I spent three days (two nights) in Memphis in the summer of 2012, on my southern road-trip. Travelling with some guys I met at the hostel in Nashville, we arrived in Memphis at around 10pm, and pulled up to the hostel of our choice. Unfortunately reception was closed…
and it seemed we would not be able to spend the night there so we checked into a motel to rest our heads.The next morning we checked into Pilgrim House hostel for the night. The neighbourhood seemed really cool – lots of bars and coffee shops lined the main street near the hostel. The hostel itself is based in a church, and it is therefore unlike any other hostel I have ever stayed at.
Firstly, we had to do chores. Each morning guests find their names on a piece of card on a desk in the hallway. The other side of the card tells you your chore. This is not compulsory, but in order to have your deposit returned at the end of your stay you must complete your chore to a satisfactory standard. My friend had to clean the kitchen, another had to hoover a dorm room, and I had to polish door knobs…! At $15 a night though, I was certainly not complaining. The other note about this hostel was their strict rules on alcohol, so if you’re planning a visit be sure you can cooperate with their regulations!
Right, back to the city! My degree featured a great deal of American Studies (American history, politics and culture) and so I was super excited to visit the National Civil Rights Museum.
Admission was $9 for students and I have to say it has to be the best-spent museum admission I have ever paid. The museum is completely fascinating – it details the entire civil rights movement up until the present day. The museum begins with a film screening about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his life which had me and my companions in tears by the end. It was very moving and emotional. The rest is a self-guided timeline through the history of the civil rights movement in America. It is very text heavy, with a lot of reading for those willing. We spent absolutely HOURS going through the museum, taking it all in. At the end, you can see the hotel room and balcony of the assassination which really brings it all to life.
We also visited Sun Studio to soak up some of the musical heritage of the city. This included a tour by a obnoxiously enthusiastic tour guide, and the opportunity to stand with Elvis’ microphone! A huge variety of musicians have recorded in these studios but I was most impressed with Johnny Cash!
Now for food….Now I can’t really claim this one as a discovery of mine, or a hidden gem we just stumbled across, as this place seems to be pretty darn popular…After our hours at the National Civil Rights Museum, we headed to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken a few streets away. Holy mother of God IT IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF. They serve fried chicken. And they serve sides. And it is glorious. I often reminisce about how good this chicken was. Do yourself a favour – if you find yourself in Memphis, track this place down.
Finally, after history, music and food we headed to Beale Street. This place is a major tourist attraction due to its connections with the history of blues music. We were there on a weekday night, so it wasn’t too crazy. The bars were really expensive (to be expected), but there was great live music everywhere and stands outside sell cups of beer as big as your face for a pretty good price. Cheers!