Looking for activities in Memphis to get your kids outside and enjoying the southern sunshine? You’ve got lots of choices! Downtown, Midtown, north of the city or out east, check out the best places in the Memphis area to find fresh air and fun times!
With the rejuvenation of downtown, Memphis has really revitalized the city’s green spaces, especially along the Mississippi River. My first choice would be the Big River Crossing over the Mississippi River. The Big River Crossing is a pedestrian walkway on what we Memphians call “The Old Bridge”. You can walk the mile long bridge that stretches across the river into Arkansas and back again, catching some pretty spectacular views of downtown Memphis along the way. There are quite a few other parks along the Mississippi River as well, the largest of which is Tom Lee Park. If you've only been down here for Memphis in May, why not give it a shot during the quieter times as well?
Walk just a bit further up Riverside Drive and you’ll find Beale Street Landing, where you can catch a cruise down the Mighty Mississippi on an authentic riverboat. This is a truly special experience, the kids will love feeling like they’ve stepped back in time when they ride on one of these old fashioned wooden paddlewheel boats up and down the river. If you do take one of the Memphis Riverboat cruises, I would recommend a daytime cruise over one at night. The kids will enjoy being able to see the river, view some wildlife, and watch the paddlewheel turning in the water!
For more fun along the river, take the kids over to the Mud Island River Park. At Mud Island, half the fun is taking the monorail over the water to get there. There’s also a pedestrian bridge, but the kids really love the monorail! Once you’re on the “island”, learn about the history of the area at the Mississippi River Museum, or explore the scaled down replica of the entire Mississippi River that’s built right into a walking path from one end of the island to the other. Follow this all the way to the end, so you can see where the river empties out into a gigantic pool representing the Gulf of Mexico. Also down at the south end of the island, your kids will love the photo spot with gigantic letters spelling out the word MEMPHIS.
There's another nice walking trail on the north end of Mud Island. Just park in the lot across the street from the entrance to Harbor Town and take a stroll along the river, or even rent one of the bikes available in the parking lot. For older kids, you can even got ON the river in the harbor between Mud Island and the downtown river bank. Rent a kayak with Kayak Memphis or take a stand up paddle board tour of the harbor with SUP901.
One of two state parks right here in Shelby County, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is just 13 miles north of Memphis. Tucked away on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, a trip to Shelby Forest will make you forget all about the city life. Shelby Forest offers a Nature Center, hiking and biking trails, bird watching, and a 36-hole disc golf course! Rent a boat or bring your own to enjoy a day out on Poplar Tree Lake, fishing or just enjoying the peace and quiet. You can even turn your visit into a weekend retreat by renting a vacation cabin or pitching a tent at one of the 49 campsites at the park.
If you're looking for a more structured experience, don't forget about the gems we have right here in the Midtown and East Memphis areas. Explore nature in the middle of the city at the Memphis Botanic Garden, Lichterman Nature Center, and Dixon Gallery and Gardens. Looking for something a little more wild? Check out the 4,500 animals from around the world at the Memphis Zoo, with zookeeper chats throughout the day and new exhibits popping up left and right. Don't miss your chance to "Just Roo It" at the Kangaroo Experience going on until October 31st!
4,500 acres of green space is right here at our fingertips in Shelby Farms. Over the past several years, our very own penal farm turned public park has been updated and now has just about everything you could ask for when it comes to outdoor fun! Head out east and find out. Your kids will thank you!
At 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country! Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the Park is both a vibrant community hub and a retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life. ~ https://www.shelbyfarmspark.org/about
Not only does Shelby Farms have over 40 miles of walking trails, but there are multiple playgrounds, a spray park, dog park, picnic areas, and over 20 small lakes! Let the kids can try their hand at fishing, kayaking, or even paddling boarding. Better yet, pack your hammocks so you can take an afternoon break in the cool shade along the shore of one of the tree-lined lakes.
Ready for a day of family biking? Load up your bikes and use the park's access point to ride the Greenline from Shelby Farms all the way to Midtown! Did you know that the Greenline used to be a railroad track? That's right, the 10 1/2 mile bike path was created from an unused railroad line as part of a project they call "rails-to-trails". Pretty cool, huh?
But the fun doesn't stop there. It might surprise you to know that Shelby Farms even has a BMX track, horseback riding stable, and a Go Apes ropes course with zip-line park. With a newly designed visitor center and gift shop, a wheel house and two boat houses, you can rent a bike, board or boat and have an outdoor play day that your kids will never forget!
These awesome outdoor activities are just a few of the reasons I love Memphis so much! So grab your kids, a picnic lunch and some walking shoes, and get outside!