Tennessee: Memphis, Family Vacation Ideas. A delight to visit with kids, activities in Memphis span a gamut of interests making each day an urban adventure. From giant stuffed polar bears and bright red fire engines to the music of Beale Street and the drama of Elvis, it’s pure fun. We have assembled an action list to follow.
Mother knows best. The Children’s Museum of Memphis (CMoM) is a discovery museum for families with young children. Packed with informal learning experiences, CMoM provides pure fun. Hands-on, interactive exhibits allow children to discover health, art, science and math in innovative new ways. Exhibits include visual and performing arts, house design and construction, an interactive dollhouse, flight and distribution, bridge building and many other unique displays.
Go wild for a day. The Memphis Zoo, one of the South’s best urban zoos, is home to more than 2,800 animals representing more than 400 species. It is compact by zoological world. Recent renovations have resulted in state-of-the-art exhibits integrating landscaped gardens with the animal habitats creating a beautiful and very special environment. A tram travels throughout the park for easy access to the exhibit areas. The newest exhibit “China,” is an interactive experience that transports guests to a miniature Orient where two Chinese-born pandas live. For the youngest visitors there is a farm animal discovery center and a crawl-through prairie dog tunnel maze that let kids pop up in a bubble close to the little rodents. Discovery bonus: There are several entertainment rides including two carousels, and a train. During the summer families may enjoy Zoo Nights; a program that offers entertainment with live music and performers.
Stop, drop, and roll. It’s fun with a purpose. The Fire Museum of Memphis focuses on fire safety making it easily understood and entertaining. Sound odd? It’s not. The museum’s focus on fire and fire safety is interactive and fun for everyone. Visitors to the museum slide down a fire pole, experience the telltale signs of fire in the simulated Fire Room, and climb in the cab of a brand new fire engine.
Play in the mud. Showcasing the Mississippi River, the fifty-two acre Mud Island River Park also hosts the Mississippi River Museum, a swimming pool, a white sand beach, a 5,000-seat outdoor theatre and World War II’s most famous B-17 Bomber. The Mississippi River Museum has 18 galleries chronicling the legends, folklore and history of the Mississippi waterway. There is also a five-block long replica of the Mississippi known as the River Walk. It is possible to walk from Minnesota to Louisiana before lunch.
Think pretty [cool stuff] in the Pink. The Pink Palace mansion, once the home of the Piggly Wiggly store founder, Clarence Saunders, is now the Pink Palace Museum. Inside there’s plenty of cool stuff. Things like fossils (some 70 million years old), a giant stuffed polar bear, an extensive collection of rocks (including a giant quartz and a giant amethyst) and Civil War artifacts. There is also an exact replica of the original Piggly Wiggly the first self-service grocery store. Discovery bonus: The Pink Palace has created a “Scavenger Hunt” for kids visiting the museum. It is available online.
Take amazing journeys. At the Sharpe Planetarium, visitors can witness how in ancient times Hawaiians and Polynesians used the sky to travel thousands of miles on the open ocean. Participants navigate a route using celestial techniques like the Polynesians or other early explorers. Less serious and certainly louder, rock fans can enjoy a LaserRock that combines the best tunes and energy of Pink Floyd with choreographed laser lights, slides and lighting effects all under the Planetarium’s domed star field. Discovery bonus: On Friday nights the staff, the SLO astronomy group and the Memphis Astronomical Society encourage families to join in observing the moon, planets, and deep sky objects with a variety telescopes set up on the lawn.
Discover history through art. The state’s oldest, and largest, museum is the Brooks Museum of Art, located in Memphis. It’s exhibits display fine and decorative arts from antiquity to the present. Painting, sculptures, prints, drawing and photographs grace the walls of the museum. Annually the museum hosts an Old West Family Day to celebrate Frederic Remington and Western art.
Discovery bonus: Bored no more, there are several activities and hands-on projects geared specifically for children visiting the museum.
