Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Shelby County, TN

  • Published 2023/05/27

Shelby County is the largest county in Tennessee, home to around 929,744 residents.

Its county seat, Memphis, played a prominent role in the American Civil Rights Movement and is popular for its music and entertainment scene.

However, there’s more to this county aside from the bustling city of Memphis.

That said, here’s a list of the 20 best things to do in Shelby County, TN!

Walk Around the Historic Beale Street

Sunset over the Historic Beale Street

Sean Pavone /

Beale Street is one of the most iconic streets in Shelby County, located in Memphis.

Hailed as the Home of the Blues, the street encompasses three blocks dotted with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

The best way to explore Beale Street is through a walking tour at night when all establishments have opened, and neon lights illuminate the street.

Street sign of the Historic Beale Street

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Grab a beer and watch live performances from local bands as you soak up the lively atmosphere.

In summer, the street hosts a number of free concerts featuring a variety of genres like rock, punk, jazz, folk, and funk.

Aerial view of the Historic Beale Street

Sean Pavone /

See Thousands of Animals at Memphis Zoo

A red panda at Memphis Zoo

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Ranked as one of the best zoos in the country, Memphis Zoo is a must-visit for adults and children.

The zoo boasts more than 3,500 animals from 500 species, housed in modern exhibits similar to their natural habitats.

Explore Memphis Zoo and get a chance to see African penguins, African lions, white rhinos, and hundreds of other species.

Giraffes at Memphis Zoo

Mont592 /

For an up-close interaction with some animals, join activities like feeding giraffes, walking with kangaroos in the outback, and watching sea lion shows.

You can also join after-dark tours of the zoo and see what goes on around the zoo after sunset.

A pelican at Memphis Zoo

Mont592 /

Find Solace at the India Cultural Center & Temple

Learn more about Hindu culture and history at the India Cultural Center & Temple, a place of worship located in Eads, a small unincorporated community.

The temple provides a safe space for social and cultural activities of the local Hindu community and a place to better understand the Hindu religion and philosophy.

The India Cultural Center & Temple campus houses the Main Temple, a multi-purpose pavilion, smaller temples, the Priest Quarters, and an organic garden.

Visit the India Cultural Center & Temple and get a deeper insight into Hindu culture as you explore the complex and watch daily rites.

Since you’ll be visiting a place of worship, wear appropriate clothing and respect the traditions and customs observed in the temple.

Go for a Morning Jog at Tom Lee Park

A trail at Tom Lee Park

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Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, Tom Lee Park is one of the best hangouts in Shelby County.

The park got its name from Tom Lee, an African-American river worker who saved 32 passengers from a sinking steamboat.

Spanning 30 acres of open fields and walking paths, Tom Lee Park is a great place to go on an early morning jog or walk.

You can also visit the park any time of the day and take in the calming riverside views.

Play volleyball at the park, fly kites, or sit on the benches and read your favorite book for a relaxing activity.

Flowers at Tom Lee Park

Bonita R. Cheshier /

Admire the Greenery at the Memphis Botanical Garden

Daytime view of Memphis Botanical Garden

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The Memphis Botanical Garden contains 30 well-manicured gardens across 96 acres.

From formal gardens and Zen-inducing sanctuaries to family-friendly backyards, the botanical garden provides a welcome change of scenery to its visitors.

Visit the Memphis Botanical Garden and feel as if you’ve been transported to a different place as you walk from one garden to another.

Vibrant flowers at Memphis Botanical Garden /

Depending on what season you’ll visit, you can find blooming flowers like Japanese camellias, daffodils, tulips, peonies, and hydrangeas.

Aside from the gardens, check out the arboretum and find thousands of trees from more than 100 species, including oak and walnut trees.

Signage of Memphis Botanical Garden

Thomas R Machnitzki (, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Play Golf at Orgill Park Golf Course

For golf enthusiasts, Orgill Park Golf Course in Millington provides a tranquil yet exciting environment for a memorable game.

The public golf course is nestled near Casper Lake, with various tee placements that both beginners and experienced golfers will love.

Perfect your swing at Orgill Park Golf Course and enjoy the course’s more than 6,000 yards of tree-lined fairways.

If you have kids or companions who’d like to learn the ropes of the sport, there are golf lessons for all ages and skill levels.

After your game, head to the clubhouse for a well-deserved meal and drinks.

Explore the Outdoors at Meeman Shelby Forest State Park

The waters of Meeman Shelby Forest State Park

Bonita R. Cheshier /

Meeman Shelby Forest State Park is a 12,539-acre state park in Millington, Shelby County.

