Memphis, TN was another stop on my cross-country road trip in August 2016. The primary reason for the stop: Graceland. I was never a diehard Elvis fan. My college roommate loved the King so much, she named her first dog after him. It wasn’t until after the trip to his home that he gained a new, committed fan from me.
When I arrived in Memphis, I actually had a hotel on this part of the trip. Only one of two on my 17 day journey. I asked the front desk where I could get good, real Memphis barbecue. He and the guy standing next to me both said The Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison. It was less than 5 minutes from my hotel, and it was exactly what I was looking for. I got a sweet tea, half rack of ribs, coleslaw, collard greens, and toast. The only way it could have gotten more southern was with some homemade mac’n’cheese, but I could not have eaten that much. I didn’t even finish the plate I had.
The next morning I was ready to head to the home of The King. You do have to pay for parking, but it is a secured lot. The surrounding area seems like it hasn’t been updated in a while, which was odd considering how many people visit the attraction. It’s a completely different landscape than what you see and feel on Elvis’ property.
You walk through the parking lot and head to the main building where you buy tickets. There are a few options, but if you’re going to be there, go for it. That’s if you have enough time. My ticket included access to the airplanes, cars, and property. It was worth it in my opinion, especially if you plan to have enough time. I spent between 4-5 hours there that day just looking at everything and then had to get back to my road trip right after.
So, start with the property. You have to wait in line for the shuttle because his house is actually across the street. You get an iPad guided tour, featuring John Stamos as the narrator (think Full House). When you get to the house, they talk to you about the grounds and rules, and then in you go. It immediately starts once you enter the front door. There is a living room to the right and it has one of his pianos in the background. You really only have to listen to the iPad, but if you look at it, there are things you can press on to get more information about items in the room.
You continue through the entire house like this. The only restricted area is the upstairs. Nobody is allowed up there, and on occasion, Lisa Marie Presley will come stay in the house up there. You see rooms where he recorded music, areas built filled with film memorabilia, an entire hallway lined with hit record achievements, a racquetball court that was converted to display numerous performance costumes and awards, and room covered entirely of folded fabric. However the most surreal moment comes at the end of the grounds tour. You actually stand in front of his grave. His family is buried together, but to know that he is right there in front of you is pretty crazy. Fans from all over the world bring posters and flowers to place there. I personally had no idea that was part of the tour, so I was a little shocked. The impact he has had one the world as a musician, actor, and person hits you.
From there, you hop back on the shuttle and can wander a few gift shops. The next closest attraction are his cars. You’ll see a gift shop, but you enter the doors on the left. The amount of vehicles is impressive since there are others at different museums as well. If he drove it in a movie, it’s there. If he owned it for personal use around Graceland, it was there. Again, it’s kind of surreal looking at these items and thinking at one point Elvis was sitting inside of it with his family. It’s like you could feel his spirit in the room.
You’ll wander through more shops on your way to the airplanes. The smaller of the two was what you would expect of a private jet (pictured below). It has enough room for 9 passengers, and was probably used for quick trips. The larger of the two is named the Lisa Marie. Inside you’ll find a gold sink in the bathroom, a dining room, a meeting area complete with two phones and a stereo system for music, a bedroom, and a vanity. When you reach the bedroom, it’s nothing impressive, but you again realize that Elvis himself slept 1 foot in front of where you’re standing.
The thing that stuck with me the most was actually Elvis’ motto: Taking Care of Business with a lightening symbol (TCB). You see the moniker in his house, on his airplanes, and even on his grave. That’s how much it meant to him. That is what helped him manage the celebrity and business side of his life. He worked very hard for what he had, which is very respectable.
I would definitely recommend visiting Graceland. Is it a bucket list item? Maybe not, but it was very inspiring. While it could seem lavish to some, it also puts into perspective the expectations he may have been feeling throughout his career and life, while honoring his work.