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Skyline view of Memphis at sunset

18 Things to Know About Living in Memphis

Moving to Memphis? As the second-largest city in Tennessee and one of the most hospitable cities in the U.S., “The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll” offers residents an incredible music scene, delicious Memphis BBQ, top-rated universities, a growing job market, and more. Here are 18 things to know about living in Memphis!

Affordable Living in Memphis

Downtown Memphis skyline next to Mississippi River at sunset. Photo by Instagram user @darkroom220

Photo via @darkroom220

As one of the most affordable U.S. cities, Memphis’ cost of living is 19% lower than the national average, making this Southern city a great, budget-friendly place call home! While living in Memphis, people don’t have to pay state income tax, either, helping residents save even more. The affordability of Memphis also extends to the housing market. Renters pay an average of $842, and those looking to buy a house in Memphis will find a median housing cost of $93,700 in one of the many safe, affordable neighborhoods in Memphis.

Find Employment in a Growing Job Market

St. Judge Children's Research Hospital entrance with stone steps, red overhang, and glass windows in Memphis on a sunny day. Photo by Instagram user @cguzik05

Photo via @cguzik05

Looking for jobs in Memphis? Bluff City gives professionals many options! Find healthcare jobs with nationally-recognized hospitals such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital, and Methodist Hospital of Memphis. Of course, healthcare isn’t the only industry in Memphis available. You can also find jobs with several major fortune 500 companies headquartered in Memphis like FedEx, AutoZone, and International Paper. Or if you’re an entrepreneur, Memphis is one of the best places to start a business because of the low startup costs and corporate taxes.

Named After an Ancient Egyptian City

Bass Pro Shops entrance sign in front of glass pyramid in Memphis. Photo by Instagram user @rocketcitypugs

Photo via @rocketcitypugs

Founded in 1819 by Andrew Jackson, John Overton, and James Winchester, this Tennessee city is named after the Ancient Egyptian city of Memphis because of its location along the Nile of America—aka the Mississippi River. This southern city even has its own Great Pyramid of Giza, the Memphis Pyramid! What once started out as a basketball arena is now home to one of the largest Bass Pro Shops. This 535,000-square-foot store is home to an aquarium, bowling alley, archery range, cypress swamp with alligator pools, and more! While living in Memphis, you can travel up 28 stories to the top of the Memphis Pyramid via America’s tallest free-standing elevator for gorgeous views of the skywalk and city.

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Pursue a Degree at a Memphis University

Photo of red brick building with white pillars and blue banners on the University of Memphis campus. Photo by Instagram user @uofmemphis

Photo via @uofmemphis

Whether you’re planning to start a family or ready to look at colleges, Memphis has a school for you. There are a combined 290 private and public schools in the area with many ranking in the top 20 for the state! If you’re searching for private schools, St. Mary’s Episcopal School and Memphis University School both have an average graduation rate of 100%. There’s also White Station High School, an excellent public school option in the area. It’s ranked 7 out of 331 for best college prep public high schools in Tennessee. Ever wonder what it’s like to attend a college that not only excels in academics but athletics as well? The University of Memphis (or the U of M, as most people call it) is home to the NCAA Division-1 Memphis Tigers and has over 200 areas of study that you can explore.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

No matter the weather, you’ll have plenty of things to do in Memphis outside! If you’re looking for something fun to do with your kids or pets, Shelby Farms Park is the perfect place to be. This 4,500-acre park is one of the largest urban parks in the country and offers horseback riding, paintball, zip lines, a local buffalo herd, and more than 40 miles of hiking trails. Take a stroll through the Japanese Garden, Sculpture Garden, or the Rose Garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden. Rent a paddleboat to take in the Memphis skyline, or see a model of the Mississippi River at Mud Island Park. If you’re looking for an outdoor date idea in Memphis, reserve a two-hour dinner cruise along the Mississippi River with Memphis Riverboat. Or enjoy a walk along the 26-mile pathway, Wolf River Greenway.

It’s All About Art & Culture in Memphis

In Memphis, all forms of art and culture are celebrated! Broad Avenue Art District is home to some of the largest, most unique public art displays in the city—like the Water Tower mural, Memphis’ tallest piece of art. Art lovers moving to Memphis should check out Dixon Gallery and Gardens for French and American Impressionist paintings, as well as thousands of German artifacts. See Contemporary and European art at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Arts, the largest and oldest art museum in Tennessee. Take a picture in front of core murals and paintings in Downtown Memphis like The Sound of Memphis or the Rendezvous Alley Mural. Memphis is also a great place to enjoy all things performing arts, as the Orpheum Theatre and Cannon Center bring in major Broadway productions like Hamilton and Anastasia.

