Grav Weldon and I ventured into the Pyramid at Memphis on a Wednesday morning. I've wandered through halls in the structure before, when its lower levels were used for the Wonders program, and I even attended a sporting event in the former arena.
Whatever conception you might have of the Pyramid, you might as well throw it out right now. Yes, it's still a monolithic angle on the Memphis horizon that, along with the sweeping Hernando DeSoto Bridge taking Interstate 40 across the Mississippi River, defines the city's very skyline. But its interior has been completely remodeled, enclosed, encased, surrounded, fiddled with, molded and put upon by architects and construction crews over these past several months. The final product can truly be referred to, in the words of Doug at the Shelby Forest General Store, the "8th Wonder of the World."
The concept within is actually two entities -- Bass Pro Shop and Big Cypress Lodge, the Memphis version of the Table Rock Lake/Branson-area resort of high reknown known as Big Cedar Lodge. There are significant differences between the latter and this new creation, which embraces its location in the great Mississippi Flyway with duck and geese themed decor and plenty of cypress and swamp in the details.
So, if you would please, take a tour with me and Grav as we share the images - and video - of our visit to this grand facility.
As you enter, you'll pass through this comfortable area around a fireplace.
Turn right and you'll see the front desk for Big Cypress Lodge.
Straight ahead, go through the turnstyle...
pass through this gateway, and, as the sign says, welcome to paradise.
This is the floor of the Bass Pro Pyramid, with every manner of outdoor delight
under its pyramid top.
Oh, sorry, I had to show off the really cool lights from the foyer.
You can find almost anything here...
And I do mean, anything.
Under the large neon signs pointing you to clothes, sunglasses, bait and tackle,
camping and more... and you'll find the world's largest assortment of waterfowl
and related hunting equipment ever assembled.
Bait and tackle for the angler and fisherman...
So many clothes you won't even know what to wear...
T-shirts, of course...
Stuff for ladies to wear...
Things for the kids...
It really is about too much to take in at once.
And if you like target practice, you have choices... like rounds at this
arcade, or the 25-yard live fire pistol and archery ranges.
There's a General Store that offers all sorts of foodstuffs...
Of course, a place with "bass" in the name must have something for bass fishing
enthusiasts, and that's certainly true here. To the left of the entrance you'll find a
Delta marina packed with boats of all sorts.
But this marina isn't just full of boats. A cypress swamp has been created on
the ground level of the facility, with ponds full of fish -- everything from bass
and trout to catfish and alligator gar!
Sections of this level are separated by these artificial ponds and streams,
surrounded by cypress trees and knees and crossed by bridges. There are more
than 1800 fish throughout the facility in its aquariums, swamps and tiny lakes.
This unique environment is an opportunity to showcase different ideas in fishing.
For instance, this johnboat has been modified, and these mannequins are set up
as if they were going bowfishing.
These replicated cypress, complete with hanging Spanish moss, evoke
swamps found in pockets all along the great Mississippi River alluvial plain.
Every sort of freshwater boat can be found here, including bass boats an pontoons.
They're all tied in at the dock.
Head up this staircase to the second floor to discover
another treasure... a special spot for duck hunters.
This is the new Ducks Unlimited National Waterfowling Heritage Center,
an interactive wetlands and waterfowl education museum.
Its rooms contain everything from historical items like decoys and boats to
preserved ducks presented as they would be in their environment and in flight.
The joint effort between Bass Pro and Ducks Unlimited is aimed at sharing
knowledge about wetlands conservation, waterfowl, the history of waterfowl
hunting in North America, and the important role that sportsmen
and women have played in conserving our continent’s wildlife and habitat.
It's a neat exhibit that covers several rooms on the east side of the second
floor of the Pyramid.
The duck calls alone are worth a look-in.
The displays are truly impressive.
You can see Big Cypress Lodge at the top of this photo The hotel takes up the
third floor and part of the second floor.
Most of the rooms look out onto this concourse of shopping nirvana. A handful
actually face out for great views of Memphis through slanted windows.
The lodge lobby looks out over the shopping space. Here you can relax at the
bar or kick back on a couch in front of a roaring fire.
