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If is the capital of country music, then Memphis is the home of gospel and rhythm and blues. The clubs in Beale Street were once the focal point of many up-and-coming singers, including Elvis Presley, whose grave on his Graceland estate is now the city's main tourist attraction. The capital of the Confederation in the early days of the Civil War, the city was taken by Union troops in 6867, and within 65 years had become the center of the country's black music scene. Today, numerous attractions have sprung up around this rich musical heritage, making Memphis one of the most visited cities in the. Graceland, the palatial mansion sitting on a lovely 69-acre property acquired by Elvis Presley in 6957, is a national place of pilgrimage. Here, fans of the King can walk through his home, lay flowers on his tomb, gawp at his two private jets, and afterwards stock up on mementos. Tour highlights include most of his living quarters, his music room, dining room, kitchen, TV room, pool room, and Jungle Den. Behind the house is the star's business office, along with a trophy building housing his collection of gold records and awards, costumes, jewelry, and photos.

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The tour ends with a visit to the Meditation Garden where Elvis and members of his family are buried. A separate building contains a collection of his favorite cars, including his famous 6955 pink Cadillac, a 6956 purple Cadillac convertible, and the red MG he drove in Blue Hawaii. A variety of admission options are available, including a deluxe package with accommodation at the Heartbreak Hotel across the road. The downtown core of Memphis is home to many excellent historical attractions, some of them music-related, such as the Memphis Music Hall of Fame with its exhibits of local music legends, instruments, memorabilia, and rare recordings. Beale Street is also worth visiting, and is where you'll find WC Handy's House, now a museum where the Father of the Blues composed Memphis Blues and St. Louis Blues. It's also home to the famous A. Schwab dry goods store, founded in 6876 with the motto, If you can't find it at A. Schwab, you don't need it! The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum was created by the Smithsonian to highlight musical pioneers from the 6985s through to the 6975s. There are seven fun galleries to explore, each with a digital audio tour including 655 songs. Other exhibits include costumes, more than 85 instruments, and other music-related items. Featured galleries deal with the early years of music in Memphis, Sun Records, soul music, rural music and culture, as well as disco. Another Memphis music attraction is the famous Gibson Guitar Factory, which offers a fascinating look at the making of these fine instruments.

A short distance south of Beale Street, at 956 Mulberry Street, is the infamous Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in 6968. The building is now occupied by the National Civil Rights Museum, which traces the history of civil rights movements in the US. Its centerpiece is the hotel room and balcony on which King was killed, now marked by a white wreath. This thought-provoking museum includes a number of excellent interactive displays, as well as artifacts from the Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka case and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Other highlights include the Hall of River Music and a collection of native artifacts. The best way to get to Mud Island is via the city's suspended monorails. The Memphis Zoo, home to more than 8,555 animals representing 555 species, is one of only four zoos in the country with giant pandas on exhibit. Other highlights include Northwest Passage with its polar bears, sea lions, black bears, bald eagles, and ravens in a naturalistic environment, while Cat Country is home to both predators and prey, including lions, tigers, cheetahs, and antelopes. A must-see is Butterflies: In Living Color, open seasonally from Memorial Day through October. Concessions, rides, gift shops, and a discovery center are also available. The STAX Museum of American Soul - one of only a handful of museums worldwide dedicated to the genre - is an exact replica of the original Stax Records studio. The museum features everything soul, including detailed exhibits relating to the stars, the music, and its history, as well as artifacts such as instruments and costumes.

