So, you want to get away? Sometimes we all need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city or from the churn and burn of our hectic day-to-day lives. Fortunately for us Memphians, we are surrounded by an array of activities within an easy drive. Whether you love to hike, shop, bike, listen to music, eat great food or learn about local history, the Mid-South region has it all. Hop in the car, and head to one of these fantastic regional destinations for the day! You won’t regret it.
7 Quick & Easy Day Trips from Memphis
Travel time: 1 hour, 25 mins. via I-55 S and US-278 E (86 mi.)
Whether you love the Rebels or love to hate them, there are so many reasons beyond Ole Miss to head on down to Oxford. For the history buff, tour Burns-Belfry Museum & Multicultural Center, dedicated to African-American history, from slavery to Civil Rights, or spend time exploring Rowan Oak, home of famed American author William Faulkner. For the music lover, treat to your ears to a tour of The Blues Archive on the Ole Miss campus, or be a part of the recording audience of Thacker Mountain Radio, a “Prairie Home Companion”-style show recorded weekly from Off Square Books. For the art guru, visit the University of Mississippi Museum to peruse all manner of Southern folk art, Greek and Roman antiquities and more before hitting the Southside Art Gallery to view local artists’ works.
Dining in Oxford is worth the drive. Kick off the day with a hearty meal at James Beard Award-winning Chef John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast, grab a lunch of Southern down-home favorites like fried catfish and country fried steak at Ajax Diner, then polish off the day with an upscale dinner at City Grocery, Chef Currence’s flagship restaurant.
Historic Oxford Square is an amazing spot to shop and explore. You can lose hours wading through local boutiques and shops, including a stop in Square Books, one of the most beloved bookstores in the Southeast.
Travel time: 1 hour, 20 mins. via US-61 S (74 mi.)
For a little town in Arkansas, Helena has a whole lot to offer! From music and shopping to outdoor adventure and Civil War history, there is plenty to do in this darling spot. Pop in and out of the quaint shops on historic Cherry Street, like Handworks, Cotton & Kudzu and Delta Gypsy, then grab a bite to eat.
Explore the Helena Museum for their Edison collection and exhibits on local history. Next, visit a few of Helena’s key Civil War sites, including Freedom Park, the first location in Arkansas to be designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site; Fort Curtis, a replica Union fort; and Battery C, one of four batteries erected by the Union army to defend the city from Confederate attack.
If you love the great outdoors, the city is home to the Quapaw Canoe Company, offering guided canoe trips down the Mississippi River. It is also located near St. Francis National Forest and Mississippi River State Park, both of which offer outdoor adventures like hiking, biking and kayaking.
Travel time: 1 hour, 40 min. via I-22 (108 mi.)
While Memphis may lay claim to “The King,” Elvis was actually born in a two-room shotgun shack in Tupelo. Check out the Elvis Presley Birthplace to see the house where he lived, roam through a museum that chronicles his life and check out the Assembly of God church where he first fell in love with music. If you’re looking to do an even deeper Elvis dive, check out the 13-stop Elvis Driving Tour, which includes a visit to Tupelo Hardware Co. where his mother bought his first guitar.
Downtown Tupelo is worth a visit with The Tupelo Automobile Museum offering a walk through automotive history and showcasing more than 150 antique and classic cars. Grab lunch at one of downtown Tupelo’s many local restaurants before exploring its unique boutiques, art galleries and more. If you love to shop, you have choices in Tupelo! Downtown, Midtown and Barnes Crossing all carry national favorites alongside mom-and-pop shops.
The great outdoors beckon, as Tupelo is the headquarters of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile scenic byway that extends all the way to Nashville. The Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center showcases interactive exhibits about the original inhabitants of the Trace, the flora and fauna along the All-American road and the Trace’s rich history.
Travel time: 2 hours via US-61 S (117 mi.)
Cleveland has a beautiful Main Street area with tons of specialty shopping, art galleries, great dining options and the Railroad Heritage Museum. Cleveland and the surrounding areas are known as destinations for great pottery, so be sure to stop in Peter’s Pottery and McCartys Pottery on your way in on Highway 61.
