Fall in Memphis is one of the best times of the year to visit the Bluff City because there are so many festivals in Memphis from music, food, and sports. The fall festivals in Memphis are not just for locals but visitors come from all over celebrate the best the city has to offer. Plan your next fall vacation around one of these over-the-top events starting with Southern Heritage Classic.
Memphis is known as the Bluff City and we officially start celebrating Fall the first week of September because that is the beginning of fall Memphis Festivals.
Whether you’re attending the Southern Heritage Classic, Zoo Rendezvous, Cooper Young Festival, Delta Fair or take in a little football the possibilities of things to see and do in Memphis are endless if you want to visit the Bluff City this fall. If you are on Pinterest check on my Tennessee Vacation Board for more inspiration.
So grab your best girlfriend or hubby and pig out on great food, tailgate at the Southern Heritage football game or just discover what Memphis has to offer for locals and visitors alike in downtown Memphis!
Keep reading and I will also answer the following questions:
- What can you do for free in Memphis this fall?
- What is there to do in Memphis besides visit Graceland?
- What to do in Memphis with kids?
- Who has the best BBQ in Memphis?
Here Are My Top Memphis Festivals
Southern Heritage Classic
The Southern Heritage Classic is one of the biggest HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) rivalry games of the year. Since 1990, upwards of 40,000 fans annually have come from Jackson State University and Tennessee State University to Memphis and Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to see their respective alma-maters battle it out for annual bragging rights.
The Classic Tailgate begins at 8 a.m. in the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium parking lot and Tobey Park. The theme is “Friends, Football and Food.” If you have never attended an HBCU Tailgate party you have been missing out on life!
Ain’t no party like an “HBCU” party because black folk knows how to have fun.
The AutoZone Halftime Show features JSU Sonic Boom of the South and TSU Aristocrat of Bands, followed by the Classic 5th Quarter, which is a grand finale for the Southern Heritage Classic football game featuring a battle of the bands.
Cooper Young Festival
The Cooper-Young Festival is held in the largest historic district in Memphis and one of the most highly attended festivals in Memphis with over 435 local artisans and over 130,000+ folk converge upon this hip neighborhood every year to eat, drink and have fun.
The Cooper-Young Festival is a true celebration of people, culture, and Memphis heritage. The Festival in Memphis takes place the second week of September every year.
Zoo Rendezvous is one of Memphis largest fundraising events. The annual Zoo Rendezvous will be held on Saturday, September 7th from 7 to 10:30 p.m. This year’s theme is “Zoodio 54!” Zoo Rendezvous had more than 70 Mid-South restaurants and bars, as well as entertainment on four stages to raise money for the Memphis Zoo.
You will be able to try samples from about 70 restaurants and bars like Gus’ Fried Chicken, Frost Bake Shop, Folks Folly, Railgarten, Hattie B’s, The Bayou…plus some awesome local catering companies like Hog Wild, CFY, and Heart & Soul.
It was amazing to see so many still come out and support the Memphis Zoo.
Pink Palace Crafts Fair
Pink Palace Crafts Fair, Audubon Park, October 12-14, $0-$15, all ages
The popular, annual Pink Palace Crafts Fair offers three days of outdoor artisan demonstrations in everything from candle making to metalsmithing, as well as kids’ activities, eating and shopping at booths run by artists and craftspeople from around the country, and more. Proceeds benefit the Pink Palace Museum.
The Science of Wine, Pink Palace, October 11, 6:30-9:30 p.m., $65 non-members, $60 members, $35 designated drivers, 21+
Educate yourself about the world of vino by sampling wine and food pairings from around the world, talking to wine experts, and attending mini-lectures. This is your chance to talk to sommeliers and learn all those fancy wine terms while supporting a museum that offers wonderful educational opportunities.
Mempho Music Festival
Mempho Music Fest, Shelby Farms Park,
Mempho returns to Shelby Farms with a slew of awesome artists. This year’s festival includes Beck, Post Malone, Phoenix, Nas, Janelle Monáe, and many more.
Taste of Cooper-Young, First Congregational Church, October 19, 5:30-9:30 p.m., $50
A walking tour and food sampling of Cooper-Young’s finest restaurants, followed by a silent auction and concert. Proceeds benefit Memphians experiencing food insecurity.
Black Art Experience
BAE: Black Art Experience, Starlight Event Center, October 13, 6-9 p.m., 21+
This visual arts show features several African American fine artists, whose art will be on display and for sale. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about and support a host of local black-owned businesses.
