No longer satisfied with all-in-one conference venues, today’s meetings planners are hot for hotels and resorts that offer a sense of place. That’s good news for Memphis where revitalization and development are breathing new life into the urban landscape. From historic neighborhoods in the center of the city to once sleepy communities on the outskirts of town, Memphis is on the move. “In this day and age, it’s a destination that can really integrate all of the meetings and events facilities with the lifestyle aspect of the destination,” said Greg Oates, senior editor, Skift, when asked to describe what makes a good meeting destination.
Speaking of lifestyle and sense of place, it’s almost impossible to think of Memphis without conjuring images of Elvis Presley. The King of Rock ’n’ Roll and the Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll go together like, well, peanut butter and bananas. Opened in October 2016, The Guest House at Graceland, located adjacent to Graceland, combines the services and amenities of a AAA Four-Diamond-rated hotel with just the right touch of Elvis. Priscilla Presley, The King’s long-time love, was involved throughout planning and construction to ensure the 450-room resort would reflect Elvis’ personal style. In fact, Presley had hands-on influence in the design of 20 specialty-themed suites, many of which are located on the top floor of the hotel, dubbed The Upstairs, a reference to the upstairs private family quarters at Graceland Mansion.
“When Elvis had friends and family visit Graceland, he would have them stay at a hotel down the street,” Presley said at the hotel opening. “He would have been thrilled to have had his own guest house where they could stay so close by.”
Located less than 10 minutes from Memphis International Airport, The Guest House at Graceland offers some of the city’s most unique — and flexible — meeting facilities. At 17,000+ square feet, the space can accommodate groups of 1,350 in an unobstructed setting and host smaller gatherings in breakout configurations ranging from 918 to 4,578 square feet. More intimate state-of-the-art facilities include an Executive Boardroom and four individual meeting rooms named for music halls of fame that claim Elvis as a member — Blues, Country, Gospel and Rock. Perhaps most unique: The Guest House at Graceland boasts its own 464-seat theater. The Guest House at Graceland is convenient to the best Memphis has to offer in dining, culture and nightlife; a welcome bonus for meeting planners looking to incorporate that all-important sense of place into their agendas and to accommodate the millennial-driven trend toward making business connections in a casual setting.
“What we do after 5 o’clock is part of a good meeting destination because just as much business gets done outside the conference center or hotel as gets done inside,” Skift’s Oates observed.
Some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods and attractions, many seeing a revival in recent years, include Beale Street, the Broad Avenue Arts District and Overton Square. Dubbed “Home of the Blues,” Beale Street is widely acknowledged as the center of Memphis’ musical heritage. Named No. 1 on USA Today’s readers’ choice list of Top 10 most iconic streets in America in 2013, Beale Street pulses with a lively club scene ranging from laid-back holes in the wall to raucous party joints.
The Broad Avenue Arts District is another up-and-coming neighborhood. In its latest incarnation, the once-thriving early-20th-century railroad community is home to a diverse mix of shops, galleries, restaurants and bars including City & State, Carol’s Cheesecakes and Wiseacre Brewing.
Approaching its 50th anniversary in 2019, Overton Square has seen more than its share of ups and downs. The neighborhood established in 1969 is once again on the upswing, home to five live-performance theaters and a multi-screen movie theater, in addition to more than a dozen food-and-drink establishments serving everything from burgers to tapas to yakitori, often with a side of musical entertainment.
With a year-round temperate climate, Memphis is a four-season destination, chock-full of places to explore the great outdoors. From the Memphis Riverfront to Shelby Farms Park, immersive team-building activities may include kayaking, cycling or ziplining.
Just opened, Elvis Presley’s Memphis is a 200,000-square-foot collection of museums, exhibits, restaurants, and shops. Ultimate VIP Tours of the $45 million complex are available for purchase at Graceland.com and can be combined with a stay at The Guest House at Graceland. The state-of-the-art facility showcasing interactive and immersive pop culture experiences that connect to Elvis’ personal interests and activities invites visitors to “follow the path that Elvis took, surround themselves with the things that he loved, and experience the sights and sounds of the city that inspired him.”
You can’t get much more immersive than that!