Memphis Attractions: 2 Days in Memphis on any Budget

Want to spend 2 days in Memphis?

Whether you’re planning a stop in Memphis during a road trip through the American South, or hoping to take an entire weekend trip to Memphis, I’ve got you covered.

Memphis was the place I took my very first solo trip, so it holds a special place in my heart.

I hope you have as much fun there as I did.

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How To Spend 2 Days in Memphis, Tennessee

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I’ve arranged each activity in order of the most logical way to complete them, in relation to their geographic proximity to each other and operating hours.

One thing to note is that the National Civil Rights Museum is closed on TUESDAYS, so if day 2 of your 2 days in Memphis is going to be on a Tuesday, you can flip the 2 days around.

Day 1 in Memphis

Graceland

Address: 3717 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN 38116 (parking lot address) 

Admission: Varies. Adult tickets from $39.75  – $169. See my recommendation below. $10 for parking, if needed. 

Hours: Vary greatly depending on the season, but usually fall between 9:00AM and 5:00PM.

Visiting Graceland Elvis Presley Home

Graceland is only about a 5 minute drive from Memphis International Airport, so it makes sense to visit it first thing if you fly in. The only minor logistics thing here is luggage. If you rent a car (which you don’t technically need to see the main Memphis attractions), then you can just leave your bags in the car as you explore Graceland.

If you use ride sharing, then you have two options: go to your hotel first, drop off your bags, then head back to Graceland (this wasn’t an option for me since I travel on a shoestring) OR just bring a small bag and store it in the lockers at Guest Services which are 12inches wide x 22inches long x 27inches deep.

I spent about 4 hours at Graceland and purchased the equivalent of the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour. It was $96.50 and would have been $101.50 if I had included a visit to Elvis’ airplanes.

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It included the following things:

  • Graceland Mansion Audio-Guided Tour with New Orientation Film
  • Self-guided tour of Presley Motors Automobile Museum
  • Self-guided tour of Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum
  • Self-guided tours of Elvis Discovery Exhibits
  • Self-guided tour of Exclusive VIP Exhibit

PLUS

  • Front-of-the-Line Mansion Access
  • Keepsake Backstage Pass

Is Graceland worth the trip?

Yes, but I didn’t feel like this level of ticket was worth it because I wasn’t an Elvis super fan. Elvis Presley died 15 years, 364 days before I was born, so I grew up seeing him as a cultural moment, rather than a musician to invest time and interest in.

So, while I was excited to learn more about his brand of rock n’ roll and the impact he had on a generation, the 4 hours I spent in his home were a little overwhelming and felt too long.

Visiting Graceland Elvis Presley Home

So, if you are just there for the history and fun, and not like the man from Alabama that I asked to take a photo of me in front of the mansion who visits every year and tears up when he talks about Elvis, you should opt for the Elvis Experience Tour for $59, which includes the following things:

  • Graceland Mansion Audio-Guided Tour with New Orientation Film
  • Self-guided tour of Presley Motors Automobile Museum
  • Self-guided tour of Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum
  • Self-guided tours of Elvis Discovery Exhibits

This way, you get to see the wonder that is the shag carpet inside of Graceland, Elvis’ cool car collection, and learn a little bit about his life, but not be bombarded by nostalgia that you can’t really feel.

See also:

Sun Studios

Address: 706 Union Avenue Memphis, TN 38103 at the corner of Marshall and Union

Admission: Adults $14 / Military, Students, & AAA  $12 / Kids 5 -11 FREE / Kids under 5 not permitted. 

Hours: Sun Studio is open 7 days a week from 10AM – 6:15PM. Tours begin at the bottom half of every hour from 10:30AM – 5:30PM.

memphis attractions 2 days in memphis

There is a free shuttle from Graceland to Sun Studio, so if you time your visit right, you won’t have to pay for a ride share. The Shuttle picks up and drops off every hour at the top of the hour, from 10:00AM – 6:00PM. You can find the shuttle at the cab stand at Graceland’s entrance.

Sun Studio is known worldwide as “The Birthplace of Rock’n’roll.” Legends like B.B. King, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis have recorded at Sun Studio. In fact, it’s the place where Elvis recorded his first ever song.

memphis attractions 2 days in memphis

And you can hold the microphone that made it happen!

My tour lasted 45 minutes and was definitly a can’t miss Memphis attraction.

Beale Street

Your 2 days in Memphis wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Beale Street.

