Wednesday, June 8, 2016

First Stop: Memphis!

The first stop on our summer road trip will be Memphis, where my brother and his wife (and his wife's family) live. One of the reasons why I even considered doing something like driving across the country with three kids is that I got a preview of what it would be like when we drove to Memphis for their wedding a couple of years ago.

It was just the kids and me (Chris would be flying in so he didn't have to miss work). We put in two long days of driving and had a quick stop over in Knoxville one night. Then we spent two nights in Memphis before making the same drive back to VA. It was a mini road trip! The only difference was our destination: wedding. There really wasn't any time to check out the city. The only "sightseeing" we did was a couple of hours at the zoo to kill some time.

This image pretty much sums up my experience of that weekend:

Holding a fistful of Oliver's shirt and smiling through gritted teeth...yup - pretty much.
Here is that shot again with some people we will see on our road trip (and a few bonus family members who won't mind having their faces on my blog):

Also - the flowers were amazing!

Wedding images (minus smiley faces) via Corrado Caretto.

On THIS visit, we have three days of time to kill. And I think I'm pretty much done with research. I don't have an exact itinerary since we'll try to plan our days around seeing family when they are available, but here is what's on my list:

We will arrive in the late afternoon, so after checking in at our hotel, I thought we could stretch our legs at the Memphis Botanic Garden. The entry fee is pretty low ($8 for adults and $5 for kids) and parking is free. The "activities" on site include an area for kids called My Big Backyard. We'll drop by - but it looks like it may be geared toward a slightly younger set than my nine and 11 year olds. Though I'm sure my sensory seeking oldest will be more than happy to climb into the sandbox with the toddlers. The map shows plenty of gardens to stroll...Butterfly Garden...Wildflower Woodland...Japanese Garden (pictured below) I think we can count on a nice walking tour. (Note to self: when I pulled up the website to check some details, I noticed that they will close early this Friday for an event...better make sure there isn't an event before driving over there!) I also just realized that the hours are 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. so we may want to stop there first before the hotel.

Eleanor and I agreed that if we can walk over this bridge we will call the excursion a win. 
(image via since the Botanic Garden website said photos are "coming soon")

One of our three days will be spent in the downtown area. We'll start with watching the Peabody Ducks arrive in the lobby. The kids should get a kick out of that, and The Peabody Hotel is in walking distance from Mud Island River Park. After the ducks, we'll head over to Mud Island's pedestrian walkway or "Skybridge". Looks like it should take about 25 minutes (including the walkway) but we could also cut some time off of that by catching a "vintage" trolley.

image via MATA Transit
All trolley lines have been closed for restoration, but - fingers crossed - the Main Street line should be running by the time we are there. Either way, my kids are used to being forced marched through DC when we metro in, so they should be fine to walk.

Mud Island features the Riverwalk which is an exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi (M-ISS-ISS-IPP-I - no need for spell check here!) River from its confluence with the Ohio River in Cairo, IL to the Gulf of Mexico (that is cut and pasted directly from the Mud Island website AND the very first time I have ever used the word "confluence"). The Riverwalk is free of charge. (Hours are 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.)

image via Mud Island River Park
There's also a museum, amphitheater (which apparently, I have be spelling wrong for YEARS) and pedal boats, but we won't be doing any of that. I don't think the museum fees are worth it when I know everyone will just want to be outside on the Riverwalk. The website references a $10/$7 package for adults/children that includes museum and grounds admission, a round trip monorail ride (see below) and an optional guided Riverwalk tour. There is a small part of me that feels like I SHOULD spend the money just in case...but that part always ends up saying, "well that was a waste." No concerts - so no reason to see the amphitheater (seriously - there's no "l" in amphitheater?). And as for pedal boats ($5 per person for 30 minutes)...that would involve splitting up so that two of my kids are alone in a pedal boat A monorail ride to the island is $4 round trip. I was thinking that we don't need to spend money on that either (you will WALK and you will LIKE it), but then again, we may be walking a lot. And it could be fun. So I'll see how we're feeling when we arrive at the Skybridge. (Another note to self: I keep seeing pictures of people IN the Riverwalk. So it might be a good idea to pack a towel in our lunch bag.)

After Mud Island, I'll treat the kids to a milkshake at the original A. Schwab soda fountain.

image via A. Schwab
Apparently, all of the best tourists go there.

If the trolley is running, we'll end the day with a ride around town. If not, there may be more walking ("left, left - left right left"). We will also probably swing by the Beale Street Elvis statue for a photo op with The King.

Speaking of The King. We will not be visiting Graceland. As I've mentioned before, I'm working with a tight budget and the interest level of my three children won't match the ticket price. That will have to be an attraction for another trip to Memphis.

On one of the other three days, my kids would REALLY like to go back to the Memphis Zoo. We didn't see half of the exhibits there last time, so I agreed. And we will be seeing EVERYTHING since tickets ($15 for adults/$10 for kids) + parking ($5) will make it a $50 itinerary stop. I don't think I need to describe the's a zoo.

On another day, our big excursion will be to the Pink Palace Museum.

image via Memphis Museums
The Pink Palace started as a mansion built by Piggly Wiggly founder, Clarence Saunders in 1922. Sadly, he lost all of his money in 1923 and never got to move in. The Mansion was donated (by the company that acquired the property) to the City of Memphis for use as a museum. Then the city spent $150,000 to complete construction of the building and grounds - a sum that would now cover a large kitchen renovation. But enough about the building's history - I'm just hoping that what we see there will hold our insect-like attention spans for at least a couple of hours. There is a dinosaur exhibit opening July 1, Collecting the Missing Pieces (a collection of artifacts related to slavery, abolition, segregation and inequality), a life-size Piggly Wiggly replica... Prediction: if you ask my kids what they saw at the Pink Palace, 95% of what they answer will involve viewing a Shrunken Head. We could also visit the Sharpe Planetarium which is in the same location. Once we know what day we'll be there, I'll check the schedule to see if it's doable. Hours are 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12:00-5:00 on Sunday. Exhibits-only tickets are $12.75 for adults and $7.25 for kids ($17.75/$11.25 if we include the Planetarium).

At some point, I will have to take everyone to Jerry's Sno Cones. Because they've seen pictures. Also - I really want one.

Image via Jerry's Sno Cones
Clearly, there is A LOT more to do in Memphis, but I'm working with limited time, limited attention spans and family members with whom I want to spend as much time as possible. So that's what I have planned.

Next post: Santa Fe...

Most of the information I included in this came from articles I added to my Memphis Pinterest board. I also looked up websites on the Memphis CVB site (if you like apps - they have one you can download for attractions, restaurants, deals, etc.)

1 comment:

  1. The executive chef here was a genuinely nice person and never made us feel like we were just "business" for him. He was extremely competent and organized. Because of the natural beauty of the San Francisco venues, we were able to get away with very minimal decorations.