As I was pulling into Memphis, Tennessee with my two kids, I selected to play the classic Walking in Memphis. My kids have clearly never heard of W.C. Handy but it was time for their blues and rock ‘n’ roll history to begin. For our visit to be a success they would need to get to know Elvis, visit Graceland and truly understand the unique history of Memphis, Tennessee. Here is my ultimate guide to tackling Graceland and Memphis with Kids.
Staying in Memphis
You have two choices when staying in Memphis. You can stay at the Memphis Peabody Hotel or you can stay somewhere else. Due to sheer cost, we opted to stay next door to the Peabody and it was an excellent decision. The moment we checked into the Doubletree Hotel by Hilton I was impressed. We were welcomed by two amazing women who kept us chatting for a good 30 minutes. We talked about Memphis, the history of the hotel and most importantly the not to be missed Doubletree Cookies.
We headed up to our room slowly as I was overly impressed by the choice of artwork in the halls. My history lesson came to be when Will finally entered the room and said “hey Mom, there’s something about W.C. Handy in our bathroom”. Low and behold, there was a music sheet by the very same W.C. Handy we had just discussed and the kids started to pick up on the connection between the song and the city.
While we were in Memphis, we never had a moment of bad service at this hotel. I was shocked to find there was even a decent pool on the premises. I won’t lie and say we didn’t visit the Peabody but we were glad to call the Doubletree Hotel home.
Exploring with Kids
Like any city, exploring with kids in Memphis can be interesting. While we were visiting, the Memphis Trolleys were out of service and so we needed a new plan. We walked the streets a little until Charlie saw a Cinderella Carriage. Not one to fall victim to touristy activities, I wasn’t going to budge on taking a horse-drawn carriage until I saw the dogs. As you may have realized by now, dogs are kind of my thing. Every carriage had its own unique and loveable dog that wanted to sit with us. I agreed to go for a 15 minute ride just to spend a little time with Jake the carriage dog. Boy am I glad we did. The carriage driver welcomed us aboard and began the tour. She took us as close as possible to an open air James Taylor concert and let us out to enjoy the view. I estimate the 15 minute ride took about 45 minutes and it was worth every penny. We saw the main parks, buildings and sights in Memphis while getting a history lesson we could never have taught ourselves. All this happened while I was getting dog cuddles in the back seat.
You cannot do Memphis without going to Graceland. If your kids are 2, 4, 6, or older, it doesn’t really matter, they should know who Elvis is. We arrived at Graceland with ominous clouds above us but I had driven this far and there was no way I wasn’t seeing the jungle room. The incredibly neat thing about taking kids to Graceland is that they will voice their opinions. The kids loved Elvis’ decor and choice of mirror use. The also pointed out that their Uncle Danny actually lived in a bigger house than Elvis (which is debatable). They were a little upset they couldn’t play on Lisa Marie’s vintage swing set but in the end really enjoyed the visit.
You can truly take kids of any age to Graceland. They may not get the entire meaning of the shrine but they will get a great education on the late 1960s and Elvis Presley. I felt that Elvis would be a little sad that Graceland has been frozen in time and there were no peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches being served but its is a fun way to spend an afternoon with or without kids by your side.
Children’s Museum of Memphis
Once your kids have survived Graceland and the 60’s, reward them with a visit to the Children’s Museum of Memphis. I had not actually heard of the museum but once we drove by it, I knew we had to check it out. I am starting to consider myself a connoisseur of children’s museums and I was impressed. Memphis is the home of FedEx and their donations to the museum are impressive. Beyond that, the museum was founded by moms who wanted to give the area a true childrens’ museum. The exhibits are impressive and current. While we visited, I even noticed a few Frozen parties in the works. Plan for at least 4 hours at this museum and don’t forget to check out their impressive H2O Splash Park on the way out.
Peabody Memphis Hotel
Whether you stay there or not, you should take your kids to the Peabody Memphis Hotel to see the historical Peabody Ducks. Legend has it that the ducks were placed in the fountain by a few hunters that had enjoyed a little too much Jack Daniels Whisky. Since the 1940s, ducks have remained a staple of this hotel and its not hard to see why. My kids were blown away by the ducks. There are two events you can attend daily where the ducks are marched into the lobby in the morning and out of the lobby at night. Make sure to arrive at least a half hour early for when the ducks depart at night so your kids can check them out in the fountain. We had the good fortune of attending the ceremony on the same night as the Dogwood Trail Court, a group of girls from Alabama who dress in true historical southern fashion and are frankly sweeter than peaches. I’m not sure if Charlie was more taken by the girls and their dresses or the ducks but Will left determined that one day he would be the Peabody Duck Master.
Memphis with Kids
To be fair, I didn’t expect much to be happening in Memphis for kids and I was very wrong. This was only a sample of the things we could have checked out. With another day or two I would definitely have taken the kids to a Memphis Redbirds game at Autozone Park which was directly across from the Doubletree Memphis. There were also a lot more music museums that would have furthered their education on how influential memphis has been on the history of American music. There’s always next summer. Oh and Memphis, thank you….thank you very much.