Memphis with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

Memphis with Kids: A Family Vacation


Memphis, Tenn., is a great vacation destination. It's the city of blues, the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, and the home to some great southern food.

I was born and raised there, and now that I'm a mother, I can't wait to take my boys to Memphis to see all that the city has to offer. While the delta city is world-famous for Beale Street and other attractions for adults, you might be surprised to find out just how much there is to do on a family vacation to Memphis with kids. In fact, there really is no shortage of family activities in Memphis!

Here is my suggested itinerary for the perfect family vacation day in Memphis with kids:


Start the day in Memphis with kids Gibson Donuts for breakfast (760 Mount Moriah Road; 901-682-8200). Whether you and your clan are early birds or if you prefer to rise and shine a little later, that's no problem. Gibson Donuts is open 24 hours -- which is great because once you try their donuts, you'll be craving more. Gibson has a tremendous selection of delicious doughnuts ranging from the classics (glazed or powdered) to some really creative options like the Memphis Tiger blue doughnuts. Whatever you get will be absolutely delicious and it won't break the bank (or your vacation budget!).

Insider tip: There is one tiny detail about this doughnut heaven in mid-town Memphis you should beware of: They do not accept credit or debit cards. So make sure you bring cash or you could go up on their wall of shame!

Once you've finished your delicious doughnut breakfast, head west and make your way to the Pink Palace Mansion and Museum (3050 Central Ave.; 901-320-6320). Originally owned by Clarence Saunders, the Pink Palace was donated to the city of Memphis in the 1930s due to its owner's financial troubles during the Great Depression (you can hear the whole story at the museum about how it was built, why it is pink, and what exactly happened to Mr. Saunders.)

Not only is the Pink Palace Museum one of the largest museums in Memphis, but it is also one of the largest museums in the South. It encompasses a great deal of Memphis history, civil war history, science exhibits, and of course, the history of the museum itself. There is also a planetarium and IMAX theater located within the museum as well as a full-size replica of an original Piggly Wiggly Store (this is always a big hit with the kids). If your family just can't get enough science and history, you could easily spend and entire day at the Pink Palace.

The next stop on your family vacation trip should be to the Children's Museum of Memphis (2525 Central Ave; 901-458-2678), also commonly referred to as CMOM. This isn't just any old museum. Most of the exhibits are very much "hands on" and interactive. There are 21 stationary exhibits that your children can explore -- including waterworks where they can float boats down a 50-foot model of the Mississippi River, and an airplane exhibit which will allow them to play in a flight simulator, wind tunnel, and even a real airplane cockpit. Although these are just two examples of what the Children's Museum of Memphis has to offer, there is definitely a ton of stuff to keep your kids entertained while they learn, too!


When you decide it's time to head out and grab some more Memphis grub, travel west again and check out Huey's Midtown (1927 Madison Ave.; 901-726-4372). They've got great burgers, sandwiches and awesome cheese fries. Never had a fried pickle before? Try one at Huey's! Your whole family will love the great food and your kids will appreciate the atmosphere. After all, they probably haven't been to many restaurants where it's OK to write on the walls and toss toothpicks at the ceiling!

Now that you're ready to walk off that delicious lunch you just had, head north to the spectacular Overton park and Memphis Zoo! (2000 Prentiss Place; 901-276-9453). The zoo is another one of Memphis' crown jewels when it comes to family entertainment. A few years ago, the Memphis Zoo wasn't too impressive. However, there have been tons of upgrades, additions, and lots of remodeling to make this zoo one you and your family have to see.

There are some truly awesome exhibits at the Memphis Zoo that your kids will love. In the meerkats area, your child can actually go underground and come up in a bubble to be eye-level with the meerkats! In the Teton Trek, you can see Polar Bears swimming underwater. In fact, since the zoo contains over 3,500 animals, there is a really good chance that your kids can see and maybe even interact with their favorite animal, whatever that may be.

Insider tip: At least two things are true about the Memphis Zoo: It is really fascinating and will definitely keep you entertained for pretty much whatever amount of time you want to spend there; and walking around the zoo for long will definitely make you hungry! This of course, brings us to our next stop on your tour of Memphis with kids.


Make your way downtown and check out Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (310 S Front St.; 901-527-4877). This eatery of incredible fried chicken has been featured on such TV shows as 'Man vs. Food,' and is probably some of the best fried chicken you will ever eat in your life.

Originally owned by Napolean and Maggie Vanderbilt, the first Gus's opened its doors in 1953 in Mason, under the name Maggie's Short Orders. Although Napolean and Maggie passed away in 1983, the restaurant was passed down to their only child: Vernon "Gus" Bonner. Then, in 1984 the restaurant was given a new name: Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. And just in case you're sitting there wondering exactly how good it is: In 2001, GQ magazine listed it as one of the top five restaurants in the United States worth flying to have a meal.

To finish your perfect family vacation day in Memphis, you can watch the sun set over the Mississippi river as your kids play at Tom Lee park (on Riverside Drive west of downtown). However, if you feel like you didn't get your fill of Memphis, that is OK! There is plenty more of Memphis to see and for your family to enjoy.

After all, this article didn't even touch on Graceland, Mud Island, the Civil Rights' Museum, or the FedEx Forum!

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