Sunday, January 13, 2019

Memphis Road Trip Part 2: The National Civil Rights Museum, Lunch at Huey's Burgers, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and Afternoon Tea with The Peabody Ducks

If you love good music (and music history), amazing cuisine, and fun times? Then Memphis should definitely be on your list of "must visit" destinations! The Weekend Gourmet team recently took road trip from Texas to Memphis, where we had a blast exploring the city during four action-packed days. Memphis has so much to see and do! Today, I'm sharing our visit to the educational, thought-provoking National Civil Rights Museum; lunch at a longtime favorite Memphis burger joint; a visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music; and Afternoon Tea and Duck March at iconic Memphis hotel The Peabody.

We spent an entire morning exploring the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel. Our visited started out somber, knowing that the museum's site is the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Before entering the museum, all visitors walk past its moving permanent memorial to Dr. King, which is located on the balcony where he was shot on April 4, 1968. To say this was an emotionally moving moment is an understatement. 

The National Civil Rights Museum -- a Smithsonian Affiliate -- is very educational and thought-provoking. Visiting the museum is a self-guided experience. The museum's galleries are arranged in chronological order and tell the story of key episodes of the American Civil Rights Movement -- from slavery to 1968. The museum utilizes photographs, television broadcasts, 250+ artifacts, historical film footage, and interactive exhibits to portray iconic moments in the Civil Rights movement to educate visitors. 

One of these permanent exhibits is Standing Up by Sitting Down: Student Sit-Downs 1960. The original lunch counter where the sit-ins actually took place is displayed, along with 3D figures sitting in at the counter -- along with hecklers at their side. To complete the exhibit, a film is projected behind the protesters. The film tells the story of the students' nonviolent direct action training, ensuing protests, and conflicts. Via multi-touch, multi-user interaction, museum visitors engage in boycott stories from across the country. Learning about these protester's courage and determination in the face of resistance was emotional and inspiring!
For us, the most moving exhibit was the final one, King's Last Hours: Rooms 306 and 307. This emotional exhibit allows visitors to look into the two rooms at The Lorraine Motel that Dr. King and his aides stayed in the day of his assassination. Following Dr. King's death, these two rooms were never rented out again. Both rooms have been preserved exactly as they were on the night of Dr. King's assassination. Room 306 was Dr. King's room and shows the bed where he napped, coffee and cigarettes, and a container of milk. 
Knowing that Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of this very was so emotional that I couldn't help tears welling up in my eyes. The National Civil Rights Museum is definitely a must visit for anyone coming to Memphis. The museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 Wednesday thru Sunday (closed on Tuesdays). We spent nearly 4 hours exploring the museum's exhibits, so give yourself plenty of time to read the placards at each display, as well as watch the movies and historical television broadcasts that accompany the exhibits and artifacts. Current admission is $16 for adults, $15 for seniors and students with IDs, $13 for children 5-17, and free admission for active members of the U.S. military and children 4 and younger.

When we left the National Civil Rights Museum, it was time for lunch. We headed to Huey's original Downtown location for some burgers. Huey's is an iconic Memphis burger restaurant! This original location opened in 1970, and Huey's has expanded to nine locations in Tennessee and Mississippi. We loved the fun, casual vibe...and the delicious burgers and hand-breaded onion rings! While we looked over the expansive burger menu, we munched on Cheese Fries with Bacon and Scallions...dipped in their delicious house-made ranch dressing!

My team each picked a different burger to try: Bluff City (smoked cheddar, bacon, onion straws, and BBQ sauce), Senor Huey (with pepper jack), West Coast Turkey (guacamole and jack cheese on a turkey patty), and a Bluez 57
(blue cheese, onion straws, and Heinz 57 sauce). Our burgers were served with fries or huge, crispy onion rings. Everything was cooked perfectly and tasty...we definitely left full and happy.

You probably in the video that Huey's has TONS of with toothpicks embedded in the ceiling...and wondered what the heck is going on! Trying to get a toothpick to stick in the ceiling is a little tradition that Huey's customers -- including us! -- take part in. According to Huey's, there's a trick to ensuring toothpick success: "Get a dry straw and insert a frill pick with the frill closest to your mouth and aim up and BLOW HARD!" Good advice! More good advice is make sure you visit Huey's and try their delicious burgers and sides!

After lunch, we headed to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a must-see destination for any lover of Southern soul music. Stax was founded in 1957 and recorded music from artists that include Booker T. & the MGs, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and the Staples Singer. Current Stax artists include Angie Stone and Melissa Etheridge. Stax Records plays a key role in American music history as one of the country's most popular soul music record labels – second only to Motown in sales and influence. 

The museum tells the entire history of Stax Records and features lots of great exhibits that showcase LP records, instruments, clothing, and other memorabilia from iconic Stax artists.

