Riverside Drive Welcome Center
Pose for great photo memories here with bronze statues of Elvis Presley and B.B. King on the shores of the mighty Mississippi, as you prepare to head out on the Great River Road. Pick up info about area attractions, discount coupons for restaurants and hotels, and get the inside scoop on local events.
119 N. Riverside Dr. Memphis, TN
More About: Memphis
The city of Memphis was originally settled by the Spanish in the late 1700s. It was officially founded in 1819 by a group of property investors that included Andrew Jackson, and named for the ancient capital of Egypt. The area proved tough to develop, with natural disasters, epidemics, and competitions with neighboring cities presenting challenges to the first residents. When the railroad came to town in 1842, Memphis began to grow, and by the 1860s, the city’s railroads connected it to the Southeast and Midwest. The city grew to 12 times its size in those 20 years, with many German and Irish immigrants shaping the culture. Once a slave trading center in the 1850s, the city has been an important landmark for African-American cultural experience as well as a crucial battlefield in the fight for civil rights. Memphis is the birthplace of Holiday Inn and FedEx, the famous home of Elvis Presley and Beale Street, and a popular destination for visitors from around the world.
Beale Street Landing
Beale Street Landing is a modern docking facility to safely embark on a riverboat journey, a restaurant for casual dining and an open civic space that closely connects people to the Mississippi River. Managed by the Riverfront Development Corporation.
251 Riverside Drive Memphis, TN 38103
Beale Street Landing is situated on the north end of Tom Lee Park, just south of the Historic Cobblestone Landing at the foot of Beale Street. It is 1/2 mile south of the Memphis Visitors Center via Riverside Drive.
Memphis Riverfront Parks
Experience the Mississippi Riverfront in Memphis at any one of these 10 beautiful parks along the water.
Jefferson Davis Park: Bring your camera for great views of the Mississippi River and Mud Island, and take the learning path to explore the riverbank's plants and wildlife as well as Civil War and Memphis history.
Mississippi River Greenbelt Park: This low-lying park is long and spacious, with open lawns as well as tall shade trees, perfect for jogging or biking alongside the Mississippi River.
Tom Lee Park: Spanning a mile and a half, this park has great views of the river and is the site of Memphis in May, the city's famous BBQ contest, and other festivals throughout the year. It's named for Tom Lee, a man who saved 32 people from a sinking steamboat in the 1920s, despite his inability to swim.
Crump Park Overlook: Get a great view of the I-55 bridge from the gravel road through this small, shaded city park.
Martyrs Park: This city park and memorial within are dedicated to Memphians who risked their lives to stay in the city, tending the sick and burying the dead during the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. From here, catch great views of the Mississippi River.
Ashburn-Coppock Park Overlook: This small, shaded park is connected to the South Bluff with a pedestrian bridge. Check out the stone lookout point.
Chickasaw Heritage Park: Enjoy this city park located on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff, the former site of the Civil War's Confederate Fort Pickering as well as home to earthen mounds created by prehistoric peoples.
Vance Park and Butler Park: Take in the incredible views atop the Mississippi River bluffs at this pair of beautifully landscaped parks.
Confederate Park: This park features shade trees and a great overlook, as well as many memorials, plaques, and historical markers, including a statue and memorial to Civil War Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Riverside Dr. Memphis, TN
Park and walk to visit pts. 1-5. All parks in pt. 2 are located downtown along the river.
More About: The Union
During the Civil War, Tennessee was the last state to leave the Union and the first state to rejoin after the war ended.
Mud Island River Park/Mississippi River Museum
This small peninsula between the Mississippi and Wolf Rivers offers a lot to do on its 52 acres, including the Mississippi River Museum, River Park and Mud Island Amphitheater. Take a ride on the monorail and don't miss the River Walk, a five block-long, exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi River. Learn about history and geography as you walk along--and even in--the flowing water of the river. It's one of the best and most unique ways to learn about the mighty Mississippi. Open May-Oct.
