Are you planning a fun family trip to Tennessee and want to find some kid-friendly things to do in Memphis? This post is full of fun activities the whole family will enjoy!
Memphis is full of amazing musical history, Civil Rights history, some of the best BBQ in the world, and of course, Elvis Presley. With so many activities, museums, and beautiful parks, you won't get bored on this family trip.
From downtown Memphis to the surrounding area, this post will give you some of the best kid-friendly things to do in Memphis, TN.
Memphis is a unique southern vacation compared to traditional family vacations like a beach trip to Anna Maria Island or a Walt Disney World vacation. It is also one of the more affordable places to visit if you are planning a family vacation on a budget or looking for unique spring break destinations for families.
But from the Mighty Mississippi river to Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum to the Stax Museum of American Music, Graceland Mansion and the famous Memphis Zoo, there is a lot to do in this unique city. It's a fascinating, educational, cultural and historical place, which is why Memphis, TN should be on any USA bucket list!
Here are some of the top things to do with kids in Memphis, TN.
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About Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is located on the Mississippi River in the state's southwest corner. It was originally settled by the Native Americans and afterward the French, but the city as we know it was founded in 1819.
While the city has been through its share of heartache and challenges historically, the people of Memphis illustrate that you can't keep them down. They have shown resilience and rebounded to become a major distribution center for the Midwest and the South.
When you visit Memphis with kids, you'll be blown away by the city's fascinating history and the importance of the Mississippi River to the world. The history of the city is also important and a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum can share the significance of Memphis in the Civil Rights movement.
It has a rich musical history and culture with attractions like Graceland and the Rock ‘n' Soul Museum. A daytime trip to Beale Street or a ride on the local trolley is also an important part of any visit to Memphis, TN. Plus, there are plenty of outdoor activities like fishing, biking, hiking trails, and Martin Luther King Riverside Park.
When I visited, I felt Memphis was a very special city and one that should be on any USA bucket list. Read on for the top things to do in Memphis with kids.
Pro Tip: Getting around Memphis requires a rental car or you can call for taxis. Some of the activities are available near each other or on the Memphis trolley, but a few, like Graceland, are a bit farther out.
The Top Kid-Friendly Things To Do In Memphis
Memphis, TN is full of activities if you visit for a family vacation, and there are so many things to do that you can't do them all in one trip. That means you'll just need to plan to return again someday! Here are our favorite kid-friendly things to do in Memphis.
1. Memphis Zoo
The Memphis Zoo is located in Overton Park and is one of the best things to do with kids in the city. With over 3,500 animals, you'll get to experience them in a variety of habitats and interactive exhibits.
Known as one of the best zoos in the USA, kids will love seeing pandas, polar bears, and giraffes. It's one of the most kid-friendly things to do in Memphis and it's a great way to spend a day. The Memphis Zoo is the perfect activity for kids of all ages and something the whole family will enjoy.
2. Shelby Farms Park in Shelby County
We love going on road trips and vacations, where we can go hiking with the kids or skiing at the best resorts. And Memphis doesn’t disappoint here as it has plenty of outdoor activities to do, like Shelby Farms Park.
Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in America that lets you experience a variety of natural habitats of wildlife and plants in Memphis. It includes forests, wetlands, lakes, and even a herd of American bison.
At one time, the park was privately owned and even a penal settlement in the mid-1900s. You can still see remnants of the settlement from that time while horseback riding, skating, hiking, and biking on the park trails.
3. Children's Museum of Memphis
The Children's Museum of Memphis is the perfect rainy-day activity. The fun interactive exhibits make learning fun and range from health to waterworks to money and more.
The Children's Museum of Memphis even has a neat theater area with puppets and costumes for acting out plays. Other activities include a dinosaur dig, painting, weaving, sculpting, a neat gift shop, and a hot air balloon that creates memorable learning experiences.
You can also play Bankshot Basketball in the outdoor play space to help your children learn more about shapes and angles, and there’s even a splash park to play in.
4. Travel the Mississippi River on the American Queen Steamboat Company Boat
We loved cruising on the American Queen Steamboat boat ride on the Mississippi River. This six-deck boat is a recreation of the historic Mississippi riverboat that allows you to see Memphis and the stunning water landscapes in a whole new way.
It's also a way to beat the summer heat with a cool breeze as you glide along, and you can see views of the Memphis skyline. Kids will love this experience, which is why it is one my top kid-friendly things to do in Memphis.
5. National Civil Rights Museum At The Lorraine Motel
Memphis was a key part of the Civil Rights movement that spanned hundreds of years. The National Civil Rights Museum explores the history of the Civil Rights movement and is well worth spending quite some time learning about it. It includes historical buildings and several museums that detail the Civil Rights Movement in America from the 1600s to the present.
