Shake the Blues in Memphis

The River City is having a moment. Here's what to check out now—beyond Elvis and the ducks
Article: Kim Cross

Ask locals of all stripes what they love about Memphis and you'll hear a common refrain: the people. "If they believe in something, they support it," says celebrated chef Kelly English. Adds Eric Evans, a young clothing designer, "We've got soul, we've got flavor, and a cool Southern swagger." Buoyed by this infectiously optimistic mojo, the Memphis cultural scene is evolving—without losing touch with its roots.

Last month, the River City became the new home port of the American Queen, a 436-passenger paddle wheeler newly revamped for its launch of four-night cruises on the Mississippi River. For its maiden voyage, the ship is timing its arrival with Memphis in May, treating passengers to ever-changing views, eclectic live shows, and a Southern-inspired menu by chef Regina Charboneau of Twin Oaks B&B in Natchez, Mississippi.

Just as exciting is where it will dock: Beale Street Landing, a $38 million waterfront civic amenity due for completion next year, will extend one of the world's most visited music streets onto a mile-wide stretch of the Mississippi. The blueprints show guitar pick-shaped islands, restaurants, and terraces perfect for waterfront concerts.

Plans for a $31 million Midtown theater district taking hold at Overton Square show that Memphis loves theater as well as music. The Hattiloo Theatre, a black repertory company, joins Playhouse on the Square next year. Stay tuned for a new blues museum on South Main and a new museum devoted to famed Memphis photographer William Eggleston. To prepare for the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the National Civil Rights Museum is undergoing an extensive renovation starting in November. And that quirky Pyramid? No longer a basketball venue, it's going to be a Bass Pro Shop—fitting for a city that loves the eclectic.