Walking in Memphis: Things to do on Beale Street in the Daytime!
You really can’t go to Memphis without making a visit to Beale Street. It is a street with a fascinating past and is often mentioned as one of the most iconic streets in America. So although it is known for music and partying into the wee hours of the night it is truly much more than that. If the party scene isn’t quite your thing…or if you are traveling with children or underage teens you will still be able to enjoy the fun, historic, and delicious things to do on Beale Street in the daytime!
Beale Street Rules and Regulations
NOTE: There are some rules to follow regarding underaged patrons on Beale street. After 9:00pm anyone under 21 must be accompanied by a legal parent or guardian. After 11:00pm everyone on Beale street must be 21 or older and possess a legal ID. It will be checked as you enter the street.
Parking near Beale Street
If you are staying in one of the hotels downtown you might be within walking distance of Beale Street. Ask guest services at your hotel if they think it is reasonable and safe to walk to Beale from your location.
If you aren’t within walking distance you will discover that the parking situation is better than you might imagine! There are actually thousands of parking spaces within 100 yards of Beale street. We were able to find convenient street parking on a weekday. There are also a number of parking garages. Try the 250 Peabody Place Parking Garage as your closest and best bet.
Things to do on Beale Street in the Daytime
Walk With Your Feet 10 feet Off of Beale
OK, I promise. that’s the last reference to the song Walking in Memphis that I’ll do! Even if you don’t have time to stop in stores or to have a drink or a bite to eat you should at least take a walk down Beale street. It is just such an integral part of this Memphis! Take a photo under the “Home of the Blues” sign and let your feet step to beat of this amazing city.
Segway Down Beale Street
Don’t want to walk? Try riding a Segway down Beale. We did a Memphis downtown Segway tour with some friends and it was SO much fun! You will make several stops in downtown Memphis including a ride down Beale street.
Shop at A. Schwab Dry Goods
A. Schwab was opened in 1876 as a men’s haberdashery then expanded into selling dry goods. Their motto was, “If you can’t find it at Schwab’s, you’re better off without it.” These days A. Schwab sells all kinds of gifts and quirky items. It is definitely worth a stop to check it out. If you go the second floor you will find a small museum of items the store has sold over the years. There is an old time soda fountain on the first floor if you are in the mood for some ice cream.
Have a Burger at Dyer’s Burgers
The famous Dyer’s Burgers was started back in 1912. They say that the secret to their amazing burger is in the grease. They have actually brought the original grease with them as they have moved to various locations over the years under the protection of an armed police escort.
This is a burger that has been on a lot of the “best” lists. You definitely will want to bite into a delicious Dyer’s Burger while you are on Beale Street!
Try the Ribs at Blues City Cafe
Blues City Cafe is where you will find not just some of the best food on Beale Street – but some of the best food in Memphis! They are known for their ribs, but y’all, they also serve delicious tamales and steaks and shrimp.
Blues City Cafe used to be a Doe’s Eat Place so if you’ve had Doe’s steaks and tamales you know that you are in for a treat.
Tater Red’s Lucky Mojos and Voodoo Healing
You will want to stop in at the quirky Tater Red’s while you are visiting Beale Street! In addition to meeting all your voodoo and mardi gras needs they have everything from salt and pepper shakers to games to flasks to clothing. Of course there is music memorabilia at Tater Red’s as well. You will enjoying browsing here.
Memphis Music Record Shop
Stop in here and search through the records and CD’s. Although the musical offerings are blues heavy, they also have genres ranging from gospel to jazz to classic rock. You will also find interesting gift items and T-shirts at Memphis Music Record Shop.
Check out the Statue of W.C. Handy at Handy Park
The state of W.C. Handy is right in the middle of Handy Park. Handy Park is a public park at Beale and 3rd. It has both large and small performance stages.
The best thing is that performances at Handy Park are always free and open to the public. Often there will be some performers on the small stage in the afternoon. If so, this is a great place to sit and listen to music and soak up some sunshine.