There's even a piano.
Each of the rooms in Big Cypress Lodge is well appointed. Including the bath.
This bath is actually in a standard room. Really.
With its own window into the room. And curtains.
The rooms aren't too shabby. This is one of the many standard rooms with a
screened in porch overlooking the retail space.
There are other accommodations, including cabins and this -
the Governor's Suite.
It has a couple of bedrooms with bathrooms for each, including this tub in the
king bedroom's bath. Wow.
The other room has two beds and they all have a magnificent view.
And the suite even has its own full kitchen. I could cook in that.
Here's something you'll find awaiting guests to any room -- a basket of snacks.
I am thrilled to see Little Rock-baked Brent & Sam's Cookies here.
So, we've talked about what's all around the structure. Here's something really cool.
This 30-story free-standing elevator stretches from the swamp floor all the way to the top of the pyramid.
It's the tallest free-standing elevator in America... and possibly the world.
Grav liked to shoot this... and you have to admit, it's pretty epic.
The unique architectural challenges presented in the Pyramid called for the free-
standing structure. After all, it'd look pretty weird to have to stick an elevator
top on the outside of the building, right?
That elevator will take you to the very top of the Pyramid, where you'll find the
Sky High Catfish House. As you can see, there was still work going on
during our visit. The restaurant's centerpiece is a big tank, around
which sits a circular bar.
But this is probably the first view you're going to see There's a balcony that
looks out over the city of Memphis to the south It's a truly impressive sight.
You can see all the way to Crowley's Ridge to the west. And could you ever
imagine that view of the Hernando DeSoto bridge?
But if you're afraid of heights, don't look down. This glass-and-metal deck is
designed to show you exactly where you are.
There are no bad views up here. This is the view north, which shows the
residential section of Mud Island and the Mississippi River.
The interior of the Sky High Catfish House is decorated in wood, leather and
mechanical fish - a steampunk lover's dream.
What amazing contraptions are these!
There's even a large frog and alligator on display.
You don't have to go to the top of the Pyramid to eat. Uncle Buck's is located on the bottom of the
facility, and includes a big dining room centered around yet another aquarium.
Here's where you can eat casually and dine on burgers, pizza, nachos and
of course - fish and chips.
But food isn't all that Uncle Buck's has to offer.
This is one of the coolest bowling alleys, ever.
13 lanes of fun on a bun...
right across this bridge.
The under-the-sea themed Fish Bowl is split by a bar and is packed with every
sort of cool underwater kitsch you can imagine.
It really looks like another aquarium inside, and the lighting and decor have been
designed to match that.
So after you dine here...
You can strike out here.
Matching bowling shoes and neon-colored bowling balls seem prime for some
blacklight bowling (a fine suggestion, if it's not already on the schedule,
Bass Pro folks) are lined up behind the desk.
More oversized fish can be seen swimming over the boat-shaped bar.
And of course, there's room for more dining and bowling on the other side.
That's a whole lot to take in. Of course, I haven't even made
it to all the displays around the place, like these deer
permanently situated drinking from a babbling waterfall...
Or details, such as the different animal footprints cast into the stained concrete
floors all around the bottom level.
There's a spa... I want to try out. But not this day.
And then... there's this big tank.
And I know this is what my daughter is going to be checking out first when we go.
It's a really big tank full of really big fish, like this gar, and those bass, and
a big catfish... and... and...
And it's right in the middle of everything, with Uncle Buck's to the left and
kidswear to the right, camping above and even more stuff behind.
There's so much to see, so much to take in.
One more thing. You may be wondering what happens at night, when all the
shops close. Well, the lights are dimmed, and the cypress swamp is quietly
lit. So don't worry, the lights from the shops aren't going to blind you through
your curtains when you sleep.
There's more to talk about and see, but I don't want to give it all away.
I'll be back again, I'm sure.
I hope you've enjoyed this tour. Thanks for sticking with it!
You'll find Bass Pro at the Pyramid in Memphis. Okay, if you can't find it on sight, I'd be surprised. But if you're using your GPS or mobile device to get there, here's the address.