125 N. Front St. Memphis, TN
More About: Mud Island
The name Mud Island is a little misleading; it's actually a peninsula between the Wolf River and the Mississippi River. But even before it was a peninsula, it first appeared as a sandbar in the late 1890s and increased in size during the floods of 1912. Legend says that the sandbar emerged as a buildup of silt around a sunken Civil War gunboat battle. By the Great Depression, squatters began living on the island, though it flooded almost every year. Public discussion centered on whether to use the island or to blow it up, and eventually an airport was installed in the 1960s. Now the island is home to a river park, amphitheater and museum. Its also a great place to rent canoes and kayaks during the summer months.
Climb aboard a restored vintage trolley car for an unforgettable trip along the mighty Mississippi River and downtown Memphis. The Main Street Line follows the original mule-drawn trolley; the Riverfront Loop travels a breathtaking stretch of the river.
Downtown Memphis Memphis, TN
More About: When Mud Island Appeared
Mud Island appeared around 1900 as a sandbar. A few years later, it joined with the mainland, just south of the mouth of the Wolf River.
Take a 90-minute sightseeing cruise on the Mississippi led by a Riverlorian, providing live historical commentary. As entertaining as it is educational, you'll see the river through the eyes of Native Americans, settlers, soldiers, and boatmen. Dinner & music cruises also available.
45 S. Riverside Dr. Memphis, TN
More About: Names for the Mississippi River
It’s an American tradition to try and tame the Mississippi River with words. The river’s original name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-zibi, meaning Great River, or gichi-ziibi, meaning Big River. The river has been eulogized in Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn along with other river novels that marvel at its power and beauty. The Mississippi River has other nicknames such as: Big River (Ojibwe) Messipi (Ojibwe) Great River (Ojibwe) Father of Waters (Algonquin) River of the Holy Spirit (Hernando DeSoto) Ne Tongo (Sioux) The Gathering of Waters The Big Muddy Old Man River The Mighty Mississippi El Grande The Muddy Mississippi Old Blue Large River The Body of the Nation(Mark Twain) The Great Sewer(Mark Twain) Strong Brown God (T.S. Eliot)
Cotton Museum/ Memphis Cotton Exchange
Visit this museum in the historic Memphis Cotton Exchange, once the very center of the global cotton trade. Learn about how this simple crop shaped America's economy, culture, and history, and take the self-guided tour of Cotton Row, the historic block surrounding the museum.
65 Union Ave. Memphis, TN
Depart pt. 1 and cross Riverside Dr. to Front St. Turn R on Front St., go to corner of Front & Union Ave. to pt. 6.
T.O. Fuller State Park
This 1,100-acre state park, located within the Memphis city limits, offers camping, hiking and picnicking. Birdwatchers and wildlife lovers will be right at home here. This was the first state park east of the Mississippi to be open to African-Americans, and only the second in the U.S.; it is named for Thomas O. Fuller, who made educating African-Americans his life's work.
1500 Mitchell Rd. Memphis, TN
Go W on Union Ave. toward Riverside Dr. Turn L on Riverside Dr. It merges into/becomes I-55S. Take exit 7, US-61S (Vicksburg). Turn R onto Mitchell Rd., go 3 miles to pt. 7 visitor center.
More About: Yellow Fever
In 1873, the Mississippi River brought yellow fever to Memphis, a city prone to epidemics due to poor sanitation. Over 25,000 people fled the city. Most never returned, causing the city to lose its charter. About 20,000 stayed, 14,000 of whom were African-Americans. Most of the remaining whites died, but only 1,000 African-Americans perished, thanks to a natural resilience to the mosquito-transmitted disease. For the first time, African-Americans were the racial majority in Memphis, holding leadership positions and jobs formerly reserved only for whites. This made Memphis different from other Southern cities at the time — this was the era of Beale Street, the birth of the blues, and Robert Church, the first African-American millionaire. Yellow fever not only changed the city’s population; it shaped its culture.
