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Heading to Memphis with kids? While it’s not as popular as Nashville for visiting families, we have found that there are lots of things to do in Memphis with babies, toddlers and kids! Known for its music scene and Beale Street, it’s often overlooked by traveling families but we think you should visit. Wondering what there is to do in Memphis with kids? Read on for some family friendly attractions and our Memphis 3 day itinerary.
We used our Marriott points and stayed at the Westin Memphis Beale Street, which was right across from the FedEx Forum and one block to Beale Street. If you’re looking for a family friendly hotel in Memphis, this is definitely it! We were upgraded to a suite, which had a bedroom separate from the living room, 2 bathrooms including one massive one with a massive tub, shower and walk in closet. Since I have titanium status with Marriott, we also got free breakfast here so we ate breakfast at the hotel most of the days we were there.
The public transportation in Memphis is pretty awful and unreliable. We also didn’t see many taxis during our time there, so keep that in mind! You will need a car to get around the city, however we opted to use Uber. It was cheap and we didn’t have to pay for expensive parking at our hotel.
THINGS TO DO IN MEMPHIS WITH KIDS
National Civil Rights Museum
One of the musts on our list was the National Civil Rights Museum, one of the most popular attractions in Memphis. We were worried that Milana would be too young (she was 7 at the time of our visit) but we have been teaching her about Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges and as homeschoolers, we know that it’s better to show them things in person than just read to them so we took her to the museum. Kids learn so much more by actually seeing the places vs. just sitting in a classroom and reading about them! The museum is located next to the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968.
She absolutely loved this place! She couldn’t grasp why people were treated unfairly simply because of the color of their skin, and I have to agree, it’s a hard thing for adults to grasp as well. And to think a lot of this stuff happened not too long ago! Us adults could have spent hours in there, reading all the placards and going through each room. It definitely left a lasting impression on all of us and if you only do one thing in Memphis, make this be it. Every human should visit this place at least once! Keep in mind that there are signs everywhere asking to be silent and respect the subject matter, so if you have kids who are prone to running and screaming, this isn’t the place for you. But if you have older kids interested in some very important history, the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is a must to visit with kids!
Memphis Children’s Museum
It was very hot on our visit to Memphis so we needed an afternoon out of the 100 degree heat! We decided to visit the Memphis Children’s Museum and it did not disappoint! If you are visiting in the summer months, you can buy an additional entry into their splash pad area outside, but we opted to not do that since we really wanted to be indoors in air conditioning. The museum has lots of fun, interactive exhibits which Milana loved. She especially loved the art room! We have been to many children’s museums all over the US and Memphis definitely one of the best children’s museums in the country.
This is probably the most popular attraction in Memphis! The Peabody Ducks come down the elevator and to the fountain at 11 and 5 every day. The fountain was being renovated when we went, and they allowed people to go visit them upstairs at the fountain there if they wanted to. The best part about visiting the Peabody Ducks with kids? You can get there as late as you want and your child will get a front row spot! We arrived with less than 10 minutes to spare and it was super packed. Milana was quickly whisked away by the staff and put in the front row! I gave her my phone and she was able to record them getting out of the elevator. So the pro tip here is to bring kids and you can arrive as late as you want!
Because the Memphis Zoo is part of the AZA, we received 50% off our admission. This is a small and really cute zoo, with a tram that will take you around the entire facility if you don’t feel like walking. We aren’t usually zoo people, but Milana has been asking to go so we spent a few hours here one morning, before the heat hit!
Now this isn’t a place you think to bring kids but during the day, it’s very kid friendly! There are lots of families, a great ice cream shop and some restaurants. Many of the places allow kids during the day, so you can listen to live music with your family. Beale Street does have a curfew for those under 21. After 9pm if you are already on the street with your kids, you can remain until 11pm. But after 11, no one under 21 is permitted at all, regardless if they are with their parents or not. To be honest, we left once it got dark as it got really sketchy really fast and definitely not as family friendly as it was during the day! Still, it’s worth seeing the lights at night and now that the sun goes down so quickly, it’s easier than ever.
Milana loved finding all these guitars all over Beale Street!
Bass Pro Shop
Now you’re probably wondering why I’m even suggesting this, it’s a store after all! Well I thought the same thing but after hearing person after person say it’s a must, off we went! You probably have noticed the giant pyramid while in Memphis. Well that is where the Bass Pro Shop is located, and it’s much more than just an outdoor store! There is a hotel inside, a restaurant, a fish pond, you can even see live alligators! There’s also an archery range, some arcade games and the world’s tallest freestanding elevator, which we did not do. It was fun to see this massive structure and all the activities it has to offer. Great way to spend an hour or two on a hot or rainy day.
Pink Palace Family of Museums
This is a massive complex with different sections, where your family can learn about science and the history of Memphis or even catch an IMAX show or visit the planetarium. This is free if you have a membership to an ASTC museum in your city, so check before you go! This was ok, not something I would particularly recommend unless you’re looking to fill some time.
FAMILY FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS IN MEMPHIS
What’s a trip without trying some good food? Memphis has lots of restaurants and is best known for their fried chicken and barbecue.
This is the oldest restaurant in Memphis and mentioned on pretty much every show and blog about the city, so naturally we had to come visit. But I must say, we weren’t impressed with the food at all! Milana had pancakes and I had the peanut butter and banana sandwich and it was not exceptionally good. Come here for the nostalgia, but save your appetite for a better meal elsewhere!
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
Another place you will see on many shows that feature Memphis. This was a short walk from our hotel so we decided to try it. The wait was short on a Saturday evening, which was surprising! The chicken here is spicy, unlike traditional fried chicken. It’s not overly spicy however we much prefer traditional fried chicken, even Dave who loves the spiciest food. We weren’t fans of the chicken, but their okra and mac and cheese was really good! There’s another place called Hattie B’s that many locals said is better and they will alter it to your spice level liking, but we didn’t have time to try it.
A. Schwab Soda Fountain
This place is a must visit! It’s on Beale Street and open during the day, they close in the evenings when the rowdiness begins. This is a general store as well as an old fashioned soda fountain, open since 1876! They have really good milkshakes here, we came two days in a row because it was so good. They also have lots of different soda flavors. We tried the sampler and loved them all. Definitely don’t miss this gem while in Memphis!
Now the topic of bbq can get people heated! Many tourists prefer Rendezvous, which we visited on our last trip to Memphis. Sure, their ribs were good, but the service left a lot to be desired and the locals we spoke to on this trip say they would never send family there. We decided to try Central BBQ this time and it didn’t disappoint! There are multiple locations of this restaurant, the one most convenient for tourists will be right by the Civil Rights Museum. We have heard of massive lines but we went around 3pm on a Sunday and walked right in without a line, on Labor Day weekend. So choose your time wisely and you won’t spend time waiting in line! The meat was good (we tried brisket, chicken and ribs) and their banana pudding was the best ever. Don’t miss the banana pudding! A local also tipped us off to the pork rinds and they were right, a must!
Memphis is a perfect destination for a long weekend. There is lots to see, do and eat for every member of your family!