Of course B.B. King’s is known for its great music and partying in the evening, but it is also a fun restaurant during the day. They are known for their ribs, but they also have excellent chicken fried chicken and the mac n cheese…oh my word.
If you happen to be on Beale Street on the weekend the music at B.B. King’s starts in the afternoon.
Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the complete Memphis music story. It chronicles the artists and the music that shaped the “Memphis Sound.”
Honestly, this museum was much better than I expected. It has a huge playlist and really shows you the flow of this music through time. You will learn so much about the musicians as well. Definitely recommended!
Silky O’Sullivan’s is a restaurant and bar where “it’s like St. Patrick’s Day all year round.” They are kid friendly during the day with a wonderful patio for dining and…goats. Yes, goats. The goats were a little lazy the day we visited but I’m sure it would be fun to see them climb their goat tower. I recommend the nachos at Silky O’Sullivan’s but they also have barbecue and even seafood!
Beale Sweets Sugar Shack
Old-fashioned candy and delicious homemade fudge. This is a fun stop that might induce some nostalgia. If you are traveling with your own children you will want to introduce them to some of your favorite candies from your own childhood.
The Orpheum Theater
If you are planning your time in Memphis in advance maybe you can catch a show at The Orpheum!
This theater was originally called the Grand Opera House and was considered the classiest theater outside of New York City. The original burned in 1923 and was rebuilt in 1927. 50 years later, it was already in danger of falling into disrepair or even being razed. A non-profit organization purchased the Orpheum and restored it to its former opulence. It was reopened in 1984.
The Orpheum is a beautiful theater that now houses broadway shows and concerts. Be sure and check their schedule to discover if there is anything you want to see while you are in town and on Beale Street.
Anchoring one end of Beale Street, the FedEx Forum is the biggest arena in Memphis. It is the home of NBA Memphis Grizzlies as well as the University of Memphis Tigers. It is also the location for large concerts and other events. You might want to see what is happening at the FedEx Forum while you are in town.
Take A Tour of Beale Street
There are two recommended tours that are specifically for Beale Street. The first is the Beale Street Walking Tour by Backbeat Tours. You will learn the colorful history and stories behind the people who helped to make Beale Street “Home of the Blues.”
If you prefer to eat your way down Beale Street look into the Taste of Downtown food tour with the company Tastin Round Town. Not all the stops will be right on Beale Street but several of them are and you can get a “taste” of the entire downtown area of Memphis.
Quick History of Beale Street
Beale Street was established in 1841. Unfortunately during the 1870’s Memphis was devastated by a series of yellow fever epidemics which decimated the population of the city. It was during this time that a former slave named Robert Church purchased land around Beale street. This was a great investment as it led to him becoming the first black millionaire from the south.
By the 1890’s Black musicians would congregate in the Robert Church park on the corner of 4th and Beale Street to play music together. By the early 1900s, Beale Street was filled with many clubs, restaurants and shops, many of them owned by African-Americans.
This was the same time frame that Memphis became the home of the famous trumpet player W.C. Handy who created the “Blues on Beale Street. “During the 1920’s and 40’s a multitude of amazing musicians played and sang on Beale Street together creating the unique sound that is known as the “Memphis Blues.”
Beale Street was where people came to protest and to strategize during the Civil Rights Movement. The sanitation workers famously marched down Beale with their “I am a man” signs and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis to support them. Sadly, we know that the demonstrations were a precursor to the assassination of King in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
By the late 1960’s and 1970’s Beale had fallen on hard times and many of the businesses were closed. Fortunately someone had the foresight to declare Beale Street a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1966 and on December 15, 1977, Beale Street was officially declared by Congress to be the “Home of the Blues.”
It wasn’t until the 1980’s and 1990’s that downtown revitalization became a priority for Memphis’ city government and Beale Street began to come back to life. Now it offers live music seven days a week and is the place for blues and jazz festivals like the Beale Street Music Festival (sadly cancelled for 2021 due to Covid) which is part of the famed Memphis in May festival.
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy all the things to do on Beale Street in the daytime. Let us know which are your favorites.