It borders the Mississippi River and features two lakes, Poplar Tree Lake and Lake Piersol, making it the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

The state park also boasts State Champion Trees, National Champion Trees, endangered plants, and protected plants.

Spend the day at Meeman Shelby Forest State Park and enjoy different activities like hiking, paddling, disc golf, birdwatching, hiking, and fishing.

For those who’d like to make the most of their day in the park, there are rustic cabins and campgrounds where you can stay overnight.

Signage of Meeman Shelby Forest State Park

Thomas R Machnitzki (, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Join a Tour of Graceland

Exterior of Graceland

Rolf_52 /

Graceland is famously known as the estate and former home of music icon Elvis Presley.

Immerse yourself in his life, music, and legacy as you explore the museum, view his records, and see some of his personal belongings like musical instruments, cars, and clothes.

The estate also showcases his impressive custom jet with a living room, private bedroom, suede chairs, leather-covered tables, and gold-plated seatbelts.

A guitar displayed in Graceland

Paul Briden /

Walk in the footsteps of the King of Rock and Roll as you explore Graceland on a guided or self-guided tour.

Visit the exhibits, get access to Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, and stay the night at his Four-Diamond resort hotel, The Guest House at Graceland, for the ultimate experience.

Interior of Graceland

jejim /

Tour the Memphis Museum of Science & History

Learn more about history, science, culture, and nature as you explore the exhibits at the Memphis Museum of Science & History.

This is one of the most popular museums in Shelby County and is ideal for both children and adults.

The museum features plenty of attractions, including exhibits, a planetarium, a nature center, a science center, and historic homes.

Whether you’re an astronomy geek, nature enthusiast, or a history buff, the Memphis Museum of Science & History has something in store for you.

As the museum has many places of interest, you can spend half a day here or dedicate a couple of hours.

Bring Your Kids to the Children’s Museum of Memphis

Exterior of the Children’s Museum of Memphis

Thomas R Machnitzki, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a child-friendly activity in Shelby County? Take your kids to the Children’s Museum of Memphis!

With over 30 interactive exhibits, this is the best place for children to satisfy their curiosity and learn more about the world.

The museum’s exhibits also help develop children’s problem-solving abilities, creativity, imagination, and social skills.

Interior of the Children’s Museum of Memphis

Thomas R Machnitzki ([email protected]), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Let your kid’s imagination run free and spend half the day at the Children’s Museum of Memphis.

At the museum, help them discover the basics of human anatomy and let them play doctor, dentist, or firefighter for the day.

A vehicle in the Children’s Museum of Memphis

Thomas R Machnitzki ([email protected]), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend the Day at Shelby Farms Park

Bicycle ride at Shelby Farms Park

DWBMedias /

Discover one of the largest urban parks in the country at Shelby Farms Park, located in Midtown Memphis.

Whether you’re up for an adventure, a family bonding day, or just a quiet and relaxing day spent outdoors, the park has something for you.

From 40 miles of hiking trails, outdoor rope courses, kayaking, and more, Shelby Farms Park is your all-in-one destination for outdoor activities.

Kayaking at Shelby Farms Park

DWBMedias /

The park also has an off-leash dog park where you can play with your canine companions and have them interact with fellow dogs.

Since the park has numerous facilities, it’s easy to spend a half day or even a full day exploring the park grounds.

Chairs overlooking a lake at Shelby Farms Park

DWBMedias /

Hang Out at Cameron Brown Park

For a relaxing afternoon outdoors, visit Cameron Brown Park in the city of Germantown.

The park has 55 acres with lighted baseball and softball fields, a lighted football and soccer field, a batting cage, and pickleball courts.

You can also have a picnic lunch at Cameron Brown Park and use the picnic areas that come with tables, grills, restrooms, water fountains, and concession stands.

There are two playgrounds where kids can play and have fun, while those who’d like to explore the park can follow the 1.5-mile paved hiking trails.

But if you prefer a relaxing activity, walk around the park or lay down a picnic blanket and enjoy the quiet environment.

Take a Tour of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Exterior of Stax Museum of American Soul Music

University of College /

Get a deeper appreciation of soul music at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, one of the famous music museums in Tennessee.

The museum preserves and promotes the legacy of American soul music and the famous Stax Records.

It’s located on the original site of the Stax Records studio and features interactive exhibits, stage costumes, vintage recording equipment, and records.

Go on a self-guided tour of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and check out its impressive and rare collection of memorabilia and artifacts.

Discover the legendary artists behind Stax Records and browse through the exhibits at your leisure.

