3 Days and 2 Nights of Music in Memphis with Homeschool Kids

Modern day Memphis is a mix of music lovers and a time capsule of once-great musicians. Learn about the soulful sound for which Memphis became world-wide famous. Tour Graceland and see all that grew from Elvis Presley‘s start at Sun Studio. Did you know that Sam Phillips didn’t like the slow ballads Elvis Presley first sang but loved the more soulful songs that eventually turned him into the King of Rock and Roll? See two influential vintage recording studios and hear how the music industry was influenced by farm life and church at the Rock ‘N Soul Museum.

This 3 day and 2 night travel itinerary following the history and influence of music in Memphis, Tennessee will resonate with homeschool kids. Each day is packed with memorable tourism attractions and homeschool assignments that your child can do en route. Pick up brochures and take photos everywhere along the route so you can trigger your memory when you return home to complete any unfinished assignments.

Day 1 in Memphis

3 p.m. Arrive and Check in at the Peabody Hotel
149 Union Ave.
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 529-4000
Ducks walk at 4 p.m., so arriving by 3 allows time for check in, load in and finding a place to sit. (The parking garage is a 5 to 10 minute walk, particularly if you are loaded down with bags.)

4 p.m. Duck Parade
The ducks will walk along a red carpet from the fountain to the elevator. Kids are allowed to sit along the edge of the carpet. This is a great occasion to allow the kids to borrow your phone to take photos. The Duckmaster will give a brief history, but this little parade of ducks doesn’t take very long, so don’t be late.

Memphis Peabody Ducks
The Peabody Ducks walk the red carpet.

Homeschool Assignments:

  • Imagine you own a hotel in a big city. Come up with a gimmick that will create a marketing sensation. Write and illustrate an ad. Make a list of famous people you think might have stayed at the Peabody Hotel. Who would stay at your luxury hotel?
  • The Peabody Hotel has a long and interesting history. Write a diary/journal entry by a visitor to the Peabody Hotel during a different time period describing his/her stay at the hotel.
Rock n Soul Museum in Memphis
Rock n Soul Museum near Beale Street

5 p.m. Rock ‘N Soul Museum
191 Beale St.
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 205-2533
This gem of a museum gives a great overview of the history of how rock and soul music have shaped American culture. The introductory video is extremely well done and is a must to put everything about the music industry in Memphis into perspective. The headphone tour is a hit with the kids and allows everyone to go at their own pace. Pay particular attention to the first section about farm life and the importance of church, because it is a repeated theme in other Memphis museums but best represented here.

An exhibit at the Rock n Soul Museum in Memphis
An excellent exhibit at the Rock n Soul Museum.

Homeschool Assignments:

  • Research and write about what factors you think are influencing today’s music industry.
  • Write about the way that the music industry influences life in America. Do you think that culture is a bigger influencer of music, or is it the other way around?
  • Choose a favorite album and research the recording of that album. Where and when was it recorded? Why did the artist choose to record at that location?
Beale Street in Memphis
Famous Beale Street comes alive at dusk.

7 p.m. Dinner on Beale Street

Any number of choices with inside and outside seating available and plenty of live music. The Hard Rock Cafe displays unique music memorabilia items, and their guitar-shaped plates are very kid friendly. Silky O’Sullivans’ patio dining features a view of entertaining goats. You are also likely to see living street statues working for tips.

Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis
The Hard Rock Cafe overlooks Beale Street.

Homeschool Assignment:

  • Research the history of Beale Street. Why was it so influential or important? What famous locations are still around today? Why is this particular street a tourist attraction today?

9 p.m. Overnight at Peabody Hotel
After a busy day, don’t stay out so late that you can’t enjoy the comforts of this beautiful historical hotel. Wi-Fi is available.

Day 2 in Memphis

Breakfast at the Memphis Peabody.
Bananas Foster French Toast to start the day.

8:30 a.m. Breakfast at the Capriccio Grill Restaurant at the Peabody Hotel
Whole wheat pancakes with chocolate chips are on the menu as well as many other delicious treats.