Chucalissa Museum & Archaeological Site
Visit the remains of a prehistoric village found during a 1940 swimming pool excavation inside T.O. Fuller State Park. Tour the museum and preserved archaeological dig to learn more about the Chucalissa people--the original Memphis residents--through their pottery, dwellings, weapons, jewelry, and tools. This National Historic Landmark gives you a glimpse into the Mississippian villages Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and his party encountered when they arrived near Memphis in the mid-1500s.
1987 Indian Village Dr. Memphis, TN
Pt. 8 is inside pt. 7. Exit R out of visitor center, bear L onto Plant Rd. Follow road to pt. 8 entrance on L.
More About: Mississippian Culture
A hallmark of Mississippian culture was slash-and-burn style agriculture, in which bushes and trees were burned so new crops could grow in between. At Chucalissa, the main crops were corn, beans and squash, as well as evidence of gourds, pumpkins and tobacco.
National Ornamental Metal Museum
This museum gives you a rare opportunity to not only view works of art in metal, but allows you to see them being made as well. Learn more about the art of metalwork, sculpture to jewelry, contemporary to antique, at the only U.S. institution of its kind.
374 Metal Museum Dr. Memphis, TN
Exit pt. 8 to US-61/ 3rd St. Turn L onto US-61/3rd St. Exit I-55N (St. Louis), follow I-55N to exit 12C (Metal Museum Dr.) to pt. 9
Fire Museum of Memphis
Visit the legendary Fire Engine House No.1 and learn about all things flame. From exploring turn-of-the-century, horse-drawn fire wagons to fighting the simulated flames from a burning skyscraper, you'll find interactive exhibits and much more at this hot attraction.
118 Adams Ave. Memphis, TN
Leave pt. 9 via Metal Museum Dr., turn R on Alston/I-55S. Turn L and merge onto I-55S. Take exit 12B onto Riverside Dr. Turn R on Adams to pt. 10 on L, just past Main St. Trolley Line.
More About: The Mississippi River Corridor
The Mississippi River Corridor in Tennessee exists to identify, conserve and interpret the region’s natural, cultural and scenic resources and to improve the quality of life and prosperity along Tennessee’s “west coast.” The non-profit group has been instrumental in developing the Great River Road National Scenic Byway & Trail; look for the organization’s ￼River Times magazine at stops along the trail or visit Msrivertn.org to learn more about the organization and the area.
Slave Haven Museum
This 1849 clapboard house served as a way station on the Underground Railroad, a secret series of hiding places for runaway slaves seeking freedom in the North and Canada. Take the tour and visit the hidden tunnels, trap doors, and cellars where slaves waited for their chance to escape to the Mississippi River on their way to the next secret stop. The house is furnished with period pieces and slavery artifacts. Hours vary; call ahead for information.
826 N. 2nd St. Memphis, TN
Leave pt. 10 going E on Adams. Turn L onto 3rd St. Turn L onto A.W. Willis. Turn R onto 2nd St. to pt. 11 in small house on R.
More About: Secret Slave Messages
In the mid-1800s, slaves used quilt patterns to send secret messages to each other.
Jones Orchard Market & Kitchen
This is the spot where the Jones Orchard jams, jellies, and relishes are made in small batches from fruit grown on the nearby farm. Stop in for a home-cooked meal and a jar of jelly to take home.
7170 Hwy 51N Millington, TN
Leave pt. 11, go L on 2nd St. Take 1st L onto Chelsea Ave. Turn L onto US-51N/Thomas St. Go 12.9 miles to pt. 12 on R.
Old Millington Vineyard & Winery
Just 14 miles north of Memphis, this country winery produces award-winning wines. Stop in to taste reds, whites, ports and fruit wines, and spend time in the peaceful countryside. From April through October, catch live outdoor concerts most Sunday afternoons.
