Hello! I am Ava Kinsey, a hobbyist blogger at 21st Century Keeper at Home and part-time family photographer at Over the Mantle Photography in Memphis, TN. I am not a native of Memphis, and one thing I have learned since moving here, is that most of the people I meet here are not from Memphis, either! However, Memphis is a great city with much to offer for families. I am so excited to be able to share with you some of my family’s favorite free and almost-free activities.
1. Memphis Zoo
Memphis has a phenomenal zoo that has been rated #1 in the country by two independent surveys. On Tuesday afternoons, Tennessee residents can get in for free by just showing your Tennessee driver’s license. You still have to pay for parking which is $5. One of our favorite exhibits is the Birds & Bees which has a large aviary with many budgies (parakeets) that you can feed with a feeding stick for $1 each.
|There is much to see and do at the Memphis Zoo!|
The Lichterman Nature Center is a beautiful 65-acre park located just east of I-240. On Tuesday afternoons, they offer free admission. In the Visitor’s Center, you may view stuffed animals; in another building, you may see fish and other aquatic life. For a nominal fee, you may purchase food for the fish and turtle at the lake (my daughter’s favorite activity!). There are several trails, one of which takes you to a lookout point overlooking a valley of wooded area.
|Lichterman Nature Center|
3. Shelby Farms
Shelby Farms is one of the country’s largest urban parks. In fact, it is over five times larger than Central Park in New York City! There are many activities available including hiking, biking, paddleboating, horseback riding, and frisbee golf. They have an area for pets to roam and play off-leash. A large pasture houses a herd of bison. My daughter’s favorite thing to do is play at the Woodland Discovery Playground. It has four different play areas including sand and water play, slides, swings, and a huge spider web climbing structure. My family also enjoys picnicking there. At Christmastime, they have a wonderful Christmas lights display that you view from your car (for a fee).
|Lots of fun at Shelby Farms!|
There are a number of places offering Storytime in the Memphis area, but the best, bar none, is by Mrs. Marjorie at the Booksellers at Laurelwood. Storytime is on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 AM. Mrs. Marjorie sings and interacts with the children before reading a story with lively animation and happy smiles. She also provides a small story-related craft for the children to do at the end of storytime.
|Singing, Stories, and more with Mrs. Marjorie at Booksellers at Laurelwood!|
The Pink Palace Museum is housed in a beautiful mansion that was built by the man who started the Piggly Wiggly grocery stores. There are science exhibits and historical exhibits, as well as a wonderful handcarved wooden model of a circus that comes alive with animation. On Tuesday afternoons, admission to the Pink Palace is free. Each summer, they offer free summer membership which allows you to visit both the Pink Palace and the Lichterman Nature Center any day you wish. You must sign up during the month of May.
6. Jones Orchard
Jones Orchard is located in Millington, a short ways north of Memphis. They have you-pick orchards and fields in the summer and fall. Last year, I took my daughter to pick apples with some friends of ours. She enjoyed it so much that she has asked on numerous occasions to go back and “pick apple tree.” We recently visited this spring and picked strawberries. Of course, if you want to take the fruit home, you must pay for it, but the experience is priceless free.
|Picking apples at Jones Orchard|
One of Memphis’ iconic buidings downtown is the Peabody Hotel. Besides having a rich history spanning nearly 150 years, it is famous for housing the Peabody Ducks which march into the grand lobby from their rooftop home at 11 AM to spend the day swimming in their special Fountain and then march out at 5 PM to return home for the night.
The Biblical Resource Center and Museum is located east of Memphis in Collierville, TN. It is a small museum with free admission located on the town square and has artifacts relating to the Bible times. It hosts different events. In 2011, for example, they hosted a display of a Gutenberg printing press which was the first printing press in the world.
|Biblical Resource Center and Museum|
9. Mud Island
Mud Island is a fun park located on an island lying in the Mississippi River. It is best known for its scaled replica of the Mississippi River, called the Riverwalk. If you park on the residential part of the island, you can walk to the Riverwalk and enjoy it for free. Parking for a fee is available off of Front Street, and you can ride the monorail to the Island for a fee or walk across for free. Other for-an-additional-fee activities include a museum, paddle boats and kayaks, concessions, and a gift shop.
|Exploring the Mississippi River at Mud Island|
Thank you, Jamie, for allowing me to share our favorite Memphis activities!