To taste some local flavor, stop for a farm-to-table lunch at the Delta Meat Market. James Beard Award-nominated Chef and owner Cole Ellis’ menu changes daily depending on what is fresh, and dishes are plated on iconic McCartys pottery.
The Mississippi Delta is known as the birthplace of American music, and Cleveland, MS, tells that story! Explore the Grammy Museum Mississippi, sister museum to the original Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. The interactive music experience is worth a visit! Before leaving town, be sure and stop by Dockery Farms, a historic spot known as the birthplace of the blues. Walk the farm’s hallowed grounds and soak up the sounds of the interactive Mississippi Blues trail marker.
Travel time: 1 hour, 40 min. via US-72 E (97 mi.)
Whether you’re with your spouse, your family or a group of friends, Corinth has something for everyone. Downtown Corinth is full of locally owned boutiques with retail ranging from clothing to gifts to jewelry. For a small town, Corinth is teeming with dining options, providing food, drinks and music most every weekend. Smith, Pizza Grocery and Vicari anchor the downtown food scene, augmented by Thai cuisine at Blazing Noodlez, a rooftop bar at V Taco, meat-and-three at Martha’s Menu and tons of history at Borroum’s Drug Store. Borroum’s was previously the oldest drugstore in the state of Mississippi before it was converted into an old-fashioned soda fountain joint.
Corinth was built around the foundation of the railroads with several trains that cut through the center of downtown. That railroad history made Corinth a central location in the Civil War, so there is plenty of history to explore. The Civil War Interpretive Center, a part of the Shiloh National Military Park, tells the story of the various clashes of the North and the South and how many African-Americans gained their freedom in Corinth.
If you enjoy a leisurely stroll, there is a mile-long walking trail through downtown Corinth. This path showcases historical buildings and unique, local sites, like the Coca-Cola Museum and the Verandah-Curlee House.
Travel time: 45 min. via I-55 N (44.6 mi.)
Formerly a cotton-producing mecca in the late 19th century, Wilson, AR, took a dramatic downturn in the early 1930s when updates in machinery began driving out jobs and forcing workers to migrate west. Fast-forward to present day, and Wilson is experiencing a cultural rebirth — with new life and a vibrant energy pouring into a once sleepy small town. (Read our complete review on Wilson, AR, here.)
Wilson Gardens is a community farm dedicated to fostering healthy lifestyles in Wilson and beyond. The gardens cultivate sustainably grown fruits, vegetables and herbs and make them available to locals through their CSA — as well as on the menu at Wilson Café found just across the street. The café is the sweetheart of the square, offering diners delicious, fresh and locally sourced foods for lunch and dinner.
For a little shopping, stop into White’s Mercantile, a modern-day general store located in the old Wilson service station. White’s is owned and curated by the granddaughter of Hank Williams, Holly Williams, who fills the space with local and regional treasures. White’s is just one example of an old space reimagined and repurposed — Wilson has revitalized just about every building in town with no signs of stopping soon.
Little Rock, AR
Travel Time: 2 hours, 9 min. via I-40 W (137 mi.)
Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Arkansas’ capital city, and you’ll be a fan of this Southern town. Little Rock has fun and distinct neighborhoods, each with their own individual personalities just waiting to be explored. Start at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in the River Market District, which has become Little Rock’s premier tourist destination since opening in 2004. Peruse the presidential center, then grab a bite at 42 bar and table while overlooking the Arkansas River.
Then, head out to the SouthMain (SoMa) District, where you can explore the Esse Purse Museum, the only dedicated purse museum in the United States, before satisfying your sweet tooth at Loblolly Creamery. If you’re an art lover, stop by the Arkansas Arts Center, which houses one of the largest collections of works on paper.
For the foodies among you, One Eleven at the Capital is sure to wow! With with Michelin star and James Beard award-winning Chef Joel Antunés at the helm, this is a meal you will not soon forget. Then, top off your day while watching the beautiful River Lights in the Rock, as the downtown bridges light up in beautiful color.
Go ahead and hit the open road!
For more great getaway ideas, be sure to visit our Travel Section.