I was invited to Memphis to speak at the PRSA Travel and Tourism conference last week. Lucky me, the host hotel was one of the city’s finest. The Peabody Memphis has quite the history. Here’s what I learned about this historic hotel and what I enjoyed most about it:
The original Peabody Memphis was built in 1869 by Colonel Robert C. Brinkley. He named it after his late good friend and philanthropist George Peabody — he endowed George Peabody College in Nashville and contributed much to the disadvantaged South. The hotel was originally built at the corner of Main and Monroe in downtown Memphis but in 1925, it moved to its present location. In the 1970s, downtown Memphis, like many urban areas in America, experienced a social and economic decline and The Peabody closed. But in 1981 after a six-year, $25 million renovation The Peabody reopened on September 1. It’s been going strong ever since and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. The hotel is also cited by the U.S. Department of the Interior as one of the country’s most outstanding preservation case studies. Every president since Harry S. Truman has stayed here. Click here to read more history of the hotel. http://www.peabodymemphis.com/history/
2. Peabody Duck March
This has to be one of the most brilliant hotel marketing concepts of all time. General Manager Frank Schutt created the idea in the 1930s. After returning from a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas, Schutt and his friends thought it would be funny to leave some of their live duck decoys in the hotel’s beautiful fountain. The guests loved it so they kept them there until 1940. That’s when Edward Pembroke, a hotel bellman and formerly a circus animal trainer, volunteered to take care of the ducks and teach them to march in and out of the lobby – initiating the famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke was named Duckmaster and served in that position until 1991 and they’ve had four other Duckmasters since then. Good to know: The Peabody Ducks march to and from the Grand Lobby daily at 11am and 5pm and you will never find duck on any of the Peabody restaurant menus.
3. Honorary Duckmasters
The Peabody Duck March has made the hotel famous and they have begun offering celebrities the distinction of being an honorary Duckmaster, where they introduce them to the large crowd and give them a Duckmaster cane and certificate. There’s a huge list of celebrities including Oprah and President Jimmy Carter. They’ve recently begun offering the honor in a package deal so people can get their kids (or themselves) up close. The price fluctuates but it’s currently listed at $340. The price not only includes a certificate, cane, valet parking, a rubber ducky and duck cookies but also a reserved table for four in the best seat in the house. Good to know: Children can line the red carpet and anyone can sit in the other lobby chairs – just get there 30 minutes or so early before the area gets roped off. Here are my photo and video of being named an honorary Duckmaster. Here’s my story and video.
The Peabody Memphis is in the heart of downtown. It’s a 15 minute ride from the airport and just blocks from the city’s famous attractions like Beale Street (a four-minute walk), the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum, Gibson Guitar Factory, Fed-Ex Forum where the Grizzlies play, National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio and the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
5. Friendly employees
I think you will find this in all of Memphis and possibly the south but all the employees are super friendly. When I checked in, I was running late to the opening party so I left my bags with the bellman and asked the clerk if they had any mints – I didn’t have time to run to my room to freshen up. She said they didn’t have any mints but she had some gum in her purse and handed me a piece. So kind. Later, when I got locked out of my room (long story) I got talking to the maid and we had a really pleasant conversation. She told me that the messiest guests don’t tip, which I found interesting.
6. Bacon dipped in peanut butter and chocolate
I know they don’t do this for all the guests but all the speakers at the conference got a very fun and unique welcome treat. It was a chocolate duck with a few strips of bacon dipped in peanut butter and chocolate. I was skeptical about eating the latter but after the first bite, they were gone within seconds. Good to know: They have a deli in the hotel, which sells all of these treats.
7. Comfortable rooms
The 13-story hotel has 464 rooms. They come with a comfortable bed, 42″ flat screen television with premium-cable, free calls to local and 800 numbers, free shoeshine and a clean bathroom with fun duck soaps.
8. Free Wi-Fi
You have to love a luxury (Forbes Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond) hotel that offers free Wi-Fi. It’s not only free, it’s painless to get on – no sign up pages. Just one click and you are in. Good to know: I’m not sure how secure the network is so I don’t advise doing any banking or tending to other personal matters on there.
9. It’s pet friendly
Any hotel that has ducks marching through its lobby twice a day better allow pets … and the Peabody does. Here’s more information on The Peabody Memphis Pet Policy.
10. Rooftop parties
In the summertime, supposedly the biggest party in Memphis is on the rooftop of the Peabody every Thursday night. They have local bands, cool drinks and great views of the sun setting over the Mississippi River. Don’t worry if you’re staying there because it only operates on Thursdays from 6pm – 11 p.m.
As you can tell, I loved staying at the Peabody Memphis and my only disappointment was that they charge for packages to be delivered. My cell phone broke so T-Mobile sent me a replacement and the hotel charged a $10 fee. When I tried to contest it, the front desk clerk said that there’s nothing she can do and most of the time they charge up to $65 for heavy packages. Gulp! I take this as a valuable lesson: Before shipping a package to your hotel, make sure they don’t charge a hefty fee.
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