Books | March 2017
Graceland, The Rendezvous, Beale Street and Bass Pro — all destination locations for visitors to Memphis. Through her book, 100 Things to Do in Memphis Before You Die, Samantha Crespo seeks to highlight that for every Memphis Zoo, there’s a St. Blues Guitar Workshop waiting to be discovered.
A native of Tampa, Fla., Crespo and her family moved to Memphis in 2010 when her husband’s job with Medtronic brought them to the city. With her came both an interest and experience in travel and tourism, having worked as a managing editor and freelance writer for a publishing company in her home state that focused on the topics.
She became intimately familiar with West Tennessee while working on the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s Tennessee Vacation Guide and as a blogger for the Department’s website. “That really got (my family) out and about all over,” she says. “That was really my crash course.” Having also worked on the annual visitors guide for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, Crespo was more than prepared to tackle the book project when she was approached about it in 2013.
“I did not think about doing it, honestly, until the publisher called me and asked me,” she says, adding her condition for doing the book was to not only have it function as a travel guide, but to feature things for her neighbors and native Memphians. “Early on, I decided… I was going to write (the book) as much for locals as visitors,” Crespo says of her approach to writing 100 Things to Do in Memphis.
Reedy Press published the first edition of the book in May 2014. “The first edition almost put itself together,” she recalls, noting the benefits of having covered Memphis and other areas of West Tennessee previously. While getting the big places and attractions into the book was a must, Crespo wanted to look at some of them from different angles, such as cheaper ways to experience some of Memphis’ most iconic locations. “There are different ways you can do (these things) than the obvious ways,” she says, adding “getting the obvious in there, then peeling back the layers,” was a goal.
Though she was able to preview things such as the expansion of Shelby Farms and both the Blues Hall of Fame and Memphis Music Hall of Fame in the first edition of 100 Things to Do in Memphis, a second edition, released last year, allowed Crespo to revisit those and add additional content. “It was really cool to go back to those spots,” she says. The second edition also allowed her to highlight things such as the growth of Overton Square, South Main and Broad Avenue, and get around to things she had never done — like taking in a sermon from Rev. Al Green at Full Gospel Tabernacle. Crespo says the fact that very little old information needed to be updated in the second edition speaks to both the staying power of local businesses in Memphis and to the culture of the city.
Though she’s seen and done so much in Memphis, Crespo says revisiting places like Overton Park for inspiration is always nice. Whether checking out a new exhibit at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, a concert at the Levitt Shell or visiting the park in different seasons, Crespo notes Overton Park “has its own ways of being different every time you visit.”
When it comes to her own ideal day in Memphis, Crespo likes to keep it simple. “My favorite way to spend any day is to grab my bike and ride through Overton Park to Broad Avenue,” to shop at the Five in One Social Club on Broad and check out local art on the street. “It’s always a fun experience.”
As for future books, Crespo says she’s game. “I would absolutely keep going with the series,” she notes. “I look forward to doing another edition. It is nice to think that, in another edition … [I can] focus solely on those off-the-beaten-path attractions. You can always dig deeper and find more.”
Hot Spots and
Discovering the Bluff City with Samantha Crespo, author of 100 Things to Do in Memphis Before You Die
Story by Michael Ward