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July 14, 2012 / Jim Fenton

Mississippi River Day 11: Memphis

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation traveling down the Mississippi River. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

Graceland

Graceland

Apparently No trip to Memphis is complete without a visit to Graceland. So we started the day by doing that. It had the expected visitor center with a bus to the mansion itself. But what was unexpected was it was neither as big nor as gaudy as we had been led to expect (other than that it was decorated in the ’70s).

We returned to downtown Memphis for lunch and then visited the Cotton Exchange museum, which highlights the role of cotton on the local economy and beyond. Many of the exhibits were located on the actual trading floor that had been used in years past.

Mud Island

Mud Island river model

We then took a tram to Mud Island River Park and the Mississippi River Museum. The museum itself covered many aspects of local history, including the Civil War and development of Memphis as a jazz music capital. But we were particularly taken with the exhibit outside: a huge topographic scale model of the lower Mississippi, including bridges and cities. It gave us even more of a feel for the river. We wished we had more time to read the interpretive signs talking about floods, changes in the river’s path, and events like the great 1811 New Madrid earthquake. But we had to catch the last tram back to our hotel.

Beale Street

Beale Street Party

Dinner was at Rendezvous, which is apparently the definitive place for Memphis barbecue, downtown at least. After dinner we walked down to Beale Street, the music district, to find a huge “block party”: the streets were closed to cars, pedestrians walked everywhere, and several bands were playing. We were cautioned (about 8:30 pm) by the police monitoring the street that Celeste would need to leave by 11 pm (no problem!). It was a fun and lively party while we’re there, and probably got a good deal more crowded and lively later.

We finished the evening with a ride on one of Memphis’s historic trolleys. It was enjoyable, but we couldn’t see much because it was dark by then. Still it was quite a bargain for $1 each.

Mississippi River crossings today: 0 (except the channel to Mud Island)
July 14, 2012

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