One of the birthplaces of Southern music culture, Memphis remains one of the most heavily-visited cities in the United States. With a metropolitan population of over 650,000, Memphis boasts a number of fun attractions for people of all ages. Perfect for couples and singles alike, a trip to Memphis can be done on a budget.
That’s right—our guide will show you 20 of the best free (or nearly free!) things that you can do in Memphis, Tennessee to have a vacation unlike any other! First, however, let’s look at some of the must-know information you should consider before planning your itinerary.
Where is Memphis, Tennessee?
Memphis rests along the Mississippi River in Southwestern Tennessee. Its unique location puts it in one of the cultural hotspots of the United States. It was here that a mixture of African-American and white culture fused to produce some of the most iconic figures in the world—including the King of Rock himself, Elvis Presley.
This cultural fusion is alive and well in Memphis, making it one of the most interesting states in the US to visit. For those looking for fun things to do in Memphis, you can rest assured of one thing—this sprawling metropolis has just about everything you could ask for!
Best Time to Visit Memphis, Tennessee
Though the answer to this question will ultimately depend on your personal schedule, many agree that the best times to visit Memphis, Tennessee come from April to May and from October to November. This is because, as well see, Memphis boasts both an uncomfortably hot and cold climate during the summer and winter month.
Weather in Memphis Tennessee
As mentioned, the weather in Memphis tends to tilt toward the extremes during the summer and winter months. Because of this, one can expect temperatures that often exceed ninety in the summer with temperatures that fall into the thirties and below during the winter.
20 Free (or Nearly Free!) Things to Do in Memphis, Tennessee
With this in mind, it’s time to take a look at some cheap things to do in Memphis. Our comprehensive list below shows you many of the best cheap and even free things to do in Memphis! By putting these incredible options on your list, you’ll enjoy a vacation better than you ever expected.
1. Dixon Gallery and Gardens
At Dixon Gallery and Gardens, you’ll find one of the more unique things to do in Memphis. Even better, it’s kid-friendly so that you can take your whole family along!
And that’s only the beginning—admissions to this garden is completely free every Saturday morning from 10 AM to 12 noon—so be sure to check it out. From its beautiful gardens to an incredible gallery of impressionist paintings (including those works of Monet!), Dixon Gallery and Gardens is among the best things to do in Memphis, Tennessee!
2. University of Memphis Art Museum
The University of Memphis Art Museum offers free admission with a number of mind-blowing collections and exhibits. Though temporary exhibits change occasionally, the museum offers tours that showcase artwork dating back to the Ancient Egyptian times! From ancient mummies to old loaves of bread—we’re talking over 4000 years old! —this incredible museum has everything you and your family need to enjoy a fun and informative vacation in Memphis!
3. Shelby Farms Park
Perfect for picnicking, walking, and a number of other family-friendly activities, Shelby Farms Park offers both free and low-cost activities.
Many are surprised to learn that Shelby Farms Park is actually five times larger than Central Park in New York—and it offers several more noteworthy activities. Some paid activities include going paddle-boating and tacking horseback riding lessons—among many others!
4. Beale Street Historic District
This family-friendly district is one of the coolest in all of Tennessee. The birthplace of the Tennessee blues culture, this formerly all-black district is seeping with history. It’s here that you’ll feel the current of rhythm and blues that moved through the city and resulted in some of the most world-changing music and culture. Now, you can visit historical sites and a number of restaurants and attractions great for the whole family!
5. Wolf River Greenway
Ready to experience some of the best natural scenery in all of Tennessee? A trip to Wolf River Greenway in Memphis is in order! This breathtakingly-beautiful trail is surrounded by untouched natural landscape on all sides.
Connected to downtown Memphis, this beautiful trail takes you and your loved ones from the heart of Memphis’s sprawling metropolis to its unmatched landscape. Perfect for singles, couples, and families alike, this free walkway is one of the best options in Memphis!
6. Levitt Shell
Want to find some great free live music? Head over to the Levitt Shell. Perfect for couples, those who are of age can partake in some great alcohol and live music for an incredibly-fun evening.
7. Tom Lee Park
Located near western downtown Memphis, Tom Lee par offers thirty acres of fun for you and your family. Great for those who are looking to spend a day jogging, picnicking, or cycling, Tom Lee Park boasts one of the best views in town!
Here, you can watch the sun set over the Mississippi River—a time-honored view that’s inspired generations of Southern writers and artists.
Experience the home of the King of Rock by taking a tour of Graceland. The home of Elvis, this is perhaps the most famous manor in the world and gives a first-hand look into the life of the world’s most famous music icon.
Perfect for everyone—from grandchild to grandma—Graceland is a must-see for those visiting Memphis.
