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Why You Should Go to the Beale Street Music Festival

Why You Should Go to the Beale Street Music Festival

The Beale Street Music Festival brings incredible artists to downtown Memphis each year. If you love spending time outside while listening to live music, you won’t want to miss this event.

For those curious about the artist lineup and where the event takes place, we’ve gathered all the details you’ll need to plan a trip to this iconic festival. We even found some of the best places in town for you to stay during your time in Tennessee. 

Join us as we dive deep into a musical event that’s been a staple in Memphis for over 40 years.

Let’s go!

About the Beale Street Music Festival

Each May, the Beale Street Music Festival takes over a park in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, for three days. Over 60 bands perform on the festival’s four stages, drawing more than 100,000 eager fans to the event.

Some of the great artists that’ll grace the stage this year include Earth, Wind & Fire, and The Roots. Up-and-coming bands like the Ghost Town Blues Band will also be performing. You may just discover your new favorite group while wandering the festival and listening to new bands. 

You can buy single-day tickets or a pass for the entire three-day event online. VIP packages can also be purchased for special access. Consider renting a locker ahead of time so you don’t have to carry too much around all day. 

Where Is the Beale Street Music Festival?

The Beale Street Music Festival takes place at Tom Lee Park, just west of downtown Memphis, stretching along the Mississippi River for about a mile. The park’s north end reaches the well-known tourist destination, Beale Street. 

The riverfront park features a large playground, jogging trails, and stunning sunsets. Several events occur in the area throughout the year. In addition to the music festival, this location hosts the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest each May.

Tom Lee, the park’s namesake, witnessed the capsizing of the ship M.E. Norman in 1925. Though he couldn’t swim, he made five trips in his small skiff to rescue the drowning families. Lee saved the lives of 32 people that day.

A man playing guitar on the street. A scene you might see during the Beale Street Music Festival.

What Is Special About Beale Street?

Beale Street has been a center for entertainment for over a century. During the 1920s, it became a hotbed of theaters and nightclubs. Gambling, drinking, and dancing were popular pastimes along the avenue. Street performers would flock to this strip to play music or perform in some manner for tips. Today, Beale Street still has a reputation for being a place to have a great time. 

The avenue closes to vehicle traffic each evening, turning it into a pedestrian thoroughfare. Visitors can wander the street with a drink in hand and stop into almost any establishment to hear live music. Street performers, including the Beale Street Flippers from America’s Got Talent, still put on shows for tourists to enjoy.

Other Great Things To Do Near the Beale Street Music Festival

The city of Memphis has plenty to offer besides music. If you have time outside of your festival attendance, consider checking out some of its other attractions. 

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum was built into the Lorraine Motel, the location of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Anyone who wants to learn more about the fight to overcome racism in the U.S. should visit this museum. 

It gives an in-depth overview of the civil rights movement, beginning with slavery and ending in the room where Dr. King lost his life. Learn about heroes like Rosa Parks and the people who participated in sit-ins during an immersive experience at the Lorraine.

We suggest buying advance tickets online if you plan to visit the museum. Walk-up guests will be allowed entry based on availability. 

Know Before You Go: Visit the National Civil Rights Museum’s website to purchase tickets and for information on permanent and upcoming exhibits.

An image representing a scene inside the National Civil Rights Museum, a place to visit while you're at the Beale Street Music Festival

Check Out Big River Crossing

The Big River Crossing connects Tennessee and Arkansas across the Mississippi River. This mile-long pedestrian bridge is the longest of its kind on this river. Visitors enjoy crossing the bridge on foot or by bicycle for stunning views of the Memphis skyline. 

Every night, Big River Crossing puts on a light show. The Mighty Lights starts every night at sundown, and the show happens every hour and half hour until 10:30 pm. The LED lights are displayed on the Big River Crossing and the adjacent vehicle bridge, the Hernando DeSoto.

Explore the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum

The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum can be found less than one mile from Tom Lee Park. Since 2000, the museum has been telling the story of music in Tennessee. During your visit, you can learn about the old-time jug bands as well as modern pop and rap music made in Memphis.

To visit the museum, you can purchase your tickets at the door. They offer several discounts, including rates for AARP and AAA members, so be sure to ask about available markdowns when you arrive.

Best Places To Stay Near the Beale Street Music Festival

Now that you have some ideas of what to do during your trip to Memphis, you’ll probably want to know where to stay. We found some unique accommodations that are worth checking out. 

ARRIVE Memphis

If you want to be within walking distance from the Beale Street Music Festival, look no further than ARRIVE Memphis. This local boutique hotel has about 60 rooms and an in-house bakery. You can get a fresh latte or cocktail in the lobby to enjoy while you play poker or shuffleboard. For a relaxing stay downtown, we suggest booking a room at this hotel.

The Peabody

The Peabody opened over 150 years ago and has become known as the South’s grand hotel. Their 464 recently renovated hotel rooms might just be the perfect place to rest after a long day at the music festival. You’ll find the hotel just half a mile north of Tom Lee Park.

The Peabody has become famous for their daily duck marches. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, consider swinging by the lobby at 11:00 am or 5:00 pm to see the ducks put on a show.

The Central Station Memphis

You can get to the music festival on foot in under ten minutes from The Central Station. This converted train station has over 100 rooms with views of historic Main Street and the Mississippi River. The hotel offers an extensive vinyl collection with a listening room, so if you don’t get your fill of music at the Beale Street Music Festival, you’ll get it at Central Station.

Is the Beale Street Music Festival Worth It?

Whether this’ll be your first trip to Memphis or you’ve been several times before, we think the Beale Street Music Festival is well worth checking out. You’ll be treated to well-known popular bands and hear some great local musicians.

The city has much to offer once your time at the festival ends. Whether you want to hear more music, learn about the history of Memphis, or eat good food, you’ll find plenty of options around town.

Have you been to the Beale Street Music Festival before? Let us know in the comments!

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