Beale Street  runs from the Mississippi River to Manassas Street in midtown, but it is the three blocks between 2nd and 4th Streets that really matter, at least today. In its heyday, the Beale Street commercial and entertainment district extended farther east and west, but today, it has been condensed into the half dozen blocks from Main Street to 4th Street.
Beale Street is good for walking. Come down during the day to stroll the street and look carefully at what remains of the old architecture. Imagine the street when its cobblestones and sidewalks were jammed with African-American Memphians out doing their Saturday shopping. Then return in the evening for the modern-day experience. This walking tour begins at the intersection of Beale and Main Streets, and heads eastward.
Near the corner of Beale and Main Streets is the Orpheum Theatre (203 S. Main St., 901/525-7800, www.orpheum-memphis.com ). This site has been used for entertainment since 1890, when the Grand Opera House opened there with a production of Les Huguenots. Later, the opera house began vaudeville shows and theater. Fire destroyed the opera house in 1923, but in 1928 it reopened as the Orpheum, a movie theater and performing arts venue for the likes of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bob Hope, and Mae West. The Orpheum was neglected for many years during the 1960s and ’70s, but it reopened in 1984 thanks to the Memphis Development Foundation. It remains one of Memphis’s  premier venues for the performing arts, with Broadway productions, mainstream musical artists, movies, and much more.
A block east of the Orpheum is a statue of Memphis’s most famous native son, Elvis Presley. Depicting the King during his early career, the statue sits in Elvis Presley Plaza.
A. Schwab  (163 Beale St., 901/523-9782, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.) has served Memphis  residents for more than 130 years, although it focuses now on odd, out-of-date, and hard-to-find items rather than general store necessities. Stop in for a souvenir, or to visit the A. Schwab “museum,” a collection of old-fashioned household tools and implements.
A few doors down from A. Schwab, at the Irish pub Silky O’Sullivan’s, you can see what remains of one of Beale Street’s  most magnificent old buildings. The facade of what was once the Gallina Building is held up by six steel girders. From the 1860s until 1914, this facade kept watch on the business empire of Squire Charles Gallina, who operated a saloon, restaurant, and 20-room hotel, as well as a gambling room. Gallina, who was also a magistrate, held court upstairs above the saloon, and his family lived in an apartment on the top floor. After Gallina’s death in 1914, the building was used variously as a pharmacy, clothing store, dry goods shop, and dentist’s office.
Beyond 3rd Street, on the northern side of Beale, is Handy Park , named for famous blues composer and musician W. C. Handy. Beale Street’s markethouse was torn down in 1930 to build the park, which was dedicated during a ceremony attended by blues greats such as Robert Johnson and B. B. King. Since it opened, Handy Park has been a popular place for street musicians, peddlers, concerts, and community events, all of which are presided over by the life-size statue of W. C. Handy.
About midway up the southern side of the next block of Beale Street  is the Daisy Theater (329 Beale St.). Built in 1917 as a movie house, the theater’s domed front speaks of Beale’s heyday. Much of the original interior remains today. The theater is closed to the public but may be rented for private events. Contact the Beale Street Development Corporation (866/406-5986) for information.
Across the street from the Daisy Theater is the New Daisy Theater, built in 1941 as another movie house. The New Daisy is one of Memphis’s  prime live music venues, and it books rock and alternative acts from around the country.
Stately and old, the First Baptist Beale Street Church (379 Beale St.) was built between 1868 and 1885 and is home to one of the oldest African-American congregations in Memphis. The church has its roots in praise meetings held in various locations beginning in the 1840s. In the 1860s, the congregation started to meet under brush arbors at the present location, and the first temporary structure was erected in 1865. The cornerstone was laid for the present building in 1871. The First Baptist Beale Street Church was an important force in Memphis’s African-American history. It was here that black Memphians published their first newspapers, the Memphis Watchman and the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.
Today, Church Park is a relatively nondescript city park with benches and some paved walks. But in 1899 when Robert Church built Church Park and Auditorium at the eastern end of the Beale Street  commercial district, the park was something truly special. Church, the mixed-race son of a white steamboat captain, is said to have been the first black millionaire in the South. He made his money in real estate, and was troubled that there were no public parks expressly for Memphis’s African-American residents. So in 1899 he opened Church Park and Auditorium on six acres of land along Beale Street. The park was beautifully landscaped and manicured, with bright flowers, tropical trees, and peacocks. The auditorium was a venue for black performers and speakers, and became a popular venue for conferences and meetings too. Church Park remains a venue for community events, particularly the annual Africa in April  event every spring.