Sitting just a few blocks from the mighty Mississippi River, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Peabody Memphis is everything a grand Southern hotel should be: sophisticated and classic with just a touch of whimsy.
It’s this unique brand of homestyle elegance that made the hotel an almost instant hit when it first opened its doors in 1869. While it’s changed locations (the original lodging was built at Main and Monroe) and received quite a few updates since then, this Bluff City beauty remains a hometown favorite.
As the historic hotel celebrates its 150th birthday this year, we take a look at some of the reasons why we’re still checking into The Peabody.
You don’t get to be 150 years old without collecting a few tantalizing tales. Named for philanthropist George Peabody, the original hotel played host to prominent political figures, including presidents Andrew Johnson and William McKinley and former confederate general Robert E. Lee.
With the updated 1925 building came a revolving door of famous faces — a slew of celebrities from actress Doris Day and longtime New York Yankees baseball player Joe DiMaggio to Janet Jackson and Oprah visited throughout the 20th century.
More recently, princes William and Harry stayed at the Memphis hotel in 2014 before a friend’s wedding. Queen Noor of Jordan spent a few nights in the spacious suites, too.
But another type of royalty also graced these hallowed halls. The King himself (Elvis Presley, that is) had some memorable Peabody moments, including his high school prom and the signing of his first contract — you can see a remnant of the latter at the property’s small onsite museum.
For a deeper dive into the storied stay’s fascinating past, book a spot on the daily hour-long tour led by the resident Duckmaster, the dapper gentleman who leads the famous Duck March.
The Adorable Ducks
The quirkiest tradition found at The Peabody is the daily Duck March. Each morning at 11, five feathered friends make their way down a regal red carpet to the lobby fountain, where they spend the afternoon splashing and delighting guests of all ages.
After the daily performance, the mallards head back to their Royal Duck Palace on the roof. This unit isn’t anything to shake your feathers at — the famous ducks are perched in a cozy $200,000 enclosure that comes complete with a replica of the hotel made of marble and glass and a private fountain.
But these waterfowl aren’t just for show. The Peabody Ducks are the property’s longtime mascots, gracing every corner of the hotel, from pillowcases to pastries. The only place you won’t find the beloved birds is on the dinner menu.
The Four-Star Restaurant
French opulence is on full display at Chez Philippe, The Peabody Memphis’ Four-Star dining room. Marble columns, larger-than-life frescos and white tablecloths add to the elegant ambiance, but it’s the food that really shines.
The restaurant specializes in classic French cuisine with a seasonal Southern twist — think rose apple carpaccio with maple vinaigrette and candied hazelnuts, crab cakes with orange risotto, and pistachio-crusted lamb chops with pickled summer squash and huckleberry jus.
To celebrate the hotel’s milestone in style, order the tastiest 150th anniversary offering. The Royal Wagyu Truffle Burger is topped with butter-poached lobster, caramelized onions and Brie-like St. Andre Cheese on a brioche bun. The sumptuous sandwich is made even more decadent by pairing it with Parmesan black truffle fries and a half bottle of Rombauer cabernet sauvignon — the perfect way to finish off your festive feast.
Resting in the heart of downtown, The Peabody Memphis boasts one of the best locations in the city. The hotel is just a few blocks from attractions like the Gibson Guitar Factory, lively Beale Street (widely regarded as home of the blues) and storied music venue Orpheum Theatre.
Presley fans can stroll down the street to snap a selfie with the iconic, 9.5-foot-tall Elvis statue or hop in an Uber and head 15 minutes south to visit the rock legend’s former home at Graceland.
If music history doesn’t pique your interest, there’s still plenty to explore. The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Zoo and Shelby Farms Park (one of the nation’s largest urban parks) are all less than a 30-minute drive from the hotel.
The Rooftop Parties
The music scene is alive and well in Memphis, and The Peabody gets in on the action every summer with its legendary rooftop parties. Each Thursday night from April through August, catch live performances (past acts have included Nashville-based folk rock band Judah & the Lion and local favorite DJ Epic) and a gorgeous sunset from the property’s expansive roof.
Book a stay at the storied address to enjoy free entry to the festivities before 7 p.m. and an inviting room (wooden headboards, plush armchairs and a bathtub stocked with whimsical, duck-shaped soaps) to unwind in after dancing the night away.