Thursday, July 11, 2013

Running in Memphis (and Other Fun Things to Do)!

Welcome to a special travel edition of Coffee, Scarves, and Running Shoes! Last weekend, we went on the road to travel to the other end of our state on a trip to Memphis. My husband traveled to a work conference, and I tagged along since we'd never visited the city.

Having never visited Memphis, we weren't sure what to expect and what fun things we'd find. As it turns out, we had a great time! I had no idea what Memphis even looked like, and I was excited to see a beautiful walking/running path along the Mississippi with a view of the city skyline, and beautiful wooded areas outside the city. While there, we took advantage of many of the sights and attractions, and found fun ways to fit in our running. Here's what we found:

The Fun

Beale Street

Admittedly, I'm not a huge listener of blues music. However, I LOVE almost any music live, so I was excited to check out Beale Street. The city has made a great effort to keep Beale Street safe, with traffic closed off and security officers present. The area was very vibrant, with lights and music everywhere. Our first night, we had dinner at a Cajun/BBQ restaurant and listened to a great blues performer. He played everything from covers of mainstream artists like Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Motown classics, as well as traditional blues music, so there was something for everyone.

Memphis Botanic Garden

While B was "conferring", I spent my second afternoon on my own in Memphis checking out the Botanic Garden. It was close to where we were staying, and made for a beautiful afternoon! It's very large, and contains many gardens - roses, hydrangeas, hostas, irises, desert plants, butterfly plants, you name it!

A couple of Christmases ago, B bought me an entry level Canon SLR camera. It's great, but I've only used the auto setting. My photography friends cringe at this fact. I took a photography book with me, Understanding Exposure, and my camera, and tried out some of the manual settings. I'm starting to understand the shutter speed vs. aperture concept. It look a LOT of trial and error, but I got a few good pics!


I don't listen to a lot of classic rock'n'roll, but you have to respect The King! Unfortunately, B's conference overlapped with the times that Graceland was open to tours. We found out that the outside grounds and meditation garden was open from 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM daily, so we checked it out our last morning. The grounds were beautiful. The home looked exactly like it does on TV. Elvis' grave site, as well as several family members are found at the meditation garden. It was touching to see how many people still leave gifts and notes at his grave site. His father wrote the inscription, and I can't imagine better words being written about his faith, kindness, and contributions and achievements in the music industry. I hope we'll get to take a tour next time we're in town!

The Fitness

Our Rockin' Running Tour!

As I briefly mentioned in my Fitness Friday post last week, we found a guided running tour of downtown Memphis. The tour we found was offered by Rockin' Running Tours. It's operated by Mel, our tour guide and local runner. He offers tours in several areas in Memphis. We chose the Rockin' Downtown tour, a 4 mile loop of downtown Memphis.

It was the highlight of our trip! Because the route was short, we walked much of the route and Mel told us all about the city. He's very passionate and knowledgeable about Memphis. He told us about the rich Civil War history in the Memphis area such as famous nearby battles and shipwrecks. He told us all about socioeconomic trends that have affected the city over the years. He took us by many major attractions such as Beale Street, the Civil Rights Museum, the Orpheum theatre, parks, and landmark streets and restaurants. He can tell you which buildings are supposedly "haunted", why certain areas of town are thriving or re-emerging, his favorite restaurants from a local's perspective, the safest areas of town, and what attractions to check out.

He even took us through areas that we never would have found on our own, such as a beautiful gated residential community connected to Tom Lee Park and a beautiful greenway that went along the river. There were people on our tour that were from Memphis and didn't know all of the history and stories he had to share! Next time you're in town and are looking to try something new, I recommend trying a Rockin Running Tour!

Wolf River Greenway

One particularly rainy morning while B was at his conference, I set out to find a greenway to get my 2 mi run in. I Googled greenways near East Memphis where I was staying, and found out about the Wolf River Greenway. Based on what I've read on their website, this greenway will eventually run along the Wolf River from downtown to outlying suburbs like Germantown (east of Memphis). It turned out that an entrance to the greenway was very close to my hotel, so I drove over and hopped on the greenway for a quick two mile run. I always try to be careful when running alone. The area appeared very affluent and safe, and I kept my phone on me just in case.

The Furry and Feathered

The House of Mews

While strolling through midtown Memphis a few weeks ago, a friend of mine and fellow cat lover stumbled upon the House of Mews. It is a small boutique retail space that has been converted to a cat rescue! Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived, but we peeked into the windows. Inside we saw dozens of cats for adoption! They were sleeping in bins, playing with toys, and climbing special ledges on the walls. The space was funky and featured cat inspired art (some of it for sale according to their website). We'd love to come back another time when it's open and meet the cats!
The top left kitty is Coco's long lost twin!

The Ducks at the Peabody Hotel 

In the heart of downtown Memphis lies the historic Peabody Hotel. Even if you're not staying there (we stayed in a different hotel where B's conference was held),  it's definitely worth a visit for a drink, a meal, or even to just look around. It's a beautiful, grandiose, and luxurious. Furthermore, be sure to visit at 11 AM or 5 PM daily so that you can see the duck march. Yes, at those times, real mallard ducks come down the elevator and march through the lobby into the fountains. It's a longstanding tradition at the hotel, and fun to check out if you're an animal lover!

The Memphis Zoo

While I love the Knoxville Zoo, it's fun to check out different zoos that can feature different animals. The Memphis Zoo is quite big! We spent about 3 hours checking out many animals, such as various wild cats, birds including penguins, reptiles/amphibians, zebras, giraffes, elephants, primates, animals you don't get to see often like panda bears and polar bears, and even an indoor dark nocturnal animal exhibit! If you love animals, it's worth checking out! We got to see animals we don't get to see often and had a great time!

The Food

My personal philosophy on vacation is to keep healthy eating in check, but allow a little leeway to try the local cuisine. In Memphis, the local cuisine is all about barbecue, Southern, and even a little Cajun food! Our first night, we didn't do any research. We stopped in at a barbecue and Cajun place while walking down Beale Street called King's Palace. B got ribs (and I tried some - they were great!), and I went Cajun with gumbo and etoufee. Both were yummy! We also got to listen to a great live Blues performer while we were there!

For more Memphis barbecue, we went to Central Barbecue the next night. It was very low-key and authentic, and it was great! We both got pulled pork and great sides like mac'n'cheese. Yum!

Hey, I don't eat like this everyday! :)

When I visit new places, I like to find local, unique coffee shops. On this trip, I went to the Poplar Perk'n (can't find a website) near where we were staying and Java Cabana in midtown. Poplar Perk'n was a great little quick place to grab a coffee to go. I enjoyed my latte!

Java Cabana is a slightly funkier, artsier coffee shop. I splurged on a "Funky Monkey" latte (with banana flavor, I assume in honor of Elvis' taste for them). I relaxed in the comfortable, Bohemian seating area and enjoyed my latte in a real glass mug (a cozy plus), and a yummy bagel sandwich.

What We Missed

Unfortunately, B's conference conflicted with the hours the various museums were open. There's a lot of history to be found in Memphis. The National Museum of Civil Rights can be found there, as well as Sun Studio, the birthplace of Rock'n'Roll. If we have time next time we're in town, we'd love to go back and explore these museums.

That covers our long weekend trip! Have you visited Memphis? What fun and/or fit activities do you enjoy there?


I was not compensated by any of these organizations for this post, nor is any organization affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. 

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