Browse from the Orient to Asia. The Peabody Museum in downtown Memphis has a collection of more than six hundred treasures from the Orient and Europe. The Chinese collection depicts the historic Manchu dynasty in detailed ivory carvings elegant cloisonné along with many other precious artifacts such as an imperial robe. Exhibits also include Italian mosaics, gemstones, fossils, Russian Lacquer boxes, and minerals as well as other beautiful works of art. Discovery bonus: A series of discovery kits also are available for parents or teachers. The kits include books, videos and hands-on activities.
For families with teens the list expands.
Nothin’ But a Hound Dog. Each year more than 700,000 rock’n’rollin’ fans visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland. The official Graceland tour consists of the living room, music room, Elvis' parents' bedroom, the dining room, kitchen, TV room, pool room, and “jungle” den in the main house, and, behind the house, Elvis’ racquetball building and his original business office. Just recently added to the tour are never-before-seen items like and extensive collection of his stage costumes and the desk from his personal office. The all-around highlight of the tour is Elvis’ trophy building, which contains his extensive collection of awards, and gold records as well as personal and career mementos.
Hear timeless tunes. The Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis documents the people, the music, and the traditions of the South. It’s known for it’s films, books, recording, and tours of the Memphis Delta and Beale Street. Monday through Friday visitors can hear live music in the evenings and eat delicious Southern cooking at the nearby café. Music lovers of all ages shouldn’t miss the Gibson Guitar Factory. They offer tours conducted by musicians who are able to “talk shop.” On tour learn how Gibson craftspeople combine their considerable skills with the latest guitar technology to hand shape a beautiful musical instrument.
Experience the dream. Dedicated to the lessons of the American Civil Rights Movement and housed in the former Lorraine Motel (where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated) is the National Civil Rights Museum. Providing a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement and the everyday people who became heroes are just two of the goals of the museum. Exhibits are interactive; the presentations are predominantly audiovisual. The history of the movement and its leaders is traced from the days of the Abolitionists through school integration, and the assassination of Dr. King.
Home of the Grizzlies. Fans of the Memphis Grizzlies can take tours of the Pyramid Area, Monday through Friday with advanced reservations. Guests on the tour will see the Gallery of Stars, the Riverside Club, the backstage areas, the dressing rooms, the locker rooms, the area and a luxury suite. The Pyramid, home of the Grizzlies, is the third largest pyramid on earth, and is taller than either the Statue of Liberty or the Taj Mahal. This 21,000 seat sports and entertainment facility is also home to the University of Memphis Men’s Basketball Program and is known for hosting national basketball tournaments, concerts and family shows.
Make it happen. The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau www.memphistravel.com
The Children’s Museum of Memphis. (CMoM (2525 Central Avenue, 38104. (901) 458-2678 or 1 (901) 320-3170 or www.cmom.com)
The Fire Museum of Memphis. (118 Adams Avenue, 38104. (901) 320-5650 or www.firemuseum.com)
The Mississippi River Museum. 125 North Front Street, Memphis, 38103. 1-800-507-6607 or 1 (901) 576-7241 or www.mudisland.com
The Pink Palace. 3050 Central Avenue, Memphis, 38111. (901) 320-6320 or www.memphismuseums.org
The Sharpe Planetarium. 3050 Central Avenue, Memphis, 38111. (901) 320-6320 or www.memphismuseums.org/planet.htm
Brooks Museum of Art. 1934 Poplar Avenue, 38104. (901) 722-3500 or www.brooksmuseum.org
Elvis Presley’s Graceland. 3734 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis. 1-800-238-2000 or www.elvis.com/graceland
The National Civil Rights Museum. 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, 38103. (901) 521-9699 or www.civilrightsmuseum.org
The Center for Southern Folklore. 130 Beale Street, 38101. (901) 525-3655 or www.southernfolklore.com
Gibson Guitar Factory. 145 Lt. George Lee Avenue, Memphis, 38103. (901) 543-0800 or www.gibsonmemphis.com
The Peabody Museum. 119 S. Main Street, Pembroke Square, Concourse Level, 38103. (901) 523-2787 or 1 (901) 260-7419 or www.belz.com/museum
Memphis Zoo. 2000 Galloway, 38104. 1 (901) 276-WILD or www.memphiszoo.org
Memphis Grizzlies. One Auction Avenue, 32105. (901) 521-9675 or www.pyramidarea.com
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