Memphis / Tennessee

How To Make The Most of One Day in Memphis: Complete Guide

Updated May 4, 2023

Memphis beckons music lovers from across the globe to come and soak in its influential mix of sounds. Blues, Soul, and Rock ‘n’ Roll all originated here — nearly 20% of the earliest Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees came from within 100 miles of Memphis! Pretty impressive, right?

From touring America’s second most famous home, Graceland, to exploring Memphis’ deep cultural ties with slavery and the civil rights movement, there isn’t a shortage of unique and inspiring things to do and see.

But, one thing I have left out is eating (how could I do that?)! While Memphis is famous for everything mentioned above, I left out one of its other claims to fame — BBQ. You might be thinking, well, Memphis sounds pretty fantastic, but am I going to be stuck with a plate of iceberg lettuce and a freezer-burned veggie patty (it’s so sad it can’t even be qualified as a burger)?

Absolutely not!

The dining scene in Memphis has had a whole lotta shakin’ going on (thanks, Jerry Lee Lewis) — in the best possible way.

Vegan and veg-curious visitors can enjoy crispy golden waffles, fudgy peanut butter brownies, and even famous smokey BBQ — forget that freezer-burned veggie patty! Now the only problem is, what if you only have one day? Is that enough time to see the sights and sample the vegan treasures? It sure is!

Before heading down the Blues Hwy, you won’t want to miss this complete itinerary to spend one epic day in Memphis

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Complete One Day Memphis Itinerary

This one-day Memphis itinerary will have you running from start to finish, but don’t worry, you’ll be fueled with the best vegan eats in town!

Rise & Shine — Memphis Morning Itinerary & Activity

There’s no time for sleeping in today! 

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and the first, and some say the most important decision of your day will be breakfast! And, I am giving you a little “choose-your-own-eating” adventure — you’re welcome.

Either start with a super dose of veggies and fruits at the vegan and gluten-free Raw Girls Café (don’t miss their berry cobbler, and skip your usual Starbucks latte and get one here with a scoop of cacao!) or indulge in cinnamon sugar or peanut butter banana waffles at Bedrock Market and Café!

Difficult decision, right?

If it makes your decision any easier, Raw Girls does sell all of their delicious items ready to go, so you could always grab something from them as a snack for later and go to Bedrock!

After you’re fully caffeinated and fueled, head to the National Civil Rights Museum to explore 400 years of African American history from the terrors of slavery, countless protests, boycotts, and sit-ins, to the present day.  The museum is built around the historic Lorraine Motel — the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While the tour through the museum is somber, it is an essential stop and should be on every visitor’s itinerary. The tour is self-guided and takes, on average, about 2 hours, maybe a little more if you interact with all of the exhibits.

Once you’re finished, it will be just about time for lunch! If you didn’t rent a car, grab an Uber or Lyft because we’re heading to the other side of town.

Lunchtime Itinerary — Plant-Based Comfort in Memphis

Whoever said vegan food was boring must take a seat at Plant-Based Heat! This Black-owned vegan café is serving up American classics all veganized — fully loaded juicy burgers, crispy oyster ‘shrooms, BBQ jackfruit — you’ll want one of everything!

Whatever you choose, don’t skip an order of sweet potato tots. One other fantastic note, many of the items can easily be made gluten-free!

After lunch, it’s time to put on your dancing shoes and dive into the city’s rich musical history. This can be done in a couple of different ways — through a tour or on your own (I enjoyed the Memphis Mojo bus tour). 

If you go on your own, there are many great museums to choose from — Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Sun Studio, Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame — it will be hard choosing just one. But I guess if you’re zippy, you might be able to make it through two.

After your musical journey, it will be time to head to the hip neighborhood, Coopers-Young, to wrap up the day!

Dinnertime Itinerary — Love, Happiness, & Vegan BBQ

The artsy neighborhood of Coopers-Young is a great place to round out your one-day vegan itinerary in Memphis. There are many independent boutiques to check out, including a cat sanctuary (House of Mews is a no-kill adoption center that welcomes visitors to come and say hi to their kitties) and one of the oldest bookshops in the US — Burke’s.

After wandering sufficiently, head over to the charming Imagine Vegan Café. This little spot wears its compassion on its sleeves — murals of happy farm animals and a giant “stop eating animals” sign greets visitors as soon as they walk in the door.

If you’ve been yearning for some BBQ, this is the place to eat it up! Go for the vegan Memphis sandwich platter — one or two (if you’re hangry) BBQ sandwiches made with their famous house-made soy and wheat-based meat and served with fries, slaw, and BBQ beans. It’s so good that it was even featured in USA Today as one of the best spots for BBQ (show that to all those nay-sayers!).

Aside from BBQ, they also make really amazing milkshakes and peanut butter fudge brownies; don’t skip them!

After dinner, head just around the corner to The Beauty Shop; this whimsical restaurant and lounge is an excellent spot for a drink. It used to be the actual beauty shop where Priscilla Presley got her hair done! Today, they still pay homage to the beauty parlor with their vintage hairdryer seating.

How to Wrap Up Your Day in Memphis

But the day isn’t done yet — we have one final stop — Beale Street.

This famous street is iconic. In its heyday, it was known for gambling, prostitution, booze, Blues, and many other things deemed immoral. One of its earliest mayors, EH Crump, tried to outlaw all of it but failed.

Today, Beale Street is famous in Memphis and throughout the US for its diverse nightclubs and restaurants — here, all of the soulful sounds of the city come together.

Even if you’re not into partying, it’s still worth a wander.   

beale street at night with neon lights and crowds of people in memphis

Where to Stay to Enjoy One Day in Memphis

Have you ever wanted to stay in a Victorian mansion? Here’s your chance! The historic James Lee House is not only drop-dead gorgeous but also eager to please vegan guests! When you book, request vegan meal options and they’ll ensure your taste buds are pleased.

The James Lee House
690 Adams Ave, Memphis, TN 38105

Book Your Stay

A Couple Other Centrally Located Hotel Suggestions

Courtyard by Marriott Downtown
75 Jefferson Ave, Memphis, TN 38103

Book Your Stay

Hu. Hotel Memphis
79 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38103

Book Your Stay

This article was produced in partnership with Memphis Tourism

Additional Vegan Travel Planning Help

If your travels don’t end in Memphis, make sure you check out these other amazing vegan-friendly cities in the South.

A Vegan’s Guide to 24-hrs. in Nashville
10 Unique Things to Do in Nashville
The 11 Best Restaurants for Vegan Food in Nashville
Complete Vegan Travel Guide to Nashville
Vegan Guide to New Orleans

About Author

Rebecca is the founder of the vegan travel company Veggies Abroad. In 2021, she bid her 15-year career goodbye and ventured into the world of ethical business with the launch of a vegan travel blog (the one you’re reading!). As the blog flourished, Rebecca expanded her vision to encompass personalized travel planning services and launched Veggies Abroad's inaugural vegan tour to Thailand, marking the beginning of many more eco-conscious, plant-powered adventures to come. Follow her adventures on Instagram or Facebook @veggiesabroad