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Ready for a road trip?

All this pretty weather may have you thinking about making some vacation plans. If your GPS has you heading toward Memphis, I’ve got some suggestions for your itinerary. These were top stops during our homeschool group’s recent two-nighter there.

Fire Museum of Memphis (118 Adams Ave., 901-636-5650)

Known as Memphis’ hottest attraction, this interactive fire museum is housed in the legendary Fire Engine House No. 1. Visitors can fight the flames of a burning skyscraper from a snorkel basket simulator, then hear about the horse-drawn era of firefighting from the horse’s perspective. Kids are invited to test their ability to find an escape route to survive a fire. My bunch won’t soon forget the feel of the heat in the “Fire Room.”

The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange (65 Union Ave., 901-531-7826)

Our group enjoyed learning all about the Memphis Cotton Exchange while standing on its original trading floor. Exhibits and archival footage show how Memphis found its footing as a shipping port for cotton. The museum’s second focus is on the cotton plant itself — how it’s grown, harvested and used. Don’t miss the boll weevils (under glass, of course).

The Peabody Hotel/Duck March (149 Union Ave.)

See these famous fowl do their thing at one of the Mid-south’s most famous hotels. The show starts in the lobby at 5 p.m. sharp, but we got there early enough to see the ducks’ “palace” (and a prime view of the city) on the roof. Young ones will want to get a duckie cupcake from the Peabody’s sweet shop.

Bass Pro at the Memphis Pyramid (1 Bass Pro Drive, 901-291-8200)

Hard-to-wow teen in your travel posse? This might please him. Besides the retail aspects, this Bass Pro has some added attractions, including an archery range, aquarium, Ducks Unlimited Heritage Center and a 28-story freestanding elevator and glass observation deck. Finish your visit with pizza and bowling at their nautical-themed restaurant and alleys.

Graceland (3764 Elvis Presley Blvd.)

Here’s an insider tip for you Elvis fans with tightwad tendencies: Every morning from 7:30-8:30 a.m., the gates open and visitors are welcome to walk up the drive for free. According to members of our group who made the trek, you can’t go inside the mansion, but you can stop by the Meditation Garden and view the graves of Elvis and his family up close.

CTI 3-D Giant Theatre (3050 Central Ave., 901-636-2362)

Experience the excitement that a four-story 3D screen delivers. We were mesmerized by an educational documentary about engineering that was truly bigger than our imagination.  The “Wild Africa” and “Extreme Weather” previews looked cool, too. 

Gibson Guitar Factory (145 Lt. George W. Lee Ave., 901-544-7998)

This was a hit with the dads in our party. The complete tour includes an intimate viewing of the facility as Gibson’s skilled luthiers (look it up) craft some of the finest guitars in the world. You’ll witness the intricate process of binding, neck-fitting, painting, buffing, and tuning these babies. Oh, and there’s a gift shop in case you’re in the market for one yourself.

Memphis Zoo (2000 Prentiss Place, 901-333-6500)

A few years ago, TripAdvisor ranked this tourist attraction as the number one zoo in the nation. We gave them an A-plus, too. The Memphis Zoo is home to more than 3,500 animals representing 500 species. Visitors can see pandas and polar bears, roam through Cat Country and even ride a camel. Our group could have stayed here for days. 

And the ones that got away . . .

Mud Island (101 N. Mud Island Drive, 901-577-6461)

We were a week early for its season opener. Bummer. The monorail and made-to-scale walk-through Mississippi River are still calling my name. I’ll go back some day.

Brooks Art Museum (1934 Poplar Ave., 901-544-6200)

Another tightwad tip: It’s pay what you can on Wednesdays to see original pieces from famous artists like Cassatt, Renoir and Rembrandt.

Metal Museum (374 Metal Museum Drive, 901-774-6380)

Exhibitions of metalwork aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but one family in our group made this detour and said it was pretty unique. Public programs featuring metalsmiths are on tap most days as well.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.