Cider Fest at Celtic Crossing, October 13, 11:00 a.m. until closing
Enjoy live music, apple-themed food specials and a wide variety of ciders, including some from Long Road Cider Co. Bluff City Backsliders will provide live jams from 3-6 p.m.
Memphis Tequila Festival
Memphis Tequila Fest, Overton Square
Featuring more than 30 different types of tequila, dance music from local DJs, face painting, a costume photo booth, and food for purchase. Proceeds benefit Volunteer Memphis.
Art on Fire 2018, Dixon Gallery & Gardens, October 25, 7-11 p.m., $75+, 21+
Enjoy a bonfire, live music and other entertainment, a silent auction, food samples from local restaurants, and beer and wine on the Dixon’s south lawn. Proceeds benefit the Dixon’s art education and outreach programs.
Beale Street Art Crawl
Beale Street Art Crawl, October 20, 12-7 p.m., free, all ages
This quarterly event takes you on an art tour of what’s been called America’s Most Iconic Street — Beale Street.
The TakeOver: Halloween Party
The TakeOver host the city’s HOTTEST Halloween party in the city and you do not want to miss it! Bring your A-Game this year because the competition will be next level with the costume contests or just come and laugh and have a great time!
Brother John and Suave providing the sounds all evening long, Wiley Brown II will bring the event to life with his photography and the TaKeOver Crew will provide the fun along with the coolest bartenders and servers at Side Street Grill! And as usual this is a FREE EVENT held Sat Oct, 26!
Memphis Grizzlies Basketball, FedEx Forum, preseason homes games start October 5, prices vary, all ages
We don’t bluff, Y’all. Get ready to grit ‘n’ grind with the Grizz starting October 5 with a home game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Take a Brewery and Distillery Tour
Memphis is slowly becoming a favorite because of local breweries in town. There are 6 breweries in Memphis (Ghost River, Crosstown, High Cotton, Memphis Made, Wiseacre and Meddlesome Brewing), and five of them are within a five-mile radius of each other.
Don’t forget about Old Dominick Distillery where you will be led through the distilling process of this Memphis gem. You will learn and see all the materials used in the making of fine whiskey, vodka and toddy’s.
The tour will culminate with a tasting, helping you to understand the subtle differences of each spirit offered. There’s an excellent gift store too, offering unique spirit related gifts not available elsewhere.
Things To Do In Memphis With Kids
Fall festivals in Memphis are not just for the adults. Make your trip to Memphis a family vacation by checking out some of my favorite things to do in Memphis with kids. Your first stop should be the Children’s Museum of Memphis, Pink Palace Family of Museums, and the march of the famous Peabody Ducks (both perfect for little ones).
Get outdoors and hop on a bike, kayak or stand up paddle board and look for the herd of bison at Shelby Farms Park, and for even more animals, including giant pandas, visit the Memphis Zoo.
Everyone will enjoy taking a relaxing riverboat cruise along the Mississippi, having (indoor) outdoor adventures at the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, touring Elvis’ Graceland and strolling Beale Street.
Rock “N” Soul Museum
Rock ‘N” Soul Museum is just for you if you’re a fan of soul music or rock ‘n’ roll and want to learn more about how Memphis played a part in the roots of these genres, you should consider adding the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum to your itinerary.
Exploring Memphis’ musical influence, from the rural field hollers and sharecroppers of the 1930s to the emergence of Sun, Stax and Hi Records, this Smithsonian Institution affiliate offers visitors a comprehensive Memphis music experience.
With its central location on Beale Street, you can easily swing by some of the city’s other top attractions before or after your visit to the museum.
Sun Studio makes for the perfect Saturday outing for a cool brisk Fall in Memphis day. There goes a saying that, “If music was a religion, then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studios most holy shrine”.
Sun Studio is a famous recording studio where talents like Elvis Presley created magic years ago and it still holds its charm today. The studio was opened in 1950 and continues to record artists such as U2.
The quaint little location is quite a sight to see and for those interested in visiting Graceland there are shuttles that take guest there and back.
National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum should be at the top of anyone’s list of things to see this Fall in Memphis. The Civil Rights Museum is located in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
The museum features multimedia presentations on the civil rights movement. There are 260 artifacts, 40 films, oral histories, interactive media where visitors are guided through five centuries of history.
You will view artifacts related directly to the Civil Rights Movement like the Greyhound bus ridden by Freedom Riders, King’s motel room where he spent his final hours along with the gun that was used to assassinate Dr. King.
