Thursday, November 27, 2014

Memphis!

Slides at Shelby Farms Park
At the end of the summer, hubs, little man, and I headed to Memphis for a weekend of fun! The three of us hadn't been in a few years, and we were anxious to hit a few of the spots we missed on the first go-round.

We headed up on a Friday after work, stopping for a quick Italian dinner in Grenada, Miss., at Carmella's Ristorante. I had the tasty Greek Goddess pizza, a Mediterranean-style pie, and Clay and I split some tiramisu for dessert. Then it was on to our hotel for the weekend. We'd booked a room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Memphis/East Galleria, largely due to their positive reviews on TripAdvisor. Once checked in, we cleaned up and bedded down for the night.

After a quick breakfast at the hotel the next morning, we headed straight to what many say is one of the best family attractions in Memphis - Shelby Farms Park. I cannot BELIEVE I'd never visited this place until recently. First of all, the park is HUGE - some 4,500 acres. Secondly, they have nearly everything you can possibly imagine - really cool/inventive play spaces, tons of trails, lakes with paddle boats, bike rentals, disc golf, horseback riding, and a freaking HERD OF BUFFALO. And lastly, to just show up and enjoy the trails and play spaces is completely FREE!

Climbing skillz
When we went, they were doing some renovations to one end of the park, near where the dog park/trails are. We parked near the welcome center, oriented ourselves, and headed to the nearby playgrounds. They were such fun concept spaces! A deep hole was lined with play mats and big, wide slides. Another area had complicated webbing that kids could climb on like spiders, with cables connecting tree houses, hammocks for swinging, and platforms from which you could survey your athletic achievement. They also had areas for water play. We loved this place, and we stayed there all morning. (A park staffer even came around at 11-ish, offering free bottled waters to guests. Now THAT'S customer service!)

At lunchtime, our stomachs started rumbling. A little Google mapping led us straight to The Elegant Farmer, another place new to us that had received great online reviews. (P.S. It appears that recently, they've dropped the word "elegant" from their name. FYI if you are in search of them while in town.) The restaurant serves what they call "elevated" comfort food, with ingredients locally sourced and sustainably grown.

This place was a find, and the food completely hit the spot! I had a gorgeous farmer salad and a plate of creamy macaroni and cheese. Clay had a PB&J, and hubs had an amazing patty melt. Service was quickish and friendly, and we really enjoyed our lunch here.

Lunch at The Elegant Farmer
After that, it was off to another main attraction - The Pink Palace Museum. I LOVED this place as a girl. (I can remember being captivated by the miniature circus and the shrunken head!) We hadn't brought Clay there on his previous trip, and I couldn't wait to show him all of my old favorites!

We started with an awesome temporary exhibit on tarantulas that Clay loved. Live tarantulas, tarantula facts, images of webs projected onto walls so you could pretend you were a giant spider, and one conspicuously EMPTY tarantula case! Fun! Then, we moved on to some of the permanent exhibits. (My darling circus is still there, but it's no longer animated, due to age and the delicacy of the figures. Clay thought the medical exhibit was particularly interesting. We looked at all the tools doctors use to get beans and buttons and other tiny objects out of the noses, ears, and throats of too-curious little boys!)

We stopped for a light dessert and drinks in the museum cafe, then headed toward the shrunken head. But when we got to that part of the museum, it was cordoned off. It looked as though a wedding reception were going to take place there. I couldn't figure out how to get us around the wedding and into the room where the shrunken head is housed, so down to the front desk we went to ask for directions.

The Pink Palace Museum!
Turns out, that WHOLE PART of the museum was booked for the private event. Including the shrunken head room! I bemoaned my situation to the sweet girl at the front desk. I explained that I'd been talking up this shrunken head for days. After a second, she asked me, "Was the event already started, or were the tables empty?" Empty. With a finger to her lips, she led us quickly back to the area, pushed aside the velvet rope, and gave us our own private audience with the shrunken head. Clay was pretty amazed. And so was I! (The hilarious thing about it is that, on the placard next to the head, they provide directions for making your own shrunken head. This leads you to believe that obtaining a decapitated human head is literally the only thing standing between you and a shrunken head of your very own.)

On the monorail at Mud Island
After that, we went back to our hotel for a rest before meeting up with one of my husband's college roommates and his girlfriend for dinner. We went to Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, a nice, open-plan restaurant with plenty of menu variety. I chose the kobe beef meatloaf, and both hubs and little man had steaks. The meatloaf was soooo good! It came with a rich mushroom sauce and parmesan mashed potatoes. I washed it down with a glass of red.

We had the best time talking and laughing with our dining companions! I hadn't spent much time with them (and had never event met the sweet girlfriend
Mud Island's scale river model
before), but they were quick and funny and smart and easy to spend time with. And Clay behaved very well and ate his veggies! Success!

The next morning, it was another quick breakfast at the hotel, then off to Mud Island! I hadn't been to Mud Island, a scale model of the lower Mississippi River that you can wade in and play on, since I was a child. As it was a gorgeous day, we didn't choose to visit the museum, opting instead to head straight for the monorail and the outdoor model.

We rode the red monorail car slowly out to the model and the Riverwalk, enjoying the views and the novelty. Then, it was off with our socks and into the water! Clay loved wading the whole length of the Mississippi! The model is very educational, with placards throughout explaining topography and history. They also have large bronze (?) aerial maps of the cities along the river, and we loved finding cities we knew!

Though we all really enjoyed this attraction, it could use some refurbishing. It's beginning to show its age. I don't know if they plan to do any repairing or sprucing up soon, but I hope they do.

I love this guy!
We were getting hungry for lunch by this time. Luckily, we were only blocks away from Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken! We just barely beat the major lunch rush. After a short wait, we were seated and digging into spicy, perfectly-fried yard bird.

Our tummies full, we headed for home. Until next time, Memphis!

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