May 24, 2011

Everything’s ducky at the Peabody Hotel

There’s one place every first-time visitor to Memphis must go, and it’s not Graceland or Sun Studios.  It’s the Peabody Hotel. 
Located just a couple blocks off of Beale, the Peabody is a downtown fixture.  It’s also one of the most elegant, historic hotels I’ve ever stepped in, even if I haven’t had the opportunity (or the finances) to spend the night.  Yes, despite my commoner status, I have a thing for historic hotels … you’ll never mistake the Peabody for your run-of-the-mill chain hotel.
Every hotel like the Peabody has its own charm and history, and their most famous fixtures are the Peabody ducks that migrate to the largest fountain in the hotel lobby every day.  If you’ve never seen the ducks, they alone are worth a walk-through.   It’s even better if you get to see their arrival and departure, being led along the red carpet by a certified Duckmaster. 

Gypsies love the ducks!

So, where do the ducks go at night?  To the Duck Palace, of course.  It's a secluded building on the rooftop of the hotel.  And it must have a spell against cameras, because the photo I took of it looked like crap.  I couldn't even find one online.  Oh, well.  Just adds to their mystery and allure.  
In all my trips to the Peabody, I had never ventured onto the rood until my most recent trip to the Beale Street Music Festival.  The view was impressive …

View of the flooded Mississippi River from the Peabody roof
Apparently, they still throw quite a few rooftop parties at the Peabody.  Someday, I’ll have to figure out how to get into one, or at least crash one. 
While on the roof, I also discovered the Skyway Ballroom on the top floor, complete with grand piano.  It must be the premier place in Memphis to hold your wedding or other formal event, and it still features occasional musical acts. I saw it during the day when it was empty, but you can easily imagine the live Big Band broadcasts that CBS used to conduct back in the day (hey, would Wikipedia lie?).
My second favorite thing to do at the Peabody is, not surprisingly, have a drink at the lobby bar.  The Peabody’s website calls it “the living room of Memphis” and why not?  You see everybody coming and going, from the rich and famous to the weird and ragged.  And the bartenders know their drinks.  For some reason, I usually have some variety of alcohol-infused coffee concoction whenever I’m there.  Maybe because it’s often my first drink of the day.  Or first drink of the evening. 

One other claim to fame for the Peabody is one of the adjacent shops is the current home for Lansky’s, the men’s clothier famous for providing Elvis Presley his wardrobe.  
For all of these reasons, the Peabody remains in my opinion one of those great destination hotels, where the hotel is the reason you’re going as much as the place you’re staying.

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