23 Things Memphis Is Known And Famous For

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Memphis is known for its blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll music scene, its role in the American Civil Rights movement, delicious BBQ food, and vibrant nightlife.

Located in the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, Memphis is one of the largest cities in Tennessee. Memphis is known for being the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll. From Beale Street, the most famous street in Memphis, to Elvis Presley, music has a strong presence in the city; however, there is so much more that Memphis is famous for.  

What Is Memphis Known For? 

Memphis is famous for its role in modern American music, from Rock ‘n’ Roll to Blues. In fact, about 20 percent of Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees have come from within a 100-mile radius of Memphis. With prominent recording studios, such as Sun Studios and Stax Records, it’s no wonder musicians have always flocked to Memphis. 

However, Memphis has a lot more to offer! This city has tons of green space and nature to explore. It is also home to delicious Tennessee foods, such as Memphis barbecue and legendary fried chicken. So make sure you tuck into a plate of yummy goodness while listening to some iconic tunes in this famous city. 

History, Culture, And Traditions Memphis Is Known For 

Music (& More Music!)

Memphis is famous for being one of the birthplaces of modern American music. Soul, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, and blues, among other styles of music, have roots in Memphis.

Since Memphis was a hub of African-American culture in the 1900s, African American influences joined with other styles of the time to create unique rhythms and styles. 

Additionally, Memphis is known for several reputable recording studios, including Sun Studio and Stax Records. Sun Studios recorded classic artists, like B.B. King, Ike Turner, and Elvis Presley; while Stax Records is most known for capturing the voice of Otis Redding. In any case, Memphis is at the heart of American music. 

Elvis Presley

When rock ‘n’ roll fans think, “what is Memphis famous for?” Elvis Presley comes to mind. With Elvis’ famous estate, Graceland, in the city and his legacy around the world, Memphis has become a hub for Elvis fans everywhere. Although Elvis was born in Mississippi, he moved to Memphis when he was thirteen. 

There, he took inspiration from African-American artists and music, then dreamed of taking that sound to a greater audience. With the help of Sun Records, Elvis made it happen. He is now known as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

Mississippi River

The city of Memphis runs right alongside the great Mississippi River. In fact, Memphis borrowed its name from an ancient Egyptian city of the same name, which was located along the Nile River.

The strong river was an important element in the city’s early formation, allowing it to prosper economically. While Memphis’ economy is no longer so tied to the river, the Mississippi River is still a constant in Memphis.

Make sure you get a good look at this iconic river Memphis is known for when you visit. There is plenty to do around the area, and you can find some of the best beaches in Tennessee along the river.

Peabody Ducks

One of the quirkiest things Memphis is famous for is the Peabody Ducks! If you visit the Peabody hotel, you can see a procession of ducks through the hotel to its lobby fountain.

The tradition started in the 1930s, the general manager of the hotel and his buddies placed some live duck decoys in the lobby fountain, and they became a hit. 

From that point onward, the hotel was famous for those ducks. In the 1940s, a former circus trainer trained the ducks, teaching them to march down to the hotel fountain. It is a tradition that still happens to this day and is a favorite among Memphis visitors. 


Memphis is known for being home to two famous sporting teams, the Memphis Redbirds, and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Memphis Redbirds are a Minor League Baseball team, who plays in AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis. 

Memphis is also home to a professional basketball team, the Memphis Grizzlies, with their home court at the FedEx Forum. Although the team originated in Vancouver, Canada, they have been located in Memphis since 2001. These sports teams are both a big part of culture and life in Memphis, Tennessee.

Districts And Areas Memphis Is Known For 

Beale Street

What is Memphis known for if not the iconic Beale Street? If you’ve heard the song Walking in Memphis, you’ll want to make sure you walk down Beale Street, right under the famous “Home of the Blues” Sign. This street is crammed full of dance spots, music venues, and restaurants that will keep anyone entertained. 

If you want to hit all the highlights, make sure you visit B.B. King’s Blues Club and Silky O’Sulilvans. You can also pick up a souvenir at A. Schwab Dry Goods. Whatever you choose to do, this famous street in Memphis is definitely worth a visit. 

Shelby Farms Park

With over 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms Park is one of the biggest urban parks in the United States. Tourists and locals alike enjoy this massive green space that Memphis is famous for. It is also just twenty minutes outside of downtown, so it’s easy to take a break from the city life. 

