So, you’re moving to Huntsville! Well, Welcome to Alabama. We have lived in Huntsville for almost twenty years on and off, and here’s my blog to hopefully help newbies coming in and maybe highlighting things for homesteaders too. We are a military family and this article was written from my perspective of coming into Huntsville years ago and making this our home.
Huntsville is filled with so many treasure from world class Botanical Gardens to the Space & Rocket Center and everything in between. It truly is a hidden treasure with a bunch to explore in and around North Alabama.
So, here we go…
Whether you are moving to Huntsville for the military on Redstone Arsenal or are moving here for one of the many companies that are helping grow our city like Google, Facebook, Toyota and so many more. Huntsville is growing in leaps and bounds.
If you have a family with children, one of the first questions you will ask is, How are the schools in Huntsville?
Schools in Huntsville
On average, the schools in and around Huntsville score above state average for testing and math scores. They have excellent sports and arts programs and compete nationally for many sports and events.
Personally, I homeschooled our children during their middle school years and I think the homeschooling community in Alabama is amazing and super supportive. To homeschool in the State of Alabama, you must be under a school umbrella. Here’s a good list for Alabama. Some are faith-based and others are national umbrella schools. For more information, you will want to visit the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website. These guys are wonderful advocates and support for the homeschooling family. We were members all three years.
Our children also attended magnet High Schools at Lee High School for arts and music and they thrived. There are several magnet schools in the Huntsville City School District. New Century Technology School is ranked #156 in the nation for schools and #48 for all MAGNET SCHOOLS NATIONWIDE, really fantastic!
There are also several private schools in Huntsville and have very competitive, college-ready and sports programs. If you have school-aged children, I highly suggest you research the schools that best meet your needs.
Some people choose their home based on the location of their school, so let’s talk about real estate.
If you are going to buy or rent in Alabama here are a few things you need to know before you sign on the dotted line. The following is my personal experience and a collection of conversations through research I have done around the city.
CAVEAT EMPTOR (Buyer Beware)
Alabama is a buyer beware state, so the onus is on the buyer to do research on your property/purchase prior to your VERY FIRST OFFER. Here are a few reasons why you need to know before you put your hard earned money down.
In the state of Alabama, appliances do not always convey with the sale/rental of your house. If you want the appliances you see in the showing of your house, make sure you state that you would like them to convey in your very first offer or compensation for replacing them.
Also, negotiate any cosmetic issues that you see, also prior to YOUR FIRST OFFER, new paint, small home repairs, outlet covers, new outlets, remotes etc. before the house inspection. After the inspection takes place and the offer is given it is much harder to get the seller to pony-up for these items.
In the State of Alabama there is this also a tax exemption for new homeowners if they purchase and occupy their house prior to October 1st of the purchase year. It is CRITICAL that you apply for the exemption if you are the new homeowner (your realtor can not do it.) As a homeowner, you must physically go to your county tax assessor’s office and file for the exemption prior to October 1 to qualify. Most new homeowners do this after their first mortgage payment. Just don’t forget, because it is a bunch of money if you forget to apply. HERE’s a LINK FOR more info!
Another suggestion I have, after your purchase, when you know your “move-in” date plan to have your utilities turned on prior to your arrival. I do this a day or two before the moving trucks arrive. If you are moving in the summer, having the A/C running a few days in Alabama before they arrive is important.
In Huntsville (Huntsville Utilities) you will have to
- Make a $300 deposit to have your utilities turned on (after a full month of occupancy, you will get $200 of that refunded) Yea, I know, it’s weird, but true.
- Trash pick up is part of the Utility Company and is $16.50/month and each additional cart is $3.00. (You will want to check this website for your community day pick up.
HOAs (Home Owners Associations)
There are several incredible communities around Huntsville to live in and some of them have Home Owners Associations (HOAs.) These HOAs include many amenities from walking trails, gyms, pools, fitness centers, and more. Each HOA is different and have different dues, bylaws and governance. You will definitely want to check them out prior to purchase.
