Beale Street Landing: Rolling on the River in Memphis

Restaurant, playground highlight riverfront attraction

By Sally Walker Davies,

The Memphis riverfront is one of the city's natural and most-visited attractions; the city sits at the Mississippi River's widest point, and in its heyday, the historic cobblestone landing was where tons of cotton and other commodities were shipped.

Next to that historic landing – of which just the gorgeous old cobblestones remain – a new spot for riverboats to dock and visitors to play has emerged. Beale Street Landing is tucked between the wide green open space of Tom Lee Park and the historic cobblestone landing. It's a focal point, as well as a starting point, for those who want to explore the river and all its wonders.

Beale Street Landing sits between Tom Lee Park and the historic cobblestone landing, where steamboats once docked, right on the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis — Photo courtesy of Memphis CVB

The building that marks the landing is curved, a testament to both the land upon which it sits and the Mississippi's meandering path. A souvenir shop and restaurant occupy the building; this is also where those who want to take a scenic river cruise can purchase tickets.

The restaurant, called Riverfront Bar & Grill, serves up a small menu of Southern dishes. Think fried green tomato salad, sausage and cheese plates, catfish and more, plus burgers, appetizers and desserts.

There's a full bar both inside and outside, where the al fresco dining and drinking take place in a funnel-shaped space that overlooks the river. Menu items are nicely priced, and a sunset cocktail on the terrace is a must-do.

The giant catfish on the playground at Beale Street Landing — Photo courtesy of Memphis CVB

The Landing also features a small but full-of-fun children's playground, called Island Play, that's aimed at the 10-and-younger crowd. The play space features a whimsical giant catfish-shaped and decorated tunnel, a slide and an interactive water park. Kids can turn the water on by pushing a button with their toes. (The water can be turned on between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.)

There are benches for parents, too, and plenty of green space surrounding the landing for kite-flying or Frisbee-throwing.

Beale Street Landing's most unique feature is the spiral-shaped ramp that descends to the river level and the dock, which is actually made of barges and rises and falls with the river level.

Passengers can catch one of the daily scenic river cruises on the Island Queen, which offers an afternoon sightseeing cruise and an evening dinner cruise. This is also where passengers can begin (or end) an overnight trip on one of two steamboats from the American Queen Steamboat Company that cruise the river throughout the year.

Beale Street Landing also features a wide grassy space – actually the roof of the building – for river viewing and play, and a small garden with benches for a respite. There's even WiFi access available throughout the landing, both inside and out.