Riverside Drive Welcome Center

Pose for photo memories here with statues of Elvis Presley and B.B. King on the shores of the Mighty Mississippi, as you prepare to head out on the Cotton Junction Trail. Pick up info about the area’'s attractions, coupons for restaurants and hotels, and get the scoop on local festivals and events.

Special Tags:

  • Information

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, it was connected 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. It was during this prosperous time that Memphis earned the title “"Biggest Inland Cotton Market in the World."” 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.


Cotton Museum

Discover a plant that changed the world, built Memphis and influenced the very fiber of the city. When you visit here, you’'re treading on the legendary floor of the Memphis Cotton Exchange. Following a thorough restoration, this former members-only establishment now shares the story of cotton'’s impact on the region and global economy. You can also take a self-guided tour of Cotton Row, the historic block surrounding the museum.

47 Union Ave., 800-8MEMPHIS

65 Union Ave. Memphis, TN


Exit R out of pt. 1. Go straight to Riverside Dr., turn R. Turn L onto Union Ave. to pt. 2. Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau is at corner of Union Ave. & Front St. across from pt. 2.


Front Street Deli

For more than 30 years, guests have enjoyed one-of-a-kind sandwiches and deli dogs here while taking in a view of the river.

77 S. Front St. Memphis, TN 38103


Pt. 3 is at corner of Union Ave. & Front St.


The Peabody Hotel

This 1925 landmark continues to welcome visitors to the heart of downtown. It is most famous for its unusual residents: a group of ducks lives on the rooftop. Each day, they march to the Grand Lobby at 11 a.m., and return to their quarters at 5 p.m. The tradition dates back to 1933.

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  • Lodging
  • Live Music

149 Union Ave. Memphis, TN


Continue E on Union Ave. for 2 blocks to pt. 4 at corner of Union Ave. & S. 2nd St.

More About: The Ducks

Duck has not been seen on the hotel’'s menus since its 1981 reopening, quite possibly making Chez Philippe the only French restaurant in the world that does not serve the traditional dish.


Beale Street

The blues are alive and well today on this historic street. Dance to the music of live bands in open-air W.C. Handy Park, or spend a night sliding in and out of its famous night spots.

Special Tags:

  • African American
  • Live Music

Beale St. Memphis, TN

Turn R on S. 2nd St., go 2 blocks to pt. 5. From 2nd to 3rd Sts., Beale St. is closed to vehicles. Park & walk to see it’s attractions.


National Civil Rights Museum

This award-winning museum is the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The museum honors the lessons of the American Civil Rights Movement by chronicling its impact. When you visit, make sure you see Room 306 — where Dr. King stayed the night before he died.

Special Tags:

  • African American

450 Mulberry St. Memphis, TN


Continue S on S. 2nd St. Veer R onto St. Martin St. Continue straight to pt. 6 parking lot on R.


Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

This permanent exhibition about the birth of rock and soul music was created by the Smithsonian Institution and tells the story of musical pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create the music that shook the entire world.

Special Tags:

  • African American
  • Live Music

191 Beale St. Memphis, TN


Exit parking lot R onto St. Martin St. Turn L onto G.E. Patterson Ave. Turn L onto 3rd St., go approx. 0.5 mile to pt. 7.


McEwen’s on Monroe

Executive Chef Keith Bambrick combines classic Southern cuisine with South American, Asian and Creole elements to create dishes both familiar and new.

120 Monroe Ave. Memphis, TN


Continue N on 3rd St. Turn L onto Monroe Ave. to pt. 8.


The Little Tea Shop

Founded in 1918 in the basement of the Cotton Exchange building, the eatery moved to its current location in the 1930s. They serve up old-fashioned comfort food with a smile — be sure to try the “Lacy Special.”

69 Monroe Ave. Memphis, TN


Go W (toward river) on Monroe St. to pt. 9.


Confederate Park

On June 6, 1862, the Mississippi River was the site of an intense Civil War battle. In the Battle of Memphis, Confederate forces fought fearlessly to keep control of the waterfront, but it wasn'’t enough. Take in a view from the bluffs where nearly 10,000 people watched as the Union crushed the Confederacy. Today, those who died are remembered here in plaques and markers.

51 N. Front St. Memphis, TN

Continue W on Monroe St., turn R on Front St. to pt. 10.

More About: Great River Road

Legendary author Mark Twain called the Mississippi River “The Body of the Nation” and on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway it’s easy to see why. The byway stretches across 10 states through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. That’s over 2,000 miles of sweeping views, charming drives, lush riverbanks and well-preserved landmarks for travelers to enjoy. In Tennessee, the byway follows the western border of the state and takes you to incredible scenic areas along the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain, home to an amazing array of wildlife and a birdwatcher’s paradise. Visitors can take in spectacular views from the four historic Chickasaw Bluffs, travel to Reelfoot Lake for fishing and canoeing or experience the route’s various campsites, state parks, country stores and Civil War sites. There are few roads in America that contain the depth and breadth of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. As a true piece of Americana, this journey is meant to be savored. National Scenic Byways are designated as such based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. There are 150 nationally designated byway routes in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, with five located in Tennessee.


Mud Island

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 Amphitheater. Take a ride on the monorail, and don'’t miss the River Walk, a five-block-long, 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.

Special Tags:

  • Live Music

125 N. Front St. Memphis, TN


Continue N on Front St. to pt. 11.

More About: Mud "Peninsula?"

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 blow it up, and eventually an airport was installed in the 1960s. Now the island is home to a river park, amphitheater and museum. It'’s also a great place to rent canoes and kayaks during the summer months.