Most annual dues are for club membership and community property maintenance. These fees can range from $500-2000 annually. We found them to be much more affordable than the DC area. Others have commented that they are much more affordable than the Houston area too. Membership is not always mandatory and sometimes membership does convey with the property, although annual dues are still collected and the responsibility of the new homeowner (some rental properties include the membership in the rental.) If you are renting, this is a good question.
In my opinion, the medical care in Huntsville is good, but not great. When we left Huntsville in 2014 to move to Germany, Huntsville’s medical care was great. As a military family, we didn’t have trouble finding off-post care, for pediatricians, dentists, orthodontists or eye care. However, with expansion in population it has also stretched our medical community thin too, it seems as if it hasn’t been able to catch up.
After returning to Huntsville in 2019, it took us almost a year to find a general practitioner for our family, being placed on waiting lists. If you are active duty (I am pretty sure you can still receive care, at Fox Army Clinic on Redstone, but verify that first.) This is just a piece of the puzzle you will want to research before coming, especially if you have a condition that needs a specialty. Our daughter has thyroid issues and because of her age there was not a pediatric endocrinologist in Huntsville, we were referred to UAB, in Birmingham, which is EXCELLENT care, just a little drive.
Also, if you have family with mental health issues, finding care is also a challenge, this is a worldwide dilemma though and Huntsville was similar to Germany and Europe with just too few providers out there.
There is also the insurance song and dance as well. Be sure to research your provider prior to booking an appointment to see if they accept your insurance. You may have to wait six months for an appointment only to find out they don’t accept your insurance. This sounds obvious but not everyone accepts Tricare.
The Internet in Huntsville is actually really good. After moving back from Germany, from personal experience we are much faster than many cities around Europe, MANY! Although I have heard mixed reviews regarding the providers, we now have Google Fiber and I really like it. However, it is not available all over Huntsville yet, but continues to grow the area. Perhaps after the arrival of the Tech Center it will increase exponentially.
Here are a few providers – definitely check out their ratings and reviews
- Google Fiber
- among many others
O.k. NOW THE FUN STUFF!
You’ve got your house, electricity turned on now you want to explore Huntsville. Here you go… Are you a hiker, cyclist, runner, golfer, maybe you love hockey, YES! Hockey in ALABAMA! So many clubs for you to join right here in North Alabama.
I am a HUGE hiker! I have been hiking since I was a little kid thanks to Mom and Dad. They just framed it as taking a walk in the woods. Huntsville and Madison are filled with some of the most beautiful trails and thanks to trail Angels like The Land Trust of North Alabama there are many trails you’ll want to explore.
There are over 75 miles of walking trails called Greenways in Huntsville that is a part of the long-range city planning project. For more information, click here.
Cycling in Huntsville is on the rise. Check out my friends with the Rocket City Belles! This group of gals plan weekly routes around the state and is organized to help support women of all cycling levels and really get the community involved about needing more bike lanes. You can join them just for coffee too!
I can’t even remember the first time I met Suzanne and Dink Taylor. It was years ago though. This dynamic duo are a critical part of our running community in Huntsville. The owners of Fleet Feet Huntsville and now the new Madison location they not only are small business owners but true educators and just plain great people to know.
Fleet Feet has training for every athlete level from beginners to Tri-Athletes. Check out their website. If you have any interest in starting to run or joining the running community. Their team ROCKs!
How to PCS/Move like a PRO! Available HERE!
Are you moving with the military or overseas? Have I got the book for you! After our 17th move, I decided it was time to WRITE A BOOK! With collections from military spouses from around the world, here you go! What to know before you even get YOUR ORDERS!
If you haven’t heard Alabama is home to over a dozen Robert Trent Jones Golf Courses as well as many, many, many more. I mean like holy cow. I am married to one of those golfers and a goal we have is to play all the RTJs as well as others. There are over 120 golf courses in Alabama and the North Alabama trail is phenomenal, here’s a little more information too in the North Alabama Golf Guide.
