National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

Top Things to do in Memphis, TN: National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis Tennessee Best Things To Do

One of the top things to do in Memphis is to visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. This historical place is located where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. While you’ll learn more about that tragic day, the National Civil Rights Museum takes you back 400 years to tell the greatest civil rights movement story ever told.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

While the National Civil Rights Museum provided me a guest pass, opinions are always my own.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

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What to expect during your visit at The National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel in Memphis

National Civil Rights Museum Lorraine Motel Sign Memphis Tennessee

As soon as I saw the Lorraine Motel sign, I immediately knew and felt I had stepped on sacred ground – a very poignant moment.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect during my tour of the National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel in Memphis. But I did make some assumptions. For example, I thought the museum was created in memory of Dr. King. However, it is much more. You will learn about the entire civil rights movement that began in the U.S. more than 400 years ago. And the thousands of people who made up the movement – many everyday heroes.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

After watching a short film, a self-guided tour will take you through the four centuries of the American civil rights movement. Exhibits and interpretative signs will enlighten you about slavery, separate but equal, boycotts, assassinations, Black power, and more.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

National Civil Rights Museum campus

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

When I visited the National Civil Rights Museum campus, my tour included several areas:

  • Main National Civil Rights Museum building and exhibits
  • Lorraine Motel (and exhibits) – attached to the museum
  • Museum courtyard and Lorraine Motel sign and balcony
  • Legacy Building, timeline tunnel, exhibits (located across the street where James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). I recently learned that this area is no longer available to visitors as they do renovations / expansions.
    • Young and Morrow Building and Boarding House
  • Founder’s Park

Frequently asked questions about the National Civil Rights Museum

Rosa Parks sculpture sittin on bus in National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis

Here are a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.

Where is the National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel located?

National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel Memphis TN

The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is located at 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN 38103.

Is parking and public transportation located near the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.?

Memphis Trolley Huling Stop near National Civil Rights Museum

You can find a large visitor parking lot the next block over from the National Civil Rights Museum on Butler Ave. and between Mulberry and St. Martin Street. The MATA trolley makes a stop on the corner of South Main Street and Huling Avenue (a block away from the National Civil Rights Museum).

Where can I purchase tickets for the National Civil Rights Museum? What are their hours?

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

You can purchase your timed tickets online for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and several holidays. For the latest information, please check their website for any social-distancing guidelines, ticketing information, operational days/hours, and more.

How long does it take to tour the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.?

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum recommends allowing at least 90 minutes for the tour. However, I recommend planning at least a full morning or afternoon to tour the entire National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. I needed time to reflect and take in what I was reading and seeing. I spent three hours at the museum and still felt like I needed more time to learn about the civil rights movement spanning four centuries.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

Can you take photos in the National Civil Rights Museum?

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

Yes, you can take photos (without a flash) at the National Civil Rights Museum. And they encourage you to share your photos on social media. Remember to tag them.  

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

Can you go inside The Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated?

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

Yes, the National Civil Rights Museum is connected to the Lorraine Motel. Your self-guided tour will take you past two hotel rooms behind plexiglass – one where Dr. King was staying. From here, you can also see the balcony and a huge wreath marking the area where he was shot.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

Can you go inside the building where James Earl Ray shot Dr. King?

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum formerly offered what’s called the Legacy Building. Located across the street, this is where James Earl Ray shot Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s my understanding this exhibit and building may now be closed as they expand and renovate. Will update more on that later.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

During my visit, I went upstairs (or up the elevator) for the main exhibits in the Legacy Building.

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

Do you have any other questions about the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis? If so, please leave them in the comments.

Add the National Civil Rights Museum to your History Bucket List

National Civil Rights Museum Memphis

I’m all about history so I’ve visited many museums and historic places. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. is one of the most moving experiences ever. Please add the National Civil Rights Museum to the top of your list of things to do in Memphis, TN. See my related post: A three-day itinerary of the top things to do in Memphis, Tennessee.

Related post: Traveling While Black exhibit

History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester, Minn. - 1950s traveling while black exhibit featuring the Avalon Hotel Room which was in the Green Book
The Avalon Hotel in Rochester, Minn. was designated as a safe place for African Americans. It was first listed in The Green Book in 1948 where it remained throughout this period.

The History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester, Minn. hosted my husband and me a couple of years ago. The main exhibit at the time was Traveling While Black. This historical exhibit showcased the challenges and racism Black Americans faced in the 1950s.


Pin it for later: Guide to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee

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National Civil Rights Museum

National Civil Rights Museum

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Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

74 comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, it feels like I have been in a museum already 🙂 And a lot of practical information as well. Good job!

    1. Thank you so much! And I only touched the surface of all the meaningful milestones and stories I learned about at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is one of my all-time favorite historical museums.

  2. What a fascinating museum telling so many important stories! I’d love to visit to explore the museum and exhibitions in more detail. It looks like such an interesting place. Thanks for the great guide!

    1. Thank you and my pleasure. I loved my visit to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It was a very educational and moving experience.

    2. The National Civil Rights Museum is a powerful place. A place to tell a story about our sad history.

      1. I was so moved visiting the National Civil Rights Museum. It is the top thing to do in Memphis…and a place everyone should visit.

