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Delights of Unknown Memphis

By Brian Kline | May 13, 2019

Memphis has many well-known attractions that include Graceland, Sun Studio, Beale Street, and the National Civil Rights Museum. However, there's much more to explore that lurks just beneath the surface. There are rare treasures located all over this southern gem of a city.

If you didn’t know this, the name “Memphis” comes from a settlement in Egypt. This Tennessee city honors that name right with its own Pyramid (world's 10th largest). However, this is a very modern version featuring retail stores and entertainment including an indoor firing range or shooting range, an archery range, laser tag, a saltwater aquarium, bars, and even a bowling alley. There’s also an elevator ride to the apex of the pyramid for a marvelous city view.    

Memphis Sights Seen by Few Others

If you’ve never seen the Mississippi River, it’s a must see when you visit Memphis. You can be the typical tourist that views it from the top of a luxury hotel such as the Peabody or Madison, or get close to the water’s edge at Beale Street Landing where Memphis meets the Great Muddy River. Better yet, take a walk out over the river itself. Two interstate bridges lead from Memphis over the Mississippi River into Arkansas. The older of the two is fittingly named the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge but known to locals simply as the Old Bridge. This old bridge has a walkway on either side that keeps you safely away from vehicle traffic. Take the walk to stop and admire the amazing views of the winding, muddy river. Even less known (and possibly illegal) is a small metal plate about halfway across the bridge. The courageous can pull up the plate to find a short ladder leading down to a terrace on one of the bridge supports. Here, you’ll find a dazzling river view enjoyed by few others.

Check out the Memorial Park Cemetery in East Memphis. This isn't the kind of place where you'd expect to find folk-art treasures. It’s a rugged, man made, hillside cave filled with five tons of quartz crystal and a myriad of sculptures depicting religious scenes. Started in 1938 by Mexican artist Dionicio Rodriguez, it has been added to by sculptors David Day and Luther Hampton. It's a maintained, still used, cemetery featuring modest grave markers rather than some past-century cemetery with massive and unique monuments. But that's probably what makes Crystal Shrine Grotto all the more special. The Grotto was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

More Hidden Memphis Treasures

Before 1916, Americans didn’t do their own shopping. Until then, a customer handed a list to the clerk who would gather and package the merchandise. The first Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis to introduce America to the nation’s first self-service grocery store. Piggly Wiggly became the standard for the modern grocery store design. Visit the Pink Palace Museum to see a replica of the first self-service grocery store in the country.

The Chucalissa Archaeological Museum is an archaeological project of the University of Memphis. The museum is located at the site of a Native American village, which was founded in about 900 A.D. and abandoned in the early 17th century.

The Memphis Motorsports Park annually hosts NASCAR's Busch and Craftsman Truck Series, the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals, as well as many other racing events.

And a few little known facts about Memphis:

  • Memphis is the only five-time winner of the nation's cleanest city award.
  • The Memphis Musicians Union, founded in 1873, is the oldest musicians' union in the country.
  • After retiring from showbiz, the original MGM lion was moved to the Memphis Zoo, where he passed away in 1944.
  • Graceland’s name has nothing to do with Elvis. Originally, the property belonged to S.E. Toof, a newspaper publisher who named it after his daughter, Grace. Presley bought the place in 1957 but never re-branded it. 

There’s much more to Memphis than what you see in the glossy travel brochures.

Please share your hidden treasures of Memphis by adding a comment. Also, our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions, inquiries, or article ideas to [email protected].

Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years with articles listed on Yahoo Finance, Benzinga, and uRBN. Brian is a regular contributor at Realty Biz News
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