Huntsville has a LOT too. So if you moving here and golf, retiring here and golf, are interested in starting to golf, you picked the right place. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
There’s also a Links golf course on (Redstone) that is quite wonderful too. I think you will enjoy all of them too.
This is from my friend Debbie Barrie, Executive Director of Fight Club Hockey Association, “We started back in February of 2010. A group of rec league adults were fed up with ugly side of the local hockey league and wanted to relax and just play with and against people who just wanted to have fun and not take it all so seriously. What we have evolved into is a beginning to end solution for anyone looking to try ice hockey, regardless of your age or experience. The Fight Club Hockey Association is non-profit run by hockey players and coaches who are dedicated to bring the dream of playing hockey to anyone, young or old, and teach them that it is never to late to start something new!”
“Our team of coaches range from ex semi-pro players, ex D1 College players all the way to players who started playing later in life JUST. LIKE. YOU! Our coaches aren’t just passionate about the game of hockey, they are excited about introducing the sport to new to hockey adults and watching them evolve into Rec league players the right way. Come join our tight hockey community!” Special thanks to the volunteer coaches out there Mike Kiene. Darin Taylor. Troy Skinner and Jason DeGuehery ( dee-Gary), Brittany Mock and Kasi Payne.
Great Brews and Eateries in Huntsville
I love having so many opportunities to try new cuisines from new entrepreneurs and restaurateurs. It feels like every week Huntsville is announcing a new eatery or small business opening up in Huntsville. In this series, I’ll be writing a blog coming out soon on some of my new favorites, sign up and subscribe for my website newsletter to not miss an article.
Beer and Wine
Cup a Joe
Not just beer and wine, but COFFEE shops and cafes are popping up all over the place. If you need a cup of black gold before starting your day, you will enjoy the choices of the craft coffee trail in Huntsville. More about this too in a future article.
Football is REAL!
Before moving here, you may have heard the joke about how big football is in Alabama. It’s Real! Be prepared to answer this question probably thousands of times, “who do you go for?” That means you must “Roll Tide” (University of Alabama) or “War Eagle” (Auburn University.)
It is part of the fabric of this state. Football fans delight when the season gets near and is all occupying during the season. The new tailgating recipes every year will have your mouth watering with delight. You will be amazed at what can fit in a cooler and how they are even used. Did you know they insulate hot and cold? That was a game-changer for me when we first moved here.
For the not-so-football fan, this is the absolute best time to shop in Huntsville. Seriously, if you just take a look at the football schedule you can shop people free at any grocery store and its an extremely enjoyable experience.
Making Friends and Connecting
My main mission for Travel with Wendy is connection. I am always hoping what I do and share helps people find connection. Huntsville is a great place to make friends, but it is not always easy. After several conversations and research I can collectively say if you would like to connect in our community the best way to do that is to be a joiner, of some kind.
For instance, volunteering in any related field of interested is not only appreciated but also opportunities to meet like minded people who share the same ideas and probably lifestyle.
There are so many volunteer opportunities in Huntsville, I’m not sure where to begin. Plus, you will feel so good about making our community better. Here a few places I have volunteered over the years and have loved every minute of it, the connections I made here are real.
- Burritt on the Mountain
- Huntsville Botanical Gardens
- Huntsville City Schools
- Fleet Feet of Huntsville
- Lincoln Village Ministries
- Food Bank of North Alabama
Here are some other volunteer opportunities…
- Land Trust of North Alabama
- CASA – Care Assurance System for the Aging and Homebound
- Huntsville Hospital
- Huntsville Library – for the readers out there!
- Manna House – Food Distribution
- Arts Huntsville
If you need more resources around Huntsville, I can’t recommend ROCKET CITY MOM high enough, they currently have info on “teen volunteer” summer opportunities. They also have a ton of information about this home we call Rocket City.
Also, if you are a person of faith, Church might be another place to connect in Huntsville. With many denominations from Protestant to Greek Orthodox there are many church communities around Huntsville to worship and have community.
