Visiting Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis™ entertainment complex

Looking up the driveway toward Graceland mansion from the musical gates.

Looking up the driveway toward Graceland mansion from the musical gates.


It had been 15 years since I entered the gates of Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. This year, 2017, the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s passing on August 16, 1977, the timing was right to return.

It was my fifth time to visit Graceland and other sights in the southern city that has become synonymous with the King of Rock & Roll. Three times I’d visited during Elvis Week, the annual observance held each August. Thousands of fans come from around the world to attend special events throughout the week, including concerts, fan club gatherings, and special appearances, including the Candlelight Vigil the evening of August 15th.

I’ll never forget the one time I was able to be among the throng of fans who patiently wait their turn to pass through the famed gates of Graceland, walk up the driveway to the Meditation Garden with candle in hand, passing by the graves, and then make their way back out to the street as Elvis music plays in the background. I still stay in touch with Heather, an Elvis fan from England, who was among the international visitors who traveled a long way to pay their respects to the King of Rock ’n Roll that year… 1998!

 


Elvis Week 2017 – August 11-19. 2017
This year’s Elvis Week marks the 40th anniversary since Elvis’ passing. Over 75,000 fans from around the world attended the 35th anniversary in 2012 and this year’s attendance is expected to be the biggest ever. Click here for a schedule: Elvis Week 2017 events

 

In contrast, my husband was a first-timer. Stephen, who wasn’t much of an Elvis fan in his earlier years, nonetheless has the distinction of being at his last concert, on June 26, 1977, at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.

My relationship with Elvis goes back a long way… I still have several 45rpm records, including “That’s All Right,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Tutti Frutti,” that my Mom says I played over and over and danced to when I was a little girl.

Elvis and I “broke up” for a while during my teen years, when the Beatles and others who were a part of the British Invasion wooed me away from my first love, but I never totally got over him. I watched his movies, bought some of his records, and renewed my infatuation when I watched the ’68 Comeback Special and saw Elvis in that black leather suit, and later watched 1973’s “Elvis Presley – Aloha from Hawaii” concert special, the first program to ever be beamed around the world by satellite.

Elvis '68 Comeback Special (Credit: Graceland)

Elvis ’68 Comeback Special (Credit: Graceland)

He played a concert in Evansville, Indiana, near my hometown, in 1972, when I was living and working in Panama City Beach, Florida, the summer between my junior and senior year of college. I was heartbroken I had to miss it, but I was given a second chance when he returned in 1976. I still have the ticket stubs.

Elvis ticket stubs, Roberts Stadium, Evansville, IN, October 24, 1976

October 24, 1976, Roberts Stadium, Evansville, Indiana, Bench Seats, $12.50.

I never dreamed that less than 10 months later, on August 16, 1977 (the day after my birthday), he would be gone, his amazing voice and presence silenced forever.

I remember well the moment I heard the news on TV that his life had ended at the age of 42 while he was at home in Graceland, the 10,226 square foot mansion he purchased on March 25, 1957, for $102,500.

Graceland Mansion has become the second most visited home in America, after the White House.

Graceland Mansion has become the second most visited home in America, after the White House.

Elvis added to the square footage over the years (it now totals more than 17,500 square feet) with the construction of a trophy room, originally used by Elvis and his friends to race slot cars. and the racquetball building. It was there that he played piano and sang gospel songs and “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” with his cousin, Billy Smith, on the night he died.

The piano where Elvis played and sang gospel songs on the last night of his life is in the Racquetball Building.

The piano where Elvis played and sang gospel songs on the last night of his life is in the Racquetball Building.

Graceland was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Graceland mansion, which has become the second most visited home in America (the White House is #1), welcomes well over 600,000 visitors every year. First opening its doors for tours on June 7, 1982, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Every time I have visited, there have been changes in either the number of rooms open to the public or the way Elvis’s jumpsuits and memorabilia were displayed. I remember the first time I visited, the kitchen and the downstairs bedroom used by his parents were not part of the tour. On a later visit, costumes and gold records were in the racquetball building.

This time, before boarding the bus that took us across the street and up the driveway to the mansion, we had our photo taken in front of a backdrop of the Graceland gates. After you return, you’ll return your iPad and headphones and file by the area where your photos are waiting to be purchased. Yes, they’re expensive, but hey, it’s a lasting memory of your time at Graceland, right? We purchased ours (see below), which came with a bonus download of Elvis stock images.

Next we were given a headset along with an iPad containing a new interactive multimedia audio tour, narrated by actor John Stamos, an Elvis fan himself, which allowed us to proceed through the rooms at our own pace as we listened to historical tidbits about each area.

SLIDESHOW: Here are photos of rooms within the home and the grounds from my recent visit on July 18, 2017:

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Meditation garden where Elvis and his parents are buried.

The Meditation Garden where Elvis and his parents are buried.

