We’ve lumped Memphis and Tunica together in this issue, but of course each one is a destination worthy of a long weekend on its own. But a whirlwind weekend road trip to Memphis and Tunica sounds like a recipe for a Deep South version of _The Hangover_, and doesn’t that just sound like too much fun?
So whether you’re looking for a weekend of gambling with an evening adventure to enjoy the gay nightlife in Memphis, or weekend of jazz, blues, and barbecue, enhanced by an afternoon of cards and slots, this getaway is sure to satisfy.
Where to Stay
Staying in Tunica has its perks. The casinos are invested in keeping you on site – which means keeping your wallet closer to their own gambling rather than the tables of their competitors. That yields some incredible deals: you don’t have to be a member of a perks program to get a non-smoking king room in, for instance, the Resorts Casino Tunica (http://www.resortstunica.com/) for $75/night. That’s a weekend rate! If you take the time to join a perks program online, you could get an even bigger steal.
But if it’s evenings in Memphis in famous jazz clubs or local gay haunts, consider staying in the city. Gaycities.com’s highest ranked LGBT friendly hotel in Memphis also happens to be the city’s crown jewel: but be prepared to splurge on this treat. To sleep in the residence of the famous Peabody ducks, you’ll probably pay rates beginning upward of $200/night, and going MUCH higher! But if a night or two in the lap of luxury is just what the doctor ordered, there is no better place to stay.
See the Sights
In Tunica, you’ll want to check out the casinos. You’ll find everything from national chain casinos, like Bally’s and Harrah’s, to the more local Sam’s Town and Tunica Roadhouse. The luxurious Horseshoe, a member of the Caesars brand, the opulent-looking Gold Strike, and the massive Harrah’s (one of the largest casinos in middle America) form the backbone of Tunica’s reputation as a gambling destination.
Nashville may be Music City, but Memphis gives it a run for its money. The city’s two most internationally recognized tourist attractions cement Memphis’s status as a music lover’s Mecca: Graceland and Beale Street. Nearly forty years after the death of the King, his mansion still welcomes over 600,000 visitors a year, and is the most famous residence in America after the White House. Graceland is now a complex, including Graceland Plaza across the street and the museum, which now displays Elvis’s two planes and includes The Elvis Presley Automobile Museum.
Beale Street may not seem as exciting to Nashville folks as it is to visitors from around the world, given that many of Beale Street’s famous bars and clubs are also found in downtown Nashville. But the rhythm and blues and jazz cultures that dominate Beale Street give it an entirely different flavor. So head out to Beale Street in the evening, grab some barbecue at Pig on Beale (we bet one of those special men in your life will die for a t-shirt bearing that logo), and then head over to Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall. Or maybe visiting King’s Palace Café’s Absinthe Room and spending an evening shooting pool and enjoying drink with a bad reputation is more your speed?
Check Out the Nightlife
Memphis is no San Francisco, but it has its own brand of gay nightlife, if Beale Street isn’t your flavor. If you want to sing your heart out at karaoke where no one knows you, or catch some Memphis drag, Dru’s Place (http://www.drusplace.com/) is the place to go. But if you want something unlike what you’d find in Nashville, check out The Pumping Station (http://www.pumpingstationmemphis.com/). Voted the Best Gay Bar in 2013 in the Memphis Flyer, this bar is a levis-and-leather kind of place, with regular cookouts, cigar nights, and pool tournaments.
A Little Something Extra
One of the most infamous moments in Memphis history was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. For those who value a more serious stop on their vacations, the site of the assassination, the Lorraine Motel, now houses the National Civil Rights Museum, which memorializes the movement. The surrounding neighborhood is home to some interesting cafes and shops if you want to make an afternoon of it.
More from the Staycation vs Vacation series:
Top 5 cities for end-of-summer road trips
Asheville: "the new freak capital of the U.S."
Louisville: "right up I-65 and well worth the drive"
Chattanooga: "a family friendly getaway on the Tennessee River"
Memphis/Tunica: "a Deep South version of 'The Hangover'"
Nashville: "there truly is no place like home"
photo courtesy Flikr user jbobo7