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Memphis, Tennessee is the spitting image of its namesake in Memphis, Egypt. In both locations you will find an astonishing man-made pyramid, a long and winding river, and plenty of blues and barbecue…Okay, maybe the last two are a hard sell in Egypt.

But either way, the stateside Memphis is a great destination for travelers who want to eat, drink and party—which also makes it college students’ paradise if they can find a way to afford it. So here are the best things to do in Memphis if you’re traveling cheap.

See the Great Pyramid of Memphis

A broke student’s guide to doing Memphis on the cheap

The Lookout at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. Photo credits: Allen Gillespie and Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau

We weren’t kidding—there’s actually a pyramid downtown. And admittedly, it’s one of the weirder things to do in Memphis. The iconic structure did a stint as a sports stadium and a concert venue, but its unique shape made it difficult for the building to find success (as it turns out, pyramids do not have very good acoustics). Locals say this modern-day replica of its distant Egyptian cousins sat empty for years before it finally found its true calling: becoming a Bass Pro Shop.

Now, the 32-story steel pyramid is home to the United States’ tallest free-standing elevator, hundreds of live animals, and even a hotel. All of this is surrounded by a countless racks of outdoor merchandise, including yachts and boats that actually float in the stream that winds through the store. In this stream you can see native fish that will astound you with their size and willpower to not eat the smaller fish. A stroll around the store also offers tropical fish aquariums, actual alligators, and an impressive array of “stuffed” animal specimens… not the kind you want to hug and cuddle with.

After seeing the indoor zoo and walking through the heaps of merchandise, make your way to the enormous 28-story freestanding elevator—it’s pretty hard to miss. For just $10, you can take the tripup to the lookout and see Mississippi like those who built the Egyptian pyramids saw the Nile during their (probably awful) work day.

Pro Tip: There’s a General Store in here, too. Before heading to the elevator, stop in for some sweet treats like roasted nuts or gourmet fudge for the trip up. There’s a restaurant at the top, and this will help keep you from being tempted to sit down for a steak.

Where’s the party?

A broke student’s guide to doing Memphis on the cheap

A broke student’s guide to doing Memphis on the cheap Crowds on Beale Street. Photo credits: Andrea Zucker and copyright Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2011, all rights reserved.

Beale Street, that’s where, and it has been since the birth of blues music. This cobblestone street, located in the heart of downtown Memphis, dates back to 1841. It’s where you’ll find three blocks of restaurants, nightclubs, live music and museums, as well as street performers that can really rock it, and without you having to pay a dime in cover charge.

But beware: Recently, Memphis put a $10 cover charge on Beale Street, which takes effect at 10 p.m. every night. Although this might be a bit of a bummer, entrance to the street is free before 10 p.m. and you’ll likely want to leave around then anyway…

Pro Tip: Beale Street security might be enforced at 10 p.m., but there is a larger crowd at this time, making it easier for thieves and pickpockets to maketheir way through. Stay alert and consider leaving before it becomes overcrowded.

Discover the Home of the Blues

And the Birthplace of Rock’n’Roll. Meaning the bars along Beale Street are far from the only places to catch some live music here. Memphis has plenty of other options for great music and a good time.

For instance: Right on Beale Street and 3rd is Handy Park. Here, you can find free concerts in the afternoons that are open to the public. There’s also Bluesday Tuesdays in Overton Square, where every Tuesday is a chance to enjoy free authentic blues and breathe in some fresh air. And from June to September, the Memphis Blues Society hosts an evening of blues music in the Tower Courtyard at Overton Square.

Indulge in an all-American sport

A broke student’s guide to doing Memphis on the cheap

The Triple-A Memphis Redbirds play baseball at AutoZone Park. Photo credit: Craig Thompson

Memphis is home to the bat-swinging, base-running, baseball-playing Redbirds. There’s almost nothing as nostalgic as a good old-fashioned baseball game. And even if you’re far from local, the friendly hometown crowds here can make you feel like you belong.

As a bonus, tickets for a Redbirds game can cost as low as $20. Meaning you don’t need to feel guilty about splurging on some peanuts, cracker jacks, hotdogs, nachos, beer and whatever else you might require to enjoy this American pastime.Pro Tip: People-watching at sporting events can give you some excellent insight into what it means to be from that city. And it’s always fun to play along, if you’re up for it.

You can’t miss the Mississippi River

A broke student’s guide to doing Memphis on the cheap

Aerial View of Mud Island River Park. Photo credits: Jack Kenner and copyright Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2011, all rights reserved.

If you’re looking for some history and culture beyond great music and great food, head to Mud Island River Park.

On the Mud Island Riverwalk, which is free to the public, you can see an exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi River. You can also enjoy the life-sized version of the river just by walking around the grounds of the park.

The park itself is made up of 18 galleries and exhibits that cover 10,000 years of Mississippi River history. For $10 you can have access to all of these exhibits, a guided tour of the park and a round-trip ride on the monorail.

The food is totally worth the money

If you’re going to splurge on something in Memphis, we highly recommended that you splurge on food. Specifically, the city’s famous barbecue. Your taste buds, and your tummy, will thank you.

The best part about this “splurge” is that it is not even a huge one. Many barbecue joints in Memphis are very reasonably priced, and beyond that, they’re completely worth theprice you pay. That said, don’t be surprised if the meal is served on paper plates with plastic utensils.

Which restaurants should you try? Well we’ve got a shortlist right here: Tops Bar-B-Q, Central BBQ and Charlie Vergos’ Rendevous.

CTIXblog CTA _ cheap of the week

Tagged: Cheap City, USA, Tips & advice

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