9. Pink Palace Museum
Once the home of Clarence Saunders—you might recognize him as the founder of Piggly Wiggly, this museum now features an incredible array of exhibits from Civil War era artifacts to a planetarium.
If you’re hoping to make it free here, though, you’ll have to come at the right time—you can only get in for free from 1:00 to 5:00 PM on Tuesdays, so be sure to plan ahead!
10. March of the Peabody Ducks
A perfect thing to do with kids in Memphis, the March of the Peabody Ducks is a time-honored tradition that dates back to the 1940s.
You’ll need to head to the Peabody Hotel to witness this incredible march—but admission into the lobby is free, and you don’t need to a boo a room to watch! Showtimes are at 11 AM and 5 PM every day.
11. Statue of Elvis
The Statue of Elvis is an icon in Memphis and pays homage to the greatest legend in American history.
You can find this statue in the Memphis Tennessee Welcome Center where it’s been since 1994 when the original statue was destroyed.
12. Elmwood Cemetery
Want a taste of (spooky) history? Try a visit to Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee! One of the first rural cemeteries in the South, Elmwood has been around since 1852—meaning that many of the bodies you’ll find here come from before and during the Civil War. This makes Elmwood one of the most interesting cemeteries in Memphis—and one that history buffs may want to check out!
13. Big River Crossing
Big River Crossing in Memphis is another attraction that you’ll only be able to experience in this famed Tennessee city! Stretching almost a mile across the Mississippi, Big River Crossing is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the country—and the longest to span the Mississippi.
From cycling to walking, this incredible bridge is the perfect way for you and your family to experience the wonderful natural views and majesty of the Mississippi.
14. The Pyramid—Bass Pro Shops
At The Pyramid, you can find incredible fun all for prices that won’t hurt your wallet. This mesmerizing store is one of the most popular in all of Memphis and comes with a number of attractions great for you and your family! From a 13-lane bowling alley to a live swamp filled with alligators, this incredible store offers more than you bargained for!
15. Beale Street Landing
Want to experience the power of the Mississippi for yourself? Take a trip on down to Beale Street Landing! This all-new landing includes an incredible boat dock that will give you and your loved ones easy access to the water!
Not ready to go boating? Try one of the many great restaurants around or see what’s happening at the landing’s event space! One of the newest (and cheapest) things to do in Memphis, visiting Beale Street Landing is great for people of all ages!
16. National Civil Rights Museum
One of the most important things to do in Memphis is to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. Fun and informational, this museum pays homage to the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century and to the brave leaders who gave birth to the movement. A must-visit for those who are visiting Memphis, this powerful museum offers a look into some of the darkest aspects of American history—and into the inspiring leaders who created a new status quo.
17. Memphis Zoo
One of the best things to do with kids in Memphis, the Memphis Zoo offers classic family-friendly fun.
If you’re in search of something to do with your entire family, the Memphis Zoo proves one of the best options on the table. With more than 4500 animals on display, this large zoo is enough to keep you entertained all day!
18. Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
Created by the Smithsonian Institution, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is one of the city’s top attractions. Great for things to do on the weekend in Memphis, a visit to this museum offers a glimpse into the history and the culture surrounding the birth of rock and soul. Here, you can learn about some of the pioneers of rock and soul and gain a greater appreciation for the struggles that produced both genres.
19. Sun Studio
Sun Studio is a recording studio located in downtown Memphis—and it’s been home to some of the most iconic records in American music history.
With icons such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recording here, Sun Studio proves to be one of the most important buildings in all of Memphis. And now, for a small fee, you and your loved ones can take a tour of the building that helped shape and influence American (and Western!) music and culture.
20. Stax Museum of American Soul Music
In the former Stax Records building, you’ll now find Stax Museum of American Soul Music. This incredible museum pays tribute to some of the best soul artists in American music history—and offers a first-hand look into the legacy and the history of Stax Records.
What really makes this museum unique is that it’s one of the only ones in the entire United States to pay homage solely to the soul music industry. An important museum for those interested in Civil Rights and African-American history, Stax Museum is a must-visit for all who travel to Memphis.
When traveling to Memphis, keep the following information in mind!
If You’re Staying Downtown, You Don’t Need to Rent a Car—That’s right! For those who are staying in downtown Memphis, a car shouldn’t be necessary. Because many of the great attractions and things to do are within walking distance, you can save money on a car rental to have more fun with your family!
Go to Crowded Places Early—With over 650,000 people, Memphis has a large population already. Add in thousands of tourists every year, and you can only imagine how packed popular sites like Beale Street can get. Because of this, try traveling early in the morning so that you can experience all the fun while beating the crowds.
But If You Can’t … — If you’re not able to get up early or simply want to travel later in the day, make sure that you’re prepared for the large crowds you’ll find. This means that if you want to do anything that requires admission—book in advance. Beat the lines when you can for a better vacation experience.