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The Short Version: Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, is an eclectic area that allows couples with diverse preferences to plan exciting dates. Outdoor lovers can enjoy the area’s many parks while music fans can find live blues playing on the famous Beale Street. Restaurants in downtown Memphis serve up a wide variety of cuisine, and couples can satisfy their intellectual curiosity at the area’s art and history museums. No matter how many times they’ve visited, couples can always expect something new in the bustling, yet laid-back, downtown Memphis.
Couples who make their way to downtown Memphis, Tennessee, quickly find that it has enough exciting activities for many date nights. They can even plan out an entire day of learning, dining, and dancing, all without needing a car to head to their next destination.
A couple could start their date at the National Civil Rights Museum, which explores the city’s rich civil rights history from the 17th century to the present day.
The next stop may be the Urevbu Contemporary art gallery, a Black-owned space near the museum. Further south in the same South Forum neighborhood, couples could stop at the Downtown Candle Company, where they pick up some locally made gifts for friends and family — or try their hand at candle-making.
“They offer candle classes, or you could pick out a mystery candle,” said Kaeyla Willis, Marketing Coordinator at the Downtown Memphis Commission, which promotes the area.
To top their date off, couples can grab a slice of cheesecake or quiche from the Cheesecake Corner before watching the sunset at Tom Lee Park.
Downtown Memphis has something for everyone, whether couples want to spend a socially-distanced afternoon outside or enjoy blues music at night. And it’s all within walking distance.
The area is always evolving with innovative features, and community members support all types of new local establishments, according to Jonathan Mosley, the Downtown Memphis Commission’s’ Events & Programming Senior Coordinator.
“I see the fast pace of development here. When you see something is coming, it happens quickly,” Jonathan said. “We saw this huge wave of support for Slim & Husky’s, a new pizzeria that opened during the pandemic, when they announced they were coming six or seven months ago. People are always excited for new things.”
Downtown Memphis has undergone a revitalization in recent years, and many locals have moved into the area during that time.
“About 45% of downtown Memphis is made up of highly diverse and well-educated millennials,” said Kaeyla.
Downtown is a defined area but not a single neighborhood — instead, it includes many. The Downtown Memphis Commission suggests that couples plan a date based on the neighborhood vibe they like best.
“Each neighborhood has a walkable route that has at least one good restaurant and plenty of entertainment,” said Kaeyla.
Couples can take a tour of the legendary Sun Studio, where Elvis and Johnny Cash recorded albums in the 1950s.
Beale Street, the city’s live music and entertainment hub, is another popular attraction. The three-block area is filled with restaurants, clubs, and shops.
Those who enjoy upscale attractions may choose the South Main neighborhood for their dates.
“The couple that enjoys the Edge District might not be the same as one who appreciates South Main. If they’re dressed up, I would suggest The Bishop, a nice spot for fine dining. If they’re an artsy couple, I would suggest The Edge,” Jonathan.
Chic couples may also want to check out The Greyhound Bar or The Curfew, both of which are across from parks where couples can take a late-night stroll.
Those who need advice about what to do in the area can explore the Downtown Memphis website to get ideas or even book a walking tour.
Though each neighborhood has a unique vibe, they are all close enough that couples can walk to multiple areas on the same date. That can make for an ideal outdoor date during the age of social distancing.
And venues are always preparing for new outdoor activities.
“Downtown is always fast-paced. You always see people coming and going because there’s always something to get ready for. Anytime I’m working downtown, I always see activity,” said Jonathan.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has limited operations for many businesses, that doesn’t mean development in downtown Memphis has ground to a halt. In fact, many new businesses have opened, and others have found ways to modify their operations.
A bridal boutique and a pizza restaurant recently opened in the area. Restaurants and shops that once served customers entirely indoors are now creating more outdoor options. With outdoor seating and shopping, visitors can limit their risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 while also getting out and experiencing the city.
“You can sit near a heater outside and enjoy a nice meal outdoors. There is also still space for people to go to a bar solo, and someone else might even buy you a drink,” Kaeyla said.
Downtown Memphis also has several outdoor spaces to enjoy, including AutoZone Park, its minor league baseball stadium, and Ashburn-Coppock Park, located on the riverfront.
“One thing about the pandemic is it has encouraged people to find more ways to be outside. People didn’t always gather outside as much as they do now,” Jonathon said.
Downtown Memphis offers couples a wide range of romantic options that don’t require extensive planning. That is one of the reasons why a friend of Kaeyla’s could propose to his girlfriend so quickly at the last minute.
“The plans he’d made a year ago fell through, and he called me to say he was planning to propose to her tomorrow,” Kaeyla said with a laugh.
She helped her friend plan a dream proposal in downtown Memphis. She knew the proposal spot had to have a beautiful view and be well-lit so the couple could take plenty of pictures.
“We ended up going to a rooftop. After she said yes, we came downstairs, and they grabbed drinks at a restaurant. Everything was convenient, and it was an amazing way for people to start their lives,” Kaeyla said.
Jonathon added that the couple could have even walked to the Barefoot Bride boutique to buy a dress and then made their way to the nearby courthouse if they’d wanted to get married in a hurry.
Kaeyla and Jonathon said they are excited to help expand the profile of downtown Memphis, an area with so many options for couples. They said they aim to help couples plan dates that bring them out of their comfort zones instead of falling into old patterns.
“We have everything you need for a great date in walking distance. You can shop local, walk in parks, eat in restaurants, and visit movie theaters, so bring your best self,” Kaeyla said.