Beale Street Music Festival Guide — All You Need to Know

Beale Street is well-known for jazz and blues. Legendary jazz artists like B.B King, Louis Armstrong, and Muddy Waters all played on this famous street. In celebration of this illustrious history is the Beale Street Music Festival, part of “Memphis in May,” which attracts hordes of crowds each year. Beale Street Music Festival doesn’t only focus on jazz and blues, but showcases various music genres. If you’re planning on attending, here’s everything you need to know to ensure an awesome and safe time.

Beale Street Memphis
Beale Street Memphis: Image via Flickr by Thomas Hawk / CC BY-NC 2.0

Beale Street Music Festival Accommodation and Getting Around

Over 100,000 people flock to the BSMF every year. That’s a lot of bodies passing through Memphis who need a place to stay. Plan ahead and book accommodations early if you want a good hotel or B&B. Note that camping is not allowed at the venue. There are several parking lots and garages near the festival, but parking fees tend to be higher during events. Alternatively, make use of the trolley shuttles. Buy the three-day trolley pass, which allows you to hop on and off as often as you like. If you’re staying near to the venue, just walk.

Blues Singer Memphis: Beltin the Blues at Beale Street
Beltin the Blues at Beale Street: Image via Flickr by Thomas Hawk / CC BY-NC 2.0

What You’re Allowed to Bring to the Venue

The first thing to know is that Beale Street Music Festival doesn’t actually take place on Beale Street, but at Tom Lee Park along the riverfront. The second is that there are strict rules as to what’s allowed in the venue. You can bring a 12-by-12-inch backpack, one unopened 20-ounce (590ml) bottle of water (or Camelbak), a cell phone, and a blanket. You cannot bring cameras, selfie sticks, cans or open beverages, containers, coolers, food, glass bottles, lawn chairs, beach umbrellas, strollers, pets (except service animals), or weapons.

Food and Drink

Big Boi Fans Beale Street Music Festival
Big Boi Fans at Beale Street Music Festival: Image via Flickr by Sean Davis / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Apart from one bottle of water, no food and drink are allowed into the venue. Food and beverage vendors are available, including those that serve alcohol. Expect the usual line-up of festival-type food like corn dogs, french fries, burgers, and hot dogs. Bring cash because the food vendors don’t accept checks or plastic. If, however, you forget, don’t stress — ATMs are available at Tom Lee Park. You are allowed to leave the park and re-enter only once, so you could pop out to sample the many delicious offerings in the downtown area.

Plan for the Weather

It’s May in Memphis, Tennessee and the chances are good that there’ll be rain. And when it rains, it will get muddy. Performances will go ahead whether it rains or not, so come prepared. Bring rain boots, rain jackets or, better yet, rain ponchos, which are light and can easily be stuffed into a backpack. Pack a few warm items of clothing because Memphis can get chilly — especially in the evenings. Visit for weather updates.

Wet Muddy Day at Beale Street Music Festival, fans, memphis usa
Wet and Muddy Day at Beale Street Music Festival: Image via Flickr by Lindsey Turner / CC BY 2.0

Safety and Medical Emergencies

Security is tight at the festival, and all bags and packages will be inspected upon entering the venue. Any prohibited items will not be allowed into the venue. Photo identification is required for all alcohol purchases. First Aid stations are located at the north and center of Tom Lee Park. If you lose anything, head to Lost and Found at the Police Compound.

Next year’s festival takes place May  5-7, 2017 and tickets go on sale on November 18, 2016, so there’s still plenty of time to plan and get ready to rock the festival.

About Deevra Norling


With a love for exploring new places and trying new foods, Deevra finds the world a fascinating place. She is South African by birth but prefers to see herself as a citizen of the world. Deevra is a freelance writer who has contributed to Career Addict and Huffington Post and currently writes for Hipmunk. For more on her writing services email her at [email protected], or connect on Twitter @DeevraNorling.

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