Birthplace of Rock & Soul Music

Sun Studio brown brick building on corner of street with brown door and white trim entrance below hanging guitar in Memphis. Photo by Instagram user @billfelty

Photo via @billfelty

What is Memphis known for, if not musical trailblazers like Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, and Elvis Presley? See where Memphis music history was made at Sun Studio. Explore interactive exhibits, stage costumes once worn by soul legends, recording equipment, and more at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Or attend events such as the Mempho Music Festival or Memphis Music Hall of Fame at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, an iconic Memphis attraction that’s part of the Smithsonian Institute.

Pay Your Respects to “The King”

Gray elvis statue posed with a guitar on concrete pedestal surrounded by blooming trees in Memphis. Photo by Instagram user @ladytontour

Photo via @ladytontour

See why the city is called Elvis Presley’s Memphis! Spend the day visiting Graceland, the late musician’s historic 13.8-acre estate. Learn about Elvis’s career, or admire his iconic jumpsuits and other memorabilia at Elvis The Entertainer Career Museum. Step onto the private jet named after his daughter, Lisa Marie, to marvel at the living room, private bedroom, gold-plated seatbelts, 24-karat gold-flecked sinks, and other luxuries. Dine at one of the many restaurants on the property, including Gladys’ Diner for one of Elvis’ favorite meals—a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Every August, join Elvis fans during a candlelight vigil on the anniversary of his death and rock out to live music during Elvis Week. Or see the bronze Elvis statue on Beale street, wearing an outfit he might’ve purchased just down the block at Lansky Bros.

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum

Photo of bronze statue of Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Photo by Instagram user @michelleely

Photo via @michelleely

While Memphis is rich in music history, it’s also home to major moments in the American Civil Rights Movement. Located at the former Lorraine Motel, the National Civil Rights Museum takes visitors back through five centuries of Black history with interactive media displays and exhibits showcasing the Civil Rights Movement. See The Lorraine Building Exhibit or learn about The Freedom Rides after moving to Memphis. Climb into the bus and sit next to the Rosa Parks statue while listening to the audio of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Or view hundreds of artifacts like the original lunch counter from student sit-ins.

Walk Along Iconic Beale Street

A National Historic Landmark and Home of the Blues, Beale Street is one of the most exciting Memphis attractions to experience! Here, residents can enjoy live entertainment, see where major stars got their start, and indulge in great food at one of the many Beale Street restaurants. Listen to live music or Elvis impersonators over dinner at Alfred’s on Beale. Chow down on a bowl of Gator Gambo or a plate of Red Beans and Rice while surrounded by over 200 signed guitars on the walls at Rum Boogie’s Cafe. While walking Beale Street, look down to find brass music notes lining the sidewalk with names of famous people from Memphis like Justin Timberlake, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Isaac Hayes. Try the “best meal on Beale” with dishes like Gumbo Cheese Fries, Southern Fried Chicken Tenders, or Iron Skillet Shrimp at Blue’s City Cafe. Fill up on BB’s Pork Tator Tots or King’s Meatloaf at BB King’s Blues Club. Or celebrate St. Patrick’s Day year-round with drinks like The Leprechaun, Over The Rainbow, or an Irish-American Car Bomb paired with Beef Brisket Nachos at Silky O’Sullivan’s, the “Father of Barbeque.”

Witness the Famous Peabody Duck March

Three ducks march down the red carpet wtih grand marshall in front of on lookers for the Peabody Duck March. Photo by Instagram user @wedding_style

Photo via @wedding_style

A long-standing, international tradition at The Peabody Memphis, the Peabody Duck March is a must-see Memphis attraction! For more than 90 years, visitors living in Memphis patiently wait as five mallard ducks descend from their penthouse, the Royal Duck Palace, to march the red carpet. At 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., the Duck Master accompanies the ducks as they waddle through the hotel lobby to the fountain where they greet their fans. These ducks have obtained quite the following over the years, appearing on both The Oprah Winfrey Show and Sesame Street!

Memphis Activities for the Whole Family

A magical light pink and blue merry-go-round with horses. Photo by Instagram user @alice.kerley

Photo via @alice.kerley

There are plenty of fun family attractions in Memphis! Ride the Grand Carousel, dig for dinosaur bones, fly a model plane, or plant crops at The Children’s Museum of Memphis. Star gaze at the Planetarium, shop inside the replica of the first Piggly Wiggly, or admire the Pink Palace Mansion and the animatronic T-Rex at the Museum of Science & History. Have the kids learn about fire safety, look at old-fashioned firefighter uniforms, and see inside the EMS Paramedic Ambulance at the Fire Museum of Memphis. Or see over 3,500 animals—everything from Komodo dragons to elephants—at the Memphis Zoo.

