Experience the Essential Memphis: Stay at One of Downtown's Best Hotels

Photo courtesy of Peabody Hotel
By Sally Walker Davies, Memphis Local Expert

Stay at a hotel in downtown Memphis and feel connected with the heartbeat of the city known for its blues, its soul, its grit-and-grind NBA team, and its authentic charm.

Downtown Memphis is a very walking-friendly environment, so if you stay at hotels like Doubletree Hotel Memphis Downtown , there's no need for a cab. Downtown is home to a number of Memphis musts, including Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum and The Metal Museum. From virtually every downtown hotel, tt's an easy stroll to the Mississippi River, where Tom Lee Park beckons for joggers, walkers and picnics (and is  home to major events including Memphis in May). If you're catching a concert at FedEx Forum or Mud Island, then downtown is definitely the place to stay, as you'll want to go from concert to after-concert party on Beale, then just breeze to your hotel-away-from-home. A few downtown Memphis hotels house some of the best restaurants in the city, as well - including The Peabody's Chez Philippe and Paulette's at The River Inn of Harbortown. For NBA star-gazing, try The Westin Memphis Beale Street, where teams getting ready to take on the hometown Grizzlies stay - it's just across the street from the FedEx Forum.

10. Residence Inn by Marriott Memphis Downtown
Photo courtesy of Residence Inn Memphis Downtown

The Residence Inn Memphis Downtown is centrally located within the downtown business district, and it's just an easy walk to Beale Street, AutoZone Park and the FedEx Forum. Those traveling with dogs are welcome to bring Fido along to The Residence Innwhen visiting Memphis. There's a limit, however: two dogs of any size. A $100, non-refundable sanitation fee applies, and the hotel requests those traveling with pets to call to reserve a pet-friendly room. The closest green space for a walk is a few blocks to the west; head down Beale toward the river, and the spacious Tom Lee Park.

9. Holiday Inn Select Memphis - Downtown
Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Downtown Memphis

Few know that Memphis was where the Holiday Inn was born - and the downtown option of the hometown brand is a perfect setting for those looking to economize yet be close to it all. With its Union Avenue location across the street from AutoZone Park - home to the Redbirds, a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals - the Holiday Inn is situated just a few blocks from all the major downtown attractions and surrounded by loads of locally-owned restaurants. The Rendezvous, famed for its Memphis-style barbeque, is just out the side doors (follow your nose, and the smoke from the cookers). A terrace-level pool and fitness room will entice the kids.

8. The James Lee House
Photo courtesy of James Lee House

This gorgeous old pile of a house in Victorian Village brings back the romance and splendor of a bygone era, with the five-star updates travelers demand of a high-end B&B. The house, a Victorian Italianate treasure, has been painstaking restored by an ambitious couple, with five lush suites made for love. The house, which served as the Memphis College of Arts until the college moved to Overton Park in the late 1950s, features plaster trim, plaster ceiling medallions, shaped moldings and marble mantels throughout, with modern updates including marble bathrooms, LED televisions, gorgeous antiques and fine linens. Bathrooms include modern versions of claw foot tubs.

7. Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Memphis
Photo courtesy of Courtyard Marriott Downtown

The relative newcomer to downtown Memphis properties, the Courtyard is a very hip spot located in the central business district, but with easy access to most downtown attractions, thanks to the trolley. A mid-rise terrace patio includes city views, a fire pit and an outdoor spa, while inside, a media room and business library are offered for those who need to stay connected, whether to the office or cable television. A small on-site Bistro serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as cocktails. This is a nice, slightly off-the-beaten path spot that's great for families and couples, and offers an excellent price for a downtown stay.

6. DoubleTree by Hilton Memphis Downtown
Photo courtesy of (c) 2013 DoubleTree

The DoubleTree offers excellent proximity to Beale Street and AutoZone Park, home of the minor league Memphis Redbirds (always an excellent space to watch a ballgame, no matter what seat you choose). Like most of the properties in this line, amenities include free WiFi and cookies; an on-site T.G.I. Friday's restaurant serves as the hotel eatery. The Main Street Trolley is just a few blocks west and can transport you to the historic South Main district for shopping and touring the National Civil Rights Museum, while Beale Street and the Cotton Exchange Museum are just a few blocks away as well. The surrounding area includes a variety of locally-owned and quite good restaurants including Charlie Vergos's Rendezvous.

