Memphis Travel Guide
On April 4 1968, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. Since that day, the hotel has found new life as the National Civil Rights Museum, an impressive collection of photographs, videos and written accounts chronicling the history of the civil rights movement.
As historic hotels go, they don't come much more important than this place. And now the museum is adding to its repertoire.
Though room 306 has always been open to visitors (everything, from the furniture, curtains, carpet, rotary telephone and current newspaper, has been recreated to make the room look exactly the way it did when Dr. King stayed there), that was as far as they could go. Which is still quite a profound experience, given how much time Dr. King spent in that particular room (he was no stranger to the motel—in fact, room 306 was nicknamed the King-Abernathy Suite in his honor, after so many repeat stays).
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All this week, Julia Buckley will be taking us down the Blues trail in the Mississippi Delta and giving us the lowdown on the hotel scene. So kick off your blue suede shoes and get comfy.
Chocolate, schmocolate. Turndown service usually leaves us slightly cold – or rather, it did until our stay at the River Inn of Harbor Town in Memphis two weeks ago. Because there, turndown not only means a gussied up bed. It not only means posh, round, Ferrero Rocher-like truffles rather than a tasteless slab of sugar on the pillow. No, at the River Inn, turndown also means a little carafe of port.
Why mention Memphis in HotelChatter's official Mississippi Delta Week? Because if you’re traveling to the Delta, it’s most likely that you’ll start off (and end up) in Memphis. Not only is it the closest major airport to the Delta, but it’s a fitting place to top and tail your trip, seeing as Memphis was the town all the blues musicians wanted to get to.
We’ve been to Memphis a couple times now, but never had much luck with hotels, the Benchmark being the low point, and the surprisingly snazzy Motel 6 in Horn Lake the high – but it’s a 20 minute drive from town. And though we’ve hung out and watched the duck parade at the Peabody, it’s always been out of our budget or fully booked.
But this time was third time lucky in Memphis, and not just because of the port.
The assistant would help head Duckmaster Jason Sensat feed and care for the ducks. The new hire also would guide the four hens and one drake on their two daily walks from their penthouse suite to the marble fountain in the hotel lobby. The walk, a tradition for 78 years, draws hundreds of spectators every day.
While most people headed out to have pancakes with mom yesterday, Memphis battled flooding from the Mississippi River that's expected to reach 48 feet on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. However, downtown Memphis hotels are safe and open for business.
We called the Holiday Inn Select Downtown Memphis to see how it was faring, and the front desk said that downtown, which is perched on a bluff, isn't affected at all. "I'm not even wearing a swimsuit or anything," the front desk clerk joked.
There's a lot that lures travelers to Memphis: the city's rich music scene—it was the birthplace of rock 'n' roll and soul music, after all—the finger-lickin' good barbecue and the jumping nightlife on Beale Street are just a few. If you want to go South for the winter, here are Memphis hotel options for every budget.
See our three hotel picks after the jump.
Last week, we found ourselves on an unplanned Easter road trip and ended up in Memphis on Good Friday. Having paid our Graceland dues, we decided to shack up for the night, and soon realized that the town was pretty full for the weekend.
Our options? The Peabody had a double room for $200, but the Benchmark had one going for $130. The lobby looked a little worn but the staff were nice, we were tired, and we hadn't seen the warnings on TripAdvisor so we gave it a go.
Cubicle Dreamin' is a feature in which we ask the hotel mavens to take some time out of their busy work day, surf the Internet, and tell us what hotel they wish they could beam themselves to right that very second--all on the slave driving companies dime, of course. Oh, like these people aren't surfing aimlessly anyway--at least now their purposeless clicking will be cobbled together into useful hotel stories--we hope. Have a destination hotel you are just dying to leave your cube for? Send the story our way.
In this episode, Hotel Maven Jennifer Merritt puts on her blue suede shoes and heads to Graceland. Enjoy.
I'm not much of an Elvis fan, but for some reason I've always wanted to go to Graceland. Because I'm not one of those jumpsuit-and-wig-wearing fanatics, I want to make sure my trip to Memphis isn't all Elvis, all the time. It appears that the River Inn of Harbor Town may be the solution to that conundrum.
The program has recently enlisted more than 100 of its workers - along with serious star power in the form of actor Samuel L. Jackson - to overhaul the National Civil Rights Museum, in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Museum celebrates the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and sits on the former site of the Lorraine Motel, where the civil rights leader was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
From new wallpaper and walkways, to displays, landscaping and electrical work, the Museum aims to complete most of the project by the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's untimely passing.
Jackson, who was an usher at King's funeral, is contributing to the more than 1000 man-hours that will go into rolling out the new look for this important landmark. And Hamptons plans more legendary makeovers this year -- including the birthplaces of Helen Keller and Jessie Owens.
Got a landmark you wanna see preserved? Nominate one here.
For everyone with an oil portrait of Robert E. Lee hanging in the Billiard Room, you and your fellow Daughters of the American Revolution should venture from the plantation to enjoy a fantastic meal at Chez Phillipe, a Forbes Traveler story on the best hotel food reports.
The French-Asian establishment, located within The Peabody hotel in Memphis, is one of the highest rated restaurants below the Mason-Dixon.
Apparently, all the restaurant buzz proves the hotel now has more than marching ducks to offer its travelers. Since 1932, when a few drunken aristocrats left their duck decoys in the hotel fountain after a day of hunting, fowl have achieved royalty status at The Peabody. According to the hotel web site:
The ducks are housed in the "Duck Palace" on the hotel roof. Every day at 11 a.m., they are led by the Duckmaster down the elevator to the Italian travertine marble fountain in the Peabody Grand Lobby. A red carpet is unrolled and the ducks march through crowds of admiring spectators to the tune of John Philip Sousa's King Cotton March. The ceremony is reversed at 5 p.m., when the ducks retire for the evening to their palace on the roof of the hotel.
Somewhere, Scrooge McDuck seethes with jealousy.
For those of you so fascinated by this hotel video tour that you want to book a room immediately, Davie has this tip on getting a special internet rate:
Go to the Madison Hotel web site, click "make a reservation" and then "promotional rates" at the bottom---or pay $60 extra per night plus a few extra in taxes.
We put her tip to work and found a Bankers full room for $175 on Friday, Feb. 9 and Saturday, Feb. 10 under the internet promotions rate. Otherwise, the hotel is offering the room for $235 both nights. Thanks Davie, now go and put your records on.
· Memphis Record Shopping Double-Up [Jaunted]
We used to think getting a room view of scaffolding, brick walls or air shafts were the worst types of views you could get. However, men with skimpy bathing suits, like this man of leisure pictured here, take the cake.
What's worse about this, according to Hotel Maven Courtney May who sent it to us, is that the Wyndham Garden Hotel is also next to a children's hospital meaning those sick kids get to look at this too.
Funnily enough, this view seemed to be almost repeated in Croatia and then in San Francisco, one guest paraded around nude in his hotel room where workers across the way had a prime view. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, they didn't snap this Ugly Naked Guy on camera.
The Days Inn Graceland is your run-of-the-mill motel. Most hotel mavens will not want to spend one more minute here than they have to, however, Elvis freaks feel a whole lot different.
This hotel is a two minute walk from Graceland, and more importantly has a guitar shaped pool you can see from space, er, at least from Google Earth.