Best of Memphis 2017: Arts & Entertainment 


Best Casino

1. Horseshoe Casino

2. Southland Park Gaming and Racing

3. Gold Strike Casino Resort

Horseshoe is the place to play with your money. With flashing neon, a well-appointed casino, and luxurious rooms, what more do you need? Add to that their ongoing lineup of world-class performers like Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, or Herbie Hancock, and you've got a mighty fine weekend, with or without the kids.

Best Dog Park

1. Outback, Shelby Farms Park

2. Overton Bark, Overton Park

3. City of Memphis Dog Park, Tobey Park

Shelby Farms Park - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Shelby Farms Park

Best Park

1. Shelby Farms Park

2. Overton Park

3. Memphis Botanic Garden

Memphis is creating a name for itself as a green city, and Shelby Farms is one reason. With over 4,500 acres, it ranks as one of the 20 biggest urban forests in the country. It's so huge that it boasts several parks-within-the-park. That's very happy news for dog owners, with 100 acres dedicated to unleashed romping. As for human recreation, it's hard to compete with the vast expanses of trails, not to mention zip lines, boating, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, and more.

Best Family Entertainment

1. Memphis Zoo

2. Levitt Shell

3. Memphis Redbirds — tie — Pink Palace

Now boasting an elaborate new Zambezi River Hippo Camp exhibit, the Memphis Zoo treats its inhabitants very well indeed. Lush landscaping, expansive habitats, and a dedicated staff keep the critters content, as evidenced by those happy pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le. They are oblivious to the strife plaguing Homo sapiens, and you and your family can be, too. Go to their China exhibit, bang a gong, make a giant panda smile.

Best Festival

1. Cooper-Young Festival

2. Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival — tie — Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

3. Memphis Italian Festival

There's something so Memphis about the Cooper-Young Festival. It's in one of the greatest walking and biking neighborhoods of the city, it's chock full of great eateries and shops, and it has a gazebo. And that's all before the festival sets up. With multiple stages featuring the crème de la crème of the regional music scene, it offers delightful sonic surprises at every turn. And the tables featuring diverse purveyors of art and crafts give it a more up-close-and-personal feel than most music-only festivals. Four corn dogs, please!

Cooper-Young Festival - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Cooper-Young Festival

Best Gallery

1. Crosstown Arts

2. David Lusk Gallery

3. Jay Etkin Gallery — tie — Orange Mound Gallery

Few institutions have the breadth and depth of Crosstown Arts, with its vision of community-building. The galleries themselves host exhibits from every walk of Memphis life and are especially conducive to multimedia shows such as last year's immersive audio/visual experience, "Swim." All this is set to expand even further this fall, as the organization moves into a dedicated space at the Crosstown Concourse, which itself grew from Crosstown Arts' community vision.

Best Live Theater

1. Orpheum Theatre

2. Playhouse on the Square

3. Hattiloo Theatre — tie — Theatre Memphis

  • Justin Fox Burks

Best Performing Arts Venue

1. Orpheum Theatre

2. Levitt Shell

3. Playhouse on the Square — tie — Germantown Performing Arts Center

The Orpheum is a gem. Set to celebrate its 90th anniversary next year, it connects concert or theater patrons directly to the finest performances of generations past. Beyond its luxurious design and decor, it boasts one of the few working Wurlitzer organs in the country, now the object of a restoration campaign. And with the addition of the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education, it has a sister site for functions with more modern requirements. It's a fine place to step back into the gilded age, or far into the future.

Best Local Band

1. Lucero

2. Star & Micey

3. Mighty Souls Brass Band

Now approaching their 20-year mark, Lucero has remained true to their original country-punk roots even as they've evolved and explored new sounds. And one would be hard-pressed to find another bunch of players who have remained as loyal to each other. This, and the inclusive largess of their family block parties, has made the band a Memphis institution. It's telling that their longevity is built more on touring than record sales. They're one band that has adapted well to the economics of the new music industry — long may they run.

Best Local Comedian

click to enlarge Katrina Coleman - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Katrina Coleman

1. Katrina Coleman

2. Mo Alexander

3. Hunter Sandlin — tie — Josh McLane

"I know what you're thinking if you haven't seen me before," says Katrina Coleman. "'How did this hyper 15-year-old boy get in here, and why are his tits so nice?'" Coleman combines such self-deprecation with an acerbic, spot-on eye for the habits and delusions that make us all stupider than we think. If her unassuming nature and homespun style say Memphis, her view of humanity is more like the Eye of God. She cuts to the quick; hilarity ensues.

Best Local Singer

1. Al Green

2. Joyce Cobb

3. Amy LaVere

With a new biography out and this year's celebration of Royal Studios' 60th anniversary, it's highly appropriate that the Reverend Al Green should win the top vocal honors. Of course, with his angelic tenor, he is one of America's finest and most innovative singers. And, along with Don Bryant, he is one of the last of the old-school soul men. In latter-day performances, he conveys classic soul shouter stylings just as nimbly as his own trademark intimacy. Here's to Al Green, for keeping the faith and carrying the flame.

Best Movie Theater

1. Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill

2. Malco Studio on the Square

3. Malco Paradiso Cinema Grill

What finer cinematic experience than the Ridgeway? The wide, comfortable chairs, the selection of finer quality concessions (and alcohol), the seclusion, tucked away in a corner below Poplar. Oh yes, and the cinema! For movie buffs with any interest in alternative and independent films, this is the go-to spot. Whether it was seeing Beasts of the Southern Wild there, or the premiere of Love Is Strange, the Ridgeway has played host to many happy celluloid memories.

Best Museum

1. Pink Palace Museum

2. National Civil Rights Museum

3. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

As one of the city's oldest institutions, it's ironic that the Pink Palace Museum stands at the modern, cutting edge of dazzling edu-tainment. Beyond the rich historical exhibits, which can even make groceries seem fascinating, it also hosts a state-of-the-art CTI 3D Giant Theater and a planetarium. And as the organization has expanded, they've sponsored other far-ranging sites as well, from Lichterman Nature Center to Victorian Village.

Best Place to See Live Music

1. Levitt Shell

2. Lafayette's Music Room

3. Minglewood Hall

The comeback of the iconic band shell in Overton Park is one of the great success stories of the last decade. This fall, acts as varied as Opera Memphis, North Mississippi Allstars, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Southern Avenue will grace the same stage where Elvis debuted. There's nothing like a beautiful night at the special place in Midtown's backyard.



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