Memphis is all about the blues, soul and rock ’n roll — thanks to its connections with Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash. But it’s also a great launchpad for Southeastern road trips.
The city is close to a range of a number of attractive destinations, from natural wonders and adventure hubs to similar southern cities filled with life and their own unique cultures.
Many are even easily paired with Memphis if you’d like to create a themed road trip, around Southern history and culture, or around music specifically — you’ll find lots of blues and Elvis Presley-related destinations on this list.
To help you decide where to go next, here are 12 easy weekend road trips from Memphis.
1. Jackson, Mississippi
For more southern culture akin to what you’ll find in Memphis, try Jackson, Mississippi, just a short three-hour drive away — perfect for a weekend when you can head out on the road early on a Friday morning.
Like Memphis, Jackson offers a healthy live music scene, with lots of venues to hop between during a night out, as well as lots of genres to choose from. Beyond the music, there’s plenty of history to be had.
- Distance: 210 miles
- Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Related Read: 11 Exciting & Unique Places to Stay in Tennessee
2. Birmingham, Alabama
A similar distance away, Birmingham is likewise a staple southern destination for anyone tracing the music and culinary culture, as well as the history, of the South. While Jackson and Memphis may be more music-focused, Birmingham is specifically a good place to go if you’re all about the historical appeal.
Civil Rights history is, as you might expect, pervasive here. Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham Civil Rights National Monuments, for starters. Then, when you’re hungry, check out the city’s budding food scene, where you can find everything from James Beard award winners to down-home soul food.
- Distance: 245 miles
- Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 30 minutes
3. Heber Springs, Arkansas
Given Memphis’s location in the corner of Tennessee, it’s no surprise that you can reach so many other states from the city. If you’re not quite keen on a visit to Alabama or Mississippi, consider traveling westward, to Arkansas.
There, you’ll find Heber Springs, just a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. Heber Springs got its start as a tourist destination due to its healing springs, and the water is still a big attractor here. Top spots to check out include Collins Creek Cascade and Magness Lake. Fishing is a popular activity here, and the Little Red River is known as the home of the largest recorded brown trout in the world (weighing in at more than 40 pounds).
- Distance: 132 miles
- Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 30 minutes
4. Chickasaw State Park, Tennessee
For a quick and easy, nature-centric getaway, and a drive under two hours, head eastward, further into Tennessee, to Chickasaw State Park. With more than 14,000 acres, four miles of hiking trails, horseback riding trails and water sports, you’re sure to find a great way to spend your time within this park.
If you’d like to camp at the park, you’ll find more than a dozen waterside cabins that are available to rent, but traditional campsites are also available for RVs, trailers and tents. You can also rent a campervan in Tennessee, and see the area that way.
- Distance: 83 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Related Read: The 12 Best Spots to See Tennessee’s Fall Foliage
5. Clarksdale, Mississippi
While Memphis may be known for its blues scene, Clarksdale certainly is, too, so if you’re planning a music-centric road trip, it’s a natural next step on your itinerary.
Situated just a short, 76-mile drive from Memphis, Clarksdale is known as one of the birthplaces of blues music, and it has all the attractions to match. Beyond live music venues, you’ll find the Delta Blues Museum and the Crossroads Cultural Arts Center.
- Distance: 76 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Related Read: 8 Best Resorts in Tennessee for Every Traveler
6. Nashville, Tennessee
Hop between two Tennessee urban hubs. Yes, it might take you a little over three hours to get there, but once you’ve visited Nashville, you’re sure to fall in love with this southern city. The live music scene is not to be missed, but the food scene is also memorable, as is the indie shopping.
Make sure you add time to your itinerary to check out all the great museums in Nashville, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Frist Art Museum and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum — and that just scratches the surface of Nashville’s robust arts and culture attractions.
- Distance: 212 miles
- Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Related Read: What to See & Do on a Nashville to Gatlinburg Road Trip
7. Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Tennessee
Sticking in Tennessee, for an outdoorsy getaway under an hour’s drive time, try the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was created to protect migrating birds in the 1960s and sits along the Hatchie River. With nearly 12,000 acres of space, it’s not only home to a wide array of water fowl, but also all sorts of native, Tennessee wildlife such as deer, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
If you want to visit the refuge, you’ll find an array of activities, including hiking, fishing, boating and even driving and boat tours. There are scenic hiking trails for an array of skill levels, though most trails are very easy, from a mere 0.09-miles long to more than two miles at longest.
- Distance: 56 miles
- Drive time without stops: 50 minutes
Related Read: 13 Best Cabin Rentals Near Nashville, Tennessee
8. Hardy, Arkansas
Another Arkansas destination, Hardy is a small town that offers up an array of outdoor activities, with a few towny amenities thrown in for good measure. You can do a little local shopping and dining, but then spend the most of your weekend trip soaking up the sun.
Visit Lake Sequoyah or Lake Cherokee, get in some zip lining and camp at one of the local camp grounds. Make sure to check the town’s calendar before your visit, to see if you can maybe catch one of the annual festivals, fairs or concerts. If you don’t fancy camping, you’ll find several local bed and breakfasts in town.
- Distance: 130 miles
- Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 10 minutes
9. St. Louis, Missouri
If you’d rather go to a big city after your stay in Memphis, and you don’t mind a little extra driving time, then there’s nowhere else to go than the Gateway to the West, aka St. Louis, Missouri. You’ll find near-endless ways to have fun here, no matter what you’re into or who you’re traveling with.
Luxury travelers, budget travelers, family travelers, history buffs, foodies, outdoor adventurers — there’s seriously something for everyone. Of course, the top thing to add to your itinerary is seeing the Gateway Arch, but, otherwise, you can find live sports, breweries, barbecue, zoos, lots of museums and more to keep you entertained.
- Distance: 280 miles
- Drive time without stops: 4 hours
Related Read: 9 Amazing Treehouse Rentals in Missouri You’ll Love
10. Oxford, Mississippi
Situated almost directly south of Memphis, and a little over an hour away, Oxford, Mississippi, is the cultural hub of the South. The small town, charming and unassuming, has attracted a variety of artists and, more particularly, writers, over the years.
The town is home to the University of Mississippi, also known as Ole Miss. If you visit during the fall, you’ll have a unique opportunity to check out the South’s obsession with SEC football, but, otherwise, you can check out lots of artsy attractions, such as the many galleries and William Faulkner’s historic home.
- Distance: 85 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 20 minutes
11. Tupelo, Mississippi
For another music-centric destination to visit after Memphis, try Tupelo. The birthplace of Elvis Presley, the city offers, of course, the King’s historic home and museum. However, that’s not where the history stops.
Tupelo is also a point of interest on the Natchez Trace Parkway (which is a separate road trip all on its own that should definitely be considered once you have more than just a weekend, as it’s more than 400 miles). It’s additionally home to historic sites such as the Tupelo Veterans Museum, Tupelo National Battlefield and Oren Dunn City Museum.
- Distance: 115 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 40 minutes
12. Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock, Arkansas, the state’s capital, is small for a state capital, but still offers lots to explore, both indoors and out. There’s Pinnacle Mountain State Park, for easily accessible views. For some presidential history, there’s the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
The River Market District offers local shopping. For biking on the waterfront, head to the Arkansas River Trail. Fashion fans can visit the Esse Purse Museum, while families will want to visit the oldest museum in Arkansas, the Museum of Discovery.
- Distance: 137 miles
- Drive time without stops: 2 hours
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