The Main Street Trolley.
The sounds of Delta blues musicians, pioneering rock-and-rollers and the mighty Mississippi River will forever echo in Memphis. But in recent years, the buzz has been generated by four comeback neighborhoods: downtown’s South Main Historic Arts District and, in midtown, the Cooper-Young Historic District, Overton Square and the Broad Avenue Arts District. Each is a unique hybrid. On South Main Street and Broad Avenue, for example, public art pops amid century-old storefronts and loading docks. Still, you’ll discover commonalities among these areas: intriguing backstories, walkable design and surrounding homes—confirmation that you’re experiencing the city like a local.
Flit between museums and galleries in the South Main Historic Arts District. The new Blues Hall of Fame is lined with listening stations and the personal effects of standout artists including B.B. King. The Robinson Gallery features celebrity portraits by Jack Robinson, Vogue’s go-to photographer in the late 1960s. Take a contemplative turn at the National Civil Rights Museum, formerly the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his final night.
Make a point of nabbing an authentically Memphis souvenir. The Memphis music section of homey Shangri-La Records near Overton Square is a solid stop whether you’re seeking Isaac Hayes on vinyl or a tip for a new local release. Shop for quirky jewelry, journals and giftables by local artists at Broad Avenue’s Five in One Social Club. Back on South Main, stop at Sachë for T-shirts with edgy Memphis-centric designs.
Stick to South Main for the Rizzo’s Diner veggie plate, inspired by the chef’s visits to the neighborhood farmers market. In Overton Square, acclaimed chef Kelly English leads The Second Line; its deliciously messy menu and spot-on cocktails are pure fun. Eat anywhere on Broad Avenue, but start at Wiseacre Brewing Co. for craft beer—maybe the specialty pale ale brewed with Earl Grey tea.
End the day with live local music. Cozy Bar DKDC in Cooper-Young regularly hosts Marcella + Her Lovers, who paint the eclectic spot sultry with their “swamp soul” tunes. Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square bares Memphis’ musical roots by inviting singer-songwriters such as John Paul Keith to take the stage. The Cove on Broad Avenue gets funky, especially when Hope Clayburn’s Soul Scrimmage headlines.