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Top Parks in Memphis, Tennessee
Three top parks in Memphis, TN have amenities that are astounding. They offer art museums, meeting and exhibition space, a variety of plantings and horticulture, golf courses, a Zoo, and much more. Memphis parks are the best in the state.
If Memphis has one thing above all others, it's Trees-and hundreds of them. This city was the Hardwood Capitol of the country early in the last century. Its location on the Mississippi River was perfect for transport for the booming hardwood lumber business and spawned big companies like Bruce Flooring. The largest hardwood forest in the country once covered this entire area. Today that forest has diminished but vast parts of it remain in the western parts of TN and all over AR, and southern MO and down into northern MS.
The three most magnificent parks in Memphis boast that heritage as a centerpiece for all of them. These parks are not only a magnet for out-of-town visitors and tourists but for local folks as well, who can enjoy walking in the cool of a day or morning under a canopy of leafy branches from trees that are often over 150 years old! The sheer grandeur of these elegant huge hardwoods is breathtaking.
Each of the parks I will highlight has easy access. Overton Park is totally free for bike riders or walkers, but Dixon Gallery and Gardens and Memphis Botanical Gardens charges a small fee for entrance to the park and all the gardens therein. Visitors can meander at their leisure anywhere they desire. I will try to cameo the unique features of each park and show its particular appeal.
Each of these parks also offers indoor attractions such as museums or even a zoo (Overton Park) or an educational/ lecture building (Memphis Botanical Gardens).
This park was created in 1906 and was modeled somewhat after Central Park in New York city. Of the 342 Acre tract purchased in 1901, 175 acres of untouched Virgin forest are traversed by hidden trails, bike routes, and a few paved roads. This "old forest" area provides a rare sense of the wilderness encountered by our forefathers who forged west into the Delta region of the Mississippi. Untrammeled by the noise and congestion of the surrounding city in midtown Memphis, a hiker or biker can experience a whole day of extraordinary exploration of the vegetation in this refuge of old America. Trillium, wild Phlox, Wood Poppy, May Apples, and Buckeye blossoms galore in the early spring. Even coyotes have been spotted here and it's not unusual to encounter a family of raccoons hobbling through the woods. Hawks, the ubiquitous squirrels and even a red wing woodpecker make this place their temporary or permanent home.
In addition to the hiking trails in the heavily forested area, there are adjacent tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course, a playground, picnic area and open range for impromptu touch football games and Frisbee enthusiasts and their numerous dogs near a nice-sized pond.
The Brooks Museum is a big part of the park's attraction. It is the oldest and largest art museum in Tennessee and is a delight to wander through. Lunch is available at the delicious Brushmark Restaurant. For shoppers, there's a very interesting gift shop as well. .
www.parkfriends.net/. This web site gives a wealth of information about how citizens have come together to protect the Old Forest and its history. There are also some pictures of the spring flowers in the wakening woods. The contact information for the park is as follows: OVERTON PARK 1928 Poplar Ave. 901.373.6237 Memphis, TN 901.274.6046
Memphis Botanical Gardens
This wonderful site is in many ways similar to Overton Park. It has a lovely golf course just adjacent, and there is a wooded area when you enter that is skirted by a beautiful lake where ducks and migrating waterfowl flap and zip across the water. It is not a true "virgin forest" as is the one in Overton Park, but the old trees are stately and huge. A walk through this area is a cool delight in the early summer mornings.
The Botanical Gardens are truly centered around gardening and the regional habitat of our Delta region. But It is also sectioned off in areas of rose gardens, a wildflower garden, a fantastic Japanese area complete with an incredible pool of koi which is crossed by an oriental arched bridge. There, visitors often feed the huge fish that come thrashing to lunge at the pellets thrown on the surface. Some of the Japanese plantings are incredible, as is one of the oldest and largest Laceleaf Maples in the entire region. This is just over the bridge along the walkway beside the water's edge. There are Iris gardens too, displaying some of the finest new hybrids available for cultivation and sale.
Every spring there's a sale where the public can come and purchase woodland and other native plants that are indigenous to the area and quiet hardy for the Memphis climate. Visitors wander casually among the trees from booth to outdoor booth to pick over potted specimens at their leisure. It is a very instructional experience as well as helpful to budding gardeners who need some hardy plants to begin their perennial gardens at home.
The entrance, just off Southern Ave. on the north or Park Ave. on the south, is a two-lane drive that runs straight up to the wonderful Civic Garden Center itself. This Center houses exhibits of art, hosts weddings, meetings for all sorts of garden and horticultural groups and it provides space for clubs like the area bike and canoe clubs. It is truly a lovely place with multi-purposes to serve a community that has long been in love with plants and gardens. There is even a small restaurant inside with outdoor seating in warm weather. The building is incredibly light and airy with huge windowed walls all around that look out on the gardens, woods, and in toward a peaceful fish pond with statuary and fountains. There is currently a plan to vastly expand and enhance the entire Center and when it is completed I believe that MBG will be a truly state of the art park that will draw people from all over the country.
You can contact the Gardens easily. Memphis Botanic Garden
750 Cherry Road
Memphis, TN 38117
Phone: (901) 576-4100
Fax: (901) 682-1561
gives tons of information about the development of this civic treasure. The gardens are open from 9-6 in the spring summer and early fall and from 9-4:30 in Nov. to early April. Sunday hours are a bit shorter. Everything you will need to know is included in their web site above.
In passing I can't neglect to mention another attraction of the Botanic Gardens. For the past 6 years the center has hosted a summer celebration of music which people flock to with their picnic baskets, wine, pillows, lawn chairs and blankets. At $35-$86 for a place, the events are not cheap, but then, neither is the entertainment. This September Bonnie Rait is the headliner!
is a website where you can find information about the concerts and purchase tickets to the performances.
The Dixon Gallery and Gardens
This unique showplace is at once a garden, a woodland and a grand museum which was the home of wealthy Memphians and Philanthropists, Hugo and Margaret Dixon. He and his wife donated their beautiful home in 1974 to the city and also created the Hugo Dixon Foundation to assist in its funding. The 17 Acre wooded estate has been one of our most valuable treasures ever since.
The couple's art collection was part of the estate bequeathed to the people of the city of Memphis-a wealth of French and American Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as well as 18th and 19th Century British portraits and landscapes. The Museum is committed to the ongoing acquisition of important painters of the early 20th Century who did not achieve the exposure of the more famous French Impressionists. The collection continually grows, thanks to gifts and acquisitions of the estate. There is also a schedule of visiting exhibitions, some of which are enormously important and impressive. The Dixon is renown the country and even world over for its excellent management and fine facilities. It is truly one of the most delightful places to spend an afternoon.
The Gardens themselves are exquisite. If Overton Park gives us an experience of the old virgin forest, and Memphis Botanic Gardens shows us a woodland and all sorts of more formal gardens, the Dixon is in a class by itself. The garden was created by the Dixons for their own enjoyment and delight. The mostly wooded area is transversed by winding paths under the canopies of huge poplars, oaks, birches, and hickories. At several junctures paths intersect at open areas where there is statuary, a fountain or circle of stone benches. Light pours over the green grass and visitors can admire the lovely statues and the plantings of perennials or wildflowers while they rest to go down the next winding pathway. Unlike Overton Park's wooded area, the Dixon woods are kept up by expert gardeners who maintain the landscape so that it looks pristine and natural, while it also exudes a civilized and stately aura.
The Dixon web site gives all sorts of information about time, location, history, and other tidbits. .
You can contact the office from the following information:
The Dixon Gallery and Gardens
4339 Park Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38117
Office: (901) 761-5250
FAX: (901) 682-0943