I might be a bit biased, but Memphis, Tennessee is one of my favorite places in the world. Born and raised in Midtown, I lived there for over 20 years. Going back is always fun, as it’s interesting to see how much has changed, yet also how much is exactly the same. Though no matter how much time has passed, the city always has a special kind of history and soul that you can feel.
Just before Christmas, Todd, Iris and I drove across the Mississippi River to play tourist in my old hometown. Going home with Iris now that she’s older is such a treat. I can show her where so many of my childhood memories were made, while making new ones with her. But this trip was unlike any other visit back to Memphis. We were treated to a weekend stay at the world-famous Peabody Hotel in downtown. Growing up, I visited the Peabody many times, watching the ducks and admiring the lobby. And before the internet, I even remember having to go there once to purchase a plane ticket (an airline company had a ticket office inside the hotel). But never once did I actually make it past the lobby area to explore the rest of the property.
I am a sucker for historic charm, probably because Memphis has so much of it, and The Peabody did not disappoint. It’s a four-diamond property, so it’s very nice, yet it still embraces its history. We got in town just in time for Iris and I to enjoy “high tea” at the ultra fancy Chez Philippe restaurant inside the hotel. This was a dream come true for a 5-year-old who loves to play “tea party.” Complete with three courses of finger sandwiches, pastries, children’s tea for Iris, and champagne for me – it was kind of a dream for me too. While it is a very upscale setting, we saw several tables of little girls wearing big fancy hats, having parties of their own. If I still lived in Memphis, I know where we would be having Iris’ next birthday party.
Immediately following our tea, we got Iris geared up to be the Honorary Duckmaster that evening (I shared the full video here). This was an experience that I’m willing to bet she’ll remember forever. Standing up there in front of hundreds of people, riding with the ducks in the elevator, and ushering them to their home on the roof of the Peabody, overlooking downtown – it was beyond special. She even got to keep her Duckmaster cane, just like Oprah!
That night we had reservations at a restaurant just a block or so away, McEwen’s. But first, we stopped by Automatic Slim’s for a quick drink before supper time. Joined by my dad, sister, and a few old Memphis pals, it felt good to be back home. One of many perks to staying at the Peabody is the location – this bar was just across the street, and dinner was just another block over. Handy, dandy!
Dinner at McEwen’s was phenomenal. Not only was the food incredibly delicious, but it happens to be where Todd and I had one of our very first dates. There’s a funny story about it actually. It’s a pretty nice restaurant, so I dressed up for the occasion, attempting to wear heels for the first time in quite a while. Big mistake. I slipped and fell down on my way to the bathroom, and caught myself by lunging onto a table… a table full of folks eating their nice dinner. I was beyond embarrassed, even though Todd didn’t even see (or so he says). Coming back over a decade later, married with our five-year-old, was kind of cool. Especially since I managed to stay upright the entire time.
All of that to say, if you ever get a chance to eat at McEwen’s, do it. The menu, a mix of seafood and steak, paired with the upscale, yet relaxed vibe is a perfect combination.
Even though Friday was jam-packed with fun, Saturday was our only full day in Memphis. Wanting to grab a quick breakfast before we started our day, we visited the one and only Otherlands Coffee Bar. I worked there for years, and eventually Todd did for a little while too. In fact, this was where we first started running into each other before we started dating. Although now looking back, maybe Todd was stopping in to see me at work? I’ll have to ask him about that… Needless to say, this coffeeshop is pretty special to me.
With our bellies once again full and our hands shaking from caffeine, we met up with my old and dear friend Erin of Amelia Presents and her son Tom for a trip to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. We heard about a new interactive children’s exhibit and wanted to check it out. Situated in the heart of Overton Park (the park where I spent most of my childhood), it’s a beautiful building filled with even more beautiful pieces of work. Admission was only seven bucks for each adult, and the kiddos were free since they were under the age of seven.
After a while at the museum, we of course wanted to eat again (Memphis is pretty well known for its food after all). Hitting up another old favorite spot of mine, we ventured to the University of Memphis neighborhood to eat a little BBQ… BBQ tofu that is. I was vegetarian much of my time in Memphis (from 6th grade to about 24 years old) and I still dream about R.P. Tracks‘ mountain of BBQ Tofu Nachos. I was thankful that we got to meet up with even more old friends (and their kiddos) for lunch. We snapped some silly photos to capture the moment.
If you’ve followed our travel adventures at all, you’ve probably noticed that we make it a point to visit a new brewery in every place we visit. Memphis was no exception. This time we checked out Wiseacre Brewing in a neighborhood that has been completely revitalized since I lived there.
So what do you think we did after a couple beers? Eat again, of course! We decided to keep it easy and low-key, eating once again within walking distance of our hotel. Huey’s is another Memphis staple that is known for guests shooting toothpicks into the ceiling through their straws, and for having messages scribbled all over every inch of their walls. When I told Iris she could write her name on the wall in the bathroom, her eyes lit up like Christmas morning.
After dinner, we explored the Peabody one last time and discovered the pool located in the basement. Iris took a dip before bedtime and then we made our way back up for one last night in our room.
So we didn’t visit Beale Street or Graceland, but we did Memphis our way and had a blast. I think we’ll have to come back to do all of the more traditional tourist things, especially as Iris gets older and can appreciate them. There’s the Memphis Zoo, Botanical Gardens, The Children’s Museum, Memphis Grizzlies games, and oh so many more places to explore as a family. Thankfully, Memphis (and all of its glorious food) is just one fun road-trip away.
Thank you to the Memphis CVB and The Peabody Hotel Memphis for hosting our stay!