The National Civil Rights Museum complex was built around the former Lorraine Motel, where famous civil rights leader and activist Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968. You'll see things like historic vehicles, and interactive, multi-media exhibits that cover the Jim Crow laws, Montgomery Bus Boycott, and more. It's an important immersive experience that is a must-see on your visit to Memphis with kids.
6. Graceland Mansion
A tour of Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion and Estate is a must-see Memphis site, even if you're not a big Elvis Presley fan. Known as the King of Rock ‘n' Roll for revolutionizing rock music, sadly, Elvis died tragically at the age of 42.
His ex-wife Priscilla Presley turned his Graceland home into one of the most popular Memphis, Tennessee attractions, and it was named a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places.
When you tour Graceland, you'll get to see his famous gold records, classic car collection, airplanes, and more, as well as a piece of Memphis music history. It is so interactive and interesting, even kids who never heard of Elvis will love it. Graceland is definitely one of the top kid-friendly things to do in Memphis.
7. Sun Studios
And to continue learning more about Elvis Presley, take a tour of Sun Studio. This studio was the first record label to sign Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and other famous recording artists. At Sun Studio, you can see rock ‘n' roll memorabilia, the actual microphone used by many of the famous musicians noted above, and hear stories from those closest to the stars.
The Sun Studio tour takes around 45 minutes, and they do not allow children under the age of 5 to participate in them.
8. Brass Pro Shops Pyramid
Bass Pro Shop has a store in Memphis, but it's more than a store. It is a complex in a pyramid-shaped building. It's so unique, you can't miss this signature building in the Memphis skyline. Read on to find out why it is one of the top things to in Memphis.
While, yes, if you need any outdoor equipment, add this to your itinerary. But, it's more than a store – it's an EXPERIENCE! With activities, a restaurant, hotel, and even animals, it is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Memphis with kids.
Why? Well, for starters, you'll get to see some of Memphis's wildlife right inside the store. It includes a cypress swamp with alligator pools, duck aviaries, aquariums, ponds, and giant cypress trees.
It also includes a fantastic observation deck at the top, aquatic-themed bowling, restaurants, and more. You'll also find the National Waterfowling Heritage Center here, and there is a 103-room hotel with a spa, tree house cabins, and a nautical-themed restaurant.
9. Beale Street – Downtown Memphis
You don't want to miss visiting historic Beale Street in downtown Memphis during the day. At night it's a giant party scene, so it's not so family-friendly after dark. But during the day, it is worth a visit.
This historic street is worth a look as you'll hear live music, and there's a working soda shop that allows you to step back in time with the kids. It's one of the best free kid-friendly things to do in Memphis.
10. Ride the Trolley
No visit to the city would be complete without a ride on the Downtown Memphis Trolley. Kids of all ages love the vintage trolley rides between shops and activities.
The trollies have intricately carved woodwork, antique light fixtures, and plenty of character. There are trolley stops near many famous destinations like:
- Beale Street
- The South Main Historic Arts District
- Renasant Convention Center
- National Civil Rights Museum
- The Mississippi River
- Many downtown hotels, restaurants, and shops
- Midtown Memphis
11. The Peabody Hotel
Just about everyone has heard of the Peabody Hotel because of the amazing architecture and famous duck march. Each day the resident ducks follow the duck master onto the elevator from their Penthouse home all the way down to the stunning water fountain.
This neat show dates all the way back to 1933, and this may be the most memorable part of your trip for the younger kids.
The Peabody is also a great place to stay, with an indoor pool and delicious Italian and French food.
12. Coon Creek Science Center
The Coon Creek Science Center is another great place to sneak in a fun learning experience that the whole family will love when you visit Memphis with kids. This science center and fossil site is one of the most important fossil sites in North America.
With over 232 acres, it includes the Coon Creek formation, a sedimentary sandy marl deposit that dates back to the Late Cretaceous Age 73 million years ago. It's one of the neatest activities to do in Memphis with kids, where you can dig for fossils, and star gaze, take unique tours, and learn more about the area’s natural history.
13. Fire Museum of Memphis
The Fire Museum of Memphis is one of the best interactive fire museums in the United States. Kids get to put on helmets and coats and play with authentic fire equipment and put out a simulated fire. This is why it definitely makes the list for the top kid-friendly things to do in Memphis.
There's an old-fashioned fire pole to slide down, the original 1865 alarm bell, and you can learn how it feels to be in a burning house (safely, of course). Plus, learn more about fire safety and the history of firefighters in Memphis, including more about the first African American firefighters.
14. Memphis Music Hall of Fame on Beale Street
Another Beale Street attraction in downtown Memphis is the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. This attraction honors famous new and old Memphis musicians who dedicated their lives to music.
If you're planning a trip to Memphis with kids during October and November, you can see a concert and induction ceremony.
