When I think Memphis – three things spring to mind – Elvis, Bar-B-Que and the Blues and not necessarily in that order. I discovered that the best place to experience Memphis's music and food legacy is Beale Street which you can visit with your whole family.
Beale Street History
Beale Street has been an entertainment destination since the early 1900s, and one of the main attractions is the music. The Blues were born in Memphis early in the twentieth century, thanks to W.C. Handy. He is known as the Father of the Blues, after he recorded “field hollers”, traditional chanting songs sung by cotton workers in the area. The music style expanded and became more popular through the 1940s with artists like B.B. King and Rufus “Funky Chicken” Thomas. WDIA, the nation's first radio station with an all-black format, hit the airwaves in 1947, spread the Blues beyond Memphis increasing its popularity. The 1950s introduced the world to a young man named Elvis Presley and the famed Sun Records and you all know the rest of the story. If you don't, you can read more HERE.
Beale Street Curfew
Beale Street is known for its music and clubs. We discovered that a lot of clubs are actually restaurants and are family friendly during the day and early evening. Officially, after 9 PM, all Beale Street visitors must be either 21 or accompanied by a parent. After 11 PM all patrons must be 21 or over with a valid ID.
Our family arrived around 5 PM on a Friday night and spent 2 hours exploring the different music venues, shops and street entertainment. We were head back to our car about 6:45 and I saw a couple with a baby just arriving. Based on our experience I would be comfortable staying with our kids in a restaurant in the evening, but I think it might get too crowded on the street to stay out past 8 or 9 PM. However, I think that depends on the night, how old your kids are, and how much your family enjoys live music and can deal with crowds.
Family Friendly Venues
We visited several different restaurants and music venues that were family friendly, but we did not have time to see all of them. Below is a list of the places we enjoyed, and HERE is a full list of restaurants and venues currently on Beale Street.
King's Palace Cafe – Get your fill of cajun food, BBQ and steaks. King's Palace is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week and breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. We spent some time on the patio having drinks and listening to music. There was a bouncer perched on a stool at the patio entrance, but our kids were welcome and even serenaded by the band.
B.B. King's Blues Club – Visit the original B.B. King's and enjoy BBQ and the Blues. There is live music nightly (see the calendar) and you can even make a reservation through OpenTable so you don't have to wait long to be seated.
Blues City Cafe – This full service restaurant felt like a small club that welcomed kids. Try their ribs or seafood gumbo and listen to the Blues. You can make reservations HERE, see the full menu HERE, and check out the entertainment calendar HERE.
Silky O'Sullivan's – This Irish Pub had a HUGE outdoor patio and live goats! (There has to be a story here….).
There are also a LOT of street entertainment including the famous Beale Street flippers and portrait artists. Be sure to have some cash for tips!
Places to Park
A full list of parking options is available HERE. We parked on Peabody Street a block off of Beale Street for $10. It was close to the entertainment district and well lit with a parking attendant.
Next time you are in Memphis, be sure to spend some time on Beale Street with your family. There is great food and entertainment for all!