Famed for food, music and many other things, Memphis is undoubtedly a town worthy of your time. But venture beyond the mighty Mississippi’s bends and you’ll soon discover surroundings that are just as fit for a king.
Shelby Farms Park
If the bluesy, boozy beck and call of the city gets a little bit too much, your first port of call for a moment of calm should be Shelby Farms Park. Located directly to the east of the centre – and accessible via a former railroad known as the Greenline – this wide open space with hiking, biking and horse-riding trails, running routes and rollerblade friendly boardwalks is an outdoor activity enthusiast’s dream.
But it’s not only the sporting mad who can get a kick out of this location. Designed with families firmly in mind, there’s an abundance of entertaining and educational playgrounds dotted around for both big kids and small to discover. What’s more, the park plays host to one of the only herds of native bison left in the country, so bag your binoculars if you want to witness these mighty beasts roaming the beautiful green plains.
Crystal Shrine Grotto
This surreal looking attraction looks like it would be more at home alongside Gaudi’s eccentrically beautiful architecture in Barcelona, and yet, here it stands in the middle of a cemetery in Tennessee. Haunting, not only in terms of its whereabouts in Memorial Park, but also because of the bizarre nature of its birth (its creator destroyed all of his tools and the secrets of how he built the cavern once it was completed), this peculiar place is worth a trip simply to gain bizarre travel brownie points.
From the strangely shaped stone columns and expertly crafted crystal-encrusted formations, to the garishly painted religious figurines and chemically glowing blue pools, this grotto has something surprising in every one of its nooks and crannies. Intended, by its maker back in the 1930s, to be a place of reflection, you’ll no doubt find yourself wondering what on earth he was thinking in the first place.
Rusty’s TV and Movie Car Museum
It goes without saying that Jackson – Mississippi’s hugely historic capital – should already be on your To Do list, but it would be very easy to overlook the real charm of the city if you only have limited time. Thankfully, Rusty Robinson and his collection is on hand to ensure you don’t miss out on some of that sweet southern hospitality.
A visit to this down-to-earth museum is guaranteed to entertain all ages, as everyone will get a kick out of spotting a vehicle they remember from their favourite movie or TV show. With over 40 cars on the roster from productions such as Breaking Bad, Fast and Furious, Dukes of Hazard and Ghostbusters, plus a bona-fide Batmobile, there’s enough diversity to easily spend a good few hours wandering round and being photographed with your dream ride. It’s highly likely you’ll even get a running commentary from the man himself. Once you’ve had your fill of four wheeled wonders, swing by Casey Jones Village for a whistle-stop tour of the region’s railroad history and some southern comfort food in the Old Country Store and its authentic 1890’s ice cream parlour.
1 hour 20 minutes
Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit - Birthplace of Kermit
Built on the banks of Leland’s Deer Creek, where a young Jim Henson played as a boy, this enchanting exhibit is a must for anyone who has ever come into contact with the marvellous world of The Muppets, and a certain ping-pong ball-eyed frog in particular.
With displays ranging from original incarnations of Kermit himself – thought to have been inspired by Henson’s childhood friend, Kermit Scott – to voice recordings, sketches, videos and a multitude of memorabilia, you’ll be transported into a world where letting your imagination run wild is actively encouraged. Follow the froggy-shaped footprints over the nearby ‘Rainbow Connection’ bridge to complete the experience and, if you happen to be visiting in October, do not miss the delightful festivities of Frog Fest, where the whole town comes together to pay tribute to their famous amphibious son and his creator.
2 hours 30 minutes
For a real insight into how the locals around these parts spend their down time, head on over to the town of Camden (formerly known as ‘Tranquility’) and set up camp (or rent a log cabin) by the glistening shores of one of the largest manmade lakes in the world. Here, you can explore the waterside at your leisure; by bike, on foot or in a boat, you’ll find the scenery superb.
An ever-popular spot for sport fishing, given the lake’s reputation for producing record-breaking catches, there’s a pleasantly laid-back, but spirited atmosphere perfectly set up for families who come to picnic, paddle and pass the time however they please in Tennessee’s National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re in the mood for souvenir hunting, take a journey up the road to North America’s only freshwater pearl farm to pick up a something sparkly from their jewellery shop or, if you’re lucky enough to be around on Labor Day weekend, The Bargain Highway – a 30 mile long yard sale along US Routes 641 and 70 – is an event far too out-of-the-ordinary to miss.