  3. This must have been such a moving experience. It’s certainly a unique hotel based in a very historical location, which I think adds to the whole experience. I’ll be sure to visit when I get to this part of the states!

  4. I am planning a trip to Memphis next year and this is definitely top of my list. While I’m sure there are parts of the museum that are very difficult to learn about or comprehend, this is an important place to see. Really helpful to know more about the museum and what else is there to see and learn about

    1. Thank you. If there is only one place you can visit in Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is the top museum. It was a very poignant tour through 400 years of the civil rights movement.

      1. I love learning about history and especially when it is about a topic like slavery that wasn’t talked a lot in schools growing up. I didn’t realize this was where he was assassinated. I’m sure it was both moving and informative to learn about our dark history. I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham and was very moved.

        1. I would love to visit the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham. I highly recommend the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis – I learned a lot about the civil rights movement during my visit.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience in the National Civil Rights Museum. I feel like I’ve learnt so much just by reading about your experience. I definitely add it to my itinerary if I’m ever in the area.

  6. Fascinating piece! The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis looks like such an interesting place to visit! Would love to take my kids here! Will have to make a point of going the next time we visit Tennessee.

    1. Thank you so much! I know you and your entire family would love visiting the National Civil Rights Museum. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Memphis.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this. You did an excellent job covering it. I can imagine that it’s a very emotional experience to visit this museum.

  8. Such an interesting time in our history. SO many lessons learned by all humanity. The point is to not repeat our failings as a society by learning from our history. Let’s hope the divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated doesn’t hint towards a repeat of these injustices and treatment of others “not like us.”

    1. It was such an enlightening experience to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement over the past 400 years. Visiting this museum was my top thing to do in Memphis.

  9. Wow! I had no idea this existed but what a great place to visit and learn about some history! I will definitely be adding this to my list for educational trips for the kids! Thanks for sharing.

    1. My pleasure! The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is a great educational opportunity for kids and adults. I learned so much during my visit.

  10. Wow, this looks better than I had imagined. Very unique and informative. I hope to get to the National Civil Rights Museum soon. It sounds like it has a wealth of information.

  11. I can only imagine how much of an emotional experience it would be to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. We will for sure be planning to visit next time we are in the area. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Thank you and my pleasure. The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is one of my top things to do in Minnesota.

    1. It was a fabulous experience and I agree. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is one we all should visit. So much to learn.

    1. Thank you so much! I know you would appreciate the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. I have a minor in history and I still learned so much…very enlightening experience.

    1. It really was an enriching and poignant experience. I learned a lot during my visit at the Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

  12. Great post, Karen. I did my high school ‘thesis’ 🙂 on U.S. civil rights, so topic close to my heart. The museum seems to have found a great approach to covering this, very broad and comprehensive. I find it hard to get it into my head that some of this happened mere decades ago.

    1. Thank you! U.S. civil rights is such a meaningful thesis. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is a great educational opportunity.

    1. I wasn’t aware that the Lorraine Motel was part of the National Civil Rights Museum either. This is at the top of my list on things to do in Memphis.

  13. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this – exactly my kind of museum. The exhibits look so evocative and it is such important history. I can understand how you would need time to process as you wandered through and I’m sure I would find it emotionally draining too. Love the Rosa Parks exhibit! I sat in her seat on the bus when we visited The Henry Ford. It was very moving. Definitely want to visit this museum.

    1. Thank you so much. The National Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee was such a moving experience. I would love to visit the Henry Ford Museum.

  14. The National Civil Rights Museum would be one of the places I’d most like to see in Memphis. I had no idea this is where Dr King was shot. A tragic reminder but a fascinating insight at the same time.

    1. Yes, the National Civil Rights Museum was a very disturbing, yet fascinating and educational experience. Definitely ranks at the top of the list of things to do in Memphis.

  15. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading this as this is on our list of places to travel to this year. We love historical places and this looks even better than I was expecting. I didnt realize you could see inside the rooms and be in the building where the sniper took was. As a homeschooling family, this is a great place for a history lesson. Thank you again.

    1. Thank you and am happy to share my moving experience after visiting the National Civil Rights Museum. I highly recommend for homeschooling families as it is very educational and enlightening.

  16. Wow! The National Civil Rights Museum looks like a wonderful place to visit. I love learning more about history so this is right up my alley! Very educational experience for adults and children it seems like.

    1. My minor in college was U.S. history. And I learned so much during my visit to the National Civil Rights Museum. I highly recommend for all adults and children.

  17. The civil rights movement in the US is such an important part of history (which still needs a lot of work IMO). Thank you for writing this post and bring attention to this movement.

  18. Thank you for sharing this post. I did not know that the Lorraine Motel was a part of the National Civil Rights Museum. I enjoy visiting museums when I travel and will keep this one on my list.

  19. Wow, this was very powerful and poignant. Would love to visit one day. Interesting to see all your photos of the exhibits – they give a really good indication of what to expect. And the tip to not miss the upstairs section. The sculptures look amazing!

    1. Thank you! I highly recommend the National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel. It’s the top thing to do in Memphis in my opinion. I learned so much!

  20. Memphis, TN is such a cool place to visit! The National Civil Rights Museum has some amazing history; we can learn much from visiting.

  21. I love your thorough coverage of the National Civil Rights Museum. It is such an important piece of American history.