Elvis · Family · Food · Memphis · Music · Travel

Downtown Memphis Walking Tour 2017 Part One

Memphis Tour Map.png

-Arrive in Memphis around 10:30am and park near the (1) Peabody Hotel (149 Union Ave.).  You’re just in time to procure a good spot to see the famous Peabody Duck March into the lobby fountain at 11am.

-After the Duck March, proceed upstairs to the mezzanine level where they have a small museum room with artifacts including Elvis Presley’s first contract with RCA Records typed on Peabody Hotel stationary and signed by Elvis in the hotel lobby.

-Proceed to the top floor of the hotel (Press “S” in the elevator) to see the Duck’s Penthouse where they live in luxury (at least as far as a duck is concerned) when they’re not swimming in the lobby fountain and being served breakfast on silver platters (don’t miss this!).  The view of Memphis from the roof of the Peabody is worth the trip even if you’re not interested in the ducks.

-Don’t forget to visit Lansky Brothers in the lobby of the hotel.  Mr. Lansky was clothier to the “KING” you know.  As you can see our Memphis trips always include some connections to Elvis.

-Leave the Peabody via the Union Ave. exit and proceed west to Main St.  By this time my children are starving and luckily there is a hidden gem a few blocks away at 45 Main St. called (2) Maciel’s Tortas & Tacos.  A torta is a Mexican sandwich, we had the “Cubana” which included pork, ham, chicken, chorizo, and a fried egg along with avocado, mayo, onion, carrots, lettuce, sour cream, and cheese (Dave and Presley split it and found it so delicious that Peyton and I barely managed to get a single bite) and a platter of 3 tacos:  Asada (steak), Pastor (spicy pork, Peyton’s favorite; the rest of us only got one bite), and Tinga (spicy chicken), served with rice and beans.  It was more than enough food for 4 and absolutely fantastic.


-Stop at the sign for (2) Washburn’s Escape Alley on your walk back towards Union Ave.   Unfortunately there is no historical marker here and we had to look up the significance of the alley.  Long story short:  Union Major General C. C. Washburn, clad in only his nightshirt, used the alley (which then backed up to his home) to escape Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate raid of the Union-occupied city.  Today the only piece of the alley remaining runs from Front St. to AutoZone Park.  For more information on the history of Memphis’ forgotten alleyways see this excellent post by blogger DevinGreaney.wordpress.com.

IMG_5639At Union Ave turn right (west) towards the Memphis Cotton Exchange Museum.  On the way you’ll pass what was once (3) WDIA-WHRK radio station at 112 Union Ave. (now an Iberia Bank ATM).  Stop to read the historical marker.  It was once an all black radio station with DJ’s such as Rufus Thomas (whose historical marker you will see on Beale St.) that Elvis listened to as a teenager.


-It’s now around 1pm and time to visit the (4) Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange on the corner of Front Street and Union Ave. (65 Union Ave.).  They have beautifully restored the Cotton Exchange to its appearance in its heyday in the 1940’s.  They also have exhibits highlighting the history of the cotton industry, the evolution of Blues music, and the history of the Cotton Carnival, which rivaled New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration at one time.  They also have a children’s “hands-on” exhibit that really entertained Peyton.

-Take their free audio walking tour of Cotton Row.  It takes about 20 minutes and really gives you a feel for how the Cotton Industry worked, as well as providing some sites where the movie The Firm was filmed.  I can’t wait until my girls are old enough to watch the movie and we can do a walking tour of the Memphis film sites.

-Return your audio headsets and head back down Union Ave. (No, we didn’t see the ghost of Elvis, but you’ll get the joke if you’ve heard Marc Cohn’s song).

-If you have younger children, now might be a good time to end your tour; the Peabody is nearby so you can pick up your vehicle and call it a day.  Otherwise you can continue with Part 2 of our tour, which we will be posting tomorrow.  We completed the entire circuit by around 5pm.


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