15. Stax Museum of American Soul Music
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is another great place to go when you visit Memphis with kids. Here you'll learn more about the soul music of Memphis and the history of this genre that is such a vital part of the city.
The Stax recorded song hits by greats like Rufas Thomas, the Mark-Keys, and Otis Redding.
This activity is fun for kids of all ages with unique exhibits like the Wall of Sound. There is also the Express Yourself dance floor, where you can boogie down to the beat at this soul museum.
16. Center for Southern Folklore
This museum is dedicated to documenting and preserving the culture, arts, and music of the South. It features historical photographs, films, audio recordings, and more.
You can also visit the cafe here for some delicious food and listen to performances by local Latin, folk, and jazz musicians.
Other Things to Do in Memphis with Kids
Here are some other fun activities worth mentioning if you find time on your trip to Memphis, TN.
- Edge Motor Museum: Enjoy an interactive and historical experience about the history of American Sports Cars.
- America's Incredible Pizza Company: This East Memphis Pizza attraction is the perfect place to spend the afternoon eating pizza and playing arcade games.
- Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum: This small museum showcases amazing railroad history in Memphis, TN.
- Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure: Turn your visit to Memphis into a fun scavenger hunt with a guided tour to win challenges and solve clues to find objects.
- Memphis Botanic Garden in East Memphis: The Memphis Botanic Garden is 96 acres of tree-covered trails and parks where you can take in beautiful gardens and eat in cafes or picnic outside.
- AutoZone Park: Sports fans will love this minor league baseball stadium in downtown Memphis for some family-friendly fun. If your kids love visiting sports complexes when traveling like mine do, this is a fun things to do in Memphis with kids.
- Lichterman Nature Center: The Nature Center is a certified arboretum located in the center of metropolitan Memphis with 65 acres of trails for watching natural history here.
- Dixon Gallery & Gardens Fine Art Museum: This art museum showcases stunning American and French impressionism with artwork by famous artists like Monet, Edgar Degas, Augustine Rodin, Renoir, Henri Matisse, and more.
- The C.H. Nash Chicalussa Archaeological Site: This outdoor museum is home to the prehistoric Chucalissa Archaeological site in Fuller State Park, with exhibits focused on the Native Americans who lived here 500 – 1,000 years ago.
- The Museum of Science and History – Pink Palace Mansion: This mansion is home to the museum dedicated to mid-south and Memphis history.
- Tom Lee Park: This park has been a century in the making and is named after the man who rescued 32 of 72 passengers from the capsized M. E. Norman, in 1925.
- Memphis Rock ‘n' Soul Museum: This museum is dedicated to the musicians who used music to overcome the socioeconomic and racial problems of the time to change the culture of music as we know it.
- Enjoy a Barbeque Meal: If you are visiting Memphis, no visit is complete without some of its famous barbecue. There is no shortage of places to try but one of the most iconic and famous is Charles Vergo's Rendezvous, which has been serving it's famous barbecue since 1948. Another restaurant to check out is Central BBQ, which serves award-winning barbecue. It also has gluten-free and kid-friendly options as well.
Kid-Friendly Things To Do In Memphis Frequently Asked Questions
Is Memphis Good To Visit With Kids?
As you can see from this article, Memphis has an array of family-friendly activities to do with kids. But I think it's also got some very unique and iconic experiences you can't get anywhere else. From it's music history, riverboat rides, and immersive historical sites like the National Civil Rights Museum and Graceland, I think Memphis is good to visit with kids.
Can Kids Go To Beale Street?
During the day, kids can go to Beale Street. In fact, it's colorful and vibrant nature makes it interesting for kids. There is a real working soda fountain, the Memphis Rock ‘n' Soul Museum, and artwork along Beale Street kids will enjoy. You'll also find family-friendly restaurants on Beale Street.
After dark though, it becomes a club and adult scene. I do not recommend families visiting in the evening.
Also, like any city in the United States or around the world, practice travel safety like you would anywhere. Be aware of your surroundings, keep valuables secure, and do your research before visiting. Also, always check with your hotel for the best and safest route to get wherever you are going.
Is Memphis or Nashville better for kids?
While there are many places in Tennessee known for being kid-friendly, both Memphis and Nashville have a lot to offer for families. Both are worth visiting and both have things to do for families. But while both have historical and important music scenes, Memphis is particularly unique and should not be overlooked. To me, having Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum, as well as the city's significant role in the Rock n Roll and Soul music genres make Memphis one of the must-see visits in Tennessee.
Final Thoughts on Kid-Friendly Things to Do in Memphis
As you can see, there are plenty of fun things to do in Memphis with kids. Memphis is a magical combination of delicious food like Memphis BBQ, rich musical culture, fun outdoor activities, and fun museums.
I can promise that it probably won't be your last visit to this proud southern city as there is so much to see, do, and explore. It's one of our favorite southern cities to visit.
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