Beale Street is filled with bars, restaurants, and interestedly enough, ice cream shops. I don’t like going to bars alone, as I don’t really drink and frankly find the humming energy that they contain overwhelming without a familiar presence nearby, so I chose to visit

memphis attractions 2 days in memphis

A. Schwab Trading Co

 163 Beale Street, Memphis, TN 38103

Monday – Wednesday, 8:00AM – 5:00PM, Thursday 12:00PM- 6:00PM

Friday – Saturday, 12:00PM – 8:00PM, Sunday 11:AM – 5:00PM

to sit at the counter of its old fashion soda shop, chat with the nice man who gave me extra whipped cream on my milkshake, and later explore the store with all its oddities. If you find Beale Street too touristy, or prefer a more intimate vibe, try

Mollie Fontaine Lounge

679 Adams Ave, Memphis, TN 38105

Wednesday – Saturday, 5:00PM – ’til the spirits go to sleep

Closed Sunday – Tuesday

An antiques-filled Victorian house lounge which serves martinis & tapas and features local bands. I didn’t make it to Mollie’s, but my Airbnb host couldn’t stop raving about it. Next time!

Day 2 in Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum

Address: 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103 

Admission: Adults $16 / Seniors & Students with ID $14 / Kids 5-17 $13 / Members, Active Military, Kids under 4 FREE

Hours: Wednesday – Monday, 9:00am – 5:00pm, CLOSED EVERY TUESDAY 

the national civil rights museum loraine motel mlk

This is the most powerful and insightful museum that I’ve ever been to. It follows the journey of African Americans from the transatlantic slave trade all the way to #BlackLivesMatter, explaining in accessible detail things that were continually glossed over during my formal education.

As I made my way through the exhibits, I thought about the people whose first thought is “he was reaching!” when a young father is murdered by the police, or “she’s playing the race card” when a public figure comes forward about racist harassment.

“If they would just come here,” I thought. “If they could just see!” The deep, institutional roots that racism has in America have never been as clear as when I was in the National Civil Rights Museum.

Please, make visiting this museum a priority, even if you only have 2 days in Memphis. I left feeling embarrassed of how much I didn’t know, convicted by what I learned, and inspired to do better.

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Stroll along the Mighty Mississippi at Tom Lee Park

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Tom Lee Park is only about a 5 minute walk from the National Civil Rights Museum and a relaxing place to stroll, sit, or sunbathe. It offers great views of the Mighty Mississippi, the Memphis Skyline, and even Arkansas across the river.

As I sat on a bench in Tom Lee Park, the peacefulness, the feeling of community, and the natural wonder of the river made me feel like I wouldn’t mind calling Memphis home. I left wanting to spend way more than 2 days in Memphis.

Redneck Heaven: The Bass Pro Pyramid in Memphis

Address: 1 Bass Pro Dr, Memphis, TN 38105

Admission: free. $10 for the elevator ride to the lookout deck. 

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8:00AM – 10:00PM, Sunday 8:00AM – 7:00PM.

memphis attractions 2 days in memphis

Visiting the Bass Pro Pyramid directly after the National Civil Rights Museum was definitly jarring, in terms of cultural contrast, but still enjoyable.

I’m from Texas, but was still overwhelmed by the overall southernness of the complex. If you’re a Yankee, or not American, it’s a great place to really get inside the mind of a good ‘ole country boy who likes huntin’,fishin’, and lovin’ everyday.

I think that the $10 to ride the elevator to the observation deck was worth it, as the view was amazing and the experience of riding a freestanding elevator was also fun. You could easily spend over an hour exploring the store.

Visit the Peabody Ducks

Address: 149 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103

Admission: FREE

Hours: The Ducks arrive everyday at 11:00AM and retire for the evening at 5:00PM. 

memphis attractions 2 days in memphis

My mom lived in Memphis when she was in Jr. High School and stayed at the Peabody Hotel at the beginning of her life there. She remembered being delighted by the Peabody Duck Parade, so I made it a priority to visit during my 2 days in Memphis.

I thought the ducks looked cute, swimming around in the fountain. I liked the ringmaster-esque costume of the Peabody Duckmaster. I thought the booming classical music that accompanies the duck march was fun. I’ve read that others think the Peabody Duck Parade is overhyped or not worth it, but I enjoyed it.

Maybe it was because of my sentimental attachment to the event, or maybe because it was a good excuse to wander around the ornate inside of the hotel, but I didn’t find it lame at all. I’d also recommend following the ducks up to their penthouse. It’s pretty cute.

The best viewing for the Peabody Duck Parade is on the second story, directly behind the fountain.

Have Dinner at Gus’ Fried Chicken

Address: 706 Union Avenue Memphis, TN 38103 at the corner of Marshall and Union

Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11:00AM – 9:00PM, Friday – Saturday 11:00AM – 10:00PM

memphis attractions 2 days in memphis

No 2 days in Memphis would be complete without some delicious Gus’ Fried Chicken.

Allergy note: if it’s fried at Gus’, it’s fried in peanut oil.

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