Memphis was, well, a little sad. The neighborhoods that we were in totally lacked transitions. We were either in a pretty empty feeling neighborhood with homes in desperate need of maintenance and shuttered store fronts or, just a block a way, we were in a historic district that had one of the most dense collection of huge turn of the century homes that I'd ever seen. There wasn't any middle ground.
We visited Graceland, the Stax Museum, and the National Civil Right Museum at the Lorraine Hotel and they were all great...but they were also all pretty sad stories of men, movements or moments who were ended in their prime. Memphis felt like the physical embodiment of that same theme. The tragedies of the civil rights movement changed Memphis (as they did the country) and, it looks to me, that white flight bankrupted the tax base and, from a tourist point of view, I'm not sure that meaningful reinvestment into the city center ever happened.
Overall, I think Memphis is worth visiting once but I'm not sure we felt like there was enough to see to justify a second trip. I will say, if you're a bit of a policy wonk Memphis is fascinating and definitely sparked some good conversation on our three hour drive to Nashville.
Saturday's itinerary was central bbq (good, not great), the Stax Museum (worth the visit!), dinner at Second Line (really good, we waited out the hour long wait at Bari next door where the fancy cheese plate was awesome), and walking around Beale Street. We quickly learned that in the South all meals should be split...so much food!
Sunday: We spent the morning at Graceland which was fun (Elivis had the same refrigerator that we currently have and the same coffee table my grandma used to have). Graceland definitely viewed Elvis with rose colored glasses and Truman and I had an interesting conversation about whether or not it was a history museum or a tribute. As a tribute, I thought it was great.
After Graceland we at at the delicious Rizzo's for lunch, and then went to the National Civil Rights Museum which is located at the hotel where Dr. King was killed. It was awesome but really dense, my brain was a little fried by the end.
Next stop: a three hour drive between us and Nashville!