I’ve lived in Memphis since March of 1981. My first apartment was in the medical center area, as I was a graduate student at the Memphis Speech and Hearing Center, affiliated with University of Memphis (then Memphis State).
I remember that no one really went downtown, and if you did, it was scary. The only exception was what is now the South Main area, which featured Number One Beale and Captain Bilbo’s, both of which were popular spots. Overton Square was the place to be, with TGI Friday’s, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Public Eye, and Paulette’s.
So much has changed downtown it’s hard to recognize it, and the renewed Overton Square is even better than it was in the 80s. Though we live in the suburbs, we head west when it’s time to go out for dinner, drinks, or to shop for unique gifts.
In honor of 901 Day, here are ten things I love about Memphis:
- South Main. It’s so much fun to walk around, eat, and drink in an area that used to be dark, desolate, and scary. I love that the residential community is growing, and there’s so much to do you’ll have to go back over and over.
- Cooper Young. It’s great to have such a vibrant community and neighborhood in the midst of our city. Great local food and drink, lots of trees, and a walkable neighborhood.
- Overton Square. Again, it’s better than the original — I love the assortment of locally-owned shops, restaurants and bars. Babalu, Bosco’s, and Local on the Square are among our favorite places in the entire city, and you can’t beat Breakaway Running for the best selection of shoes and gear for runners.
- The riverfront. It’s nice to see runners, families with strollers, and cyclists enjoying Memphis’ riverfront. There is nothing like a great sunset over the Mississippi to cap off a day.
- The startup climate. Eric Mathews and Start Co. have worked hard for the past few years to raise the business profile of Memphis as a startup culture and it’s working. Memphis has gained national attention — and it’s positive.
- Overton Park. A gorgeous expanse of nature (342 acres) in the middle of the city, where you can enjoy everything from art (Brooks Museum, Memphis College of Art) to live music (Levitt Shell), and nine holes of golf.
- Spring. A drive along East Parkway or Walnut Grove is breathtaking when the azaleas are in bloom. Also check out Central Gardens for beautifully landscaped older homes.
- Diversity. Yes, we’ve had and continue to deal with our racial issues, but it’s better than it used to be. Though I’m a suburbanite, I enjoy spending time in other areas of the city, where someone with tattoos and pink hair isn’t unusual. I’ve had more than a few enlightening conversations with folks who are nothing like me and that’s good for everyone.
- Affordability. We’re fortunate to enjoy a lower cost of living than just about anywhere. Clean, great-tasting water, reasonable utilities, lots of house for the money makes it an easy place to live and raise a family. There are also quite a few excellent public schools.
- AutoZone Park. It’s one of the nicest minor league (AAA) baseball parks in the country. Now owned by the St. Louis Cardinals, you can watch a young player here one day and in the majors the next. As the Cardinals are known within Major League Baseball for their excellent farm system, you’ll see some of the most talented athletes in the sport.
If you’re a suburbanite, get out once in a while. You’ll be amazed how much Memphis has to offer inside the Parkways.