Memphis is a classic American destination that’s long been popular with visitors. World-famous Beale Street and the Mississippi River define the city’s downtown and set the tone for the entire city, where you can hear live music nightly and experience attractions steeped in legendary music and civil rights history.
In the last five years, the city has also heavily invested in its infrastructure for visitors, including sports groups. Visitors to the city today benefit from an estimated $20 billion in improvements, including:
- Three new sports facilities, transforming Memphis into a hub for players of all levels (read on for more detail)
- New hotel rooms: More than 2,000 new hotel rooms opened in Memphis between 2020 and 2023, and an additional 6,000 rooms are in various stages of development through 2026. The additional inventory ranges from hotel brands near sports facilities across the Memphis metro area to boutique properties in popular entertainment districts.
- Airport upgrades: With a $245 million upgrade to the passenger concourse complete, a major upgrade to the baggage and ticketing area at Memphis International Airport is up next. While the airport already offers more than 30 direct flights, several new routes have been announced over the last 18 months, including Austin, Boston and Raleigh-Durham.
In other words, if it’s been some time since you last visited Memphis – or if you’ve never visited – this river city on the rise may look a little different when you arrive.
The Basics: Why Visitors Choose Memphis
Memphis, located on the Mississippi River in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, is centrally located within the U.S., making it easy to reach by car, air, train and even via the river. It’s also been lauded for its affordability, including a recent budget-travel accolade from Lonely Planet.
Of course, the same things that make the destination sweet for leisure travelers sweeten the deal for groups visiting the destination, including relatively low hotel costs and reasonably priced dining and attraction options.
Memphis’ food scene and attractions are known worldwide. As a barbecue capital – with more than 100 restaurants in the city smoking, char-grilling and otherwise preparing its signature cuisine, Memphis offers affordable, authentic dining options. And where else can you visit Elvis Presley’s mansion, Graceland; see Isaac Hayes’ Cadillac (at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music); or visit the Smithsonian-affiliated National Civil Rights Museum, along with six other U.S. Civil Rights Trail sites?
For live music, you’ll find all-ages options every night, even on Beale Street. In fact, strolling Beale Street is a popular activity for groups and families. Watch the Beale Street Flippers perform acrobatics, enjoy live music and soul food at B.B. King’s Blues Club, go for burgers at Dyer’s or visit an attraction like the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, full of listening stations.
Just don’t miss these other top Memphis attractions: Memphis Zoo; Topgolf; riverboat sightseeing tours on the Mississippi; and riverfront hangouts, from the newly transformed Tom Lee Park with basketball courts, playgrounds and a snack kiosk to Big River Crossing, the longest pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi River.
Memphis’ New Sports Facilities
Fans of pro sports look to Memphis to cheer on their teams: the NBA Memphis Grizzlies, AAA Memphis Redbirds, USL 901 FC, USFL Showboats and the FedEx St. Jude Championship, St. Jude IRONMAN 70.3 and the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. Additionally, the city hosts the Southern Heritage Classic, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and the University of Memphis Tigers athletics.
For visiting teams, the city offers a variety of sports facilities, including:
- Renasant Convention Center: After undergoing a $200 million renovation, Memphis’ riverfront convention center can accommodate 20 volleyball courts and 10 basketball courts. The facility has also hosted martial arts, wrestling and futsal events.
- Memphis Sports & Events Center: Celebrating one year of operation, this multipurpose indoor facility is part of Liberty Park, a developing sports hub in the city center. With Taraflex® flooring, tech that seamlessly converts courts from one sport to the next and a viewing canopy, this facility provides a versatile, one-stop solution for sports including basketball, volleyball, wrestling, gymnastics, cheerleading and futsal. The facility was a proud host to Nike EYBL in May 2023.
- Leftwich Tennis Center: The largest facility of its kind in the region debuted at the end of 2023. With 12 indoor and 24 outdoor courts, it will play host to USTA and collegiate events.
With its classic visitor appeal, convenient location, affordability and developing infrastructure, it’s easy to see why Memphis is where champions play.