Being a military family, we have learned the art of plugging in, jumping in, however you want to call it. My experience has been, that it may take time to build connections and true friendships, but all good things are this way, right? Keep trying, because Huntsville is definitely worth it!
I have only just touched on a few highlights for moving to Huntsville. Please stay tuned as I share my info here on my vlog channel about our new restaurants and food trucks, the music and arts scene, Farmers Markets and much more. Thanks for joining me here for this quick little preview, please let me know other questions in the comments below. If I can’t answer it, I’ll try to find you the answer.
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!
Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville, Tennessee is an absolute natural treasure. Without a doubt, travel in 2020 definitely had some challenges for all of us, right? Social distancing, masking up, and quarantining. What a year! Thankfully, I found several opportunities to visit and go hiking all outdoors and have a little “safer outdoors” fun!
This Botanical Gardens in Southwest Nashville is definitely a MUST-SEE. When I visited in July, I was fortunate enough to be there during a Dale Chihuly
This blog is a no-nonsense itinerary for a full day at the park. I hope you enjoy it!
Tennessee is filled with gardens all around the state but being so close to the Alabama border, this Nashville delight is an easy day trip from Huntsville, Alabama.
This blog contains affiliate links – I receive a little compensation for posting partner links.
History of Cheekwood
Cheekwood Gardens can be found in the Belle Meade area of Nashville and the love story that surrounds this family is sweet and fun and kismet meeting on a train.
This stately manor is now a museum where you can see annual and seasonal exhibits.
The family has ties to the Maxwell House Coffee Company and a story about President Teddy Roosevelt. It is really cool. As you walk the grounds and stately manor you will be impressed with the designed as an American Country Place Era Estate that was designed by famous architect Bryant Fleming, who built houses for Andrew Carnegie, Roy Chapin among others.
The estate has eleven bedrooms, twelve bathrooms, a hidden staircase, and a ton of books. In 1957, Huldah (Cheek) Sharp, daughter offered the estate as a public garden and fine arts center for Nashville. In 1960, Cheekwood Gardens opened to the public.
Walking around the Garden
One of the MAJOR TRAVEL TIPS about Cheekwood is it is walkable for any fitness level. However, to complete the gardens in one day, I would recommend comfy shoes.
Throughout the gardens, there are fantastic art sculptures and renditions from artists that are just fantastic. Take a look.
It is handicap accessible and there are restrooms dotted throughout the botanical garden. There are also play areas for children of every age.
Please visit the Cheekwood Gardens website before you go! This will save you so much time if you PLAN your trip before you go.
The gardens are massive and we really only touched the surface of “seeing it all.” On my next visit, I will study the map more intently.
Hours, Parking & Tickets
When you plan your visit to Cheekwood be sure to check out the website. Hours are Tuesday – Sunday (so don’t head there on a Monday) and tickets range from Members to Non-Members – Garden only or Garden and Estate.
You decide. There are a few places to grab a bite to eat but since I was there in the middle of COVID we ate at my FAVORITE VEGAN restaurant in Nashville.
If you like Vegan food and have thought about giving it a go, I can’t recommend them enough. If I am heading in that direction, I make sure I stop in at Sunflower!
What’s happening NOW at the Gardens!
The Gardens always have something going on! Definitely check out the website before going. You wouldn’t want to miss anything or budget enough time. For the next few months, Cheekwood in Bloom is incredible and I can’t wait to check it out!
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This would be my very first time in Lexington, Kentucky! However, after our weekend I knew this would not be my last. So impressed with this Kentucky town filled with a “small town” feel, charm, horses, and tons of history. Who knew? Jon said we have a few days and Marriott points so let’s head up to Bourbon country. His favorite, not mine. I prefer grapes. Of course, I am always interested in finding more about the history of small businesses around the world, Bourbon now has become an almost $9 billion dollar industry in Kentucky alone.