One of the showcase exhibits at the Stax museum is Isaac Hayes' amazing Cadillac Eldorado. The vehicle was purchased in 1972 as part of Hayes' renegotiated recording deal with Stax. The Cadillac was purchased for $26,000 (that's about $143,000 in current dollars!!). The vehicle has a number of unique, upscale amenities -- including a refrigerated mini-bar, a television, 24-carat gold exterior trim, and plush white fur carpet on the floorboards. 

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is open 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday thru Sunday, and is closed on Monday. We were able to see the entire museum in about 1.5 hours. Before we knew it, it was time to changed into our dress clothes and head to The Peabody Memphis for Afternoon Tea, cocktails, and the iconic afternoon Duck March.

The Peabody is a Memphis institution that's been welcoming guests at its present location in Downtown Memphis since 1925. Known as the "South's Grand Hotel," The Peabody is a must-visit destination -- even if you're not staying at the hotel. The hotel is well known for their iconic Peabody Ducks, who march into the grand lobby's fountain every morning at 11:o0 and back to their rooftop home at 5:00 every afternoon -- a tradition for nearly 90 years! Between their daily marches, the Peabody Ducks hang out and swim in the fountain for visitors to enjoy. More about our experience with the afternoon Duck March in just a bit. 

Before the 5:00 Duck March, the guys enjoyed signature craft cocktails at The Lobby Bar while my Social Media Director and I enjoyed the Peabody Afternoon Tea at Chez Philippe. The Lobby Bar is located in The Peabody's grand lobby -- near the iconic duck fountain. I couldn't help wondering how many important deals have been brokered at over cocktails at the bar of this historic hotel. If those walls could talk! The guys enjoyed a Whiskey Mule Cocktail and a Summer-centric fruity Blueberry Mojito. They said that both cocktails were expertly prepared and were a perfect afternoon libation. The Peabody's lobby was also a great vantage point to people watch while us ladies took part in a traditional Peabody Afternoon Tea.

What a fabulous experience! We had the three-course Chez Philippe Tea -- which includes a course of savory bites, a scone with tea, and a course of assorted mini desserts. We were pampered with attentive service from the moment we sat down. Our savory course included a variety of tea sandwiches -- including crab salad, cucumber tea sandwich, chicken salad in croissant, prosciutto and melon, and smoked salmon with cream cheese. 

The second course was Rishi organic tea, paired with a blueberry scone, clotted cream, and preserves. The scone was golden outside, perfectly tender inside, and lightly sweet -- with plenty of tangy blueberries. The scone was easily one of my Top 10 Best Bites for 2018! I opted for a decadent chocolate chai tea to pair with my scone.

The final course was a tray of gorgeous two-bite desserts! Our selection included a macaron, cream puff, lemon-raspberry tart, and other sweet bites. If you love drinking tea and enjoying beautiful, tasty bites in a gorgeous setting...then Afternoon Tea at The Peabody is a perfect way to spend a leisurely hour or so in Memphis. After tea, we met the guys in the Lobby Bar -- where we had a front-row seat for the Afternoon Duck March! 

Kids of all ages love experiencing the traditional Duck March -- morning and afternoon -- so be sure to arrive at The Peabody's expansive Lobby at least 30 minutes before a scheduled Duck March! The marches are open to the general public and are very popular. We noticed families starting to arrive about an hour before the 5:00 pm Duck March we attended to ensure they had a good vantage point for the event. A hotel employee Duckmaster -- who wears a red coat -- oversees every Duck March. During the hours between the morning and afternoon Duck March, the Peabody Ducks hang out in the lobby's ornate fountain. They swim and frolic in the water...while hotel visitors snap photographs of them. It's easy to spend 15-20 minutes observing the ducks hanging out together!
Here's a few fun facts about the iconic Peabody Ducks:
  • There are five North American mallard ducks -- one male (with a green head) and four females (with brownish feathers).
  • When not hanging out in The Peabody's lobby fountain, the ducks live in the marble and glass Royal Duck Palace located on the hotel's roof
  • The ducks are raised by a Memphis-area farmer, and each team of ducks lives at The Peabody for only 3 months. After their tour is complete, the ducks enjoy retirement as wild ducks at the same farm. That means the ducks are not domesticated or treated as pets during their tenure at The Peabody.
  • The ducks are tended by a Duckmaster who wears a signature red coat. The Duckmaster is in charge of the ducks -- their diet, training, and putting out the red carpet before every Duck March they host.
  • Duck is not served at anywhere at The Peabody -- and has not been on any menu since 1981.
After the Duck March, we lingered in The Peabody's Lobby to take in the grandeur a bit longer. Before leaving, we spent some time window shopping at the hotel's gift shop before hopping into our car and heading to our next location. More on that in my next installment of our trip to Memphis!

Disclosure: The National Civil Rights Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music provided us complimentary admission. Huey's and The Peabody provided food and beverages...and a front row seat to the Afternoon Duck facilitate inclusion in this article. All opinions are solely my own.

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