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If you’ve listened to pretty much any guitar-based music of the last 70 years, you owe a debt to Memphis. This is the Mecca of rock and roll, the rhythm and blues capital of the world, and a city where everyone and everything has a connection to music. It’s no surprise that the most committed Elvis fans make pilgrimages to city each year.
Memphis is far from a one-trick pony, though. It’s also a world leader in the kind of big, meat-based cuisine the US does so well, boasts some excellent museums and has an odd kind of beauty: all tumbledown Victorian mansions and baroque houses, jammed together in inimitable southern style. Rent a hire car in Memphis and you’re free to explore the city at your own pace, or to head out into Tennessee and further abroad, to cities like Jacksonville (10 hours’ drive), Jonesboro (an hour's drive), Nashville (three hours) or the pleasant suburb of Southaven, just 15 minutes outside the city.
Memphis is served by Memphis International Airport, in the city’s south. It’s served by a range of commercial airlines, but Nashville International Airport is also a good option.
When you book a hire car in Memphis you’ll find your choice of a range of trusted and reliable providers, including popular brands like Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty. Most have a presence at Memphis International Airport and at other cities around the area, so you can easily craft a state-hopping itinerary.
If you’re visiting the Mecca of music, you need to make time to visit the temple of its high priest. Graceland was Elvis Presley’s home, and the place where he died and is now buried. People flock in their thousands to tour through his huge, supremely weird and incredibly ostentatious mansion, and to visit his grave by the outdoor swimming pool. A fake waterfall and yellow vinyl walls are among the kitsch highlights. Book your tour tickets online to skip the queues.
Not enough musical history for you? Sun Studios, on Union Avenue, is where many of the 20th century’s most important records were cut by artists such as BB King, Jonny Cash, Ike Turner and, of course, the King himself. Take the 40-minute tour and you’ll have the chance to listen to some of the original tapes, and to stand in the space where these audio masterpieces were created.
If you’ve got time to fit in anything else before you leave, go to the National Civil Rights Museum on 450 Mulberry Street. It’s located across the road from the Lorraine Motel, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1986, and stands as tribute to the long, hard battle he and his associates in the civil rights movement continue to fight to this day.
Memphis is an easy city to navigate thanks to its grid system, and it follows the same rules of the road as the rest of the US. Drive on the right, and watch out for four-way junctions, where all vehicles are required to stop.
Ready to start your own Memphis and US adventure? Start with this Memphis city guide, and use the Expedia search tool to hunt out the best deals on flights and hotels and to research popular activities and attractions.
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