Dating is complicated enough without having to stress about the planning and brainstorming. To save you some suffering, here are 15 uniquely Memphis ideas for getting to know someone special, or spicing things up when you two have already binge-watched every Netflix-algorithm-created show on the Internet.
1. Picnic and a concert at the Levitt Shell
Grab some folding chairs, pick up a pre-made picnic basket from Greencork and a bottle of wine from Joe’s (bonus points if you stop to take a selfie with the Sputnik), and claim a spot on the grass at the historic Levitt Shell amphitheatre. Then, settle in with your date to enjoy your dinner and popular Memphis music at one of the totally free concerts taking place most Thursdays through Sundays in the spring and fall.
2. Drinks at sunset at Twilight Sky Terrace
Go for classic, classy romance at the swanky Madison Hotel’s rooftop bar and lounge, Twilight Sky Terrace. Sip on cocktails and nosh on small plates while you watch the sun set over the Mighty Mississippi with arguably the best view of the river in Memphis. After the sun goes down, cozy up in the lounge’s fire pits for a nightcap, or head downstairs to Eighty3 for a full dinner or deep-fried Oreos for dessert.
3. Wiseacre Brewery tour and taproom night
For a casual, social date (time to meet the friends, maybe?), reserve a space for a brewery tour and beer tasting at Wiseacre Brewing's tap room. Let the experts there explain the chemistry and artistry behind such romantic-sounding brews as Gotta Get Up To Get Down, Tiny Bomb, and Boomslang. Stay after the tour for some sips, because the taproom is bound to have a game on the screen or a lively band by the bar, plus a food truck or two on the patio, so you can linger if you like. Even if the date doesn’t work out, you’ll at least have a souvenir glass to take home.
4. 1920s Evening: Dinner at The Majestic and a show at The Orpheum
Pretend the two of you are a dapper young couple from the Roaring Twenties in Downtown Memphis by spending the evening in two historic theatres. Ask for a seat on the mezzanine of The Majestic Grille where the silent films, string lights, and scrumptious steaks will set the mood. Then take a quick stroll down Main St to catch a Broadway show or concert at The Orpheum Theatre, where the gleaming gilded interior, red carpeting, and fabulous shows will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
5. Art After Dark at the Dixon
On the third Thursday of every month, the Dixon Gallery & Gardens keeps the grounds open until 8 pm for Art After Dark, a chance to waltz through exhibits as well as enjoy the outdoors through paved walkways in the gardens. You can enjoy light refreshments, a cash bar, and new entertainment every month, from music, to movie screenings, to artist talks.
6. South Main Art Night and Earnestine & Hazel’s
On the last Friday of every month, you and your date can peruse the shops and galleries of the South Main Arts District while enjoying free cocktails and snacks at most locations. You can usually catch a few live music performances and other activities during this monthly open-house event before heading to Memphis’ best dive bar, Earnestine & Hazel’s for jukeboxes, beer, and a satisfying Soul Burger.
7. Dance Party at Raiford’s Disco
Even if you’re not ready to take your relationship to the next level, you can level up your date night by hitting the town and tearing up the dance floor at Raiford’s Disco. First, make sure you hydrate and then pregame with your date at a local bar of your choice (we recommend these essential Memphis bars), then call the Raiford’s limo to deliver you to the Downtown club, where Paula will stamp your hand “sexy” and lead you into the neon-lit, smoke-machine majesty that is Raiford’s. Boogey to “Boogey Shoes,” then slow dance to the Free Willy song, drink, repeat.
8. Dinner and a movie: Summer Ave is your Poplar
Summer Avenue / East Memphis
For that special foodie in your life, steer clear of the chains on Poplar Ave and head to Summer to make the best impression. Choose from one of the many ethnic restaurants with offbeat atmospheres for cheap, delicious food. Then go to the Summer Drive-In theater for a double feature of movies and snuggling just like your parents did. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with paletas at La Michoacana’s Summer Avenue location.
9. The great outdoors at Shelby Forest
If you don’t mind getting a little dirty, or catching some sun on your daytime date, take your significant other for a hike, bike ride, or canoe trip at Shelby Forest State Park. It’s just 20 minutes from Downtown, but the two of you can get away from it all with woods, lakes, fields, and trails. There are cabins to rent if you feel like some overnight action, but don’t head back to civilization before you have a cheeseburger and corn fritters at the Shelby Forest General Store.
10. Romantic dinner at Restaurant Iris
Just telling your date that you have reservations at Restaurant Iris is going to impress them: hopefully you’ve planned ahead and claimed a table a few weeks in advance for one the best restaurants in Memphis. The restaurant is in a quaint remodeled Midtown home; it boasts several cozy dining rooms, upholstered chairs, candlelight, and an intimate atmosphere so you can focus on getting to know your date (and whatever delicious delicacy is on your plate) a lot better.
11. Off-the-beaten-path Beale St
While you can always go bar-hopping ‘til you drop at the clubs on Beale, why not take a slightly different approach and enjoy some of the more chill spots on the most famous street in town. Start out your afternoon at A. Schwab’s soda fountain, where you can buy your honey a sweet ice cream sundae before browsing the random stuff in the shop. Then, find the Absinthe Room for traditional absinthe drinks (flaming sugar cubes and all) before walking back across the street to enjoy Abita BBQ shrimp from the speakeasy-style, fine-dining restaurant Itta Bena, hidden behind an unmarked red door next to B.B. King’s.
12. Great American Memphis date
Take ‘em out to the ball game to cheer on Triple-A Cardinals Affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, in the newly renovated AutoZone Park for an afternoon or evening date. You’ll get bonus points if you pick a Saturday, aka Fireworks Night, at the ballpark. Try not to fill up on hot dogs and beer, though, so you sample Memphis’ major food group at Central BBQ. Then go right around the corner for a stroll on the bluffs above the Mississippi River.
13. Progressive dinner in Cooper Young
You don’t have to do the awkward back-and-forth “where do you want to eat?” dance if you just decide to go everywhere -- at least in one neighborhood. Start out with appetizers and craft cocktails at Alchemy, then share a second course of oysters, stew, or salad at Sweet Grass Next Door. Head to Tsunami for a sumptuous seafood entree, then stroll back down to Beauty Shop for a slice of cake, crepes, or the gelato of the day.
14. Hit up a festival
Midtown or Downtown
If you’re planning a date for the spring, summer, or fall in Memphis, you can bet there will be at least one food or art-related neighborhood festival going on that weekend. Broad Ave, East Buntyn, and Vollintine-Evergreen all have periodic art walks where browsing local art and sipping wine is the order of the day. For day dates involving day drinking, look for hot wing, burger, food truck, Greek, Italian, and BBQ festivals. For sun and beer, crawfish festivals in spring, and Cooper Young Fest in the fall, provide plenty of entertainment and snacks. You really can’t go wrong with a walk, a drink, and a dose of culture.
15. Craft night at Five In One Social Club with dinner at Bounty
The Five In One Social Club calls its craft nights “kindergarten for grown folks” and it's exactly right. Bond with your date while the two of you make glitter t-shirts, homemade candles, or edible multi-color chocolate molds in the store/community space on Broad Ave. While the glue is drying, walk a few doors down to farm-to-table restaurant Bounty, where the two of you can share plates of fresh veggies, cheese plates, and artisan cocktails.
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