Earlier this year, on my way back to Louisiana, I got a chance to stop at Graceland, the fabled home of Elvis Presley. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, it has inspired more than one hit song and has been a tourist attraction for around 40 years. The area around it was a lot more remote when it was built in the ’30s. Not only have businesses like restaurants grown up around Graceland, but a neighborhood has as well.
After getting my ticket and being handed my iPad and earphones that I would use for the tour across the street, I rode the shuttle through the gates and up the massive, circular driveway. The house itself rests on a hill, adding to its mystic. The front of the house has elegant Roman columns. If you thought the driveway looked like it would make a good go-kart track, you aren’t alone. The iPad (with parts of the tour narrated by John Stamos) told us that Elvis used it as such. The house itself is good-sized, especially for the time period it was built, but the rooms themselves are more average-sized. The decoration of the rooms can only be described as extravagant. I went in January, so the front yard and house were still decorated for Christmas. The entrance was lined on both sides with Christmas trees. One of the rooms in the house had a beautiful white Christmas tree, which was very trendy during the 1970s. The dining room looked as if it was set for a Christmas dinner, the table was adorned with plates, and another Christmas tree sat at the far end. The tree was covered in ornaments and draped in tinsel. It had a stocking that read “Elvis.” The 2nd floor is off-limits, out of respect for Elvis and his family’s privacy. The first floor is where he received guests. The tour takes you through gorgeous rooms and into the very finished basement complete with three TVs, and eventually through the legendary jungle room. Like its namesake, the Jungle Room features large amounts of green, both on the ground and ceiling, plus plenty of plants. It is even mentioned by name in the hit song “Walking in Memphis.” In the large, hilly backyard horses graze, the same as when Elvis lived there. The last part of the tour is the small cemetery where Elvis and his parents are buried. It was very beautiful and peaceful. It is fitting that a celebrity who was so accessible to his fans, signing countless autographs, would have hundreds of thousands of visitors to his final resting place decades after his passing. After getting on the bus back to the visitor’s center, I felt like I knew Elvis, like he had me over to his house.
The whole Graceland attraction is massive, besides the house itself. There is a huge museum that goes beyond Elvis, a bar, a steakhouse, an ice cream shop and, a concert arena that frequently plays host to big-name acts. There is a lot to see and do just across the street. Many of Elvis’ cars, boats, motorcycles, and planes are on display as well. The cars alone take up multiple rooms. The planes were impressive to walk through, although you need to buy a separate ticket for it. I had never been in an airplane quite like his 1958 Convair 880 jet. It was interesting to be in an airliner-sized plane that was so personalized. There are many other displays about Elvis, including a detailed exhibit about his time in the military. There was a fascinating display about Sun Records, the groundbreaking record company Elvis was signed to early in his career. The Elvis satellite radio channel also broadcasts from Graceland. There was also an exhibit about celebrities who had been inspired by Elvis and features their clothes or costumes. The extensive list included, among others, Johnny Cash, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the band KISS. There is a lot to see and do, and it is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of Elvis.