Homeschool Assignment:

  • Take this dining opportunity to talk about the high quality of the restaurant and how we should always use our very best manners. This is the perfect location to put them to good use.
Graceland in Memphis
Front porch at Graceland

10 a.m. Graceland
3734 Elvis Presley Blvd
Memphis, TN 38116
(901) 332-3322
Plan to spend most of the day at Graceland. The interactive multimedia iPad tour of the house and grounds gives a great history and the impact on the industry that was Elvis Presley. Take a break with ice cream, and everyone will enjoy looking at the various gift shops. One in particular is especially for kids.

Homeschool Assignments:

  • Notice all of the items that would have been luxuries when Elvis was alive. What things at Graceland were unusual or quite expensive at the time but are common-place now? Write about the changing notions of “luxurious” or “high-end” or “state-of-the-art.”
  • Tour Elvis’ two Planes and Elvis’ Automobile Collection. The car museum is a
    Cars at Graceland in Memphis.
    Elvis owned a lot of cars!

    delightful slice of the evolution of cars which would could play into a larger academic discussion about transportation.

  • As you tour the automobiles, discuss the changes in design that are evident in the collection.
  • Notice all the clothing on display. Write about your favorite outfit. What makes it special? Design and draw a new outfit for Elvis to wear.
  • Choose one of the many movie posters on display, then watch that movie when you return home. Write a review for the Elvis movie.
  • Write a story that could be made into a movie starring Elvis. Design a poster for that movie.
  • Graceland features several themed rooms. Imagine that Elvis has asked you to
    Graceland's Jungle Room in Memphis
    Decorations in the Jungle Room.

    design a new themed room for Graceland. Draw a picture of that room and all the things that you would include in your design. You might cut pictures from catalogs or assemble a collection of images that you find on the internet.

  • Imagine that you were a guest for a week at Graceland when Elvis was alive. Write a journal/diary entry about your visit there.

4 p.m. Shopping, Exploring and Dinner at the Bass Pro Shop in the Pyramid
1 Bass Pro Dr
Memphis, TN 38105
(901) 291-8200

Great Pyramid in Memphis
So many geometric lines.

Even if you are not the outdoorsy type, this giant Pyramid is worth a visit, particularly for homeschoolers because you can talk about geometry, engineering as well as the many species of fish and stuffed animal specimens. When you arrive, check on the availability of bowling and the estimated wait time for dinner, and plan your exploring in the store around your wait time. Linger around the cash registers for the best display of woodland creatures.

Homeschool Assignments:

  • If you end up sitting on the rocking chairs near the restaurant, use the time to calculate how many people are riding the elevator in a day if it ran non-stop. Count the number of seconds it takes for the elevator to go up and down in a cycle and estimate how many people can fit inside the elevator and then multiply. Count how many people are in line and estimate how long it will take for the last person to get to the top.
  • If you are studying or have studied geometry or shapes, a visit to the Pyramid is a perfect opportunity to discuss three-dimensional shapes and their properties.

    Inside the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid in Memphis.
    You won’t run out of things to see in the Pyramid.

7 p.m. Driving Across the Mississippi River for Ice Cream
Other than the abundant nightlife that Memphis has to offer, there are not any kid-friendly attractions open in the evenings, so sometimes you have to create your own. When leaving the Bass Pro Shop in the Pyramid, you are right at the base of the bridge that spans the Mississippi River. The Arkansas Visitor Center is a great place to pick up brochures for a future visit, and you can check off having been to another state. There are a couple of exits with chain restaurants that will serve a variety of desserts before you head back to Tennessee.

Homeschool Assignment:

  • Take this car ride to discuss why there is a giant pyramid in Memphis. Did you know that Memphis is named after the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis that was located on the Nile? Research the connection between Egypt and Memphis, Tennessee. The Bass Pro Shop might kick off a study of ancient Egypt.
  • On what big important river is the city of Memphis, Tennessee, located? The Mississippi River! Why has the Mississippi River been important throughout the history of the United States? This discussion ought to tide you over at least until you reach the other side of the bridge.
  • You could be reading and writing about nearly anything by Mark Twain, but especially The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi.

    Tennessee state line in Memphis.
    Crossing the Mississippi River into Tennessee.

