Greater Memphis is home to Shelby Farms Park, a sprawling multi-use greenspace that has long been a year-round recreation destination for local city dwellers, Shelby County families and tourists alike.
Within the city limits, Overton Park offers a diverse array of activities for both active and passive recreation, from cycling to art gazing. Memphians will also find well-maintained municipal parks in every district of the city, with many offering a wide variety of spaces and places for everything from tennis to soccer and kayaking.
Memphians don’t just enjoy their local parks, they care deeply about maintaining them for generations to come. Two of the largest greenspaces, Overton Park and Shelby Farms Park, are supported and managed by local nonprofit park conservancies.
Home to the only old-growth forest in the urban Southeast as well as lovely formal gardens, Overton Park is a sought-after spot for its shaded trails and picturesque greenspaces. Golfers flock to the nine-hole public course, and the park is also where the Memphis Zoo and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art are located.
The Memphis Zoo has been a major attraction at Overton Park for more than 100 years, with a dedicated staff that cares for a menagerie of animals, big and small, including African lions and black-footed penguins. And at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, visitors from all over the world explore the museum’s permanent collection of sculpture, painting, photographs, prints and drawings spanning from antiquity to modern times. Outstanding special exhibitions are also on display here.
Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in America, stretching across 4,500 acres of natural habitats as well as formal recreation spaces. The park features more than 40 miles of paved and unpaved trails for hiking, cycling and horseback riding, as well as a 10-mile Greenline that connects the city to Cordova in Shelby County.
The park is also home to unspoiled hardwood forests, ecologically rich wetlands and more than 20 lakes and ponds that allow fishing. The on-site dog park provides pups and their owners with plenty of space–100 acres, to be exact–for off-leash fun.
Wildlife is plentiful in the park; deer, turtles, beavers and hundreds of bird species are commonly observed in the area. The park is also home to a small herd of buffalo, which were introduced in the late ‘80s as part of a nationwide effort to help support conservation of the animals that once roamed America’s grasslands by the millions.
Over the years, dozens of smaller urban greenspaces have been built and updated to serve individual communities and neighborhoods. In fact, the City of Memphis’s Division of Parks and Neighborhoods oversees and maintains 162 parks encompassing more than 3,200 acres.
In these municipal spaces you’ll find a wide array of facilities and recreation spaces, including several dozen playgrounds, 34 athletic fields, seven tennis centers, and two dog parks. And because of Memphis’s location along the banks of the Mississippi River, Wolf River Harbor and McKellar Lake, spaces made especially for recreation on or beside the water are in plentiful supply.
Locals flock to Martin Luther King Jr. Riverside Park to fish, picnic by the lake, launch boats from the ramp and capture Insta-worthy sunset views year-round. And at Mud Island River Park, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders take to the calm Wolf River Harbor for urban adventures during the warmer months.