A Heritage of Hospitality
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of The Peabody Hotel.
Nestled in the heart of downtown Memphis, The Peabody, which has a heritage of hospitality and luxury lodging, beckons local residents and travelers. It is a world unto itself. With a style and tradition befitting one of Memphis’ grandest, most legendary hotels, The Peabody Memphis offers a magnificent bridge between the “Blues City” celebrated past and cosmopolitan present. The historic Forbes Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond hotel offers a one-of-a-kind experience just blocks from Beale Street, the Memphis Rock’ n Soul Museum, the Gibson Guitar Factory, Fed-Ex Forum, Sun Studio, the gorgeous Orpheum Theatre and the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
The Peabody is also one of Memphis’ most beloved attractions with the world-famous Peabody ducks marching to and from the Grand Lobby fountain each day at 11 am and again at 5 pm in a time-honored tradition that dates back to 1933. Be sure to visit their penthouse on the Peabody’s Plantation Roof—they live well, believe me—and take time to enjoy one of the best views of the Mighty Mississippi River. Peep in the Skyway adjacent to the Plantation Roof and you will be transported back to the days of Big Bands.
I had the privilege of serving as The Peabody’s first Director of Public Relations in the history of the hotel. What an honor! The stories I could tell about this grand old lady, the renovation and the month-long grand re-opening in September of 1981. In all of my many travels I have not encountered a Lobby that surpasses that of The Peabody. It is a place to see and be seen and always buzzing with activity. I recall one of many film crews staying in our hotel to shoot a nationally televised show. This crew fell in love with the hotel, especially the lobby. A day or so after their departure the show’s director called just to tell me how much they missed The Peabody.
“We who work at The Peabody never know who we will see at The Peabody,” said Kelly Ernest, Director of Marketing and Communications for the hotel. “There are famous people constantly staying here or just stopping by to see the ducks, the hotel’s celebrities. Our General Manager tells a story about a duck march that took place around 2000 when Michael Jordan, President Jimmy Carter, Lisa Marie Presley, and Nicholas Cage were all at the same duck march!”
Christmas Holidays At The Peabody
“The Christmas holidays at The Peabody are a magical, festive time of the year,” said Earnest. “People have been coming here for generations bringing their children to see the tree lighting and taking photographs in front of the holiday tree. It’s a tradition that dates back to the year the hotel re-opened in the early 1980s.”
Jack Belz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Belz Enterprises, added that the magical time of the year is especially true of the holiday season where every year you see families bring their children and grandchildren to sit on Santa’s lap.”
During the holidays the giant Christmas tree in the Grand Lobby is eye-catching. The tree stands 30 feet tall and has approximately 20,000 lights on it. It takes 20 florists 7 hours to put up and decorate. There are an additional 11 Christmas trees and 600 feet of lighted garland used to decorate the Lobby, Mezzanine and remainder of the hotel.
The Peabody Tree Lighting Ceremony took place on November 25 with the lighting of the tree immediately after the 5 pm Duck March. Local choirs sang holiday carols through the day, culminating with a special performance by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived after the evening Duck March to pass out holiday candy and light the Peabody Christmas Tree. Mark your 2017 calendar now if you missed this year’s Tree Lighting Ceremony!
A giant gingerbread display featuring a traditional Christmas village is on display in the Grand Lobby. The gingerbread village was made using 400 pounds of sugar, 120 pounds of flour, 4 gallons of molasses, 300 eggs plus 8 gallons of egg whites, 5 pounds of gingerbread spices, and 50 pounds of assorted candy. Chef Konrad Spitzbart and his team of 12 “Pastry Elves” started work in September and it took 250 total “elf hours” to complete. A master at gingerbread design and construction, Chef Spitzbart won the “Food Network Challenge: Giant Gingerbread Houses” competition in 2009.
Choirs perform every weekday in the Lobby through December 19 from 11 am-12 noon.
Special holiday brunches are served in grandiose style on the Mezzanine overlooking the Lobby. On New Year’s Eve, dinner will be served in Chez Phillipe and a lively New Year’s Eve Party will occupy the mezzanine and the second floor. All of the food stations overlook the lobby and the tree, so you really feel as if you are part of the hotel. The seating is in the historic ballroom, the Venetian Room, the Continental Ballroom and the Louis XVI Room and the Forest Room. The doors open in the Continental Ballroom and the party flows out onto the mezzanine. The music flows down into the lobby. Dancing takes place in the Continental Ballroom. In The Corner Bar a jazz trio will perform. At midnight there will be a Balloon Drop above the Lobby fountain and another in the Continental Ballroom.