Ordinarily, I would prefer to stay in a small Bed and Breakfast in the downtown district. We will definitely do that on our return visit. However, our trip was in May and COVID was traveling too. So we chose Marriott Lexington. Marriott has had the best reputation for maintaining strict health guidelines and we appreciated all the hard work on our arrival. It was apparent workers wanted to be safe AND stay open!
Touring around Town
Touring around town was super special, it was a quiet weekend with no special events or functions going on. Additionally, we could really take in all the architectural beauty and pop into restaurants and shops when we got a bit hungry or curious. Lexington was filled with murals! I love MURALS – art and a message, truly moving.
Ordinarily I use GoogleMaps to guide my way around a new city now since most tourism offices are closed due to COVID or have limited hours. Follow me on Google for more lists and recommendations! Lexington, Kentucky has several points of interests, eateries, bars, and more!
Mary Todd Lincoln House
In addition to the Lincoln Memorial State Park on our way up to Lexington (watch for that VLOG) we also discovered Mary Todd (Lincoln) was born and raised right here in Lexington and her house is within walking distance from the downtown area.
Lexington, Kentucky is filled with incredible Chefs and culinary delights so many in fact it was hard choosing. One TRAVEL TIP I am happy to share is MAKE RESERVATIONS! It was definitely necessary because of COVID and also limited seating. We found it extremely difficult to just “pop” into a place that wasn’t fast food. So we decided to make our way to the Rooftop Restaurant at the Marriott, Infinity: A Skybar & Café.
Bourbon Tastings & Touring!
On the whole, JP is a fine collector of Bourbon and when we visited Scotland he learned all about the whisky there as well. So this was fun watching him taste test like I do wine.
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon was so fun! We were the only ones there on this Sunday morning. From unique distilleries to antique brands that are aged and full of flavor. Jon had a ball.
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Don’t forget the Shoppette
As a matter of fact, don’t forget the shoppette! For those of you carrying a Military I.D. Jon remembered that the Shoppette at Fort Knox, Kentucky had a well-stocked Bourbon collection. So in any event, we made our way there on our way out of town.
Hiking around Lexington
We also enjoyed a little hiking around Lexington. I discovered McConnell Springs right on the outskirts of town. A historical park and easy hiking trail accessible for all. I have a ton of information in this hiking vlog and more hiking inspiration on my YouTube channel.
Some historians believe this was the first location of Lexington’s beginnings. There are foundations, fresh springs, hundred year old trees and lots of natural beauty.
In any event, we made a reservation. However, at the time of this writing one is not needed but the weekends do fill up quickly. Hiking has become very popular in Kentucky and the south during COVID so be mindful of requirements and regulations when visiting city or state parks.
Lexington, Kentucky is definitely a keeper with more to see, and do we only touched the surface. I know Jon will be excited about some Bourbon and BBQ and I’ll be checking out the Old Friends Equine Farm as well. We will #travelagain more adventures to come.
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This year, 2020, was a tough year, right? All things considered, I did have the opportunity to re-explore my state, beautiful Alabama! I had the opportunity to visit and discover many “Sweet Home Small Towns” close to Huntsville. Here are a few that truly captured my heart. This beautiful state is absolutely worth exploring. Additionally, I am happy to say, I have had a ball meeting new people, discovering hidden gems, learning new crafts, and of course, great eats! Here’s a list of six “Sweet Towns of Alabama” you will want to include on your “must-see” list.
Gadsden, Alabama is home to one of the prettiest waterfalls in North Alabama. Located on the Black Creek River, and on the outskirts of this small town is Noccalula Falls Park. This park is massive and has a gorgeous waterfall, campground, playground, botanical garden, loads of hiking trails, and a memorial for the Cherokee Maiden, Noccalula. All things considered for 2020, I was fortunate to visit Gadsden several times this year. This small town is only an hour and a half from Huntsville CLICK MAP HERE.
I also took a few day trips here with small groups to introduce them to the charming town of Gadsden. Part of the Main Street America program, Gadsden’s Main Street has completely changed from our days of being stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama. This summer we enjoyed shopping in the local shops, having lunch, and walking to the Coosa River.
