Image of Overton Park Shell during performance

The World-Class Arts and Culture of Memphis

Memphis offers affordable access to world-class museums, performing arts and entertainment. 

Memphians carry a deep appreciation for the performing arts, and it’s reflected in their acclaimed ballet company, their world-class symphony orchestra, as well as the historical Orpheum Theatre that’s been around since 1890 and has undergone numerous reinventions to ensure that its legacy lives on.

Stax Museum marquis lit up with neon signs at night

© 2009 St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, all rights reserved.

One of the advantages of living in a city like Memphis, with its vibrant cultural hub, is the access it affords to first-rate museums, performing arts, and entertainment. Whether you want to see an exhibition, a Broadway musical, a play, a comedy show, a concert, a ballet recital, a holiday event, or attend a dance or music festival, you will have all of that and more at your fingertips right here in Memphis.

Located on the original site of the Stax Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music pays tribute to the artists who recorded there, as well as other American soul legends, including Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and Booker T. & The MGs. With interactive exhibits, including a full dance floor that features reruns of the television show Soul Train, stage costumes, musical instruments, and vintage recording equipment used at Stax all on display, there is no shortage of American soul music ephemera.

Exterior sign of Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in front of white building

Burkle estate memphis front.jpg by Thomas R Machnitzki is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated

The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is truly a walk through Memphis’ turbulent history. From around 1855 until the abolition of slavery, Jacob Burkle, a stockyard owner and abolitionist, lived in a modest home located near the banks of the Mississippi River, and provided refuge for runaway slaves during their flight to freedom in the North. The home is now the site of the museum and reveals in its damp cellar, trap doors, and hidden passages, a glimpse of the dangerous journey that fugitive slaves were compelled to embark on in order to gain their freedom and break the chains of slavery. 

Ballet Memphis is Memphis’ acclaimed ballet company who have performed at the Joyce Theater in New York City and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and features a diverse cast of professional dancers. The season includes four programs: the Nutcracker, Dracula, Cinderella, and a seasonal performance. And if you’re inspired to strengthen your core, Ballet Memphis offers pilates classes and a dance class. 

Diverse group of ballet dancers on a stage preparing to practice. Black dancer in point shoes in the forground posing on one leg.

Fabrício Lira | Pexels

The founders of Collage Dance Collective established the professional dance company in New York City in 2006 in response to the ballet industry’s lack of racial diversity on stage. The collective moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 2009, opening its dance conservatory to expand access to classical training to communities of color and prepare them for collegial and professional dance appointments. Current programming is a compelling mix of classical and contemporary performances. Past performances include George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, and a reimagining of author Zora Neale Hurston’s iconic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. And for as little as $10 per ticket you can experience classics and powerful choreography from contemporary dance innovators. 

Outdoor crowd watches Memphis Symphony perform


A $25 million endowment has allowed the Memphis Symphony Orchestra to expand their programming over the last two seasons, featuring performances of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, Brahm’s: A People’s Requiem, and Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich. Players hail from the top orchestras in the world, including the Vienna and New York Philharmonics, San Francisco Symphonies, and the San Francisco and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. And under the guidance of their maestro, Robert Moody, Memphis Symphony Orchestra recently released their first commercial recording in several decades.

The Orpheum Theatre is a historic theater in Memphis, located at Main and Beale, that first opened in 1890. It was destroyed by a mysterious fire in the 1920s and then rebuilt into a theater for silent films. By the 70s, the theater had fallen into disrepair and was under threat of demolition. But a group of concerned Memphians formed the Memphis Development Foundation to save the Orpheum in hopes of kick-starting a downtown reawakening.

Inside trolly looking out the front windown at the Orpheum Marquis

© 2018 St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, all rights reserved.

This spirit of reimagination carries on to today with Memphians continuously finding new ways to enhance and modernize their beloved city. The Orpheum is now a popular destination for catching your favorite musical act, play, or comedy show in a grand setting that serves as homage to the resilience of a city that’s invested in its history and its future. 

What’s more, tickets for these events in Memphis come at budget-friendly prices, giving you the opportunity to enjoy twice the amount of entertainment you might not otherwise be able to afford in other major cities.