Top 5 Memphis Neighborhoods You Need to Know About

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Do you ever visit a city and feel like you have to explore ‘off the beaten path’ to really experience what the destination has to offer? This is exactly how we like to travel but sometimes it is difficult to find these hidden gems, especially when you have time constraints and want to experience everything the city has to offer.

From Graceland to Beale Street, Memphis is home to a vast array of diverse landscapes and of course these iconic attractions. But something inside us suggested there was more to Memphis than all of this…We wanted to find those hidden Memphis neighborhoods that truly represent the city of rock and roll.

memphis mural cooper and young

We have made the short drive from Arkansas across the Mississippi River to Memphis on a number of occasions but we recently decided to spend a full weekend here and try to find some of these hidden locations. Hopefully this guide will provide a few examples of places you can visit in the gorgeous haven that is referred to as ‘Bluff City’.

South Main Arts District

Let’s start downtown Memphis with the South Main Arts district. After experiencing the iconic Beale Street, why not head down Main Street beyond the Orpheum Theater until you reach a gorgeous part of the city that oozes regeneration. This part of Memphis was the hub for the railroad industry due to Central Station being located in the heart of this district.

south main memphis neighborhoods

However, despite the declining rail industry, the overall theme of this area switched to a more vibrant arts community though not without years of decline in between. It was only in the 1980s that many new businesses, art galleries and restaurants moved back into South Main to regenerate this area.

memphis neighborhoods

If you are interested in learning more about the rail industry that once thrived here, head over to the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum.

memphis blues hall of fame

The artistic presence makes this a perfect location for any budding artists, and the local River Arts Fest that takes place every year allows local aspirers the opportunity to showcase their best work.

earnestine and hazels sundry store

Although this is one of the quieter neighborhoods in Memphis, it offers a relaxing atmosphere especially as you stroll along South Main and watch the local trolley meander its way along this street.

south main arts district memphis

I highly encourage you to take a moment to visit Bluff City Coffee shop to sample one of their fruit smoothies or signature espresso drinks. The raspberry smoothie was unbelievable but whatever you opt for, I am convinced you won’t be disappointed.

arcade restaurant south main arts district

Or maybe you need something with a little more substance, so head on over to the Arcade Restaurant which offers a little bit of nostalgia as you enjoy a home cooked meal.

lorraine motel national civil rights museum

But the most iconic landmark that is located just off South Main on Mulberry Street is the National Civil Rights Museum. The Lorraine Motel, site of MLK’s tragic assassination in 1968 is now a popular spot for visitors and well worth spending some time to learn about MLK’s influence on society.

mlk national civil rights museum

Cooper-Young District

If South Main is home to the artsy communities in Memphis, Cooper-Young is an eclectic neighborhood where history, culture and fine cuisine come together and create a melting pot of all the above. After exploring the downtown district, we headed to Midtown and the intersection of Cooper and Young which is a great spot for fine dining and learning all about the history of Memphis.

cooper young neighborhood memphis

A trip to the Cooper-Young neighborhood wouldn’t be the same without exploring Burke’s Book Store on Cooper Street. Dating back to 1875, this quaint and idyllic book store is a great place to find a rare novel or perhaps even a first edition that may be worth a buck or two.

burke's books cooper young memphis neighborhoods

What better way to spend a Saturday morning than strolling through the various aisles in search of that hidden gem while exploring this off the beaten path neighborhood.

burke's books memphis

As we stood at the intersection between Cooper and Young, I was left a little perplexed at the varying cultures that are apparent here. From the trendy and cosmopolitan restaurants to the deep history inside the walls of Burke’s Book Store, it immediately struck me that Cooper-Young is a little bit of everything!

cooper young neighborhood memphis

And that’s why this is such an awesome district to explore while visiting Memphis.

cooper young celtic crossing restaurant

Looking for a bite to eat in Cooper-Young? Don’t worry, this is the place to be for diverse restaurant selections! I was intrigued by Celtic Crossing which is an Irish pub that offers a relaxing ambience along with delicious stereotypical cuisine.

memphis neighborhoods

If the Irish palette is not really your thing, there are plenty of other choices with Italian, Asian and American appetizing restaurants waiting for you.

