When someone mentions Memphis, certain things tend to come to mind: the music, the people and the barbecue, to name just a few. You might not immediately think of the outdoor activities you can enjoy almost year-round thanks to the mild Memphis climate, but we’re here to change that!
Between its natural scenic beauty and its abundance of outdoor entertainment, there are outdoor activities in Memphis that are great to get out and see—whether it’s lit by neon, moonlight or the sun.
Outdoor Activities in Memphis
Although many of the stops along Beale Street are indoors, you’ll likely encounter outdoor live music if you take a nighttime stroll along the famed street. Walk far enough and you’ll come upon Handy Park at Beale and 3rd, which boasts two outdoor music venues that are always free and open to the public.
Overton Park is another place that residents of Memphis love to frequent, located in the heart of Memphis and encompassing 342 acres. No matter what you love to do outdoors, Overton Park offers something for everyone, including a nine-hole golf course, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Rainbow Lake, the Memphis Zoo and a bunch of playgrounds for your little ones. Oh, and the 12-acre Old Forest State Nature Area is thrown in for good measure.
Shelby Farms Park
If you’re looking for great outdoor family fun that is also centrally located, Shelby Farms is one to check out. Explore more than 40 miles of paved and unpaved trails, take fun to new heights and climb through the trees on a treetop adventure course, or saddle up and hit the trails on horseback. There are many more great activities that are offered at Shelby Park Farms. Be sure to check out their website for the whole list!
Mississippi River + Tom Lee Park
A trip to Memphis simply isn’t worth it if you don’t spend some time on the banks of one of the most famous rivers in the world. Ol’ Man River serves as the perfect backdrop for an impromptu picnic, an afternoon stroll or some sightseeing—and the myriad parks along the shore give you ample opportunity to enjoy the Big Muddy.
Mud Island River Park is one of the most popular spots, boasting an exact scale replica of the Lower Mississippi River to explore. Needless to say, there’s a lot to see and do while you learn about the mighty river and what it means to Memphis.
Tom Lee Park was named after a brave resident who saved 32 people when a steamer capsized in the Mississippi in 1925. The park runs along the great river and offers magnificent views of the city’s skyline and the river. The park hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, including the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Festival and the Beale Street Music Festival. When there are no major festivals, parking is available. However, the park is just a short walk from downtown attractions. Broad pathways provide ample space for walkers and joggers, while the broad stretch of green space is ideal for simply relaxing in the sun, a family game of Frisbee, or other outdoor activities.
Memphis Botanic Gardens
Much of our city’s history is wrapped up in the land upon which the Memphis Botanic Gardens now sit. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to explore the entirety of Audubon Park’s 96 acres in a single visit, guests can stroll through any of the 31 gardens and have a different experience every time.
To plan your route ahead of time, learn what’s blooming in each garden by checking the Memphis Botanic Gardens website. Roses, cacti, herb gardens, conifer stands and irises are just a few of the big draws.
The national pastime
If you love summer and sports, this one’s for you: During baseball season, the Memphis Redbirds are frequently in action at AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis. The family-friendly atmosphere and numerous food options make taking in a game a great way to spend the day with loved ones—and because the Redbirds are the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, you’ll catch a sneak peek of up-and-coming Major Leaguers as they hone their craft.
Dixon Gallery and Gardens
Since 1976, this museum has been home to a splendid Impressionist assortment including works by Pissarro, Monet and Degas. In their will, the late Hugo and Margaret Dixon gave the house and its grounds to the people of Memphis in order to set up this museum. The initial Dixon collection included works by American and French Impressionists. The museum’s traveling exhibits are usually elegant collections based on a certain time period or theme, and although it is small, it is abundant with offerings. The gallery also organizes special concerts and picnics from spring through fall, and most of these are free of charge.
The Memphis Zoo has often been rated as one of the best zoos in the country both for its abundance of exhibits in a simple layout and for the mere fact that you can get very close to the animals. With a Teton ecosystem with lots of wolves and grizzly bears, a Northwest Passage habitat full of river otters and polar bears, and giant pandas from China, this top-notch zoo will charm adults as well as kids. During winter, festive lights and a skating tent draw the holiday spirit to the zoo. The park is also open for select evening visits.
No matter the time of year, you can always count on great outdoor activities in Memphis.
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