Show your kids the historic side of downtown. At the Peabody Hotel, ducks parade through the Grand Lobby at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. The National Civil Rights Museum offers free admission Mondays from 3 to 6 p.m. The museum is a must-see, but best for ages 5 and up. History lessons abound at Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. Artifacts tell the story of slavery and the role of the Underground Railroad. ($7/adults, $5/ages 4 -17.) To enjoy the outdoors downtown, take the pedestrian bridge to Mud Island River Park, which is always free. Kids will enjoy racing boats in the replica of the Mississippi River. If you plan to ride the monorail, visit the museum, or take a guided tour, a package deal is your best bet ($10/adults, $7/ages 5-11, free for kids under 4). Pedal boats ($5/per half-hour) and canoes are also available.
Tuesday is the most popular free day of the week at museums and restaurants. Downtown, the Fire Museum of Memphis offers two-for-one admission. You can discover where the wild things are at the Memphis Zoo with free admission from 2 to 5 p.m. (show a Tennessee driver's license). Another great option is the educational exhibits at Pink Palace, with free admission from 1 to 5 p.m. (excludes IMAX and Planetarium shows).Lichterman Nature Center is free from 1 to 3 p.m. If you’re feeling artsy, Dixon Gallery and Gardens has “Pay What You Can” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come early for the Mini Masters class for children ages 2 to 4. The class, held at 10:30 a.m., has an art activity, story time, and snack. Pre-registration is required ($5/per child). After so much activity, you’ll be ready for a meal. And happily, more than 40 restaurants in Memphis provide cheap eats for kids, including Chick-Fil-A, Fazoli’s, Golden Corral, Denny’s, and Holiday Ham & Deli. For more deals, go to Cheap Eats for Families at memphisparent.com.
Take a breather at the movies. Malco's Summer Film Fest runs flicks for kids at the Cordova, Collierville, and DeSoto theaters. The shows start at 10 a.m. ($2 per person) on Tuesday and Wednesday, from June 5th to July 31st. Movies include: Charlotte's Web, Over the Hedge, Kung Fu Panda, Puss in Boots, and Shrek. (For a complete schedule, visit malco.com).
Several museums have Wednesday specials. The Brooks Museum is offering Wacky Wednesdays to kids of all ages, with a children’s film series and open studio from 10 a.m. until noon. Museum admission and activities are free, so get creative. Afterwards, spend time playing at Overton Park. Pack a kite and a picnic, romp at the playgrounds, or hike in the Old Forest. Another great outdoor destination is the children's garden at Memphis Botanic Garden ( $8/adults, $5/ages 2 to 12). Be sure to check out My Big Backyard’s new CandyPlantLand Garden and learn about the botanical beginnings of your favorite sweet treats. While there, it’s the perfect time to explore the Farmers Market, open from 2 to 6 p.m. each Wednesday.
Pick back up on the history trail today. Davies Manor Plantation, Shelby County’s oldest log home, offers a glimpse of life in the mid-1800s. Tour the house, outbuildings, and plantation grounds. ($5/adults, $3/students.) It's open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Get wet at the water park at W.C. Johnson Park in Collierville. While there, you’ll also find live music and food at the Sunset on the Square Summer Concert Series at historic Town Square; Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. through July. Live music also rocks the Levitt Shell in Overton Park. The free concert series runs Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings through June.
In Germantown, the new Bobby Lanier Farm Park (2700 Cross Country, next to Germantown Elementary School on Stout Road) opens June 20th. Check out free Discovery Fridays, 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., through August 10th. Your family can learn more about farming, gardening, and living the green life through hands-on activities.
The Dixon Gallery and Gardens is a good bet since it’s free from 10 a.m. until noon. On the first Saturday of the month, Family Studio Day offers the chance to create, and explore the world of art through children’s books. Enjoy a family bike ride on the Greenline, a 7-mile paved urban trail connecting Midtown with Shelby Farms Park. Kids will love the innovative Woodland Discovery Playground there. Rent a paddleboat at Patriot Lake ($18 for a four-seater). Check out Kids’ Club (annual membership/$10). You can learn about our Native American heritage at Chucalissa and the C. H. Nash Museum. They host Family Activities at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ($5/adults, $3/kids) that include crafting pottery, making music with instruments, beading and more. Afterwards, take a guided tour of the museum or hike along shaded trails.
The newly opened Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum at Central Station tells the story of Memphis’ railroad history through artifacts and model trains. Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. ($3/adults, $1/ages 4-12.) While there, tour downtown aboard the vintage Main Street Trolley. Trolleys run every 10 minutes. ($1/adults.) Cap off a great week at a Memphis Redbirds game. Bluff seating is $5/advance, $9/game day. Kids can even run the bases after Sunday games.