Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, Broadway in Nashville. There are only a few street names that instantly conjure up images and atmosphere even for those who have never visited. But when it comes to music, Memphis’s Beale Street has them all beat. And now, the iconic strip has its very first hotel, the Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis. Known as Home of the Blues, the street is also where Sun Studio helped launch a new sound blending country and blues, and became known as “The Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll.”
The world-renowned studio is credited with discovering musical legends B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Sun Studio helped popularize blues, gospel, country, and rock and roll. Take the studio’s tour and stand in the exact spot that Elvis stood when he recorded his first song. You’ll hear insider stories about B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Ike Turner, who all came before Presley, Cash, and Lewis were drawn to Memphis because of the new Sun sound. You can even shop the studio’s archive of 45s.
Paula and Raiford’s Disco
Memphis is of course also home to the great monument to Presley’s pantheon of excess, Graceland. Every August the city hosts Elvis Week, which Memphis Tourism calls “less an event and more like an invasion” as devoted fans descend on the city to remember the iconic singer. Elvis impersonators flock to town to compete for the title as the world’s best Elvis tribute artist.
The city is also where Stax studios launched the career of Otis Redding, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music honors the legend who died in a tragic airplane crash. Memphis’s musical heyday may have been in the ’70s, but the city continues to be an incubator for new sounds and there are endless opportunities to hear live music from a wide range of genres. With all this musical history and ongoing reputation, it’s not surprising that Memphis is name-checked in more songs than any other city in the world — more than 400, according to Billboard.
Beck & Call rooftop bar at the Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis
For the best access to all the musical history and modern-day sound, stay at Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis, the first hotel to join the 20+ clubs and restaurants on the historic street. The hotel has 227 guest rooms and suites and features music-inspired décor, noted in the treble clef lights and carpet patterns designed to mimic sound waves. The hotel is also inspired by the city’s talent for bridging the old and new. In that spirit, Hyatt commissioned the Memphis Metal Museum to repurpose metal and materials from the historic 1879 William C. Ellis and Sons Ironworks and Machine Shop Building (which now houses the hotel’s meeting space) to create the two front desks. You can take tours of the museum and even get in on the action with metal workshops.
Perched along the banks of the Mississippi River, the Hyatt is walking distance to the city’s famed entertainment district but also features downtown Memphis’s only resort-style infinity pool, cabanas, and deck for live entertainment.
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
You may be tempted to never leave the hotel, but Beale Street beckons with its lauded music venues, historic landmarks, Southern comfort vibe, and Memphis-style barbecue.
Explore the street and the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, established by the Smithsonian Institution. It is dedicated to the disadvantaged musical pioneers who overcame racism and/or poverty to create “the music that shook the entire world.”
The Bar-B-Q Shop
In addition to being famous for its music, Memphis is also known as the Pork Barbecue Capital of the World. It has a Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest each May, and there are more than 100 barbecue specialty restaurants across the city. Stop for lunch at one of the best, Central BBQ, where the ribs are a must, but to eat like a local, be sure to order the BBQ on the Home Cooked Potato Chips. Or, get the best of both worlds and enjoy live music and scrumptious Southern cuisine at Lafayette’s in Overton Square.
Even if you just came for the music, there’s no separating Memphis from the roots of this nation’s reckoning with racial inequality; you must visit The Civil Rights Museum and the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
The National Civil Rights Museum
Return to Hyatt Centric for dinner at the hotel’s CIMAS, Memphis’ only riverfront restaurant, which features a menu of Latin-American inspired fare with a Southern twist. Try the Mishima Wagyu Bavette with black beans, chimichurri, corn chow chow, salsa roja, and radishes. The Brown Butter Banana Bread is served with vanilla ice cream, bourbon dulce de leche, and praline pecans. From the floor-to-ceiling windows or outdoor patio, you’ll have incredible views of the Mississippi River and iconic “M” Bridge. After dinner, retire to the hotel’s whiskey bar, Beck & Call, the only riverfront rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city skyline and Mississippi river. Enjoy a vast selection of whiskeys, craft cocktails, local beers, and tasty bites.
Beer aficionados should head straight to Grind City. Whether you’re an IPA devotee, pilsner fanatic, or prefer to sample everything, this new hotspot also has live music and food trucks.
Beale Street, home of the blues
For a queer end to your night, visit The Pumping Station in the Crosstown neighborhood or Dru’s Bar in Midtown.