Memphis garnered a slew of accolades during its 199th year as a city. From travel and tourism to dining and entertainment to sports and recreation, the Bluff City took the spotlight.
Tennessee’s second largest city shone in the New York Times this year when the publication ran “36 Hours in Memphis.” The article praised a number of innovative, adaptive reuse projects with colorful public art installations, the bike-share program that debuted in the spring, the charms of the Broad Avenue Arts District, and the world-class amenities at Shelby Farms, one of the nation’s largest urban parks.
CNN Travel named Memphis one of its “Five Great Places to Visit in May,” recommending late spring as a the perfect time to enjoy pleasant weather and the start of festival season with Memphis in May, the city’s month-long celebration of its unique music, food and culture. Other reasons to visit included Graceland; Beale Street; The Peabody Hotel’s parade of ducks; Sun Studio; Stax Museum of American Soul Music; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art: National Civil Rights Museum; and local hangout Jerry’s Sno Cones.
Thrillist named Memphis among its “Underrated Places to Visit in Winter,” when visitors can enjoy strolling down Beale Street on a chilly night and being drawn indoors by the sound of the blues, smell of smoky barbecue, and the opportunity for quiet, meaningful conversations with the friendly locals. Thrillist also named Memphis Zoo a must-see winter attraction, with its central tented skating rink, and recommend March visitors check out all the delicacies and deals offered during the city’s popular Black Restaurant Week.
And Frommers, looking ahead, named Memphis one of its “Best Places to go in 2019,” with the city taking its place among the top spots with Singapore, Bulgaria, French Polynesia and Australia’s Northern Territory.
“One of the best parties in the world will take place in Memphis in 2019,” said Frommer’s editorial director Pauline Frommer. “As Memphis turns 200 during its bicentennial year, this is the perfect time to explore a city rich in music, history and culture, in addition to a flavorful culinary scene that offers more than just the Memphis-style barbecue that the city is already known for around the world.”
Tourism continues to grow in this city on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. According to Memphis Tourism, Memphis welcomed a record 11.7 million visitors, whose economic impact totalled about $3 billion dollars.
“As we kick-off our bicentennial year, we look forward to welcoming the world to our city,” said Kevin Kane, president and CEO of Memphis Tourism.
In rankings created with the input of top travel influencers from around the world, Travel Lemming, a popular blog dedicated to exploring the world’s emerging and inspirational travel destinations, named Memphis as one of North America’s Best Emerging Destinations for 2019. The article attributed the Bluff City’s travel boom to its robust nightlife scene and cited the Bluff City’s importance as the epicenter of many of America’s most culturally defining moments, from the Civil Rights Movement to the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
To accommodate its growing number of travelers, Memphis is adding new hotels, with 13 now under construction or in the planning phases and an additional 2,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline for Downtown, according to the Downtown Memphis Commission. And Memphis International Airport has embarked on a new plan to modernize the airport by adding moving walkways, wider corridors, larger boarding areas, higher ceilings and natural lighting.
But it’s not just tourists that continue to be drawn to Memphis. The city is attracting transplants drawn to its laid-back lifestyle, amenities, academic institutions, low cost of living, and business-friendly climate.
Memphis is growing as a destination for job-seekers. In fact, Glassdoor named Memphis one of its Best Cities for Jobs in 2018, citing the ease of being hired, living affordability, and employee satisfaction.
Mimeo this year announced it will relocate to Memphis, investing $16 million and creating 300 local jobs. And Indigo Ag, a Boston-based agricultural technology company, chose Memphis as its new North American operations headquarters, which is expected to generate about 700 new jobs in the city over the next few years. This move could mean the addition of non-stop flights between Memphis and Boston.
Memphis is particularly attractive to entrepreneurs, thanks to its connectivity and an atmosphere that nurtures creativity and passion. Howmuch.net named the Bluff City as the nation’s number one boomtown for women entrepreneurs, stating that between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned businesses in the city rose from roughly 31,000 to just under 70,000 — the largest increase of any metropolitan area in the country.
Black Enterprise wrote that Memphis was the top U.S. city to open a Black-owned small business, and BlackTech Week reported Memphis topped the list of cities where black businesses are thriving and business owners feel supported by the community. Examples include dining concepts like Black Restaurant Week, artistic initiatives like Hattiloo Theatre, and innovative nonprofits like MentorMe and The Collective.
And looking at residential real estate investments, Rented.com named Memphis one of its best cities to buy a second home, noting the diverse rental market and low housing prices and real estate taxes.
The robust residential market was evident in 2018 proposals like Union Row, which would be Memphis largest mixed-use development ever, featuring apartments, shops, restaurants, a hotel, office spaces and green spaces.
Speaking of mixed-use developments and green spaces, Crosstown Concourse, the $200 million transformed former Sears building, made the shortlist in the “New and Old” category at the 2018 World Architecture Awards in Amsterdam. Shelby Farms Park also made the shortlist. Its Heart of the Park makeover, which features a visitors center, restaurant, stage pavilion, boat-rental kiosk and more, was a contender in the “Civic and Community” category. Shelby Farms Park this year also earned a spot in the Family Attractions and Experiences category of the TripSavvy Editors’ Choice Awards.
Memphis continues to be recognized for its world-class hospitals, like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which treats pediatric patients from around the world at no cost. St. Jude is developing Family Commons, a new treatment-free floor where patient families can relax, recover, and spend quiet time together. St. Jude also announced it will build a 3.5-acre green space for patients and families, featuring landscaped gardens, walking paths and a special playground designed for children with restricted mobility.
Also this year came the announcement that the FedEx St. Jude Invitational would join the World Golf Championships circuit, with Memphis welcoming its first World Golf Championships event in 2019. The PGA said fans can expect to be treated to a host of global superstars on the green.
Memphis is known for its love of basketball, and Penny Mania swept the city when Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, a two-time All-American and four-time NBA All-Star, returned to his alma mater in the spring to coach the University of Memphis men’s basketball.
The 901 also welcomed a professional soccer club, Memphis 901 FC, a United Soccer League franchise that will begin playing at AutoZone Park in 2019.
Memphis continued to make its mark in film and television. Elvis’ historic home — one of the world’s most visited historic homes — served as the setting for Hallmark Channel’s “Christmas at Graceland,” as well as the Netflix film “Uncorked, which will be released next year. The barbecue-themed film stars Memphis celebrity chef and former Food Network host Gina Neely, Tony-winner Courtney B. Vance, and comedienne Niecy Nash.
The Food Network’s ongoing affection for Memphis’ culinary community continued in 2018 when the Food Network featured three Memphis food trucks — Stanley’s Sweet Street Treats, El Mero Taco, and Soi No. 9 — on the series “Big Food Truck Tip with Andrew Zimmern.” The network also invited some Memphis BBQ pitmasters to appear on the popular show “Chopped” and named the Pucker Up Cake at Muddy’s Bake Shop the best cake in Tennessee on its “50 States of Cakes” list.
And Saveur Magazine ended 2018 in Memphis, where it hosted the 2018 Saveur Blog Awards. Finalists flew in from as far as West Africa, Switzerland, and India to share culinary knowledge, create recipes, and discover the city’s soul through its food and culture. The blogger awards were held in the historic Clayborn Temple — a perfect testament to a city where old meets new and where residents honor their history while looking forward to a bright future.
This New Year’s Eve, let’s raise a glass to this lively metropolis in honor of the Bluff City’s bicentennial.