Free Activities in Memphis, TN
As it boasts on its website, the 80-acre Elmwood Cemetery is the final resting place for “over 75,000 inhabitants, including mayors, governors, madams, blues singers, suffragists, martyrs, generals, civil rights leaders, holy men and women, outlaws and millionaires.” Founded in 1852 and included on the National Register of Historic Places, Elmwood is home to three formal gardens including the Victorian-era Butterfly Garden, centered around a clematis-covered arbor, which provides the perfect place for a picnic lunch. Whet your appetite by wandering among the monuments and mausoleums, or browsing the markers in the section of the cemetery marked Confederate Soldiers’ Rest, where more than 1000 of the South’s troops are buried. Grounds are open 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Graceland Mansion was built in 1939 on 500 acres in suburban Whitehaven and named by its original owner, Dr. Thomas Moore, in honor of his aunt Grace. Eighteen years later, Elvis Presley paid more than $100,000 for the 18-room limestone house and immediately hired a decorator to re-do the joint, requesting a fifteen-foot long couch for the living room, a soda fountain for the basement, and an eight-foot square bed in his own room. Outside accoutrements included the now-legendary front gates with the musical notes, a swimming pool, and a chicken coop for Gladys’ pet poultry. Elvis died upstairs at Graceland in 1977, and after a brief spell at Forest Hill, his body was disinterred and brought home to the backyard. Today, Elvis, Gladys and Vernon rest side-by-side in the Meditation Garden, which fans can visit for free from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
Every Saturday at 1 p.m., savvy beer lovers line up outside Ghost River Brewing in the South Main Arts District for tours of the plant where handcrafted suds like Copperhead Red and Golden Ale come to life. Whichever brew you prefer, Ghost River is quickly becoming a favorite for local connoisseurs who demand it on tap at more than 100 Memphis-area restaurants and at Redbirds Stadium. Tours of the brewing facility – which includes steam boilers, 4-ton tanks, a bottling system, and the loading dock, where you can purchase kegs, growlers, and t-shirts – are free, but reservations are required. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Built in 1936 as a project administered by the Works Progress Administration, the Levitt Shell, which is located behind the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Overton Park, has hosted performances by the Memphis Open Air Theater, the Memphis Symphony, and iconic rockers ranging from Elvis Presley to Big Star and Booker T. Jones. Designed by architect Max Furbringer, the amphitheatre narrowly escaped demolition in the 1960s , ‘70s, and ‘80s, before it was ultimately renovated by the Mortimer Levitt Foundation in 2007. Today, the Levitt Shell is anchored by free seasonal concert series that run the gamut from bluegrass groups to New Orleans brass bands, performances by local arts troupes, children’s events, film screenings, and more. For an up-to-date schedule, visit LevittShell.org.
Founded in 1916, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, situated in the middle of Overton Park, offers free admission every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. View the museum’s permanent collection, which consists of 9,000 works that span from antiquities from Greece, Rome, and the Ancient Americas to contemporary works such as the nineteen-feet high Vide-O-belisk by Korean artist Nam June Paik that dominates the Brooks Rotunda. Plan an impromptu scavenger hunt for your kids (see if they can find the four presidents represented in the American Galleries, for example), survey the latest traveling exhibitions, or drop into the museum’s restaurant, the Brushmark, for a sandwich before checking out the rest of Overton Park.