6748 Old Millington Rd. Millington, TN
Leave pt. 12 going R onto US-51. Take 1st L onto Old Millington R. to pt. 13 on L.
More About: Millington's First School Bus
Millington was the first town in Shelby County to provide a school bus for its students: a mule-drawn wagon.
This small town, known as Flag City, Tennessee, was founded in 1878 and named after Mr. and Mrs. George Millington, who donated the land for a new town and a railroad station on the new Chesapeake Ohio Railroad line, which crossed through their plantation. It was officially incorporated in 1903 and had the first accredited school in Shelby County, even before Memphis.
More About: Sultana Disaster
The worst maritime disaster in U.S. history did not happen in a raging ocean, but in the middle of the Mississippi River, just seven miles north of Memphis. In April of 1865, the Sultana steamboat carried 2,300 Union prisoners of war, who had just been released when the Civil War ended. Only a few weeks earlier, President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis had been captured by Union troops. The state-of-the-art Sultana was sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to pick up the Union P.O.W.s and take them north. One of the boilers sprung a leak in Vicksburg. The workers patched it, not wanting to risk losing any time and perhaps losing their payment for the return of the P.O.W.s. The three decks could be seen sagging from the weight of all the men packed in. Shortly after a stop in Memphis in the early hours of April 27, three boilers exploded, with the patched one going first. Fire consumed the smokestacks and they fell on the decks. The flames, debris and water took the lives of 1,700 passengers; 200 more than the Titanic.
Old Timers Restaurant
Stop for a bite to eat and a quick trip through Millington's history at this local favorite. The restaurant proudly displays a large collection of rare historic photographs of the town, dating back to the early 1900s. A model train circles the dining room, a nod to Millington's railroad heritage.
7918 C St. Millington, TN
Leave pt. 13 going R on Old Millington Rd. Turn L onto US-51N. Turn R onto Navy Rd. Turn L onto C St. to pt. 15 on R.
The seat of Tipton County, this town was established in 1824 and chosen by the state legislature because of its location on a large hill with a bountiful spring of water. During the Civil War, the young men of Covington and the surrounding towns formed the Tipton Rifles, the first Confederate outfit from the county. Today, it's a small West Tennessee town with lots of history and charm.
US-51N Covington, TN
Leave pt. 15 going L on C St. Turn R onto Navy Rd. Turn R onto US-51N to pt. 16.
More About: World's Oldest BBQ Contest
The world's oldest BBQ contest is held in Covington every year in Cobb Parr Park.
Tipton County Museum/Nature Center
Explore military history, environmental education and West Tennessee heritage at this museum and 20-acre wildlife sanctuary. Take a stroll on the .5-mile nature trail through the forest and wetlands, or enjoy a picnic on the grounds of the largest urban park in the county.
751 Bert Johnston Ave. Covington, TN
Continue on US-51N. Turn L onto Bert Johnston Ave. to pt. 17 on L.
More About: First National Flag of the Confederacy
The blood-stained first national flag of the Confederacy carried by Company C, 9th Tennessee Infantry in the Civil War Battles of Shiloh and Perryville is on display at the Tipton County Museum.
South Main Historic District
Take a look back into the turn of the 20th century in this historic district around S. Main Street. At the time, this was Covington's most affluent neighborhood; today, it's a collection of 75 lovingly restored Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Foursquare and Greek Revival-style buildings.
S. Main St. Covington, TN
Leave pt. 17, go R onto Bert Johnston Ave. Turn L onto US-51N. Turn R onto Garland. At deadend, turn R onto S. College. Take 1st L onto W. Sherrod. Turn L onto S. Main to pt. 18.
Covington Court Square
You'll find unique shops and quaint restaurants on this charming square surrounding the historic 1889 Tipton County Courthouse. Great care has been taken to restore the courthouse and storefronts here, creating an inviting and charming spot for tourists and locals.
Tipton Co. Courthouse Covington, TN
Stay on S. Main to pt. 19. Park and walk to visit pts. 19-23.