Elvis Presley’s Memphis™ Entertainment Complex

With the March 2017 opening of the new Elvis Presley’s Memphis™, the $45 million, 200,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art entertainment complex across the street from Graceland Mansion, immersion in his life and career continues far beyond what has ever been seen before.

Elvis Presley's Memphis - Walk in the footsteps of the King of Rock 'n Roll

The entrance to Elvis Presley's Memphis, the entertainment complex opened in March 2017 across from Graceland Mansion.

The entrance to Elvis Presley’s Memphis, the entertainment complex opened in March 2017 across from Graceland Mansion.

Elvis Presley's Memphis 200,000 square foot entertainment complex. (Credit: Graceland)

Elvis Presley’s Memphis 200,000 square foot entertainment complex. (Credit: Graceland)

Separate parts of the 200,000 square foot complex include museums and special exhibits covering his career as an entertainer — the gold and platinum records, his jumpsuits, and memorabilia from his movies. Elvis’ early years in Tupelo, his military service, and items brought out of the archives that had never been seen before are here, too.

SLIDESHOW of my photos from Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex:

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See Elvis' 1955 Pink Cadillac in the Automobile Museum.

See Elvis’ 1955 Pink Cadillac in the Automobile Museum.

The Automobile Museum is a favorite stop for many, including his Pink Cadillac, Stutz Blackhawk, 1956 Cadillac Eldorado, Dino Ferrari, Mercedes Benz limousine, and Rolls Royce sedans. Motorcycles, dune buggies, and even a John Deer tractor used at Graceland are on display in another area.

We stopped in to Gladys’ Diner for lunch — the cheeseburgers and fries were great — and if that doesn’t appeal, you can order up one of Elvis’ favorites, a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Other eateries include Vernon’s Smokehouse, a full service restaurant specializing in barbeque and down home Southern cooking, a grab & go coffee shop, and an ice cream shop.

There are several gift shops in the complex, where you can find t-shirts, hats, mugs, magnets, music and more.

I’m a huge fan of Elvis Radio on Sirius XM so I was thrilled to be able to stop in to the radio station before we left the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex. The day we were there, Big Jim Sykes was on air and graciously spent a few minutes with us.

My husband, Stephen, and I with Big Jim Sykes, DJ for Elvis Radio, SisriusXM, broadcasting 24/7 Live From Graceland.

My husband, Stephen, and I with Big Jim Sykes, DJ for Elvis Radio, SisriusXM, broadcasting 24/7 Live From Graceland.

Ready to plan your visit?

Get information on Tickets and Tour Options, find out hours and more at Graceland.com. My personal recommendation is to plan on three to five (3-5) hours to see everything… and more if you plan on having a meal at one of the restaurants at the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex.

Tip: Arrive early to beat the crowds. (If you’re there during Elvis Week, you won’t beat the crowds, so join them and enjoy! I hope to make it back during Elvis Week sometime in the future.)

Graceland Live Cam

Until you can get to Memphis and see Graceland for yourself, click on this Graceland LiveCam link to be taken to the livestream. (Below is only a screenshot.)

Where to stay?

We stayed at the new Guesthouse at Graceland, a 450-room luxury hotel located a short walk from Graceland and the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex. It is the best place to stay to have the full-on Elvis experience!

Read my post all about the hotel on GettingOnTravel.com, a fresh take on luxury for travelers over 50. (It applies if you’re under 50, too, of course!)

Here is the link to my post:

The Guest House at Graceland: Inspired by the King of Rock & Roll

The Guest House at Graceland

The Guest House at Graceland

A view of the pool and hot tub from our room at The Guest House at Graceland.

A view of the pool and hot tub from our room at The Guest House at Graceland.

“Thank you… thank you very much!”
A night-time shot of the musical gates of Graceland.

The musical gates of Graceland—We drove to Graceland one evening from our hotel and got this nighttime shot of the musical gates. There is an area in front of the mansion where cars can pull in and park for short periods to walk along the graffiti-covered brick wall and look up to see Graceland lit with spotlights. The night we were there, no one else was around, although security personnel man the guard shack 24 hours a day. It was a peaceful place, the only place that Elvis really felt at home…a place of grace.

All photos are © Debbra Dunning Brouillette unless otherwise credited to Graceland.

(Click on any photo to begin a slideshow of all photos in this post not part of the two Slideshows.)

Thanks to Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises for providing me with tickets to Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis.

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28 Comments on “Visiting Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis™ entertainment complex

  1. Fabulous! I will look forward! Sadly, I can’t be there for the 40th but was there 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Saw a lot of joy and of course loss! Thank you!

    • Thanks, Connie, for your comment. I hope you get to return to Graceland and see the new Elvis Presley’s Memphis™ entertainment complex! It is really something to experience!

  2. It was nice to read all about the new features at Graceland and to see myself mentioned. Unfortunately due to illness cannot travel at moment but hope to return again one day and possibly meet you there again.

    • I thought of you while we were there, Heather, and would love to meet up again at Graceland when you are able to travel! You will be so amazed at all the changes since your last visit!

