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Memphis may not be New York or Los Angeles, but that’s just fine with the Home of Blues; this city has its own distinct culture and cuisine and offers you something different. Best of all, some goings-on won’t cost you a thing. Save your money with these five free and fun things to do in Memphis:
1. Shows at Levitt Shell. Built in 1936, the Levitt Shell, located in Overton Park, is an oasis of greenery in the middle of Midtown Memphis. The outdoor performing arts pavilion puts on free live music concerts Thursday through Sunday during the fall, spring and summer. The site of Elvis Presley’s first professional rock-n-roll show hosts a range of acts from jazz and blues to Latin and Congolese. The Levitt Shell displays regional talent and acts from around the world, and although all shows are kid-friendly, a children’s series in the summer caters especially to the kids. The accompanying light show is always enjoyable, so bring your own food and (non-alcoholic) beverages to avoid the concession lines.
2. Elmwood Cemetery. Memphis’ politicians, musicians and outlaws rest at the city’s oldest active cemetery since, open since 1852. The 80 acres, full of ancient elms, oaks and magnolias, is an official bird sanctuary and arboretum, too. Veterans of every American war, generals, baseball players and madams all lie in their final resting places, side-by-side. Docent-led tours offered once a month with include themes such as the Civil War and Scandals and Scoundrels, though those will cost you extra.
3. Watch the ducks march. A free and quirky Memphis tradition, the March of the Peabody Ducks at The Peabody Memphis hotel happens daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the lobby of the hotel, where the duck master walks the feathered friends down the red carpet. The eccentric custom began in 1932 and has continued for more than 75 years, making appearances on The Tonight Show and Sesame Street.
4. Listen to the blues. Nightclubs and restaurants fill Beale Street, Memphis’ most famous street, but it’s best known as the site where W. C. Handy penned the first blues songs. Listen to music at the amphitheater in Handy Park along Beale Street, and check out the Beale Street Walk of Fame, where musical notes honor Memphis musicians. The Beale Street Flippers entertain as they flip and twist along the length of the historic pavement.
5. Celebrate the South. The Center for Southern Folklore celebrates the culture --the food, music, arts, traditions, stories - of the South, witnessed by its gallery of folk art and café serving hot-water cornbread and peach cobbler, plus a coffee-and-beer bar. We suggest checking the center’s schedule before you leave for your trip, since it’s constantly hosting different cultural exhibits and concerts.