Cooper Young trestle

The Cooper-Young district however is most famous for the historic trestle that is displayed across the railway bridge. In 2000, a local Memphis architect put together this iconic image of houses and businesses depicting the regeneration of Cooper-Young.

Broad Avenue Arts District

One of the very different yet newer Memphis neighborhoods is Broad Avenue Arts district. Until 2007, this was a relatively derelict area but efforts in the mid-2000s were made to regenerate this area and revitalize the storefronts into another popular arts district.

broad avenue memphis neighborhoods

But the beauty of Broad Avenue is that there is more to it than you initially see when you drive or wander around this neighborhood. ‘This is We’ painted by Guillaume Alby is an iconic representation and located opposite to the storefronts in the industrial section of Broad Avenue.

broad avenue water tower pavilion

The Water Tower Pavilion is now used as a space for the community to showcase their talents and events, though this was originally a warehouse loading dock dating back to 1945.

broad avenue arts district memphis

Part of the wider Binghampton community in Memphis, Broad Avenue is a popular spot if you are looking to purchase souvenirs or goods ‘made in Memphis’. Homemade goods can be found in many of the shops here and if boutique style shopping is your taste, this is undoubtedly the spot for you in Memphis.

this is we mural memphis broad avenue

Dining may not be the highlight of this Memphis neighborhood but there are still options if you choose to grab a bite to eat. Broadway Pizza is a popular spot that has been around since 1977 but if you prefer oysters, head over to The Cove to sample the nautical-themed delicacies on offer here.

bounty on broad avenue memphis

Bounty on Broad is located on the corner of Broad Avenue and depending on the direction you approach, it is either the first or last spot you will see. It’s only suitable that this leaves a lasting memory and it certainly achieves this with the mural on the wall advertising this restaurant.

broad avenue arts district

Overton Square

If you are looking for a fun place to hang out in Memphis, I challenge you to consider an alternative option to Beale Street.

overton square memphis

Overton Square may not be the first district on the tip of your tongue when it comes to entertainment, but this is a really vibrant area that provides an authentic Memphis experience while at the same time offering a diverse myriad of other cultures that creates a perfect environment to explore.

overton square memphis

The huge mural in the heart of Overton Square provides a perfect, eye-catching reflection on this budding neighborhood in Midtown. Thriving businesses that include a variety of restaurants, boutique apparel shops and even a locally owned sweet shop collaborate to create Overton Square.

overton square memphis neighborhoods

If you are visiting Overton Square on the weekend, there is a parking garage that offers free parking (along with discounted rates in the evenings during the week) and a perfect spot to begin your exploring of this lively part of Memphis.

sweet noshings overton square memphis

Let’s look at the myriad of restaurants here because in my opinion this is one of the best spots throughout the whole city for amazing cuisine.

babalu tacos and tapas overton square

Bayou Bar and Grill brings a New Orleans cajun flare to Memphis, while Babalu Tacos and Tapas offers a little Mediterranean style with a Southern twist. But I was most intrigued by Schweinehaus which offers a nice blend of German influenced cuisine with a little Memphis soul thrown into the mix.

schweinehaus overton square memphis

These are just a few examples of the eclectic choices available while strolling around Overton Square.

Midtown – Overton Park

Midtown Memphis is a pretty large neighborhood made up of many smaller districts (such as some of those mentioned above). Much of what we have recommended so far is urbanized regeneration but what about those green spaces that are scattered around the city?

midtown memphisOverton Park is a perfect example of a public park that breaks up the urbanization throughout Memphis and offers a relaxing spot for people to get away from the hectic city lifestyle.

memphis college of arts

Home to a nine-hole golf course, Memphis Zoo, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and Memphis College of Art among others, Overton Park is a haven of natural beauty.

memphis brooks museum of art

We have visited Memphis Zoo a couple of times but never have we taken the time to explore the rest of the park.

veterans plaza memphis neighborhoods

Veterans Plaza offers a moment of solitude and remembrance while Rainbow Lake is a great place to take a stroll and burn a few of those calories devoured at the awesome restaurants scattered around the neighborhood.

veterans plaza overton park memphis

Summary

So…are you convinced yet that there is more to Memphis than just Elvis and Graceland? These trendy neighborhoods may not receive the media attention they deserve, but I honestly think that’s a good thing because it ensures a sense of reality remains within them.