A day trip to Gadsden will include good eats and you could include a visit to the local brewery, The Blackstone Pub & Eatery and stock up on Olive Oil! Yup, King’s Olive Oil is a little shop on Main Street that is filled with all flavors of olive oil, kinds of vinegar, jams, and spreads. We had so much fun trying every pure and different combination they had ~ the lemon, (citrone) is my favorite! Especially to make Lemon Fettucini!
As you walk this precious main street nostalgia will rush over you, friendly storekeepers, greetings of “Hello” on the streets and architecture that is gorgeous.
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However, there are several newer modern stores that will turn your head. We also came across The Taming of the Ewe and Tea Shop you can order yarn here, or your tea if you are hesitant because of COVID travel. It’s o.k. Be sure to CALL before you make a trip, to check for hours.
Heflin, Alabama is located almost half-way between Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. For people looking for an abundance of natural beauty, warm and friendly people “glad to meet ya” and hiking trails galore, Heflin is your place.
Joining the crew
My visitation to Heflin was pure kismet. After meeting Adam and Jennifer Dasinger while attending a HOT GLASS ORNAMENT BLOWING class near Mentone, Alabama we found out we all shared an immense love for hiking. Consequently, Adam said that he lived on the Pinhoti trail just outside of Anniston/Oxford where I was once lived. I hadn’t been back to that area since our return to America. He mentioned the Pinhoti 100 Trail Race being the first weekend of November and perfect timing for fall color.
So I was thrilled when my little group was excited for a hiking adventure in the Talladega National Forest. Adam asked if we would like to join them by helping at the Aid Station at Heflin for the race and of course, we were thrilled.
Our weekend in Heflin included many hikes on the Pinhoti Trail, thanks to our experienced trail guides, Adam and Rick. We also enjoyed touring the town and meeting small business owners from High Country Cellars to Trends Boutique on Main. This community loves their little town.
For more info check out my vlog –
The historic and incredible small town of Mentone is known all throughout our state. In any event, if you are just traveling through, you will definitely miss this gem! A famous artist community welcoming hikers, culinary arts, painters, wood carvers, glass blowing, and of course hikers!
You’ll find everything from fresh local honey and jams, fresh in-season produce and cheeses, handmade jewelry, woodcarvers, and local artisans, and more.
I was fortunate enough to meet a new restaurateur, Kevin Dunlap of Elevation Bistro. We recorded a podcast at his new restaurant and concept. He uses only local foods produced locally, over 80% comes from Lookout Mountain.
EVERY SINGLE TIME I visit Mentone, I stop at Nena’s General Store. I am in love with the spicy pickles from Stamey’s Salty Pickles. In fact, I am quite addicted to these pickles. By the same token, they are from North Carolina, not Alabama, they are so good. The General Store also sells homemade spices from the Sauder Farm Country Market (in Elkton, Kentucky.) Their Hickory Smoke Salt is an absolute favorite!
Monroeville, Alabama is no secret to any voracious reader of American Literature. You see, this enchanting small town gave birth to several award-winning writers, including Harper Lee, Truman Capote, and Mark Childress to name a few. These authors influenced the literary fabric of our nation. I learned so much from just one weekend in Monroeville. I can’t wait to return to see what they are up to next year and who else they have inspired.
Thanks to Penelope Hines, Executive Director of the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce who gave me a full tour and showed me around this hospitable, welcoming, inspiring town.
Definitely check out my VLOG for more information on the annual Spring Play, shopping local businesses and more, check out my VLOG…
Our next small town is Oneonta. Although I discovered purely this adorable town by accident. Well, not really by accident, my stomach was leading the way. Oneonta is filled with murals. They were fun to discover and pose in front of
In fact, we were afraid we would waste away after a morning of Covered Bridge searching and discovering we made our way to Two Amigos Mexican Restaurant . They have an unbelievably huge menu to choose from, delicious and vegetarian options, PLUS Margarita specials. Also, they have outdoor seating weather permitting.
