Car-free in Memphis
November 14, 2008 6:44 AM   Subscribe

MemphisFilter: I have a week-long business trip coming up. I'll be staying in East Memphis, and will not have a car. Am I SOL for seeing anything interesting without wheels?

This will be my first trip to Memphis, and most of the time I will be on-site at my client's. One colleague is renting a car and will be shuttling us from hotel to client site, but none of us will be listed as additional drivers. Other Memphis-tourism AskMes generally involve cars or staying downtown (I realize I'm not exactly staying in the boonies, but will be on Poplar Pike west of St. Francis Hospital).

I'd like to go out for dinner a couple of times (hotel food for five days is going to get old, and I'm crazy for barbecue) and, if the agenda permits, would particularly like to see the Civil Rights Museum, Elmwood Cemetery, Soulsville USA, or the Museum of Ornamental Metal sounds a lot more interesting! Bars and Beale Street aren't particularly interesting, especially because I'll be alone, and it's my impression that Graceland is a full-day commitment.

I am fine with cabs or public transit. Tell me whether I should start looking at guidebooks or if I'm better off holing up in my room and studying for my stupid certification exam. Thank you!
posted by catlet to Travel & Transportation around Memphis, TN (9 answers total)
Response by poster: D'oh. I meant to say that the metal museum sounds more interesting than Graceland. Bad self-editing!
posted by catlet at 6:46 AM on November 14, 2008

One transport thing I know about is that there is a free shuttle from Sun Studios to Graceland (if you haven't fully nixed it). Also, there is a trolley service around downtown and the riverfront (although I've never used it). That would get you to the Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, the Peabody, etc.
posted by kimdog at 7:57 AM on November 14, 2008

I'm sorry to say, you may need a car. MATA does offer bus service around the area where you're going to be, but my personal experience with them has been mediocre at best. And it will probably take a looooong time to get anywhere, since most of what you're interested in is downtown (I live downtown and it usually takes me around 30 minutes to drive to the area where you'll be staying, the bus ride will easily be twice that, or more). Many of the bus lines have limited hours, too, so it may not be of any help if you're out at night.

The trolley line won't help you because you need to get downtown first to use it. If you're going to use cabs you might actually find renting a car is more cost effective. Can you ask the colleague who is renting the car to add you as a driver, and offer to pay part of the cost?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2008

When is your trip?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:02 AM on November 14, 2008

The only good tourist spot I can think of in East Memphis is the Dixon.

If you want BBQ, you need to go to Payne's. It is the real deal.

I posted previously on stuff to do in Memphis. This is part of the list I put together for guests at my wedding.

Renting a car will be cheaper than taking taxis.

Also, I was born at St. Francis.
posted by charlesv at 9:54 AM on November 14, 2008

You're 12 miles from downtown Memphis. Yikes.

charlesv's list is great, but I implore you to go to Rendevous for bbq. Paynes is good too. I don't want you to eat bbq at some random restaraunt, thus leaving Memphis with a poor opinion of its bbq.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:02 AM on November 14, 2008

Poplar Pike feels like the boonies to me, but I get itchy outside of the I-240 loop...

This town is really only manageable by car, especially from East Memphis to downtown. I'd love to have a better answer, but that's kinda the deal.

Maybe you should just rent your own car for the day or two that you'll be able to get out and really do things in the downtown area? Most of the museums you mention close by 5pm.

/BBQ: Payne's is the bomb, and I also like Jim Neely's Interstate BBQ on Third.
posted by jmcmurry at 2:08 PM on November 14, 2008

If you are going to be downtown, I would HIGHLY suggest going to the Peabody Hotel, to the Lanksy's store (He used to be on Beale Street, but sold his store to Lisa Marie etc to open a nightclub in the location), and ask to speak with "Mr. Bernard Lansky". He was the guy Elvis bought his first sharp shirts from, also happens to be the nephew of a financier named Meyer Lansky. I don't care how expensive the shirt is, but I guarantee it will be a conversation you will never forget. The guy is the best BS artist south of Nunavat, and still talks like a hipster even though his hips probably aren't that good anymore. It will be meeting a true piece of American history.
posted by timsteil at 4:19 PM on November 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I think the practical solution is to make a separate trip to Memphis for tourism and barbeque, complete with car. As it turns out, the agenda has been revised and I am going to be on-site pretty much the whole time, so no intellectual enrichment or pork intake looks likely.

I think I'll plan something for when the weather warms up, and try to get a good rate at the Peabody for closeness to good bbq, ducks, and more central location than way out yonder.
posted by catlet at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2008

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