The Best of Nashville and Memphis in Two Weeks

Memphis's skyline is visible beyond a pedestrian courtyard just off the river.

View of Memphis from the Mud Island River Park. Photo © Doug Force.

Spanning two weeks and hundreds of miles, this itinerary includes the highlights of Nashville, Memphis, and the countryside in between. A car is a must, and a comfortable one at that since you’ll be doing a lot of driving. This trip provides a pleasant mix of history, music, culture, and nature.


Day 1

Arrive in Nashville. Check into a downtown hotel, such as the Hermitage or Union Station. Eat dinner in Germantown at the award-winning Mad Platter and stroll lower Broadway and the District on your first night in town.

Day 2

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame to see country music history up close, and tour the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium. Have lunch at Jack’s Bar-B-Que on Broadway. See the Grand Ole Opry in the evening.

Day 3

Head towards West Nashville. Drive through Music Row on your way to Centennial Park and The Parthenon. Eat lunch at Martha’s at the Plantation at Belle Meade, and then spend the afternoon at Cheekwood Museum and Gardens, where you see special exhibits plus a collection of Nashville art, including work by folk sculptor William Edmondson.

Star gaze at the Sunset Grill in Hillsboro Village, or opt for steak over at Jimmy Kelly’s in midtown. Catch the show at the the Bluebird Cafe, which books up-and-coming singer-songwriters.

Day 4

Go uptown to the Tennessee State Capitol and the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library, where you will learn about Nashville’s important role in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Then head west along Jefferson to eat soul food at Swett’s. In the afternoon, visit Fisk University to see the excellent O’Keeffe-Stieglitz art collection, plus the university’s collection of African art.

Day 5

Depart Nashville. Drive south to Franklin and visit the Carnton Plantation, epicenter of the Battle of Franklin, one of the most devastating defeats for the Southern army during the Civil War. Eat lunch at Monell’s, and then spend the afternoon shopping downtown and at the Factory. Eat dinner at Saffire and overnight in Franklin.

Day 6

Drive to Normandy and visit the George Dickel Distillery. Eat dinner at the Bell Buckle Cafe and overnight at the Walking Horse Hotel in Wartrace.

Day 7

Drive to Spring Hill and visit the Tennessee Museum of Early Farm Life and the Rippavilla Plantation. A few miles down the road visit the Ancestral Home of James Knox Polk in Columbia, where you’ll also overnight.

Day 8

Drive to Savannah and visit the Tennessee River Museum. Learn about the freshwater pearl industry and the early river steamboats. Overnight in Savannah and dine at the Worleybird Cafe.

Day 9

Spend the morning at Shiloh National Military Park, the site of the deadliest Civil War battle in Tennessee. Hike to the Shiloh Indian Mounds or take the audio tour of the battlefield. Lunch along the river at World Famous Hagy’s Catfish Restaurant, and then drive to Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park to learn about pre-historic Tennesseans. Drive on to Memphis, and check into a downtown hotel, such as the Talbot Heirs Guest House or the Peabody Memphis.

Day 10

Take the Beale Street Walking Tour in the morning, stopping at the W. C. Handy Museum. Take your picture with the Elvis statue, and go treasure-hunting at A. Schwab. Eat lunch at the Little Tea Shop downtown, and then head over to Mud Island for the afternoon. Explore the Mississippi River Museum and the River Walk. Eat dinner in Harbor Town on Mud Island.

Day 11

Go to the National Civil Rights Museum in the morning, eat lunch along South Main, and then go to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in the afternoon. Drive south to find Interstate Bar-B-Que for dinner.

Day 12

Make it Elvis Day. Start early at Graceland to avoid the crowds and then visit Sun Studio, where Elvis recorded his first hit. Eat a burger at Dyer’s on Beale Street in memory of the King.

Day 13

Start out at Elmwood Cemetery with the audio tour, and then drive east. Visit the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and lounge in Overton Park. Visit the Dixon and eat dinner in Cooper-Young at the Young Avenue Deli (casual) or the Beauty Shop (contemporary).

Day 14

Drive back to Nashville along I-40, making a pit stop in Brownsville, to visit the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, to gain an understanding of the music and history of the delta region.


Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Tennessee.

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