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Bucket List, Memphis Style

Whether you’re a tourist or a Memphian born and bred, let Samantha Crespo be your guide.



Graceland? Been there, done that, you say. Beale Street? Ditto.

But how about Graceland on the cheap? If you're budget-minded, Samantha Crespo knows how to do it. Beale not by night but by day? Crespo says try it, whether you're a tourist in town or a Memphian born and bred. Crespo has plenty of other ideas as well, and besides Graceland and Beale Street, check out the 98 additional entries in her bucket list of all things Bluff City: 100 Things To Do in Memphis Before You Die (Reedy Press).

Some of those sights to see — Sun and Stax, the Brooks and the Dixon, Overton Square and Overton Park — are no-brainers, but Crespo gives them a fresh spin. Some, however, may come as a surprise. Crespo recommends the "sonic massage" at the Memphis Drum Shop on South Cooper. Or the book club and speaker series at Elmwood Cemetery. Or an impromptu visit with the ranger at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. Or a hands-on tour of the St. Blues Guitar Workshop on Marshall. Or, see what's in season and there for the picking at Jones Orchard in Millington.

Crespo's also had some fresh ideas when it comes to promoting her book. Her signing at Burke's earlier this month may have taken the traditional route, but she's also had a recent reading at the Center for Southern Folklore and set up shop at the Cooper-Young and Botanic Garden farmers markets. On Saturday, June 21st, at 1 p.m., she'll be at South Main Book Juggler (548 S. Main) as part of the store's "After-Market" series of guest authors.

That series is timed to follow the weekly Downtown Farmers Market, and Crespo has timed her book to appear during the summer tourist season, tourism being Crespo's specialty. She's a former managing editor for a tourism publishing firm in her home state of Florida. She's written for the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. She's been a blogger for the federal government's "Discover America" tourist program. And she's written for Tennessee's Department of Tourist Development, with a focus on Memphis and West


Crespo, who moved to Memphis four years ago when her husband took a job at Medtronic, wrote Things To Do in Memphis Before You Die with local readers, in addition to out-of-towners, in mind.

"That's the true test for this book," Crespo said by phone. "For Memphians to pick it up and say to themselves, 'You know, I've always wanted to do that.' So, I want people to understand that I very much wrote the book for locals. Yes, it's a travel guide and I didn't want to ignore the obvious, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. People who simply read the book jacket ... they may think, I've done that. Or, I've lived here my entire life. I don't need to do that. But the book is a celebration of the city and especially its creativity."

Crespo doesn't want any excuses. She talked to one Memphian who had never heard of the Four Way restaurant, another who had never been to the National Civil Rights Museum, and another confused by the location of Stax. You too? Doesn't mean you're a lesser person, Crespo, whose enthusiasm for the city is downright infectious, said. Just means you're busy, she understands, and maybe you just need to break out of your routine. You have a bored child on your hands this summer? Take it from Crespo: "I'm going to have my own son open my book, and whatever he turns to, that's what we're going to do."

It could very well be a visit to Overton Park. Crespo said it's her number-one place in town to pass the time, and it's not far from her Midtown home:

"When my husband and I moved to Memphis, we had one weekend to find a house. And when we saw Overton Park, we fell in love with it. We chose our house to be near Overton Park. It's why the park gets five of the 100 things to do in Memphis — so many ways to enjoy it, whatever your budget, your age, or your interests."

And whatever you do, don't sell Memphis short on things to do. Crespo doesn't. She's got a running list already in mind for a future edition of Things To Do in Memphis Before You Die. Last count, she said, that list was up to 70.

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