

Located at 706 Union Ave. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (12+) is $20, youth (12 to 18) are $18 and kids (5 to 11) are $15. Those under 5 are not allowed on the tour. Free parking behind the building.  

Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas
This is the front of Elvis’s Graceland. Credit: Catherine Parker

Go to Graceland: The Home of Elvis Presley

Visit the beloved home of Elvis, the king of rock n’ roll. Graceland is a sprawling wooded estate south of Downtown Memphis. Located on 13 acres, the house is a 17,000-square-foot colonial revival with 23 rooms. 

For the best experience, take a tour of Graceland. See the infamous Jungle Room with its waterfall and rock walls. Elvis used it as a recording studio in the 1970s. The trophy room is another standout to see the universal appeal of Elvis and his music. 

On an and a half hour audio-guided tour, you can learn about the music icon and his private life as you walk through his home. It’s also the second most visited home in the U.S. and attracts a cross-section of humanity. For kids who barely know Elvis, this tour offers a look into the early days of rock-n-roll and the stardom it created. Walking past walls of gold and platinum records helps younger people understand his appeal. 

The Graceland property is part of the Elvis Presley Memphis Entertainment Complex, so find the Presley Motors Automotive Museum, Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum, Elvis Discovery Exhibits, and an Elvis Custom Jets display. You can spend the entire day at the Elvis Presley Memphis Entertainment Complex. The Guest House at Graceland, two restaurants, and lots of souvenir shopping. 

Located at 3717 Elvis Presley Blvd. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours start at 10 a.m. Find several tours and packages for the Elvis Presley Memphis Entertainment Complex, but not all include a tour of Graceland. Adult admission (11+) to the audio-guided tour of Graceland is $82, and kids (5 to 10) are $46.50. Several discounts are available, like AAA and a military discount. Parking is $10 for standard vehicles.

Walk Down Beale Street

After a lesson in music appreciation, take a stroll down Beale Street for live music. A pedestrian-only thoroughfare offers live music venues sprinkled with dining spots and shopping. Located in downtown Memphis, find street, surface and parking garages nearby.  

Stop in A. Schwab Trading Co. 

Established in 1876, the store has two floors packed with odds and ends, from kids’ toys to T-shirts to taffy. Meander through the displays and listen for the creek of the original wood floors. 

Located at 163 Beale St., Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

Top Things to Do in Branson Missouri
Peabody Duck Parade best places for music in Memphis with teens
See the Peabody Ducks as they waddle to and from the lobby fountain. Credit: Catherine Parker

See The Peabody Hotel Duck Parade 

Under the red neon sign, The Peabody Hotel opened in 1925 and is an Italian Renaissance Hotel. Inside, its lobby and bar feature a fountain carved from one piece of travertine marble. 

In the shadow of an elaborate flower arrangement, five mallard ducks swim around the fountain from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day from their home on the roof, the Duckmaster escorts five ducks down the elevator to the red carpet. Then at 5 p.m. the Duckmaster returns and the ducks head to bed with equal fanfare. 

It’s a show for all ages, and a delight to see the ducks swimming in a fountain. The first Duckmaster started in 1940 after training animals in the circus. This is one of the top things to do in Memphis with kids.

Located at 149 Union Ave. 

Lorraine Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate. Credit: Catherine Parker

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum

Start at the courtyard in front of the Lorraine Motel and see where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The Lorraine Motel was a segregated property catering to Black People during the era. 

Along with MLK, many performers stayed at the motel, like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. On April 4, 1968, MLK was shot the day after his “I’ve Been to a Mountaintop” speech. 

Once inside, the museum walks through the story of human and civil rights for those of color, starting with the 17th-century slave trade. Move through displays and replicas, like a segregated luncheonette counter and the U.S. Supreme Court during the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that ended segregation. 

Climb aboard the Rosa Parks Bus that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. See the burned-out bus from the Freedom Rides. Stand in front of the Sanitation Truck from the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, which brought MLK to Memphis.

I visited the Civil Rights Museum with my teen. I didn’t add any commentary and let the museum tell the story of civil rights in the U.S. Afterward, we discussed the displays, where the U.S. was in the 1960s, and how much still needs to be addressed. 

Across the street from the museum, the last residence of the Lorraine Motel, Jaqueline Smith, sees the museum as a waste of money. She has been protesting the museum she was evicted over 30 years ago.

Located at 450 Mulberry St. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesday). Adult admission (18+) $20 and kids (5 to 17) are $17. 

Top Things to Do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
Central BBQ
Central BBQ is known for pulled pork. Credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Eat in Memphis

One thing you can’t miss is Memphis-style BBQ. It’s one of the four types of American barbecue, like Texas and Kansas City. In Memphis, they use pork, especially ribs, and BBQ is served wet or dry. That means it’s slathered in a secret BBQ sauce that’s usually a family recipe or covered in a mix of dry spices and cooked and eaten without sauce. 

Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous

Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous has been serving charcoal-braised ribs from its basement since 1948. It’s a Memphis institution, and the ribs are worth the wait. 

Located at 52 S. 2nd St. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. 

Order some ribs for the kids in Memphis. Credit: Catherine Parker

Central BBQ 

A relative newcomer to the Memphis BBQ scene, Central BBQ opened in 2002, and it has four locations in Memphis. The pulled pork (shredded) is a standout. And the pork ribs are a must for rib lovers. Also, find house-made pork rinds and potato chips. 

Located at 147 E. Butler Ave. and several other locations. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Dyer’s Burgers

Skip the burgers and sample the chicken strips, which offer a zip and rival some of the best-fried chicken around. The basket of four will feed two big kids. Also, the homemade shakes and malts are a treat.

Located at 205 Beale St. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Peabody Deli and Desserts

If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, head to The Peabody Hotel and enjoy a barista-made coffee and divine desserts. Each dessert looks like a work of art, like the coffee cup tiramisu. The key lime tart offers a creamy balance of tart and sweet. 

Located in the lobby of The Peabody Hotel at 149 Union Ave. Open Monday to Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Where to Stay in Memphis


Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

Comments are closed.