Memphis has special history for us as the location of our very first camping trip in a camper during the sweltering Labor Day weekend in 2015. Conditions were very different this time, along with the location, as we got to stay at the popular Tom Sawyer RV park on the banks of the Mississippi River.
The Tom Sawyer RV Park is a popular location with a number of seasonal sites, making it challenging to book a site in season. It’s small, under 100 sites, and a great location on the Arkansas side of Memphis, about ten minutes from downtown. There are also a couple tent sites and they are building two rentable treehouses. The campground closes in late winter/early spring as the ice melt from the upper Mississippi floods the park seasonally. The sites are either gravel or concrete with W/E or full hookups and a picnic table. The grounds have two bathhouses and the one near our site had two small full bathrooms and a complimentary laundry room. Although the campground didn’t offer traditional amenities, it did have the river and a walking path around the campground. We enjoyed walking the banks of the river and watching the barge traffic.
We got an early start on Saturday and walked downtown. We visited the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, but missed the ducks. We had fresh fruit and veggie juices at City Market. We also found great coffee at Tamp and Tap, which also happened to have snakes and a chinchilla visiting from the zoo.
We made a return visit to the Pink Palace. On our prior, visit the house was closed and we were only able to visit the adjoining museum. Again saving $50 on admission using our beloved ASTC Membership, we found the story of the house fascinating. Built by Clarence Saunder, the founder of Piggly Wiggly Supermarkets, the Pink Palace construction begun in May 1922. The grand vision was never fully realized as Saunders lost his fortune in a still-studied bear raid on the shares of Piggly Wiggly in 1923. Eventually the palace became a museum owned by the city as was filled with an assortment of unique artifacts including a hand-carved miniature circus, a shrunken head, and a replica of an early Piggly Wiggly Market.
As the sun broke though and warmed to a beautiful January afternoon, we visited Licterman Nature Center. The Nature Center, also an ASTC site, offers a display of regional reptiles and insects, a number of walking paths, and a visitors center that was offering a number of activities on the day of our visit.
We also returned to our favorite Memphis destination, Shelby Farms Park. At 4500 acres and featuring over forty miles of trails and twenty bodies of water, Shelby Farms is one of the largest urban parks in the county. As extremely discerning playground visitors, Lillian and Mitchell give the very large playground high marks.
We have a couple favorites that we did not do because of the offseason. The kids love Mud River, a replica of the Mississippi River, and we all love biking Shelby Farms Park. Being January, we were working to complete our Whole30. We found meals out via Whole Foods salad bar for lunch and Whole Foods hot bar for dinner; Memphis offers two locations that were convenient to the sites we were visiting. This also means no Gus’ Chicken or Central BBQ on this visit; both are good reasons to return later this year!
Shane and Jessica
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