In fact, there is so much more to discover in this town, I will have to write a separate blog to include all the highlights. Here are a few keepers…
More info on visiting these bridges in this VLOG!!
Now, for my final small town heartbeat, I travel to Northwestern Alabama to the town of Tuscumbia. Whenever you walk the streets of this charming town you will feel like you have transported yourself to another place in time. Altogether there are 30 historic properties listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. One of the most famous is Ivy Green. The birthplace and childhood home of Helen Keller.
Additionally, this year, I had the pleasure of meeting teacher and docent, Lynn Weaver of the Museum and I left in awe of everything Helen accomplished while having disabilities. Amazing woman, with an amazing teacher. To say the least, You will learn so much more by going and seeing, trust me!
Next, located in the center of town is Spring Park. This memorial park is a dedication to the Trail of Tears and has a beautiful waterfall and spring that look like a geyser. Super cool!
The Menu at SuperHeros is fun and SUPERB with fantastic choices from Red Velvet Waffles to Bang Bang Cauliflower to Southern Stack Burger with a piece of fried chicken and cheeseburger!
HIKING AROUND TUSCUMBIA
CANE CREEK CANYON
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!
Memphis Blues! Memphis in May! Elvis’ Memphis! I never thought I would fall in love with Memphis so hard and so fast. But boy, did I ever! I found myself saying, “Must be Memphis” just like the locals do before our first day of touring was through.
How you can get there?
Arriving in Memphis either by plane or by car is pretty easy. We drove from our new home in Alabama as it was just a four-hour drive. Most major airlines fly into the Memphis International Airport, like Delta, United, and American. Smaller airlines like Southwest, Frontier, and Southern Airways Express fly there as well.
Check out Scott’s Cheap Flights for deal savers! I love following them, as you never know what kind of flight deals you can find and save on and their newsletter is free!
Where to stay?
We stayed right downtown at a new hotel, the Moxy. This Marriott property is hip and cool and is looking to attract millennial travelers. We were greeted with a complimentary cocktail at the front desk and received coins for future drinks as well. Newly renovated, they have parking on the facility with valet service.
Right behind the hotel is the trolley trail, as a matter of fact, I think it was the front of the hotel. The Memphis Main Street Trolley is a part of the mass transit system of Memphis. I super duper loved how they kept the old trolley design. Thus the route is basically just up and down Main Street and is an inexpensive ride. IT only costs $1 each way! If you are tired of walking up and down from Beale Street, just hop the trolley as it stops right in front.
The Peabody & those ducks
Thankfully, our friends, Megan and Robert came with us to visit this great town and they actually lived here for quite a while. As a matter of fact, Megan worked at the famous Peabody Hotel so she was quite familiar with the entertaining ducks that brought tourists from all over the world. One of the first stops we made and within walking distance of our downtown digs.
You may decide to stay at The Peabody, smaller rooms begin at about $129/night and go up to $1200/night for suites. A popular honeymoon or romantic anniversary splurge weekend in the Presidential or Romeo & Juliet Suite will require a separate email and a price quote depending on the time of year you book. It is quite luxurious and would be a special treat as there is a lot of history here too.
The beauty of Memphis BBQ is there are no two alike!
Memphis is a BBQ lovers’ dream. BBQ joints and restaurants can be found on almost every corner in Memphis. We visited Memphis for three days and we had BBQ EVERY SINGLE DAY! This was not a hardship. My Jon loves BBQ, like BIG LOVES it. Whether its ribs, brisket, butt, you name it. We tried it all, so here are a few we just had to sample.
One of the oldest and most famous BBQ restaurants in Memphis, we tried this fan-favorite first. It seems like not much has changed over the years at Rendezvous in their set-up and menu. Luckily we were visiting in early, early March and were able to walk in without a reservation.