Outdoor adventure takes on different forms in Shelby Farms Park. You can rent a kayak and take to the water or try out a rope course with Go Ape Treetop Adventure. You may also spot the Buffalo, purchased in 1989 as a safari attraction, who still lives on the property. 


Although Elvis was not born in this city, Memphis is known for being Elvis’ chosen home, with his famous mansion, Graceland. The entire estate spans almost 14 acres and contains Elvis’ mansion, records, cars, and famous stagewear. Any music fan should make time for a visit! 

The property is open to visitors – you can see Elvis’ home and exhibitions of his life and work. If you want a real VIP experience, you can even check out Elvis’ custom jets. The property also offers special programming throughout the year, especially around Christmas. 

This is, without surprise, one of the most famous landmarks in Tennessee.

Crystal Shrine Grotto 

If you want to see something truly unique, check out the Crystal Shrine Grotto. This man-made crystal cave, hiding in East Memphis Cemetery is something that Memphis is famous for. It took six years to dig out the cave and decorate it with five tons of quartz crystal, locked in with cement. 

The cave tells the story of Jesus, with sculptures and art installations, as well as the crystals. Visiting it gives an appreciation for the artistic craft and peaceful spirit that went into creating the place. If you find yourself in the area, you should definitely swing by! 

One of the fun facts about Tennessee is that you can find caves and caverns all over the state, and these are usually great fascinating places to visit.

Overton Park

Located in the middle of Memphis, Overton Park is a large outdoor space for Memphis residents and visitors alike to enjoy! This park which spans over 300 acres has a lot to offer beyond its green space. In fact, all its diverse activities are what make Overton Park part of what Memphis is known for. 

With a nine-hole golf course, zoo, playgrounds, art museum, and forested area, there is plenty to explore in Overton Park. If you need a breath of fresh air over to Overton Park. You may even catch some of the special events and programs that go on in the park throughout the year. 

Memphis Botanic Garden

If you happen to visit Audubon Park, make sure you stop in to see the Memphis Botanic Garden. This nearly 100-acre botanic garden definitely deserves a visit. There are 23 specialty gardens to enjoy, although the most notable ones are the Japanese Garden of Tranquility and the Tennessee Bicentennial Iris Garden. 

Whether you want to just take a stroll or enjoy one of the educational programs or concerts, the Memphis Botanic Garden allows you to connect with nature within the city. 

Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum 

This impressive mansion, along Adams Avenue (previously known as “Millionaire’s Row”), should give you an idea of some of the historic opulence Memphis is known for. Visiting this French Victorian mansion, surrounded by old magnolia trees, showcases what living like a millionaire in Memphis was like. 

The house is still decorated as it would have been at the height of the owner’s wealth. Take a self-guided tour and step into the past! If you’re really interested, make sure you check the museum’s exhibition schedule to see if there’s an extra historical program you might want to catch. 

Memphis Zoo 

If you want to take a step on the “wild” side, check out the Memphis Zoo in Overton Park! This zoo features over 4,000 animals from more than 500 different species, so there is plenty to see! You can explore the zoo by geography to see what wildlife looks like around the globe. 

There’s something for all age groups, with exhibits, animals, and activities! If you’re interested in wildlife, make sure that you check out this entertaining and educational zoo that Memphis is famous for.  

Dixon Gallery & Gardens

This amazing Memphis area is a fine art gallery and beautiful gardens all rolled into one! An exquisite blend of arts and natural beauty, it is definitely part of what Memphis is known for! The Dixon Gallery and Gardens was founded in 1976 and is located to the south of Overton Park. 

The museum contains an impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork, as well as other rotating exhibitions. Once you’re done exploring the art, take a step outside and explore the 17 acres of finely-kept gardens as well!

With tranquil fountains and walking paths, there’s plenty of beauty to take in at Dixon Gallery & Gardens. 

Landmarks And Architecture Memphis Is Known For

Wild Bill’s

Wild Bill’s Juke Joint is one of the hottest juke joints that Memphis is famous for. This Delta blues museum and juke joint have been a top spot, just off Beale Street. At Wild Bill’s you can hear the traditional blues music that Tennessee is known for, with a dive bar atmosphere that makes you feel like a local.

In its over two decades, Wild Bill’s has hosted some of the biggest blues artists in the south, so you’re guaranteed to enjoy some great music. While you’re there, you can also enjoy classic American foods, like burgers and fries or southern soul food. 

