Surreal meets luxury in Memphis
Staying at the Big Cypress Lodge is an experience that’s simultaneously luxurious and surreal. You enter through the doors to the largest Bass Pro Shop in the world, constructed on the floor of the Memphis Pyramid, which served as the city’s arena until 2004. Take a hard right and you’re in the lobby of the Big Cypress Lodge, two stories above the store.
Rooms wrap around the upper levels of the pyramid’s interior, and log-lined walls and animal heads make you feel far removed from the city. Attached to the rooms are screened-in balconies and rickety front porches, all with bird’s-eye views of the boats, ATVs and fish-filled ponds sprawling below. It’s a complete immersion in the world of sportsmen. There are no windows to the outside world, and taxidermied bears lurk around every corner. But don’t you dare mistake this place as hokey: the detail and design is impeccable.
Just south of downtown with a short shuttle to Beale Street
The Big Cypress Lodge is the kind of hotel you could check into and never leave. However, if you do feel like exploring the blues and barbecue that make Memphis so cool, you won’t have to go far. Walking to downtown, Beale Street and other Memphis attractions isn’t realistic unless the weather is nice and you’re feeling like some exercise. But the hotel offers a free, on-demand shuttle that takes less than 10 minutes to get to the heart of the city.
Some cool things to do within the shuttle’s range:
Hit the blues bars of Beale Street. Their vibe is still gritty and real and the crowd mirrors the people who play there. Top spots include B.B. King’s, Rum Boogie and the Blues Hall Juke Joint, though you can’t really go wrong with any bar on Beale.
Catch Ja Morant, one of the most electrifying athletes in all of sports, as he leads the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedExForum. The lodge offers suite tickets to guests for an additional cost, plus transportation to and from the game.
Savor some famous Memphis barbecue. Central BBQ is just a couple of blocks off Main Street and an easy walk from most attractions.
Learn the history of the civil rights movement at the National Civil Rights Museum. The fascinating museum is inside the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Experience what life was like along the Underground Railroad at Slave Haven. The historic house a couple of blocks from the Mississippi River once housed slaves escaping to freedom in its basement, which you can tour daily.
Grab drinks in the coolest train station bar in America at Eight and Sand, then sneak back into its private listening room to hear blues in hi-fi stereo.
See where Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis got their starts at Sun Studio. The historic recording space is still active, and you’ll be able to stand in the studio where some say rock ‘n’ roll was born.
Enter the world of Stax Records — who brought us Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Booker T & the M.G.’s — at the Stax Museum. It has a replica of Stax’s original recording studio.
Cabins in the woods where you can sleep for days
The comparison between the Big Cypress Lodge and the Luxor in Las Vegas is obvious, given they’re America’s only hotels inside pyramids, but the similarities run deeper. Both have store-facing rooms that completely distort your sense of time. With no windows and blackout curtains, the only way you might figure out it’s morning is by the sight of shoppers trickling in the store below.
Each room at the Big Cypress Lodge feels like a backwoods cabin, with high ceilings, antler chandeliers, animal heads and log walls. A light over the bathtub casts the shadow of a cypress tree into your bath, and the screened-in porches feel like they’re atop a buggy Midwestern lake. Look down, and you might stare straight at gar, trout or even an alligator in the ponds below.
The Big Cypress Lodge’s rooms fall into the following categories:
- Premier rooms – The hotel’s entry-level rooms are anything but basic, done up in carved wood, giant beds and electric fireplaces. They come in both king and double queen, and have screened-in porches as well as bathrooms with strong rainshowers and spacious jacuzzi tubs.
- Deluxe Rooms – These are the only outward-facing rooms in the Big Cypress Lodge, so if you’d like to escape the woodland immersion, this is the move. They clock in at a sprawling 518 square feet, and offer the same detailed décor as the Premier rooms. You won’t have a balcony, though, and some views are slightly obstructed.
- Suites – Though the Big Cypress Lodge only offers five suites, each one has a different theme to give them all a sense of exclusivity. Choose between a vintage duck cabin, a treehouse or a two-story fly fishing lodge. Or go luxe in the 2,000-square-foot Governor’s Suite.
Restaurants, a bowling alley and live alligators
The most obvious amenity at the Big Cypress Lodge is the massive Bass Pro Shops on the ground floor. Even if you’re not big into hunting or fishing, it’s worth a walk around. Beyond that, this urban outdoor resort has a rooftop restaurant, a bowling alley and the tallest freestanding elevator in America to explore.
The shop sitting below the hotel isn’t some simple sporting goods store. It’s the biggest Bass Pro Shops in the world. You can buy everything from meat grinders to trolling boats to fresh-baked fudge. Meandering through the store, you’ll find a number of water features too, where large fish and alligators float their way through the afternoon.
The Lookout and observation deck
The center of the pyramid has the tallest freestanding elevator in the United States, which takes guests to the observation deck above the city. The top floor is also home to the Lookout restaurant. A large aquarium and metal fish sculptures dominate the dining room and many tables overlook Memphis. The food is fantastic, too, with elk sliders, top-notch steaks and White River catfish as highlights on the menu.
This gamey version of the Wahlberg family’s burger empire offers some exotic stuff you won’t find on other Wahlburgers menus. Look for venison chili, bison burgers and venison bratwurst on the special “wild” menu alongside the regular collection of burgers and chicken sandwiches.
Behind Wahlburgers Wild sits an aquatic-themed bowling alley called Fishbowl. Lanes are done up like an underwater version of Rainforest Café. The ball returns are shark and kraken heads and reefs float overhead. You can order food from Wahlburgers Wild here, too, if all the bowling makes you hungry.
Step off the lobby elevators on the third floor and you’ll be in the lodge’s equivalent of a lobby bar. The big, open space is filled with oversized leather couches, board games and a multi-story fireplace. It’s a gathering place of sorts for hotel guests with views of the indoor cypress trees and Bass Pro Shops.
Building a rooftop bar atop a pyramid is a challenge not even the ancient Egyptians were up for. So the Big Cypress Lodge opted instead for this sunny terrace just off the hotel’s third-floor corridor. In spring and summer, it’s a perfect place to soak up the sun and some of the Memphis skyline while enjoying a drink. You can also roast s’mores when it gets dark, or hit a morning sunrise yoga session.
The Big Cypress Lodge has a full fitness center complete with multiple treadmills, elliptical machines and exercise bikes. Dumbbells go up to 50 pounds, or you can workout on a full circuit of weight and cable machines.
The lodge’s wood-lined walls lend themselves perfectly to the cozy Big Cypress Spa. You’ll feel like you’re being massaged in a Nordic chalet. It sits just past the fitness center, near the Lookout bar.