5. Hampton Inn & Suites at Beale Street

The Hampton Inn on Beale is smack in the middle of the Beale Street action, being just one block north of the intersection of Beale and Third. A number of rooms offer balconies, affording a birds-eye view of the always-on pedestrian life around Beale- but don't be dismayed by the thought of all those revelers; soundproofing glass and a rule that any open containers of alcohol have to stay on Beale means there's a better chance than you'd think of getting a good night's sleep. Beyond exploring Beale, this is a great spot to headquarter if you're also planning to catch a Broadway show at the Orpheum and a baseball game at AutoZone Park. Out of all the downtown hotels, this would be the least child-friendly, given the proximity or revelers on Beale; the clubs are open practically all day, so there's always a bit of rowdy behavior around the hotel.

4. River Inn of Harbor Town
Photo courtesy of River Inn of Harbor Town

Harbortown - home to the charming River Inn - isn't downtown per se, but locals consider it so (and we get the final vote). The Mud Island location and luxurious appointments combine for a quiet destination for those hoping to escape it all and perhaps cocoon with another, even if it's just for a night. The hotel is actually two buildings, with two restaurants and an excellent year-round rooftop lounge. Home to the excellent Paulette's restaurant, rooms at the Inn include breakfast for two at the iconic Memphis restaurant - our favorite amenity of all. The Mississippi River is just yards away - perfect for a long walk or jog, and Harbor Town's quaint retailers include Miss Cordelia's - a small grocery / cafe, and Cafe Eclectic for a morning jolt of java.

3. Madison Hotel
Photo courtesy of Madison Hotel

The chic Madison is the best boutique hotel in the central business district, and oozes sophistication and big-city amenities. Luxuriously appointed rooms blend geometric wall coverings with bold colors, and many have a river view (ask for a room on a high floor facing west to lock in the view). Bathrooms are generally small yet still lush, featuring soaking or jetted tubs and touches of stone. The Twilight Sky Terrace is open daily, with drinks and small plates offered and during the summer is a more refined alternative to the nearby Peabody Hotel's rooftop gatherings, which are raucously festive. The hotel's restaurant, eighty3 - now with outside patio dining right on Main Street - is a perfect spot for a quick meal or drink before heading out to discover the Memphis music scene; the Main Street Trolley is the perfect ride to the South Main or Beale Street.

2. The Westin Memphis Beale Street
Photo courtesy of The Westin Memphis Beale Street

We love the Westin for oh-so-many reasons: The ultra-sleek rooms, the neon views of Beale Street and the FedEx Forum out every window, and the super-cool NBA player rooms, which offer higher ceilings, shower heads and larger-than-normal beds to accommodate the basketball players who stay here while in town taking on the Grizz. (Be sure to request in advance). The on-site restaurant has gone through some growing pains since opening but has now settled into something uniquely Memphis, now home to Bleu, a seafood-focused, delectable eatery. The bar is hip and fun, especially on game or concert nights, and serves as a nice respite from the sometimes crazy buzz on Beale.

1. The Peabody Memphis
Photo courtesy of Peabody Hotel

The grande dame of Southern hotels, the historic Peabody is a treat for the senses; opulence abounds, a dynamite restaurant pleases the palate, and the famed ducks entertain both adults and children. The old-timey pool area - a throwback to the glamour days of indoor hotel pools - intrigues kids, and the chance to watch the duck parade and enjoy duck-shaped soaps and other in-room amenities are added bonuses for families. The recently renovated guestrooms feature upgraded bedding and a nice mix of vintage and modern furnishings - plus new, historically-accurate soundproofed windows. For business travelers, this is the perfect spot to impress if a meeting room is needed, or to discuss deals in the quiet corner bar. Surrounding the hotel is an array of dining options, with the famed Rendezvous just across Union Avenue and down a back alley, and the hotel's own Chez Philippe is a grand dining experience (coat and tie definitely required).