Slave Haven Museum

This 1849 clapboard house was a way station on the Underground Railroad, a 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 slave artifacts. Hours vary, call ahead.

Special Tags:

  • African American

826 N. 2nd St. Memphis, TN


Continue N on Front St., turn R onto A.W. Willis Ave. Turn L onto 2nd St., go 0.5 mile to pt. 12.


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

This facility is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in catastrophic childhood diseases. It was founded in 1962 by Hollywood entertainer Danny Thomas; you can visit his burial place and see memorabilia from his life at the Danny Thomas/ ALSAC Pavilion. Hospital tours available Mon.-Fri., 10a.m.-1p.m.; call to schedule.

262 Danny Thomas Pl. Memphis, TN


Return S on 2nd St., turn L onto Jackson Ave. to pt. 13.


Memphis Zoo

This 100-year-old zoo is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 different species. Visit giant pandas Ya Ya and Le Le, the Once Upon a Farm exhibit, Teton Trek and Cat Canyon. Covering over 70 acres in Overton Park, this wild experience is just minutes from downtown.

Special Tags:

  • Food & Wine

2000 Prentiss Pl. Memphis, TN


Exit R onto Jackson Ave., turn R onto 3rd St. Turn R onto A.W. Willis Ave. (name changes to N. Parkway), go approx. 3 miles. Turn R onto McLean Blvd., turn L onto Prentiss Pl. to pt. 14.


Cheffie’s Café

This unique eatery offers fresh salads and sandwiches. Save room for dessert — it’s famous for its gelato bar!

483 High Point Terrace Memphis, TN


Retrace route on Prentiss Pl., turn R onto McLean Blvd. Turn R onto N. Parkway. Go E on N. Parkway (it becomes Summer Ave./US-70) for approx. 3 miles. Turn R onto High Point Terrace to pt. 15.


Bryant’s Breakfast

Considered by many to be the best down-home breakfast spot in town, Bryant’'s serves tasty lunches, too.

3965 Summer Ave. Memphis, TN


Retrace route to Summer Ave., turn R. Go 0.5 mile to pt. 16.

More About: First Holiday Inn

You'’ll soon pass a marker at the site of the world’'s first Holiday Inn, opened in August 1952 by Memphis entrepreneur Kemmons Wilson, inspired by his own unsatisfactory hotel stay while on a vacation. The 120-room motel ultimately evolved into the world’'s largest hotel-motel system.



Known as the “best kept secret in Memphis,” this charming town was named for Arlington National Cemetery. Many of its current residents are descendents of its founders, who arrived here in the 1830s and watched the town grow around the Memphis & Ohio Railroad. Park at Depot Square and visit the historic post office and the Rachael H.K. Burrow Museum.

When yellow fever struck Memphis in 1878, Arlington’s community leaders quarantined the town and forbid outsiders from entering.

Special Tags:

  • Information

Memphis, TN

Continue E on Summer Ave./US-70 for 17 miles. Turn R onto Chester St. to pt. 17 historic sq. Park & walk to visit pts. 17-21.

More About: Yellow Fever

In 1873, the Mississippi River brought a deadly round of yellow fever to Memphis, a city prone to epidemics due to poor sanitation. When the disease recurred in 1878, 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. When yellow fever struck Memphis in 1878, Arlington’'s community leaders quarantined the town and forbid outsiders from entering.


Grapevine Tea Room

This quaint spot is the perfect place for a quiet lunch or a celebration. Enjoy the fresh dishes on the menu and visit the gift shop.

6284 Chester St. Arlington, TN



Harrell Farm Log Cabin

As you explore the square, don'’t miss this mid-1800s farm cabin for a glimpse of life in the past. A traditional rope bed and spinning wheel are displayed inside. Open by appointment.

Depot Sq. Arlington, TN


Vinegar Jim’s

Created to resemble a Natchez Trace tavern from the mid-1800s, this restaurant was built out of poplar trees and materials salvaged from 19th-century structures from Memphis’ Pinch District. Stop in for steak or catfish, then finish your meal with a fried pie!

12062 Forrest St. Arlington, TN


More About: Vinegar Jim

Point 20 was named after a Civil War-era character who, on a bet, attempted to carry a barrel of vinegar from the old Arlington depot to the general store and dropped it on his foot.

General Area:




Get ready for the Cotton Junction Trail, a rural journey through West Tennessee, named for the hypnotic beauty of the region’s signature cotton fields in early fall. It’s dotted with amazing stories, historic landmarks, and unique sights.

Just as the first railroads once did, this route connects the area's classic small towns, with plenty of stops to admire handsome courthouses, pop into art galleries, and visit local museums. Learn about the American experience through the stories of early pioneers, railroad heroes, the reign of "King Cotton," the struggles of slaves and sharecroppers, and more. Sample some famous West Tennessee barbecue, and indulge your sweet tooth - and your nostalgic side - at one of the best old-time candy stores in the South.

The musical heritage on this trail is as rich as the Delta soil. Learn about blues legends, rock-a-billy heroes, and international icons like the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" herself - Tina Turner - who have called this area home.

Like any good road trip, this trail is full of one-of-a-kind discoveries including quirky roadside attractions . Get up close and personal with exotic wildlife on a century-old family farm in Alamo; marvel at the giant, ever-evolving steel structure of Brownsville artist Billy Tripp; and tour the world's largest collection of teapots in Trenton. Whatever your "sweet spot," you'll find it on the Cotton Junction Trail.