Memphis, which touts itself the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, has a wealth of music-themed venues and attractions with meeting space. The Peabody Memphis has the largest hotel meeting space (84,000 total square feet). The Memphis Cook Convention Center has exhibit halls of 125,000 and 35,000 square feet, a 2,100-seat theater, 31 meeting rooms, and it adjoins the 600-room Memphis Marriott Downtown. Memphis International Airport (MEM) is 12 miles from downtown. Airport shuttles typically cost $15 one-way and $25 round trip. The city is a convenient drive-in destination for Eastern and Gulf Coast cities as well as some central states.
Just a few miles from the airport is Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it's an amusing pit stop for travelers entering or leaving the city. If gaming is attractive to your group, the casino town of Tunica is a 30-minute shuttle ride away.
From Elvis Presley and Isaac Hayes to Justin Timberlake, Memphis musicians know how to get the party started. So if you want an interesting off-site venue, organize an event in a music museum. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music celebrates the legacy of’ Stax Records, which launched the careers of Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers, among others. Event venues for 10 to 80 people include an intimate dance floor, a historic Mississippi Delta Church, gallery space and the legendary Studio A. The museum as a whole can accommodate groups up to 450. The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the story of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll using artifacts cultivated and curated by the Smithsonian Institution. Planners can arrange banquets for up to 170, conferences for up to 125 or 400-person receptions in its gallery and meeting spaces. Event add-ons include A/V equipment, musical entertainment, tours of the nearby Gibson Guitar Factory and tickets to FedEx Forum events.
The FedEx Forum is home to the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. In addition to private suites for sporting events and concerts, it has several event venues. The Lexus Lounge accommodates up to 200 on the event level; the arena’s lobby offers 12,500 square feet of gathering space. There’s also a 110-person sports bar, a 350-seat fine-dining facility, a 200-person lounge and an “indoor park” for up to 175 that has views of Beale Street. It’s a good venue for last-minute meetings because, due to the nature of the arena business, some of its spaces cannot be held for more than 21 days before an event.
New Orleans has Bourbon Street, Memphis has Beale Street. It’s where people listen to live music, drink daiquiris and get a little silly. You’ll find venues with colorful histories, like Earnestine & Hazel’s, which was once a brothel. If any of this makes you queasy, hand your attendees a map to the street’s many restaurants, clubs and bars, and let them choose how they want to spend the night. Or bring a little bit of Beale to your event by hiring the acrobatic Beale Street Flippers or musicians to play at a Mardi Gras-themed party (don’t forget the frozen drinks)!
The infamous Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, was one of the few hotels that allowed African- Americans to spend the night during five decades of segregation. Famous residents included Stax Records Co. recording stars Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers and Wilson Pickett. King was a frequent guest, as well. Today the Lorraine is a historic landmark and home to the National Civil Rights Museum. On-site event facilities accommodate up to 276-person receptions and 120-person banquets. A/V equipment and services are available upon request.
Sun Studios — where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were discovered — continues to record rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country and pop artists. A few minutes from club-packed Beale Street, the historic studio offers group tours and free shuttles to and from Graceland. Once at Graceland, attendees can take an audio tour of Elvis’ former home (shag carpet ceilings! souped-up golf carts! fan art!), walk through his private planes, gawk at his gold records, jumpsuits and more. Four event venues are available to groups of at least 50: The Pavilion (capacity: 250 banquet, 300 reception); Elvis Presley Automobile Museum (capacity: 150 banquet, 250 reception); Chrome Grille (capacity: 110); and Rockabilly’s Diner (capacity: 65).