With the weather warming up, there are plenty of activities to entice you out of winter hibernation and get you out to explore our city. And you don’t have to let your budget stop you, because there are a bevy of fun free things to do in Memphis! Indoor and outdoor activities alike, the options are plentiful. We have compiled a wallet-friendly list of our favorite free things to do in Memphis.
Our Favorite Free Things to Do in Memphis
Art Museum at the University of Memphis
3750 Norriswood Ave., Memphis, TN 38152 • (901) 678-2224
The University of Memphis offers a free exhibit of contemporary art along with permanent exhibits of Egyptian and West African relics. The tour takes about 45 minutes, and there are guides available. It is also free to register for group tours. They have free admission Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call ahead to check for dates they are open, though, because the museum closes for university holidays and in between exhibits.
Beale Street Landing
251 Riverside Dr., Memphis, TN 38103 • (901) 504-4229
Beale Street Landing is connected to Tom Lee Park and continues the look and feel of the park. It provides a great vantage point for gazing at the Mississippi River. It has a grass roof, open areas for picnicking and leisure activities, areas for table games, a splash pad and even a playground area. There is no better way to appreciate the nicer weather by sitting down in a breezy place and watching the day go by. Beale Street Landing is open from 10 a.m. to sunset.
Big River Crossing
Harahan Bridge, 235 Virginia Ave. W., Memphis, TN 38103
Hop on your bike or grab your running shoes and move across the Mighty Mississippi by way of Big River Crossing. This pedestrian bridge is the longest of its kind along the entire river, and it connects Memphis to West Memphis and provides access to multiple other trails. It also provides a one-of-a-kind view of the Memphis skyline. This pedestrian bridge is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Center for Southern Folklore
The Center for Southern Folklore celebrates the diverse array of cultural heritages of the South, including the art and music born from them — and fittingly, this rich cultural hub is right in the heart of the cultural nexus that is Memphis. They offer tours, shows, films and exhibits, all for free (and sometimes with a suggested donation). They also put on many live events and festivals. Go soak up some culture while you are out soaking up the sun. They are open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Times for tours and special programs can be booked in advance.
Encounter more than 100 years of Memphis history for free at Elmwood Cemetery. Underneath the canopy of the all the old trees lies the remains of some of the people who helped shaped Memphis. There is no charge to visit, but it does cost if you want a docent-led tour. Either way, it is a fun and interesting way to spend a nice afternoon. The cemetery is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Levitt Shell Concerts
Built during the 1930s and acknowledged as the location of Elvis Presley’s first professional rock ‘n’ roll show, the Levitt Shell is an iconic outdoor performing arts pavilion located in Overton Park. Every summer and fall, the Shell hosts more than 50 free concerts — yes, free! — with blues, gospel, country and rock being the typical genres of the shows. So as the weather gets warmer, keep this live music venue on your radar. There is no better way to spend an evening than outside listening to live music. Dates and times of shows are available at the Levitt Shell website.
Meditation Garden at Graceland
Graceland offers free walk-up visits to the Meditation Garden. Here, you can see the graves of Elvis and his family up close. You can also get a look at the mansion’s exterior, too, while walking to the garden. This is only available from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. daily. On the other hand, going down to the Graceland’s gates and taking a photo is always free.
Memorial Park Crystal Shrine Grotto
Mexican artist Dionicio Rodriguez built this man-made cavern using a style of concrete construction called Faux Bois, which is now the Memorial Park Crystal Shrine Grotto. Everything here is made to look real, but is actually made from concrete, apart from the religious dioramas depicting the life of Jesus Christ. It is truly a wonder to behold. This is hidden gem captures the quirky local flavor of Memphis. The grotto is open along with the cemetery from dawn to dusk every day.
Overton Park’s Old Forest State Natural Area
On the Old Forest State Natural Area, you’ll find old-growth trees, plants and wildlife and miles of both paved and unpaved trails in an ecosystem dating back more than 10,000 years — it is a rare glimpse into what downtown Memphis would have looked like long ago. You can take a guided hike of the Old Forest State Natural Area on the second Saturday and last Sunday of each month at 10 a.m. This State Natural Area is free and open to the public from sunrise to sunset each day.
The Peabody Ducks
Every day at both 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., “pomp and circumstance” is for the birds in the grand lobby of the Peabody Hotel. At these times, The Peabody Ducks, five North American mallards, arrive and leave the hotel fountain in a grand procession complete with a red carpet, official introduction and visiting paparazzi. This custom is an integral part of The Peabody’s legendary traditions. It is a short yet memorable experience. The Peabody Duck March is free and open to the public.
Shelby Farms Park
The quintessential free destination in Memphis is Shelby Farms Park. This park offers so much for absolutely no charge. With 4,500 acres of trails, playgrounds, fishing spots and more, there is plenty to do here to take up a spare afternoon. Shelby Farms is a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. The park is open from sunrise to sunset every day.
Now, grab your sneaks, leave your purse at home, and venture forth to enjoy some free Memphis adventures!
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