The City of Memphis is Tennessee's largest city and one of the country's leading music centers, claiming to be the home of blues. The city center in the Port of Memphis is an older district that has experienced a rebirth in recent years. Today, it has one of the United States' most populous downtown areas, and the city is home to many attractions. Blending Southern charm with a modern pace, old cotton warehouses are shaded by new office buildings. Old fashioned steamboats pass the Port of Memphis downtown. From May through October, the new Port of Memphis Farmers Market draws crowds that enjoy quality products in an open-air but covered area full of fresh fruit, farm meats, flowers, and hand-made crafts. Travelers who can't tolerate high heat and humidity may want to avoid the Port of Memphis in July and August.
The Port of Memphis has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons that experience vastly different temperatures. Summers in the Port of Memphis can be extremely and uncomfortably hot. Temperatures range from an average high of about 33°C (over 91°F) in July and August to an average low of 0.3°C (32.6°F) in January. Port of Memphis precipitation is greatest in November and December, peaking in December at 14.6 centimeters (almost six inches), and from March through May. Port of Memphis humidity levels range from about 75% in March and April to a sticky 85% from late July through late September. Snowfall is light in the Port of Memphis, reaching a peak in January of almost five centimeters (1.9 inches).
One of the most popular attractions in the Port of Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum - Lorraine Motel. The museum traces the path of civil rights in the United States from the beginning of slavery. It was here that James Earl Ray killed Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, so the overall experience can be an emotional one. Visitors should be prepared to read a great deal, as every exhibit has much written information. Children will not enjoy the museum. The complex covers over four acres and contains several historic buildings, the former Lorraine Motel where King died, and the Young and Morrow Building where his assassin confessed. It is located at the south edge of the Port of Memphis downtown in the South Main Arts District just six blocks from the Mississippi River.
The Port of Memphis is famous as the home of Graceland, the home of rock-and-roll legend Elvis Presley. Second only to the White House, Graceland receives more than 600 thousand visitors every year from across the world. In addition to the mansion, Graceland has two of "the King's" private airplanes, his collection of cars and motorcycles, and a lot of Elvis memorabilia. Visitors enjoy an audio-guided tour of the mansion that includes commentary and old stories by Elvis and his daughter Lisa Marie. The tour includes the living room, music and TV rooms, dining room, kitchen, pool room, parents' bedroom, and the Jungle Room. The 5.7 hectare estate also houses Vernon Presley's business office, Elvis' racquetball building, and trophy building with a mountain of his gold and platinum records, movies, and memorabilia from his early career. The tour ends at the Meditation Garden where Elvis and family are buried.
The Elvis Presley Car Museum contains more than 33 vehicles that the star owned, including his famous Pink Cadillac and his 1975 Dino Ferrari and several motorcycles. Many of Elvis' motorized toys (go-cart, dune buggy, three wheelers, and a pedal car) are also on display.
Visitors can board the 1958 Convair 880 custom jet that Elvis spent $880,000 remodeling. The plane has a living room, conference room, private bedroom, and a sitting room. But the most impressive items may well be the gold-plated seat belts, leather-covered tables, suede chairs, and 24-karat-gold flecked sinks. His Lockheed Jet Star with yellow green interior is also open for viewing.
More historically-oriented travelers will want to visit the Chucalissa Indian Village, a Walls Phase mound and plaza that has been occupied several times from 1000 to 1550 AD. Native American artifacts were found here in 1938 by Civilian Conservation Corps workers, stimulating archaeological excavations of the Mississipian mound complex. Operated by the University of Memphis since 1962, and the Chucalissa Archaeological Museum was built in 1973. The recreation of a Native American village from the period of occupation, the museum is the site of the annual October Southeast Indian Heritage Festival. Outside the museum, Choctaw craftspeople make pottery, jewelry, and weapons. Inside the museum, the original historic articles are on display. The museum charges $5 for ages 12 to 59 and $3 for seniors and children from four to 11. Groups of ten or more get a $1 discount, and guided tours and programs are available with reservations. Visitors are invited to picnic at the open area on the Chickasaw bluffs. The operating hours are open from 9am until 5pm from Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 until 5pm on Sunday. The museum and the archaeological site are closed on Mondays.
Music lovers will not want to miss Beale Street. Once the center of the Port of Memphis' black community, Beale Street's heyday was in the 1920s. The carnival-like street sported lively nightclubs, theaters, stores and pawnshops, and restaurants spiced up with pick-pockets, gamblers, prostitutes, drunks, and voodoo practitioners. The Monarch nightclub even gained the moniker of "The Castle of Missing Men" when the undertaker in their back alley quickly took care of dead gamblers and gunshot victims. Machine Gun Kelly sold whiskey here from a clothes basket before he hit the big time of crime. Vaudeville, corner cafes, and street musicians added to the ambiance. One of the most popular places to stop on the three-block string of music clubs on Beale Street in the Port of Memphis is B.B. King's Club, where B.B. himself sometimes performs.
Travelers can find a list of river cruises on the Cruise Compete website or at the American Queen Steamboat Company website. The American Queen hosts a seven-day cruise starting in the Port of Memphis and ending in New Orleans, with stops in Vicksburg, Natchez, St. Francisville, and Baton Rouge along the way. The American Queen is the biggest steamboat ever built. The American Victorian era vessel features antiques, fresh flowers, and gorgeous woodwork in the interior and the beautiful and delicate filigree from the past on the exterior. Filled with modern comforts as well, the boat's library (appropriate, the Mark Twain Gallery) contains a large collection for visitors. Sing-alongs take place in the Main Deck Lounge, and wonderful shows are presented in the huge Grand Saloon. The steamboat company offers a variety tours that include trips from St. Louis to Pittsburgh or Minneapolis/St. Paul and Ohio and Tennessee River cruises.