Marquee of Stax Museum of American Soul Music

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Enjoy Outdoor Activities at W.J. Freeman Park

Welcome sign of W.J. Freeman Park

Thomas R Machnitzki (, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

W.J. Freeman Park is a large green space located along Harrington Creek in Bartlett, Shelby County.

It has simple amenities like children’s playgrounds, tennis courts, baseball fields, fitness trails, and picnic tables.

The wide expanse of grassy fields is perfect for games like tag, frisbee, soccer, and more.

A gazebo at W.J. Freeman Park

Thomas R Machnitzki (, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring some snacks or packed lunch and have a picnic at W.J. Freeman Park and let the kids play at the slides, jungle gym, and swings.

After a meal, you can take your bike to the fitness trails or go on a relaxing stroll in the afternoon.

The grounds of W.J. Freeman Park

Thomas R Machnitzki (, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bike Through the Collierville Greenbelt

The Collierville Greenbelt provides around 18 miles of walking, jogging, running, and biking opportunities at the heart of town.

With this, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy a quiet trail surrounded by greenery and nature.

In addition, the Collierville Greenbelt is conveniently located near neighborhoods, parks, schools, and other commercial areas.

This makes it easier for both tourists and residents to travel to nearby places of interest.

You can start your adventure around the greenbelt at H.W. Cox Park then head north to W. C. Johnson Park.

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum

Exterior of the National Civil Rights Museum

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Learn more about the history and significance of the Civil Rights Movement on a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum.

The museum was built on the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where the leader of civil rights – Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in 1968.

Inside the National Civil Rights Museum, find permanent and rotating exhibitions on the history of the Civil Rights Movement, including King’s assassination, and how it impacted today’s social issues.

Rosa Parks exhibit in the National Civil Rights Museum

Gino Santa Maria /

You’ll also find hundreds of artifacts, films, oral histories, interactive media, and other paraphernalia detailing five centuries of history.

Located near Tom Lee Park, you can visit both sites on the same day.

I AM A MAN exhibit in the National Civil Rights Museum

Gino Santa Maria /

Practice Your Swing at Glen Eagle Golf Course

Glen Eagle Golf Course is a golf course in Millington with exceptional championship-level courses said to be some of the most challenging in the area.

Other golf course features include a driving range, a putting green, and a 140-yard practice hole.

If you’d like to learn the basics of golf or improve your skills, you can join group and private lessons from PGA Professionals.

There’s also a golf shop at Glen Eagle Golf Course where you can stock up on your golfing needs.

An on-site grill and bar is available for after-game relaxation and for fans to catch up on their favorite sporting events over a cold glass of beer.

Relax at W.C. Johnson Park

Signage of W.C. Johnson Park

Thomas R Machnitzki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for a park that has plenty of amenities in a serene neighborhood, visit W.C. Johnson Park in Collierville.

The park is set within a quiet residential area, so you can enjoy the tranquility of the place.

It’s also an ideal jump-off location for day hikes since it’s located near the Old Wagon Trail, the Collierville Greenbelt, and the Wolf River Trail.

The waters of W.C. Johnson Park

Thomas R Machnitzki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sports enthusiasts will also love W.C. Johnson Park since it has soccer fields, baseball fields, and plenty of open space for other sports.

Children can have fun at the splash pad and playground, while the parents can relax at the picnic areas.

The grounds of W.C. Johnson Park

Thomas R Machnitzki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jog Around Halle Park

Halle Park is a quaint city park with Collierville where you can go on a relaxing bike ride or early morning run.

The park was a gift to the residents of Collierville from the family of David P. Halle, Jr., a Memphis local.

Moreover, it has few amenities, but the highlight is the paved trail around a lake.

Take your bike to Halle Park and go around the lake or have a picnic on the grassy field.

Do note that the park has little to no shade, so it’s best to bring umbrellas and caps, and wear sunscreen.

Discover the Secrets of Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

Signage of Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

Adam Jones, Ph.D., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is a historic house museum that opened in 1997.

It used to be owned by Jacob Burke and served as a shelter for those trying to escape slavery.

As such, the museum contains numerous secret passages, trap doors, and tunnels used by slaves attempting to escape to freedom.

Tour the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum and find thousands of artifacts showing the brutal conditions that slaves used to work in.

Get a glimpse of history as you explore the exhibits and see how slaves used to live and the conditions they were forced to work in.

Final Thoughts

Shelby County may be known for Memphis, but there are other sights and highlights outside the county seat.

You can find big and small city parks, recreational trails, state parks, and historical sites.

Whether you’re into history, sports, music, and Instagram-worthy photo spots, you’ll never run out of places to visit here.

Let this guide of the 20 best things to do in Shelby County, Tennessee help you plan for a memorable vacation!

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