Memphis is music – and kids dig music, so here's a field trip that's full of history, rhythm and fun that gives parents rock star status at the end of the day.
A great overview to Memphis' music history is at the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, located just behind Beale Street, at the FedEx Forum. The museum is small, so perfectly sized for a child's attention span, yet with enough bling and interactive exhibits to keep kids interested. The museum often connects the dots between the influence of such names as Elvis, B.B. King and Otis Redding with today's stars, from hometown boy Justin Timberlake to rappers like Three 6 Mafia.
World famous Beale Street is an excellent place for kids to get an introduction to the blues. — Photo courtesy of Beale Street / Proforma
Since Beale Street is just a block away, it's time to teach about the history of the blues. Beale was once the center of the African American population in Memphis, with businesses stretching toward the river and homes on the more eastern end of the street. It was on Beale that clubs featuring singers from the Mississippi Delta popped up; W.C. Handy's band was a regular presence, and Beale was a natural stopping point for musicians making their way north. Be sure to pop into A. Schwab's – perhaps the best five and dime ever - -as you explore the street. Kids under 18 are welcome on Beale Street until 11 p.m., and most clubs offer live music throughout the day, so there's the chance for them to take in some great blues during daylight hours. At 11 p.m., the 21-and-up rule kicks in; you will want to have them off the street well before then, however, as the crowds are festive thanks to the pedestrian atmosphere and flowing alcohol.
When it's time for lunch, try to grab Elvis' booth at The Arcade Restaurant – the city's oldest restaurant and a former favorite of the King. The diner serves up kid-friendly food, breakfast all day and truly killer shakes. And if there's a celebrity in town, you can bet they are taking a meal at The Arcade.
This church from the Mississippi Delta was taken down and rebuilt inside Stax. — Photo courtesy of Stax Museum of American Soul MusicWhen it comes to the kids, Sun Studio and Graceland are a must if they are really into music, but Stax might be the most fascinating of all musical museums. Starting with an authentic, rebuilt 100-plus year old church from the Delta, and moving through the turbulent 60s and 70s, Stax explores the rise of soul and its place in American musical culture, and the kids will love the outrageous outfits displayed as well as the exhibit of Isaac Hayes' pimped-out car. (Encourage them to lean over the rail just a bit, and a recording of Hayes barks 'I said don't touch my ride!').
If the stars align, then finish the day with a concert at the Levitt Shell in Midtown; there are 50 free concerts at the shell every year, and all are family-friendly, featuring up-and-coming regional acts.