  3. Lovely. I was there on 4th of July this year for my honeymoon. We had never been before. We loved every minute of the visit.

    • Thank you, Sylvia, for commenting. What a great place to spend your honeymoon! And now you will have to return for your anniversary and make some more Elvis “memories…”

  4. We have been there many times since the 1st anniversary. We met Uncle Vester that time & got pics with him. Loved it then, more open, not so commercial. But we have enjoyed going inside, which was not open the 1st time. Glad they are not opening the upstairs, some things need to be kept private… Such a special place; cherish all our visits. Met Jerry Shilling & Sam Phillips one yr. Wonderful people…

    • Wow, Carol! You have been there many times and from the early days! Yes, it’s a special place. I have a book called Elvis, His Life from A to Z, that I took with me on earlier visits and had a lot of people associated with Elvis sign it. Many of them now are gone…

  5. As you know we’ve spent our summer slogging out the memories and one I came across Friday was the headline that screamed out he had died the day before. Like with Kennedy’s assassination, people of my age will always remember what they were doing when they learned that he’d passed away.

    • Yes, Jackie, I will certainly never forget where I was and what I was doing when I heard on TV that Elvis had died. It was the day after my birthday, too, so is brought back to mind every year as I celebrate another year of life.

    • LOL! Haven’t heard it called Elvis-land before, but I guess that’s a good term for it! Yes, it’s quite a place and takes several hours to explore. Hope you get a chance to go and see the pink Cadillac for yourself!

  6. Beautifully written post. I feel like I have already visited Graceland, although I’m sure it feels very different seeing it in person. As it appears, you are one of Elvis’s greatest fans, Debbie. You went to great lengths for your idol: still saving those ticket stubs after all these years? Wow! I liked his music too, but I don’t own any of his albums. Neither would I have the patience to visit Graceland so many times. If I ever make it to Memphis I would surely like to visit his mansion.

    • Thank you, Anda! Oh yes, it would be very different for you to experience it yourself… I have been an Elvis fan since I was a little girl, and had been to Graceland several times before, it’s true, but it had been 15 years since the last time I was there so a lot had changed. There is always something new to see and I am just glad to see so many people still appreciate Elvis’ talent and the impact he made 40 years after his passing. Come to Memphis and I will meet you there!

  7. Awesome post, Debbie. I’d love to visit Graceland, as I, too, am an Elvis fan. We missed him by just a day or two, in Vegas, just as we were leaving the Las Vegas Hilton, they were putting up Elvis’s name on the billboard.

    • Wow, Doreen! Too bad you couldn’t have seen him perform in Las Vegas! I wish I would have been able to do that but at least I did see him once in Evansville, Indiana! Thanks for your comments on the post. I didn’t know you were an Elvis fan, too! You must plan a visit to Memphis soon!

  8. Thank you for sharing ! This is a wonderful article! I was there two years ago and should be going back next year!!!!!

    • I am so glad you enjoyed the article, Gladys! When you go back next year you’ll be able to take in all the new exhibits…and maybe stay in the new Guest House at Graceland, too! Thanks for commenting!

  9. I am an avid Elvis fan from way back but have never been to Graceland, so enjoyed visiting with you. I have heard about the new guest house hotel and would love to stay there when I visit someday.

    • Hi Carole, I do hope you get to Graceland one day and am glad, in the meantime, you got to virtually visit through my post! When you go, the Guest House at Graceland will be the ideal place to base your exploration of Memphis.

  10. So much has changed since I visited Graceland several decades ago. I think I enjoyed reading your reminisces as much as reading about what I can see when I return (soon, I hope). Very interesting!

    • Thanks, Marilyn! I’m glad you enjoyed reading about my lifelong love of Elvis. It’s kind of unbelievable for me to think that the first time I visited Graceland was 30 years ago on the 10th anniversary of his passing! I’m sure I’ll be back… I love Memphis!

  11. That’s a wonderful article you’ve written about Elvis and The Guest House. I am from Pakistan and a very avid Elvis fan, but have no chance of visiting Graceland. The article’s accompanying pictures are outstanding and give the reader a fair idea about the environment there. Thank you.

    • Baidar, I really appreciate you taking time to leave a comment. It makes me happy to read you so enjoyed my article and photos from my visit to Graceland. It is truly amazing the impact Elvis had all over the world!

  12. I am so excited to read your experiences at Graceland. I live in Australia and was lucky enough to walk in Elvis’s footsteps. I will never forget the emotions I felt. It was an amazing journey. Thanks again.

    • Wow, Meg, you came a long, long way to visit Graceland and, as you say, to walk in Elvis’ footsteps! I am so glad you got to do that! I hope you may get to return to see all the new exhibits and maybe stay in the new Guest House at Graceland!

  13. Thank you so very much for sharing this with us as some of us will never be able to go there! Thanks again!

    • Linda, you are so welcome… Thanks for leaving your comment! I’m glad I could help to give you a glimpse into what it was like to visit Graceland. It’s a special place.

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