8:30 p.m. Overnight at the Peabody Hotel

Day 3 in Memphis

8:30 a.m. Breakfast and Check Out

Stax Studio in Memphis
Stax was Soulsville, USA.

10 a.m. Stax Museum

926 E McLemore Ave

Memphis, TN 38106
(901) 946-2535

Again, the introductory video is tremendous and can’t be missed! This museum highlights more of the cultural changes effected by the Civil Rights Movement and reinforces the important role of music in America.

Interactive exhibit at Stax in Memphis.
Kids love the interactive exhibits at Stax.
Cozy Corner in Memphis
Cozy Corner is a local favorite.

12 p.m. Lunch at Cozy Corner Cafe
726 North Pkwy
Memphis, TN 38105
(901) 527-9158
This small local lunch counter offers a variety of quick options, including Memphis style BBQ.

1 p.m. Sun Studio
106 Union Ave.
Memphis, TN 38103

Sun Studio in Memphis
The great guitar marks the entrance to Sun Studio.

The significant role Sam Phillips played in the birth of rock and roll is preserved in this small studio that has not been touched, updated or renovated in all these years. Listen for the detail about how the wire in the amplifier was shaken loose and created a new and different sound that led to a technology innovation that made Sun Studio famous.

Homeschool Assignments:

  • Did you know that today’s musicians rent out the studio to record? If you wrote a song, what would the title be? What would the chorus be? Can you write all the lyrics?
  • Compare the studio spaces at Stax and Sun. What elements are the same? How are the spaces different? At which studio would you rather record? Why?
Sun Studio in Memphis.
Sun Studio displays the dj booth that first played Elvis.

3 p.m. National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 521-9699
Noted as one of the nation’s premier heritage and cultural museums, the National Civil Rights Museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Personally seeing this historic site is lesson enough, but additionally the museum offers hundreds of artifacts documenting slavery, the Civil War, the rise of Jim Crow and the paradigm-shifting events that still inspire people around the world to stand up for equality. The interactive exhibits, films and oral histories that guide visitors through 500 years of history are emotionally moving and will be appreciated by all who visit.

Homeschool Assignment:

  • Several of the museums in this itinerary explain similar elements of the same historical story in slightly different ways or with a different perspective. Choose one element that appears in the story of each museum and write about how it all ties together.

Big Picture Homeschool Assignments:
Now you have seen Graceland and all that grew from Elvis Presley’s start at Sun Studio and heard that Sam Phillips didn’t like the ballads Elvis Presley was singing but loved the more soulful songs that turned him into the King of Rock and Roll. You have also seen two great vintage studios and had the music industry overview at the Rock ‘N Soul museum and heard about how farm life and church influenced the sound for which Memphis became famous.
Write in response to one of the following prompts:

  • Examine the influence of the church in music of the past and/or of music right now.
  • Research any person in history who has greatly affected culture, paying particular attention to what influenced that person. What has influenced or is influencing you to be a changer of culture?
  • A lot more goes into a successful song than the person singing it. Research the myriad career options available in the music industry. Consider the studio musicians, the back up singers, the sound technicians, the engineers, the promoters, the managers, etc.
  • Write about the steps necessary for a song to be recorded in a studio. What people are involved in that process? How many things must happen before a song makes it to the radio?
  • You will have taken a lot of photographs and made a lot of notes about your trip to Memphis. Build your information into a slideshow that explains why you think someone should visit Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Arrange your photos in a film to tell a story of your Memphis trip. Set the music of the film to some of the many classic songs recorded in Memphis.
Memphis is music.
Memphis is music.

Extend Your Stay Activities:
Mississippi Mud Island (Significance of the Mississippi River as a transportation route)
125 North Front Street
Memphis, TN 38103
800.507.6507
901.576.7241

Cotton Museum (History of the South and the importance of crops)
65 Union Ave.
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 531-7826

Memphis Zoo (Egyptian Motif + Wagon on Display in Farm Area ties into Transportation)
2000 Prentiss Pl.
Memphis, TN 38112
(901) 333-6500

3 Days in Memphis Itinerary
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