Land of country music and Delta blues – Nashville & Memphis holidays are old southern soul and surprising new delights
The Deep South has a way of seducing from the moment you arrive. Trying out your new Italian made leather cowboy boots for the first time or rolling along the Mississippi River on a starry night, holidays to Nashville and Memphis take you to the kind of places where you can’t help but dance. Design-led hotels, restaurants and boutiques are giving both cities a glossier edge – think velvet pink banquettes, baked oysters and pisco sours - but it’s still all about those music filled nights in neon-lit honky tonk bars as the sun sets over Nashville’s skyline, and Delta blues and Memphis barbecue while steamboats cruise waters where a teenage Elvis Presley used to hang out.
Whether you’re standing in line at Hattie B’s for that famous Tennessee hot chicken, following the some 600,000 visitors that come each year to see Graceland’s extravagant mansion or perched on a chair listening to both legends and up and coming musicians at the iconic Bluebird Café – the greatest hits of Nashville and Memphis holidays are country southern soul and rock ‘n roll swagger.
This is the place to come if you want to know what it feels like to walk in the footsteps of legends. There are Wednesday nights at Loveless Barn’s live Music City Roots, star-studded line-ups at the Grand Ole Oprey and tours of Sun City Studio and Sax Recording Studio where Elvis Presley and Otis Redding’s careers were launched. A world away from the songwriters is a compelling reminder of America’s civil rights history – the tiny Slave Haven Underground Railroad museum run by one of the most arrested families in Memphis, and the National Civil Rights Museum located on the site where Martin Luther King JR was assassinated.
We’ve walked the line in Nashville and Memphis many times and know the best places to stay whether it’s a sleek hotel in Music City or historic glamour in Memphis. Give one of our Personal Travel Experts a call and we’ll help create your perfect honky tonk or rock ‘n roll holiday.
- Visit Nashville, the capital of country music, and tour the recording studios of Music Row before heading to the Country Music Hall of Fame to record your own track
- Memphis is the place for music lovers, bursting with the sounds of country, soul, blues and jazz, it was also the home of the King, Elvis Presley
- Sample the taste of the South with the region’s unique cuisine, including barbecue favourites
- A self-drive is the perfect way to explore the cities, giving you the freedom to choose your own itinerary
Nashville & Memphis holiday highlights
Discover Nashville’s wide range of clubs and bars including The Basement, Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom or the legendary Exit/Inn. You might also want to explore its fascinating music museums; the Country Music Hall of Fame has costumes, guitars and memorabilia belonging to some of the world’s biggest country music stars; the Ryman Auditorium has hosted icons including Hank Williams Snr., Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello; enjoy The Rolling Stones Exhibit at The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum or see the Johnny Cash Museum.
Head to downtown Nashville and see a show on Broadway, and enjoy some of the city’s popular barbecue joints, honky tonk music clubs and shops from antiques and art to jewellery. If you fancy something different, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center is fantastic for classical music, and we recommend the family-friendly Frist Art Museum – a world-class art centre with diverse exhibitions and educational programs.
Memphis has three main tourist areas – Downtown, Midtown and East Memphis. Downtown is home to the blues; visit here for Mississippi River tours, parks, museums and the lively Beale Street – famous for its galleries and cafés, live music, bars and quirky beer windows where you can buy cups of beer on the go. Midtown has Overton Square – a popular shopping spot, and Overton Park – where you’ll find Memphis Zoo. East Memphis is a laid-back outdoorsy area, with parks, nature centres and botanic gardens including Shelby Farms Park. It’s five times larger than Central Park in New York and is one of the 20 largest parks in the USA; you can enjoy activities here including walking, fishing, mountain biking and sailing. Make your trip extra special by heading to south Memphis for Graceland, a beautiful mansion on a 13.8-acre estate which once belonged to Elvis Presley.
Where is Nashville & Memphis?
Nashville and Memphis are both in the Tennessee state, bordered by Kentucky and Virginia to the north, North Carolina to the east and Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to the south. The Mississippi River, the longest in North America, flows along the state’s western boundary and past Memphis in the southwestern corner of Tennessee. Nashville sits along the Cumberland River and is the capital and largest city of the state.
Hiring a car is the most efficient way to get around both Memphis and Tennessee, as they are the largest cities in the state. But if you are relying on public transport there are still plenty of options. There are metered taxis and the complimentary MTA Music City Circuit bus in Nashville, and in Memphis there’s the hop on/hop off bus stopping at major attractions, the free Sun Studio shuttle that will also take you to Graceland, and downtown buses and taxis.
Food & drink
Nashville’s speciality is mouthwatering hot chicken and you’ll see local lining up outside both Prince’s and Hattie B’s for a taste of this famous dish. Expect neighbourhoods where you can flip your own pancakes, enjoy devilled eggs and sugar bacon or join a big barbecue feast by the park. Foodies and cocktail lovers should head to Midtown, Germantown and the Gulch for classic southern soul food and a stylish collection of new restaurants and bars.
In Memphis you can expect those famous pork ribs and barbecue but also an exciting mix of French-Creole, international flavours and fine dining resturants. There’s everything from dining at The Peabody for a three, five or eight course tasting menu in decadent surrounds to Uptown soul food served Downtown in typically warm southern hospitality style.