Memphis Pyramid

If you visit downtown Memphis, you will definitely see one of the landmarks Memphis is known for: the Memphis Pyramid.

The original idea and design pays homage to Memphis’ namesake city in Egypt. The pyramid was originally designed as an area, with over 20,000 seats, but has now been converted into a massive Bass Pro Shops. 

Whether or not you need to visit Bass Pro Shops megastore, there are other things to do in the Memphis Pyramid. Underneath this shiny pyramid’s roof, you can visit a bowling alley, restaurants, archery range, and an outdoor observation deck. Either enjoy it from the outside or the inside! 

National Civil Rights Museum

Memphis is known for many things, including housing the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

The city has grown to honor its role in the American Civil Rights Movement in many ways, one of which is the powerful National Civil Rights Museum. This museum pays amazing tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, as well as other leaders in the Civil Rights movement. 

The museum is actually located at the Lorraine Motel, where MLK’s assassination occurred. In the Lorraine building, you can see interactive exhibits, short films, and oral histories. You can also visit room 306, the room where MLK spent his last days. 

It is a powerful museum that presents history in a way that is powerful and personal. Make sure you don’t miss this wonderful museum during your trip to Memphis. 

Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre has been part of what Memphis is famous for since 1928. This venue holds around 2,300 visitors in its historic theater. It sits at the intersection of South Main and Beale streets, putting it at the heart of Memphis’ music scene. 

Now, this site is on the National Register of Historic Places, though it still hosts performances throughout the year. These days you can catch concerts and traveling Broadway shows in this historic hall. Take an evening to enjoy the historic ambiance and an awesome show. 

Sun Studio

Sun Studio has a special place in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll, as the recording studio of famous artists in rock and blues, such as Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash.

The studio also captured an impromptu recording of what is now known as the “Million Dollar Quartet,” including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. This famous recording studio is certainly part of the music legacy Memphis is known for. 

Nowadays, you can tour Sun Studio! With approximately an hour, you can dive into the history of this landmark of Rock ‘n’ Roll music. If you’re a fan of music, make sure you don’t miss out on this legendary site. 

Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

Memphis is known for more than Rock ‘n’ Roll however; it is also a historic hub of soul music. The Smithsonian Institution founded the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum in 2000 on the famous street in Memphis, Beale Street.

This museum captures the story of many music legends, who overcame socioeconomic and racial barriers to bring now-famous music to the United States and the globe. 

Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is open daily and has several permanent exhibits that take visitors through the history of these genres of music. It could easily take all afternoon to go through everything this museum has to offer. 


Food Memphis Is Known For

Memphis Barbecue 

What food is Memphis known for if not Memphis barbecue? The name says it all.

This version of the classic American dish is tangy, with thin pieces of meat. The sauce augments the tomato and brown sugar base with some ingredients with a bit more bite, such as mustard and vinegar. 

The most popular elements of Memphis barbecue are pork ribs and pulled pork. The dry rub commonly used on these items famously contains over forty different spices. If you enjoy barbecue, make sure that you try this barbecue style Memphis is famous for. 

Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken 

If you follow famous food-television shows, you may have already seen the fried chicken that Memphis is known for. Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken has appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and The Best Thing I Ever Ate. If you want some excellent fried chicken, there is no better place in Memphis. 

This restaurant offers different takes on fried chicken, from mild to spicy. You can get chicken in tons of preparations, as well as other Southern classics like biscuits and sweet tea. Make sure you don’t miss out on this famous eatery! 

Gibson’s Donuts

Gibson’s Donuts has been serving mouth-watering donuts since it opened in 1967. These popular donuts are known for having a light, fluffy texture with exquisite taste. The shop offers cake-based and yeast-based donuts so there is something for everyone. 

If you want to try a local favorite, try another treat along with your donut, like the red velvet cake. You can’t get too many sweets when you’re visiting Gibson’s! 

Discovering More Things Memphis Is Known And Famous For

So what is Memphis known for? The easy answers would probably be music and Elvis. However, there is much more to explore in Memphis. From Memphis barbecue to Overton park, your body and your taste buds can go on an adventure in this city. 

There are certainly some must-see sights and landmarks in Memphis. From the Memphis pyramid to the most famous street in Memphis, Beale Street, there is plenty to do in this remarkable city.

While you’re enjoying the sights and sounds of Memphis, make sure that you take some time to dig into the local culture, history, and heritage. You are bound to uncover even more things that Memphis is famous for.



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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