Staycations can be a fun way to relax and really get to know your city. We’ve found lots of free or inexpensive excursions you can take throughout the week that will make your summer sing. Just get out there!
Begin your week by exploring downtown Memphis. You can start in style at the Peabody Hotel, where the ducks parade through the Grand Lobby at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. Be sure to check out the duck palace on the hotel’s rooftop, with its panoramic city views. Within walking distance is the Beale Street Landing playground, on the cusp of the Mississippi. Here, kids can dance in a spray fountain or climb up the grassy hill and watch as river barges chug past.
From the landing, the National Civil Rights Museum is just a few blocks south, offering free admission on Mondays, 3 to 6 p.m. It’s best for children ages 7 and up. Finish your day with a sweet treat from A. Schwab’s ice cream parlor on Beale Street. Their confections put a cherry on any day.
Tuesday is the most popular free day at area museums and attractions. If you start downtown, the recently renovated Fire Museum of Memphis doesn’t have a free day, but does offer $30 admission for a family of four. From there, check out Mud Island River Park via the monorail ($4) or pedestrian bridge. Entry to the park is always free and kids can learn about the impressive Mississippi River system or steer pedal boats ($5) across the Gulf of Mexico lagoon. Open April to October.
Not far from downtown is the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which entertains while showing the evolution of blues and soul music captured by artists who recorded at this legendary studio. Visit on Tuesdays when admission is free to Shelby County residents from 1 to 5 p.m. The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum (located on Beale Street at the FedEx Forum) also explores our region’s musical roots and is free to Tennessee residents from 2 to 7 p.m.
In Midtown, you can watch the hippos romp at Zambezi River Hippo Camp at the Memphis Zoo. Free admission is from 2 to 5 p.m. with a Tennessee driver’s license. (Arrive early, the line starts forming 45 minutes ahead). Kids will love learning about dinosaurs at the Pink Palace Museum this summer, by exploring their special exhibit, Scenes of the Dinosaurs. Admission is free on Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m.
For outdoor play, roam the Lichterman Nature Center for free from 1 to 3 p.m., or discover art at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens on Tuesdays where you can “Pay-What-You-Wish” from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturdays mornings, the Dixon also offers free admission from 10 a.m.-noon.) Don't forget to drop in on the Family Studio, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and create a work of art.
After all that exercise, you’ll probably be ready for a meal. A number of restaurants in Memphis provide cheap eats for kids. To learn about great food deals, visit our Cheap Eats page at memphisparent.com.
Midweek you might find it fun to chillax at the movies. Malco’s Summer Film Fest offers kid-friendly shows at the Cordova, Collierville, Stage, DeSoto, and Olive Branch theaters through July 29. Movies start at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, $2/per person.
July titles include: Alvin and the Chipmunks - Chipwrecked, Ice Age The Meltdown, and How to Train Your Dragon. For a complete schedule, visit malco.com.
Several museums also offer Wednesday specials: The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has Free Wednesday, a perfect time to explore Inside Art, the state’s first hands-on family art gallery dedicated to visual literacy. Wacky Wednesdays is the museum’s kid-friendly morning activity, with a children’s film series and open maker studio, from 10 a.m.-noon. Afterward, take a hike through the Old Forest at Overton Park or play at Rainbow Lake playground. Just bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a relaxed afternoon.
Another great outdoor destination is My Big Backyard at Memphis Botanic Garden. Free to members ($8/non-members, $5/ages 2-12), kids can wade in a stream, explore playhouses, and dig in a sandbox. Pick up some fresh produce at the Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 2 to 6 p.m.
Out east, your family can learn about Tennessee’s pioneer days at Hillwood: Davies Manor Plantation, Shelby County’s oldest log home. Here you’ll discover what life was like in West Tennessee during the mid-1800s. Tour the house, outbuildings, and plantation grounds. ($5/adults, $3/children.) Open Tuesday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Sustainable living is celebrated at Bobby Lanier Farm Park (2700 Cross Country, north of entrance to Germantown Elementary School), a contemporary take on farm life with its community garden, chickens, and rabbits. During the summer months, a Farmers Market takes place each Thursday from 4 to 7:30 p.m. with live music and food trucks.
Finally, kids can get wet at the spray park at Suggs Park in Collierville. While you’re there, bring a lawn chair and enjoy the live music and food at Sunset on the Square Summer Concert Series at the historic Town Square in Collierville; every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. through the end of July.
Speaking of free music, Midtown boasts the newly renovated Levitt Shell at Overton Park, with its amazing light show. Free concerts are held here on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings June 2-July 21 and September 3-October 24. Go to levittshell.org to view the performance schedule.
Drop in to the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum at Central Station, which tells the history of Memphis’ railroad lines with cool memorabilia and model trains kids will love. ($3/adults, $1/ages 4-12.) Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
From there, you’re just a few blocks from the restful beauty of Elmwood Cemetery, an early Victorian-era park that holds bountiful history in its monuments and gravestones. It’s free to walk the grounds, or check out some of the guided tours available, some lead by docents in costume.
Another fun Saturday destination is cooling off at the garden-themed H2O Splash Park at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. (Free to members, $15/nonmembers.) For a free spray park, check out Peabody Park (just north of Cooper and Central). With geysers, a spray pad, and fountains, it is ideal for young children.
Celebrate pedal power by taking a family bike ride on the Greenline, a flat, 12-mile paved urban trail that connects Midtown with Shelby Farms Park. There are a host of access points, and even a few yummy places for noshing in the High Point Terrace neighborhood.
Or try the Wolf River Nature Trail path (access at Humphreys and Walnut Grove), which is hilly and largely shaded. Make a point to land at Shelby Farms, where kids love the creative Woodland Discovery Playground, with its cool slides, swings, and climbing structures. The newly refurbished Patriot Lake is scheduled to open later in July, and boating is available on Pine Lake.
Finally, cap off your week by cheering on the Memphis Redbirds. Lawn seating is $9 per person. Don’t miss the Boardwalk games; kids even get to run the bases at Sunday evening games. Upcoming dates are July 10 & 24 and August 14 & 28.