As a black woman, the museum is “surreal” and “incredibly moving.” The museum helped put me have a better overall understanding of the movement and saddened me because we still have so far to go as a country.
Expect to spend at least three to four hours to tour the entire facility.
Bass Pro Shop
Bass Pro Shop located in the Pyramid which is one of the most iconic buildings in Memphis. The Pyramid was abandoned in 2004 and returned as the larger than life Bass Pro Shop in 2015. It is now one of the most visited places in Memphis but please do not be overwhelmed by the vastness of the Pyramid.
As you walk in through the large wooden doors you are immediately taken aback by the massive space. You can’t help but look up and stare at the amazing swamp land they have created on the main floor of the Pyramid.
The main floor is broken down into retail sectors: apparel, boating, ATVs, and toys, among other products. As you walk through the path you come to Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill.
The TALLEST free-standing elevator in the US!
Fall In Memphis is the perfect time to visit Bass Pro Shop. Take a ride in the elevator up to The Lookout. The elevator ride will cost $10 per person, but views of Memphis are incredible from the Lookout and well worth the $10!
The Lookout also offers a full-service restaurant that is a little more upscale than Uncle Bucks.
Where To Stay in Memphis
Big Cypress Lodge
The Bass Pro Shop also offers lodging accommodations the Big Cypress Lodge is one of the main attractions of the Bass Pro Pyramid. It is a 100-room hotel located on the second and third floor of the Pyramid.
There are multiple lodging options, including individual cabin-style accommodations, single hotel rooms and the Big Cypress Lodge itself.
The Big Cypress Spa also offers spa treatments to all its guests.”Relax in the essence of the outdoors” is their motto and boy they know how to live up to a motto.
Click here to book your reservation today!
The Peabody Hotel is a five-star hotel located in downtown Memphis. The first Peabody was built in 1869 before the current bigger and grander hotel in 1925.
It still holds all the grandeur of the past and has a charming and elegant appearance. It’s most famous for the duck fountain in the lobby of the hotel that is home to five mallard ducks. The hotel is near many local attractions and has also been voted as having one of the best rooftop bars in town.
Memphis has held a long-standing reputation as the most upscale hotels in Memphis. The Peabody hotel embodies class and elegance but the real attraction While the building itself is quite breathtaking, the real attraction is the march of the Peabody Ducks.
The North American mallards have been a staple at the Peabody since the early 1940’s. Around 11 a.m., the ducks make their way from their Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop down the red carpet through the hotel lobby and into the larger than life Peabody Fountain.
At 5 p.m., the ducks hop out of the fountain and make their way back along the red carpet to their home.
This is a great treat if you are traveling with children so make sure you arrive a little early because it will get super crowded but hey it’s free to the public not just guest of the hotel so enjoy! If you are looking for a romantic getaway click here to book your reservation at the Grand Peabody.
Where To Eat In Memphis
Café Keough opened last year in a large restored building between Monroe and Madison on South Main and expanded, as chef/owner Kevin Keough planned when he envisioned his Pan-European bistro, from a coffee shop to a restaurant that’s open breakfast through dinner and offers a full bar, to boot.
There are daily specials on the menu and different bar specials and activities most days. Thursday is poker night. Lillet cocktails are on special one day, coffee and whiskey another, wine by the bottle on another.
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous
Rendezvous BBQ is where you can go celebrity spotting and eat finger licking BBQ all in the same spot. You can smell the smoke from the charcoal-fired pits at Charlie Vergos Rendezvous clear around the corner on 3rd Street.
Follow your nose down the alleyway to the big red-and-green striped awnings, go down the staircase into the basement and wait to be seated in the dining room with old tile floor and red-checkered tablecloths and a photograph-lined wall that has the hundreds if not thousands of celebs who have came from far and near to eat the dry ribs.
Start things off with the Rendezvous Special, a plate of sliced ham, salami, sausage, and cheese with dill pickles and pepperoncini alongside. Next, dive into the signature ribs, which arrive perched above a pool of thin, vinegary sauce beneath on a wax paper-lined plate.
Don’t forget the cup of baked beans and the chopped coleslaw with a sharp tangy-sweet bite.
After all of that you will be thirsty so wash it all down with a glass of cold draft beer and you will officially have had the full Rendezvous experience.
Gus’ Fried Chicken
Gus’ Fried Chicken is the new “It Girl” in Memphis. While Memphis is known for BBQ, I am going to introduce you to a new staple in Memphis. Gus’ Fried chicken is equivalent to eating a pint of ice cream when you just broke up with your boyfriend. It soothes the soul and just makes life better.