Make a reservation! The Rendezvous is busy all the time. We also were just a party of four, anything bigger and we would have had a wait. These charcoal ribs have a distinct flavor and are just a bit different than others around town. So be prepared for “huh, o.k. those are different.
Central BBQ is located right next to the Civil Rights Museum we stopped in here for lunch after a very emotional visit. I was thankful for the LIVE Blues Band on the back porch. Additionally, Central BBQ was amazing and they are also famous for their BBQ NACHOs which of course we had to try. The ribs and banana pudding were awesome too. Here are a few pics from our lovely lunch!
The live band really gives you the “back porch” a party feeling and sitting at long tables with strangers really gives you the feeling like you are at a neighborhood block party.
Thankfully, our little group agreed to try a sampling of the menu and it’s quite extensive, and Central does not make it easy for you to choose. We tried the dry rub chicken wings, pork rinds and ribs, and BBQ Nachos.
After our large lunch at Central, we were all pretty much in a BBQ coma and decided to take a nap, yea, that happens to the best of us.
People in the south are obsessed with barbecue and they are passionate about their favorites. They will defend their BBQ endlessly, just go with it. Of all the BBQ we tasted all weekend, The Commissary in Germantown was our absolute favorite. The no-frills restaurant (that is tiny) although they now have a second location is very down-to-earth.
Smiling faces greet you at the door of this bustling little restaurant and there’s a line, even on a Monday at 11:00.
Just like the restaurant, the BBQ was simple, tender, and understated. To me, it was just about perfect. Sometimes the sauce or rub is so powerful you can’t taste the meat, sometimes, there’s not enough and all you can taste is the meat. The commissary seems to “get it right!” A little off the beaten path, but definitely worth the stop!
Civil Rights Museum
Visiting the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is incredibly powerful and moving. It really is one of the best museums I have visited around the world. Comprehensive in detail and a poignant and true representation of the civil rights movement.
Group discounts begin at twenty people and visitor parking is located right next to the museum. We took an Uber and didn’t want to worry about driving. I had researched that Central BBQ was located within walking distance so we had already planned on catching lunch there after our tour.
Visiting the museum will be an emotional day. Know this. I hope a visit will help educate, learn, and understand our American history. Flawed, imperfect, and important to understand.
Yea, it’s Beale Street
One of my favorite songs from the 90s is from Marc Cohn and I drove my little party crazy singing this every few minutes as we were hittin’ one of the most famous Blues streets in America.
Walking up and down Beale Street you can hear the sounds of laughter and music of all different genres. It is definitely a cool thing to experience. At night it turns into a pedestrian-only area which I think is probably for safety too.
A visit to Memphis would not be complete without visiting Graceland! Elvis’ nostalgic Tennessee home, is quite the tourist attraction today. I am incredibly glad we visited during an “off-season” in early March. I can’t imagine how busy pre-COVID during the other seasons it must be.
We opted for the mid-priced tickets or the Elvis Entourage Ticket at $100/person which included the
- Graceland Mansion Audio-Guided Tour with New Orientation Film
- Self-guided tour of Exclusive VIP Exhibit
- Self-guided tour of Elvis’ Custom Jets
- Full Access to all-new Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, which includes:
- A tour of Presley Motors Automobile Museum
- A self-guided tour of Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum
- A self-guided tour of Elvis Discovery Exhibits
- Front-of-the-line Mansion Access
- Keepsake Backstage Pass
We were especially interested in the exhibit when Elvis was in the Army because we lived near Friedberg where he was stationed.
Absolutely fascinating museum and of course, I also found myself singing Paul Simon’s Graceland. As my son, the musician says, “music is strong in this family.” I am really glad we added Graceland to our tour, I think it is a one and done visit though. You are totally wiped out after 3 to 4 hours, it is quite a lot to take in and learn, but I can tell you Elvis really lived his life.
To wrap it up, it has taken me a few months to finish writing this blog, I was so moved by the city of Memphis, I kind of didn’t know where to begin. A few things I learned, I definitely want to visit again and I want to share Memphis with others. So yea, it must be MEMPHIS!