“About 1500-2000 New Year’s Eve revelers enjoy The Peabody’s New Year’s Eve,” said Ms. Ernest. “The New Year’s Eve package includes tickets to the party, which will probably be sold out,” she added. (You may purchase New Year’s Eve tickets online at www.peabodymemphis.com).
Lodging At The Peabody
There are 464 guest rooms at The Peabody including 15 suites. “We completed a full guest room renovation about two years ago, “ stated Ms. Earnest. “We are always renovating or restoring something in our historic hotel. This year the hotel is renovating the Continental Ballroom, Louis XVI Room, Skyway, and the Hernando DeSoto Room, among other rooms.”
Holiday Beverage Recipes
The drinks below are served in The Lobby Bar and The Corner Bar.
1.25 oz. Malibu Rum
1.75 oz. White Godiva Liqueur
Build in a shaker the rum and liqueur, add ice and shake 10 times. Strain into a rimmed glass. Rim the glass with sweetened coconut.
1.25 oz. Peppermint Schnapps
Build the above ingredients in a glass or clear coffee cup. Garnish with a peppermint stick.
Dining At The Peabody
For nearly 150 years, The Peabody Memphis has been acclaimed for its superb cuisine and beautiful restaurants. Guests at The Peabody have several dining options:
Chez Philippe, the most opulent dining room in Memphis, enthralls gourmands who relish its Old South splendor and the classic French cuisine of Executive Chef Andreas Kisler. In addition to being the only Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond rated restaurant in the Mid-South, Chez Philippe has been named among “Food & Wine” magazine’s “Top 50 Hotel Restaurants,” described as “worth a special trip” by “The New York Times” and included on Open Table’s list of Top 100 “Most Romantic Restaurants in the U.S.” Attire: Casual elegance. Jacket preferred. To make reservations online: www.opentable.com/chez-philippe-peabody-hotel-memphis-reservations-memphis.
Capriccio Grill is known for the best steak in Memphis and excellent seafood and pasta dishes. Fresh lobster and seafood are flown in daily. Breakfast offers superb American and Southern specialties while lunches offer modern Southern comfort fare. Sunday Brunch is served in Capriccio Grill from 11 am-2:30 pm.
Peabody Afternoon Tea is served in Chez Philippe. This is the only place in Memphis that offers a traditional English afternoon tea. Enjoy a three-course menu in addition to a selection of teas and caffeine-free teas for children. Afternoon Tea is served Wednesday- Saturday from 1-3:30 pm.
Peabody Deli & Desserts: Stop by for morning coffee, continental breakfast, a quick sandwich or a wide array of delicious desserts from The Peabody Pastry Shop. Open daily from 6 am.
Peabody Corner Bar is a casual and cozy spot for after-work cocktails.
The Lobby Bar has been referred to as the “living room of Memphis,” and it has been said that “The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of The Peabody.” The Lobby Bar has been voted “Best Place for People Watching” and Best Martinis” by the readers of Memphis Magazine. It’s also the place to watch the March of the Peabody Ducks at 11 am and 5 pm daily (The ducks march to John Phillip Sousa’s “King Cotton March.” After a performance at the nearby Orpheum Theatre, peruse the dessert cart with artfully arranged, decadent desserts, order a cup of coffee, and enjoy people-watching in the lobby by the fountain.
What’s New At The Peabody
Feathers Spa, a new luxury full service resort style spa, is on the lower level where Gould’s Salon was once located. There are couples massages, spa packages and ashiatshu massages, which is a unique experience. Feather’s is the only spa in Memphis where these massages are offered. Lansky’s Accessories Store has moved into the former newsstand space facing Union Avenue.
Hotel History Tours With The Peabody Duckmaster
Take a trip back in time with this one-hour tour of “The South’s Grand Hotel” with the Peabody Duckmaster. You will hear stories from The Peabody’s rich 147-year history. These tours are daily from 11:30 am-12:30 pm. $5 for hotel guests, $10 for other guests. Reservations required: 901-529-4108. Note: You may purchase a book on the history of The Peabody in several of the lobby shops.
Also, take time to visit the intimate Peabody museum, a former gentlemen’s reading room on the mezzanine. Play the taped history “Thanks for the Memories” while perusing the interesting memorabilia of The Peabody including the newest acquisitions—a solid brass cash register with Hotel Peabody on the front (weighs 145 pounds), a shoe stand and an old pedal organ outside of the Memorabilia Room.
The Peabody is a member of Preferred Hotels Worldwide and Historic Hotels of America. It is a Forbes 4-star hotel and AAA 4-diamond hotel.
Peabody Hotels & Resorts, a hotel and resort management venture, will leverage the ongoing Peabody Brand success. “We are looking at other cities around the country besides Memphis and Orlando,” said Marty Belz.
What To Know
The Peabody Memphis
149 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103