A Team for Any Sports Fan

Jamychal Green jumps and dunks basketball in hoop at Grizzlies game vs New Orleans. Photo by Instagram user @memgrizz

Photo via @memgrizz

If you’re moving to Memphis for professional sports teams, you won’t be disappointed! Watch the Memphis Grizzlies (NBA) shoot nothing but net at FedExForum. Stick around for the Memphis Tigers (NCAA) as your favorite footballers dribble their way to victory. Cheer on Memphis’ pro soccer team, Memphis 901 FC (USL). See the Memphis Redbirds (MiLB) shut out their competition at AutoZone Park. Experience one of college football’s biggest rivalries between Jackson State University and Tennessee State University during the Southern Heritage Classic. Every year, Memphis hosts this three-day event at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, where almost 50,000 people come to tailgate, watch live performances, and enjoy some football! Or get your running shoes on and set your PR at the St. Jude Marathon.

Enjoy Weekend Events Throughout May

Packed crowd cheering and throwing around balloons at concert for Beale Street Music Festival. Photo by Instagram user @bjohnsonxar

Photo via @bjohnsonxar

Memphis in May International Festival isn’t your average three-day music festival. Instead, you can celebrate food, music, and diversity all month long! During weekends in May, there’s something new for locals to enjoy, making it one of the top events in Memphis! The festivities start with the Beale Street Music Festival, where you can listen to artists of every genre perform. The month of fun continues with the International Salute, where a different country is honored each year, allowing attendees to fully immerse themselves in a different culture. Try some of the best BBQ in Memphis or get a chance to win $145,000 during the “Most Prestigious Barbecue Contest,” World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. And finish off the celebration on Memorial Day weekend with the Great American River Run.

Memphis Festivals for Your Taste Buds

Not sure where to eat in Memphis while enjoying the beautiful weather? Grab your friends and family and let your senses run wild at one of the many food and drink festivals! You can find a food journey like no other in Downtown MemphisMemphis Medical District, and Overton Square. Fill your stomachs with bacon, eggs, and bloody marys throughout the entire day at the annual Breakfest. Try beers from over 30 breweries in the region at Cooper-Young Beerfest. Or if you want a true southern experience, Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival is the perfect place to dig into crawfish, enjoy a few cocktails, and take in all of the Cajun displays!

The City of BBQ

Photo of five paper plates filled with a rack of ribs, wings, and hen smothered in bbq sauce, along with bread, corn, pie, cake, and a soda drink on a red tray from Cozy Corner BBQ restaurant in Memphis. Photo by Instagram user @cozycornerbbq

Photo via @cozycornerbbq

Music isn’t the only thing Bluff City is known for! With over 100 BBQ restaurants, the Memphis BBQ scene is a food lover’s dream. Head over to Payne’s Bar-B-Que to try their delicious Slab of Ribs or Smoked Sausage. Grab a Cornish Hen or BBQ Sliced Pork sandwich with a side of BBQ Spaghetti or Cole Slaw at Cozy Corner BBQ. Try the Bar-B-Q Black Bean Burger, Bar-B-Q Beef Brisket, or Rib Tips at The Bar-B-Q Shop. Or sink your teeth into famous Memphis-style ribs, Slow-Smoked Pulled Pork, or home-cooked Chips & Bleu Cheese at Central BBQ—a world-class eatery featured on the Travel Channel and Food Network.

Savor Authentic Soul Food in Memphis

Besides BBQ, the Memphis restaurant scene is also dominated by soul food. Find Southern cooking at its finest with Fried Catfish, Turnip Greens, or Fried Green Tomatoes at The Four Way Restaurant. Savor down-home cooking with Shrimp Po’ Boy, Ruby Red Trout, or Blackened Chicken at Soul Fish Cafe. Try Liver & Onions or Smothered Pork Chop Over Rice, and save room for a piece of Sweet Potato Pie at The Cupboard Restaurant. Or satisfy your hunger with Cajun Jumbo Shrimp & Grits, Smothered Pork Chop, or Blackened Salmon at Memphis Soul.

Have a Fun Night Out in Memphis

Photo of Paula and Raiford's Disco bar with neon lights, illuminated bar, drum set, and red balloons and disco ball on the ceiling. Photo by Instagram user @darrellderosia

Photo via @darrellderosia

Looking for things to do in Memphis at night? Party to live music and enjoy the many nightlife options along Beale Street at Home of the Blues. Have a fun night with friends dancing the night away on the LED, high-energy dance floor at Paula & Raiford’s Disco. Sip on an Old-Fashioned or The Flapper at the hidden speakeasy Blind Bear. Stop in for live music and grab a bite like the Glazed Lamb Lollipop or Debris Po Boy at Lafayette’s Music Room. Shoot pool and pick from over 30 draft beers and over 100 cans or bottles at Young Avenue Deli. Or eat one of the best burgers in the nation—the Soul Burger—and take a ghost tour at world-famous dive bar Earnestine & Hazel’s, one of the most haunted places in the country.


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18 Things to Know about Living in Memphis

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.