Speaking of Graceland, you’re going to want to tour the mansion Elvis purchased in 1957. Add access to Elvis Presley’s Memphisentertainment complex just across the street for an eyeful of the King’s car collection—including his pink Cadillac—inside the Presley Motors Automobile Museum.
Elvis—and rockabilly pioneers Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others—launched their careers from Sun Studio at the edge of downtown Memphis. Tour the studio, then explore the surrounding neighborhood. Known a century ago as Auto Row, the neighborhood is now called “The Edge” and nods to its revved-up history inside The Edge Motor Museum. New in 2019, the museum showcases beefy cars symbolic of America’s post-war era.
CELEBRATE “CHROME CULTURE” ON BEALE
Whether Harleys or hot rods are your speed, Beale Street has a theme night for you. Bike Night on Beale(most Wednesday nights from April through September) packs one of America’s most iconic streets with thousands of bikes and enthusiasts. Park your ride or just come and gawk.
During Hot Rods on Beale (fourth Tuesdays monthly from April through October), local car clubs park eye-popping models up and down the street. Parking is by permit only, but all are welcome to enjoy the free event.
While you’re on Beale Street, stop into Lansky Bros. The clothing boutique known for dressing Elvis and other Sun Records stars continues to sell bold, retro-inspired fashions today.
CRUISE TOWN IN A CLASSIC CAR
When musicians Brad Birkedahl and Brandon Cunning aren’t performing, they’re touring people around Memphis. In classic cars. That’s right: Reserve a private tour with Rockabilly Rides and you’ll cruise town in, say, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air (aqua, of course) while your guides recount Memphis’ legendary music history—and some unique personal stories: Birkedahl and Cunning have played with some of rockabilly’s greats.
Chances are, you’ll drive through the Cooper-Young Historic District. Don’t miss the new Johnny Cash statue outside the church where Cash played his first paid gig, and if you’re hungry or thirsty, pop into the Beauty Shop. The local-favorite for eclectic food and drinks preserves elements of its former life—as a salon where Priscilla Presley had her bouffants done.
STEP BACK IN TIME ON SOUTH MAIN
In Memphis’ South Main Historic Arts District, preserved buildings—especially from the early- to mid-20th century—give a frozen-in-time feel. The Arcade, Memphis’ oldest café, is as beloved for its hearty breakfasts and Southern-style lunch specials as it is for its retro décor. After filling up, stock up—on souvenirs—at DittyTV’s Vibe & Dime shop. Since the DittyTV network broadcasts Americana and roots music, expect a well-curated inventory of acoustic guitars, classic vinyl, music-themed apparel and accessories, and vintage concert posters. And if the rockabilly spirit so moves you, browse South Main’s Bumpus Harley-Davidson outpost.
CATCH THE BLUE MOON REVUE
Velvetina Taylor rides her motorcycle from city to city, performing classic burlesque shows along the way. Through the end of August, Thursday through Saturday evenings, she’s taken up residency at Memphis’ Mollie Fontaine Lounge for Velvitina's Blue Moon Revue. The shows are ultra-glam and intimate—audiences are capped at 30 guests—so you can fully appreciate the craft of Velvetina and her guest dancers, as well as the live Memphis music that accompanies them. Make it a big night out by savoring cocktails and small plates from Mollie Fontaine’s creative bar and kitchen before or after the show.