I have been here two months. Whoa.
As someone who loves cities, tourism, coffee, food, festivals, and meeting people, everyone in my life expected me to "do just fine" in Memphis. I'm a natural people person who likes to be an open book and invite people in, even when I have no place to invite people to. But, there is also a real thing called sickness, depression, and time, and some real obstacles have pushed me to change my big dreams of exploring, to tentative driving and occasional adventurous meals. I'm not in Lynchburg. I don't know the culture, where to park, or how to interact. I'm a conservative 20-something with the dreams of a passionate vivacious networking personality and the actual guts and bravery of a timid kitten. But don't count me out, my bravery will come.
This was a great "welcome to Memphis" starter festival for me and Josiah. We had my sister and brother-in-law as guides to the part of town nestled in between Collierville and the millennial-havens of Midtown and East Memphis. This was just outdoorsy enough to be a festival, and just organized enough to be an arts bizarre.
Booths were filled with "Happy Fall Y'all" metal pumpkins, organic honey, booths of fresh apples from Whole Foods, and a scattered few LulaRoe booths. Hidden behind the hundreds of booths in the wider open space, was the Festival part of Germantown Fest. Corndogs literally brushed with gobs of ketchup and mustard, called Party Dogs, along with local Mem Pops, organic pizzas next to local beer brews.
The line of cars to get into the festival was truly the only barrier. The sheer numbers of people getting out on a nice hot end-of-summer September Saturday was impressive. Heat doesn't keep Memphians away from a reason to celebrate.
Cooper Young Festival
Cooper-Young was the festival that we were 'warned' about.
Co-workers around my age told me to get there early and then just hangout in a restaurant or bar for the afternoon to watch the game and stay out of the crowds. People in the generation or two above us told us to just avoid it all together; or at least wear fanny packs, bring water bottles, and bathe in sunscreen. We took most of this "Warning: Prepare or Die!" advice, and did some research. We decided to bike to the festival and park a mile or two away. We had heard there were bike racks in the heart of the revelry that we could park, and we were right. So far so good. Except for the part where I opened up my backpack to realize I only brought my Instax camera and forgot my newly charged Sony A6000 back at home. I guess I had only 4 film shots to really capture the day. #HereWeGo
Just a few seconds in, and it became obvious that we weren't in Kansa- ....Germantown Fest anymore. The steel pan booth was the first booth we visited, quickly proceeded by the organic cleaning product booth where I bought the citrus orange all-purpose cleaner. It was a hot day, and I immediately downed my one water bottle and searched for the booths that gave out paper fans to passerby. But once we found a good (but overpriced! sigh.) quesadilla and strawberry lemonade to share, and sat down in front of a talented Flamenco guitarist, the heat subsided.
We bought local Memphis t-shirts, and I grabbed stickers at the Choose 901 Memphis booth. This is the festival to go to if you want to dive in to what Memphis is all about. I even spun the wheel at the Opera Memphis booth to see if I could get free tickets and ended up singing a poorly composed version of Happy Birthday to them. Oh well. It was still an amazing experience, where I got to meet local artisans and makers in the Tuesdays Together Memphis group, and eat delicious food.
Overall, this festival is not as "crazy" as others made it seem. We arrived around 11Am and left at 2PM (the cool part of the day....) and walking was fairly easy, lines were reasonably short, and food was plentiful. I totally recommend attending the festival and going in the evenings if you can for the local music, something we didn't get to do.
Enough about festivals- now on to the local attractions and foods around Memphis!
City Silo Table + Pantry
City Silo landed in my lap by a long train of happy accidents.
When I first heard I was moving to Memphis, TN I immediately looked up this creative networking group that I had been somewhat a part of back in Lynchburg. If I was going to find other photographers, designers, or creative people this would be where they are and lo and behold- it was. I started following the Instagrams of a few solid businesses in the group and struck up a comment-friendship with dietitian-extraordinaire Alexandra Reed. A few days later I got an email from my website (which is the best thing to get in your inbox...someone used my contact form! YAS. ) asking to meet up and discuss portraits and life together at none other than a beautiful healthy but delicious City Silo.
This little place is not tucked in between two Waco, Texas Magnolia-esque sillos, but in a quaint shopping strip in the Sanderlin Center. As soon as I got inside it was clear that the creators put a lot of thought into how the brand's "clean and healthy" messaging was placed. The "pantry" aspect lines the far left wall with local coffees and other amazing tidbits that are perfect for stocking stuffers or professional coworker gifts, or just to eat yourself, to be honest.
But let's get to the food. This isn't your run of the mill "farm to table" overly-organic place, but a place that strives to deliver locally grown comfort food that even a fast-food loving, deep-fried-pickle connoisseur would like. I got a Green Goddess smoothie bowl that touted the health benefits of kale, avocado, and other super foods. It tasted delicious and I felt so satisfied that I was barely able to finish. My new friend Alexandra got a mushroom burger that made my mouth water just looking at it.
Definitely go here for your casual friend dates, a business meeting, or even those ever-so-awkward online meetings that you want to attend in public places that fall between hit and run coffeeshops and sit down 5 course dinners. This is the place to go to satisfy all sorts of palates, tastes, and allergy needs while not breaking the budget. My dinner was no more than $10.50 with tax.
This was also a happy accident. Thanks again to expert networker and brave soul Alexandra Reed (Go read her stuff on Girl Boss and on Instagram: www.instagram.com/notafoodcop), she convinced me to grab a tea or cupcake over at this local icon. There is apparently another Muddy's in the heart of Midtown Memphis, but I'm glad I got to get a taste for it at a not-as-busy location during a quiet Thursday evening.
I grabbed a Mint Grasshopper cupcake, and a bag of locally brewed coffee made specifically for Muddy's (a gift for a friend back in Virginia!)
Overall, the first few weeks of exploring were fun, and showed us so much about how Memphis has a good time. Most cities have a heartbeat for making life better for its inhabitants, and Memphis has a big one. The city is full of the Memphis Grizzlie's motto "Grit and Grind", and from the neon glow of jazzy Beale Street to the sunshine and party dogs of Germantown, there is some serious Grit and Grind going on. A buzz, a hum of people working behind the scenes to make businesses, create spaces, and invite people in to the adventure this is Memphis.
I'd love to hear your favorite parts of your favorite city in the comments! Give me more ideas on what to go to next! The farmer's market? The jump trampoline park? A local sports team game? What are your favorite things in your favorite city?