Historic Memphis “Millionaires Row” and the Famous Sun Studios

On a warm Friday in July, Joey and I packed up the car and our black Labrador, Deuce, and drove up to Memphis, Tennessee. Summer time is the best for long weekend road trips, rooftop bars, cute sandals, and getting a little vitamin D outdoors. On the drive from Lafayette to Memphis, we stopped midway somewhere in Mississippi for Five Guys burgers and to walk Deuce. We left by 6am so we drove the 6 hours and arrived in Memphis early afternoon.

We headed to Mud Island, which is really more of a small peninsula offshoot from the Mississipi River, where we were renting a place from Airbnb. The owner was out of town camping for the weekend, so we had the whole house to ourselves. Mud Island homes really do look like they were picked up and dropped off from some cute little South Carolina beach town. The houses are multiple different pastel colors with shutters, front porches, and wide streets with sidewalks and beautifully manicured lawns. There is a large park along the levee of the Mississippi where people are always running and cycling and hanging out. Several boutiques and restaurants add to the appeal of Mud Island, which is just a short distance from downtown Memphis.

After playing with Deuce, we left him to watch the house and headed over to the Woodruff-Fontaine House to catch their last tour of the day. We had snagged 2 for 1 admission on Living Social to tour this Victorian mansion which was built in 1870 along the historic street known as “millionaires row” because of all of the impressive mansions which were constructed on this street just a short drive away from the main downtown area. The inside of the house was just as extravagant as the outside of the house. I am always impressed by the dining sets in these old homes, it seems as though there could never possibly be a reason to use so many different size dishes or three spoons! This mansion also served briefly as an art school after the originally families moved out, so it had a history more complex than simply as a home. If you enjoy touring old houses, seeing beautiful objects, and learning about the history of a place from its most prominent families, you would enjoy a visit to the Woodruff-Fontaine House.

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We went about four blocks away from “millionaires row” to do the requisite tour of Sun Studios. Memphis is largely recognized as the birthplace of rock n’ roll so a lot of the tourist attractions in the city are centered around this claim to fame. Sun Studio opened in 1950 during the early stages of rock music and later was made popular by producing albums of artists including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Honestly the whole thing is only very exciting if you are a fan of rock n’ roll music, of which I am not. Hearing about these talented artists and listening to some of their original work is the main highlight of Sun Studios as well as the paraphernalia from the early rock n’ roll days. It is also notable that the main recording space at Sun Studios is still available to be rented and used today, which might excited music lovers wishing to record in the shoes of legends like Elvis.

sun studioSun Studios was absolutely crawling with tourist though; the tour was packed, the gift shop and cafe were packed. After our visit there we were quite content not to visit a few of the other super touristy places in town with a high price of admission such as Elvis’ Graceland. We tried to avoid the over commercialized rock n’ roll attractions and found others better suited to our preferences. If you are visiting Memphis because of it’s connection to rock n’ roll you will be pleased to find many options to whisk you to the past, but if you are looking for other options, luckily, Memphis has plenty to do not centered around Elvis!

Our next destination was Gus’s Fried Chicken downtown and fortunately we made it there just in time to beat the dinner time rush. Gus’s is consistently ranked as one of the best placed to get fried chicken in a town famous for fried Southern food, so we had to check it out! I actually enjoyed my fried chicken tenders served with baked beans and coleslaw. I think I liked them so much because they were only lightly fried, instead of being heavy and greasy like fried chicken I’ve had elsewhere. We drank Ghost River Ale, brewed right in Memphis, with our dinner and started learning about all of the local beer producers from our server. We left dinner excited to try beers from other microbreweries in the area. Memphis has a growing collection of locally produced craft beers worth exploring!

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More on craft beers, walking all over downtown Memphis, Beale street, the South Main art walk, and a tasting flight dessert on my next post about Friday evening in downtown Memphis!

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