We wanted to visit Graceland because it’s one of those bucket list things you kinda have to do if you’re out on a Great American Road Trip, but we almost bagged the idea when we saw the prices and read horror stories of people forced to stand in line for upwards of three hours only to have a miserable, claustrophobic tour of the estate.
Luckily though, we happened to be there over Easter weekend and, it turns out, Easter is one of the few days across the spring and summer when Graceland isn’t jam packed. In fact, we basically had the place to ourselves, and in the end, we were really impressed with the experience.
First, logistics…. You can buy a ticket to tour the Graceland mansion for $38 per person, however, as of just a few months ago, many of the artifacts from Elvis’s career that had been on display at the mansion, are now housed in a new entertainment complex across the street. The complex also features a sound stage, several restaurants, and enough gift shops to make management at Disney World swoon. In order to visit the entertainment complex, you must buy a ticket to both the mansion and the complex, and those start at $58 (now are you seeing why we almost skipped the whole thing?) You can spend even more money, $93 or $159 per person, if you want one of their “VIP” packages. The main benefit of the VIP options is you get to skip all the crazy lines that are usually present during popular times of the year.
Our advice is twofold: First, if you’re going to visit, go to both the mansion and the entertainment complex (the $58 option). Yes, it’s expensive, but both sites are worthwhile and we spent almost an entire day wandering around. There’s a lot to see. Second, in order to avoid the crowds, find a time of year and/or time of day when it will be less crowded. The website notes that after 2:00 p.m., crowds thin out, so if you can plan for an afternoon visit, even if it is during high season, you may have a better experience. If you go at 10:00 a.m. in the middle of July, you’re gonna be miserable. So don’t do that.
The mansion itself was an interesting mix of “more modern than expected,” and “good lord, what were you thinking??” type decor.
One minute it was, “Wow… the living room and dining room aren’t nearly as godawful as we expected…”
And the next, was: “Oh, so this is how you force someone to have a seizure…”
Some rooms just felt OLD… I mean, he did die 40 years ago, but as we’ve all recently come to recognize, that was not all that long ago… I mean, 40 IS the new 20 after all….
Yup, that was 1977, alright.
Then there was this game room…We were told it took a team of 3 people 7 days to arrange all the fabric on the ceiling and walls…
I really appreciated the multi-colored lamps over the pool table and the bright yellow chair, as if there wasn’t quite enough going on already. “Let’s add a splash of color!!”
The most talked about room at Graceland is the “jungle room” – which really stands out because there is carpet on the ceiling. Green carpet. Really green carpet. On the ceiling.
Elvis is not helping me make 40 look like the new 20.
Once outside, we adjusted our eyes back to 2017 and explored the lovely grounds of the mansion and several of the exterior buildings.
Finally, we visited the final resting place of Elvis, his parents, and his grandmother, who, surprisingly, outlived them all.
One of the buildings on the mansion grounds still holds a number of interesting items from Elvis’s life. We were amazed by the number and quality of artifacts on display.
From Priscilla Presley’s wedding gown and veil:
to Elvis’s handgun and license:
there were all kinds of interesting objects to look at. Apparently he, or his dad – who managed most of his affairs – kept incredible records, because just about every important document or keepsake a person could have, was available to view. (Note: you can click on this gallery, and the ones below, for larger versions of the photos)
This painting has no relevance to anything at all. It just amazing in every way and needs to be shared.
The Entertainment Complex
There are multiple sections of the entertainment complex, each of which contains a subgroup of artifacts and memorabilia. One section includes his impressive collection of cars, motorcycles, and boats, another holds numerous objects from his days in the military, another contains memorabilia from his movie career, while still another contains commentary and gifts from other famous musicians who credit Elvis for impacting their lives and careers.
A small sample of Elvis’s unbelievable vehicle collection…
Additionally, there were probably 20 motorcycles, golf carts, boats, and other toys….
We also toured his two planes. These were interesting because they have not been restored. They are in decent condition, but you can tell the furniture is original and has just been covered in plastic.
There was one large area with a seemingly random collection of Elvis’s personal property that is presumably rotated out on a fairly regular basis. After looking around at this collection for a bit, Kevin turned to me and said “I think Elvis was a hoarder.” I’m not entirely sure, but he definitely had a lot of “stuff.” And a lot of it was on display, from the one-of-a-kind to the utterly mundane…
Of course, the most spectacular items in the complex were his stage costumes.
From gold lame’ suits…
to intricately beaded capes….
to head-to-toe black leather..
Elvis was all about showmanship.
Then there were his jumpsuits. Anyone of any age would take one look at these things and think “Elvis.” And only Elvis.
He seemed to have a jumpsuit for every occasion….
Because sometimes you’re feeling dark and mysterious while other times, you’re feeling happy and southwestern!!!
And sometimes you just feel like a purple owl.
However questionable his fashion choices may have been, no one can argue with his success. Everywhere we walked, we ran into displays of his various recording achievements.
And then we stumbled onto this…. a floor to ceiling display of gold records and other awards….
By the end, we were duly impressed. Some of us were so impressed, they gave their wife a bit of a heart attack.
By the time he got to the shirt section, I had surreptitiously ambled over to the fire alarm mounted on the wall, and was just about to reach over and pull it to create a distraction when, luckily, some neuron fired somewhere in his brain and he decided he was ready to go. Phew! Awkward conversation with the Memphis Fire Department averted…..
We really enjoyed our trip to Graceland and are so glad we decided to go. While the museum does not offer a comprehensive review of his life (we both went home and did some internet research to fill in the gaps left by the museum), we learned a lot and gained new respect for a musician we knew little about before our visit. If you find yourself in Memphis, and you can get there on an off day or time, we definitely recommend a visit.
Where we stayed: The Graceland RV Park