The 5 Memphis neighborhoods we have highlighted are not focused on tourism, rather they are driven to promote the locale in which they represent. These communities in turn provide a perfect, diverse representation of Memphis and no longer leave us thinking that Memphis is just a spot to eat BBQ and drink a few beers along Beale Street.

If you are planning a trip to Memphis, we suggest checking out one or two of the aforementioned neighborhoods because you will leave with a positive lasting impression of this beautiful city!

11 COMMENTS

  1. Guys, I love this post. Obviously living in Memphis and writing about these same subjects I know and agree with everything you have presented. As a Memphian I can happily say you captured the beauty of my favorite Memphis neighborhoods very well. You’re also reminding me of why I got into travel blogging to begin with. Maybe I can get a little inspiration to get back into the game from something like this.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted…Spending a Day at Santa Monica PierMy Profile

    • Cheers Lance, I really appreciate your kind comments!! If we inspire you to get back into the world of travel blogging, well as a fellow travel blogger we have done our job because we are all in this together to help promote great places around the world…in this case Memphis.

      I really enjoyed focusing on these neighborhoods as opposed to the ‘run of the mill’ attractions we all stereotype with Memphis. Hopefully we can begin doing something similar for all cities and locations we visit.

  2. I oved the post however as a Memphis born and bred native, can I offer a suggestion? If you want to see the real Memphis, get away from the “tourist attraction” cafes and landmarks. Drive through the city and look at the neighborhoods where the real Memphians are. Oakhaven, where one of the oldest schools is now boarded up and the home are falling apart. Parkway Village, a subdivision of the 70s, where homes were considered upper middle class, now homes of a bygone era. Highland Ave strip, where most of it has gone modern, but was once the “in place” to go and see hippies and mods playing pool together, smoking together, then one day the “great” MPD tore it all apart. Go see the “real” Memphis.
    Herman Martin recently posted…Free willMy Profile

  3. Thanks for a great post. As a born and bred Memphian, it is refreshing to see a visitor’s perspective of our city. There is so much to see and do, yet as much as this city has become reborn, there’s always a negative comment like the one above. That person represents the small army of fools we like to call The Miserables. They never see the good in anything and love to make people fear the city. Why? Who knows. If there is any blight in Memphis is it The Miserables. Truly an eyesore. Are there problem areas? Of course. Is Memphis the only city on the planet with issues? Of course not. Your discovery of great places to visit while in Memphis are terrific and there are many more. I’m glad you showcased these 5 and hope you come back to find the rest.

  4. Since leaving Memphis in 95, the five have certainly blossomed and broad St born. Very nice write. I will need a week to visit them all. I just hope the Memphis crime element is not a factor.

  5. While I very much appreciate this post and agree that each of the neighborhoods explored are unique and groovy, I wonder about the limited focus. There are great areas like Poplar and Perkins outside the Parkways. Lots of great restaurants and a wonderful independent bookstore that almost closed but was rescued by public outcry. And, of course, Dinstahl’s. Then there are the numerous African American areas like Souslville for the more “adventurous” tourist. While this list is great, it is a bit too centered on the white in-crowd. And this is coming from one who has lived in Memphis since 1977 and midtown since 1980.

  6. I really appreciate this post. My mom is from Memphis and my mom’s side of the family still lives in that area. I’ve spent my whole life visiting Memphis but haven’t been to many areas outside of where my family lives (not even downtown), partly due to spending most of our time being with family, but also due to my family’s fear of how dangerous certain areas can be. My grandmother even lived in a very bad part of town so I’ve seen the darker side of Memphis firsthand. But this post is great because it paints Memphis in a different light and brings attention to some of the cool places that have been revitalized. I’ve always felt that there has to be more to Memphis than the crime that I’m always hearing about. The next time that I’m there, I’d really like to make a plan to explore some of these places. Thanks for writing this post!
    Emily @ Ideas of Emily recently posted…Tips for Packing an Operation Christmas Child BoxMy Profile

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