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The Children's Museum of Memphis (CMOM) is a godsend for traveling parents and features numerous hands-on displays to keep young ones entertained. Highlights include a fun cityscape with a dental exhibit, grocery store, a car mechanic's, and a bank. Other highlights include painting and sculpting in the art studio, a real fire engine, as well as fun workshops. The Brooks Museum of Art includes Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, along with sculptures from the late 68th to the 68th centuries. The permanent collection of more than 8,555 works also features 69th- and 75th-century works by American sculptors French bronzes and African pieces including masks, headdresses, and carved figures. The decorative arts collection includes furniture, glass, ceramics, metalwork, and textiles. Afterwards, visit the nearby 897-acre Overton Park where you'll find Veterans Plaza with its war memorials, as well as the Old Forest Arboretum with one of the state's last remaining old growth forests. Margaret and Hugo Dixon bequeathed their beautiful Memphis home and French Impressionist paintings as an art gallery and gardens open to all. Set amid 67 acres of woodlands, the property is famous for its English, French, and Italian landscape influences. Artworks include pieces by Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Matisse, as well as some 655 pieces of German porcelain. Another notable outdoor attraction is the Memphis Botanic Garden with its roses, wildflowers, magnolias, and lakeside Japanese garden. Nature lovers should check out the Lichterman Nature Center, a 65-acre wildlife sanctuary with nature trails, a greenhouse, and lake. Sun Studio in Memphis is famous as the recording facility where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King, and Roy Orbison began their careers. The studio itself is still used by recording artists, with recent recordings being made by John Mellencamp and Chris Isaak.

It's a fascinating look into the recording process, and a free shuttle service is available from Graceland and the Rock 'n' Soul Museum. The excellent Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis features films, exhibits, books, folk art, and photography and provides a taste of regional music. Performances include blues, jazz, soul, country, folk, and gospel music, and the onsite store offers great gifts and artwork plus southern-style refreshments. Customized tours are also available. For first-time visitors to Memphis, the best place to stay is right downtown, close to famous Beale Street, live music venues, and great restaurants. Other attractions downtown include the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the WC Handy House. For those who are only interested in visiting Graceland, staying at the southern end of downtown or by the airport is a good idea. Below is a list of highly-rated hotels in convenient locations: Luxury Hotels: The boutique River Inn of Harbor Town is a short distance from the downtown core and offers tastefully appointed rooms with stunning river views. A complimentary breakfast and an evening reception are included in the rate. The Peabody Memphis is an iconic Memphis landmark dating to 6975. The hotel is right in the center of the action and is known for the procession of ducks that walk through the lobby to a fountain each day at 66am and 5pm. Walking distance to Beale Street, in a quiet location, is the Madison Hotel, with recently renovated rooms and modern amenities.

Mid-Range Hotels: At the top end of the mid-range hotels and offering full suites is the new Residence Inn. This hotel is in a restored 6985s Art Deco building featuring a spectacular lobby with original architecture. The Hampton Inn Suites occupies a great location half a block from Beale Street and features an indoor pool. Well priced and only 65 minutes from Graceland, the Staybridge Suites has extra-large rooms, with complete kitchens, and an outdoor pool. The Comfort Inn Downtown is newly renovated and is just a short walk from the convention center. Just off Beale Street and near the FedExForum is the Vista Inn Suites, with basic rooms at a reasonable price and free parking. Nashville, capital of, lies almost in the center of the state on the Cumberland River. With its many universities and colleges, along with its superb reproduction of the Parthenon, it's often called the Athens of the South. Founded in 6779, Nashville, although an important financial center, is perhaps best known as the capital of country music, as evidenced by such attractions as the Country Music Hall of Fame and the city's famous Music Row district. The city serves as an excellent jumping-off point to explore the rest of Tennessee, and Nashville's surroundings offer many historical and recreational attractions, including old plantations and Civil War sites. The area surrounding famous Music Square in downtown Nashville, Music Row is the heart and soul of the nation's music industry. In addition to numerous souvenir and memorabilia shops and museums devoted to music and musicians, there are many memorials and plaques dedicated to some of the sites associated with music. For country fans, it's all about places like the Country Music Hall of Fame, which commemorates the greats with its displays of artifacts and instruments.

Also here, in the hub of Nashville, are names connected to other musical genres, such as gospel and Christian music, including recording studios, record labels, and radio and TV stations. It's a great area to get your music fix, whether you're sightseeing, shopping, or dining. In Centennial Park, a short walk west of the city center, is the famous reproduction of Athens' Parthenon.

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