There’s always something fun to do in Memphis. But if you’ve got the time, it’s worth trying to get out and see some of the nearby countryside, discover the city’s neighboring communities, or take a moment to behold the mighty Mississippi River.
No matter what you’re into: Discovering the roots of American music, seeking out small towns full of charm and character, or taking a break from everything to enjoy the great outdoors, Memphis is a smart place to keep as your base camp. Here are a few of our top suggestions for day trip destinations just a short drive away from downtown, Memphis, Tennessee!
If there had been no Delta Blues scene in Clarksdale, then there most likely would not have been a rock ’n roll scene in Memphis at all. Indeed, many famous rock stars including Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton may never have found their inspiration if not by this place. At one time or another, this small city was home to blues artists such as John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Son House. It’s even said that Clarksdale is where legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. About an hour and a half south of Memphis (down legendary Highway 61), Clarksdale remains a hotbed for creativity. It’s a perfect spot for folks hankering to hear live music or wanting to learn about the roots of American music.
Another hub of Delta culture and live music is Helena, Arkansas. Set on the Mississippi about an hour and 15 minutes southwest of Memphis, this quaint little community was described by Mark Twain as “one of the prettiest situations on the Mississippi River.” Although the Mississippi River Delta is flat due to unique geological features, Helena is located near Crowley’s Ridge, an area of outstanding beauty that’s unusually hilly for this part of the world.
Mississippi River State Park, Arkansas
About an hour southwest of Memphis — and roughly 30 minutes north of Helena — is the Mississippi River State Park. A very new addition to the Arkansas State Park system, this 536 nature area spans 7 bodies of water, making it a dream day trip destination for hiking, fishing, or kayaking in family or among your buddies!
You may also like: All the Things that Make Memphis the New “It” City
This lively little college town just over an hour south of Memphis is home to the beautiful “Ole Miss campus”, a wealth of impeccably preserved architectural marvels such as the Nobel laureate William Faulkner’s house. The area is also filled with all sorts of charming boutiques and great places to eat.
The story of the King of Rock ’n Roll might’ve ended in Memphis, but it sure started in Tupelo. As epic as the life of Elvis Presley was, his ascent to the upper echelons Memphis society only took him about 100 miles north from where he was born. To be sure, Tupelo celebrates Elvis in a big way. Visitors can see the two-room shotgun shack where he was born, the church he attended, and even the hardware store where his mother bought him his first guitar. There’s plenty more Presley related things to do here, including a 13-stop Elvis Driving Tour. Tupelo is also a great place for antique shopping, with many shops downtown. For a small town, Tupelo is packed with awesome places to eat as well…so be sure to come hungry!
Oddly enough, this tiny town is one of the best places to see Tudor style architecture outside of England. So, don’t rule it out when booking flights to Memphis if you’re into cool European architecture! Just 45 minutes north of the Home of Blues, Wilson’s historic town square features a fair number of Tudor-style buildings. Wilson is also well know for its strong connections to regional agricultural traditions and its Hampson Archaeological Museum State Park featuring an amazing collection of artifacts from the Nodena Native Americans. The chance to shop in mom-and-pop stores, enjoy lunch next to an old-fashioned soda fountain, and stroll through public gardens are just a few reasons to visit Wilson!
How well do you know Memphis and environs? Got a favorite day trip destination that we might have missed? We’d love to hear your ideas for fun excursions nearby Memphis.