Arguing about who has the best barbecue in Memphis is so 1980’s! Move over BBQ because it’s all about who has the best chicken now.
If you are vacationing this Fall In Memphis take the short walk over to Front Street and head south until you see a long line of people wrapped the outside of an inconspicuous building that Gus’s is located in.
The restaurant isn’t much; a low brick building with a dining room that seats maybe 40 people with checkerboard tablecloths and laminated menus. It’s basically a hole in the wall that prepares the best-fried chicken you will ever bite into and that’s not up for debate.
Gus’s claim to fame is the is supposedly “hot and spicy,” which I think is a bit of an exaggeration. Yes, it has a little kick but certainly not hot by the stretch of anyone’s imagination.
The heat is more gentle, like the kiss of a newborn baby that you just can’t seem to stay away from.
Capriccio Grill is located in the Peabody Hotel. You should definitely head over to Capriccio Grill for breakfast or dinner. Capriccio is often overlooked by its across-the lobby counterpart Chez Philippe which is an upscale dining experience.
Capriccio is the other restaurant inside the historic Peabody Hotel, offering breakfast and lunch in addition to steakhouse style dining at night. While the atmosphere is more casual than Chez Philippe, Capriccio has a ton of choices to help that growling tummy of yours from prime steaks, chops, and seafood.
The restaurant lunch menu is focused on Southern comfort food but the dinner menu offers a full steakhouse experience including an extensive wine list and an array of desserts.
Chez Philippe, a sophisticated Four-Star restaurant in the historic Peabody Memphis hotel, has been a favorite of foodies, movie stars, celebrity chefs and well-heeled locals.
Your meal might start with a salad of caramelized figs and pickled onions, followed by charred scallops and an herb-crusted lamb rack.
You won’t want to skip dessert here— executive pastry chef Konrad Spitzbart creates sumptuous dishes such as the chocolate coffee gateaux with peanut butter caramel and banana rum ice cream — a nod to Elvis —and the crème brûlée trio of vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio with French macarons.
Since Chez Philippe is located inside of the Peabody its only blocks from Beale Street, the Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum, Gibson Guitar Factory, National Civil Rights Museum, and Sun Studio — an ideal spot for vacationing this fall in Memphis.
Additional Things Memphis Festivals This Fall
September Festivals In Memphis
7-8: Millington Goat Days
7: Zoo Rendezvous at Memphis Zoo
7-8: Germantown Festival
11-14: Southern Heritage Classic Weekend
14: Cooper Young Festival
19 – 29: Mid-South Fair in Southaven
26 – 29: Gonerfest 16
28 – 30: Mid-South Pride Parade & Fest
29: Memphis Japan Fest
October Festivals In Memphis
4-6: Mistletoe Merchants at Agricenter
11 – 13: Pink Palace Crafts Fair
12: Memphis Food & Wine Festival
17 – 20: Metal Repair Days at the Metal Museum
19: Zoo Boo begins at Memphis Zoo
19: Cooper Young BeerFest
19: Agricenter Harvest Festival
19 – 20: MEMPHO at Shelby Farms
23: Carrie Underwood at FedEx Forum
26-27: River Arts Festival
27 – 28: Bartlett Festival
30: Elton John at FedEx Forum
Oct. 30 – Nov. 4: Indie Memphis Film Festival
November Festivals In Memphis
TBA: Junior League Merry Marketplace
TBA: Greenway Soiree
TBA: Memphis Comic & Fantasy Convention
TBA: Santa Lands at the Pink Palace
TBA: Starry Nights at Shelby Farms
TBA: Downtown Memphis Holiday Tree Lighting
TBA: Holiday Wonders at the Garden
December Festivals In Memphis
Conclusion of Festivals in Memphis
As a Memphis native I can tell you there are plenty of attractions and sites for both the adults and the kiddos. Fall in Memphis is an especially great time to visit the Grown-ups know that Memphis is full of fun – but kids (and their parents) will find it equally full of attractions that entertain.
While many of Memphis’s attractions – Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum and others – are appealing for children, kids will discover that the city is full of attractions seemingly created just for them.
TENNESSEE VACATION TRAVEL INSURANCE
I can’t say this enough but please get insurance when traveling to Tennessee! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting any of the above destinations but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
Make sure to get your insurance before you you start looking for the best fall getaway! I highly recommend Travelex Insurance.
Ready to plan your trip, grab my FREE Vacation Planner to help you plan your trip in the time it takes to watch your favorite TV show!
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