Did you know that Graceland, Elvis Presley’s house in Memphis Tennessee, is the second most visited house in the entire US after the White House?
Of course the difference is you can go inside Elvis’ house on a mansion tour and take as many photos as you like without a horde of bodyguards or a throng of reporters.
In fact a pilgrimage to Graceland is on the Bucket List of a vast array of people from rock and roll fans, the squealing girls (now grandmas) of the 1960s and 70s, and hilariously you’ll come across dressed-up Elvis lookalikes roaming through the Presley mansion, eating a burger in their onesie at the burger bar across the road or browsing through his collection of classic cars.
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Now you can almost STAY at Graceland too! In 2019 the new Graceland Guest House hotel opened just next door with rooms themed like Elvis Presley’s House. Read on to see what they look like!
I’ve visited Graceland twice with about five years between visits. The first time we were on what we called a Music Road Trip starting in Nashville, down to Memphis and ending in New Orleans with my parents.
The second time I brought a small tour of nine people to New Orleans (where we found great music venues in NOLA and ate all the food) and then we visited Elvis’s Memphis!
Each year the second week of August is Elvis Week, commemorating the death of Elvis Presley on August 16. In 2020 this was held as a virtual event with fans buying tickets online to stream music and interviews, including some new material not released before.
But in a normal (non Covid!) year Elvis Week draws fans and Elvis Presley tribute artists to a huge convention. So diary August if you want to join in!
Taking care of Business – TCB
When did Elvis buy Graceland?
Elvis Presley was just 22 when he bought Graceland in March 1957 for just over $102,500. The house used to be part of a 500-acre farm and was named after original owner Dr Thomas Moore’s aunt Grace.
Elvis bought the house and 13.8 acres of land. It was actually his parents (Gladys and Vernon) who put down the $1,000 deposit and they and his grandmother who moved in first, in the May of 1957 while Elvis was away filming Jailhouse Rock. He didn’t get to spend his first night here until the next month.
He married Priscilla Presley in May 1967 and they had their daughter Lisa Marie here. Both women guard this house and Elvis Presley Enterprises closely – and make a lot of money doing it!
Leave extra time for shopping and eating at Graceland!
Across the road from the Presley mansion is a veritable shopping and dining mecca where you buy/pick up your tickets and hop on the buses that take you across the road into the grounds.
The Graceland mansion sits on a small hill behind trees on the front lawn that slopes down to the iconic gates. Some people are actually quite surprised by how small the house looks – maybe because it’s been hyped up for so many years!
Elvis bought Graceland in March 1957 and installed his iconic music gates as part of the overall renovation before he moved his parents, Gladys and Vernon in two months later.
The only way to get through the Graceland gates is to buy tickets (online or in person) for a self-guided audio headset tour and take the shuttle bus from what I call “Elvis-ville” across the road. It really is for crazy, hard-core Elvis Presley fans over there!
You should also allow an hour or two after or before your tour to eat in the 1960’s inspired diner, view the King’s cars, private jets (including the Lisa Marie), gift stores and read all the paraphernalia.
New attractions were added in 2020 to allow you to take “selfies” with the king and email them to yourself. It’s packed with souvenir shops and other exhibitions, but my pics below are what you’ll see inside Elvis’s house.
If you fancy getting married by Elvis, read about the Elvis wedding in Las Vegas I gate-crashed!
Peek inside Graceland
The upstairs rooms at Graceland are locked and alarmed and no one is allowed up there except family. Even staff are not allowed up here, out of respect for the family as it includes Elvis’ bedroom (and the bathroom where he died) as well as little Lisa Marie’s room.
But there is great news for true Elvis Presley fans – the Guest House at Graceland, a new 450-room hotel with rooms and suites, bars and the lobby all decorated with a nod to the decor of Graceland has been built up the road. Scroll down for a peek at the hotel pics too!
Imagine the parties that would have been held in these rooms…
You’ll pass through the kitchen where someone told me Elvis had the first microwave in the United States (?) Anyway, it cost $1000 back in the 70s.
Are you ready for the Jungle Room?
Turn left and go down the hallway from the kitchen where you’ll find the wackiest room in the whole house – or maybe not. Check out the pool room too!
The floor and walls of the famous Jungle Room are covered in green shag carpet and wooden furniture is carved into animals, with stuffed animals sitting on the oversized furniture. Oh if walls could talk!
But wait! Here’s the pool room, so you can decide which room would have been more fun. Check out the fabric wall and ceiling coverings.
Once we finished walking through the house with our headsets on telling us about each room we came outside around the back of the property.
Here Elvis had his office, a private shooting range and an indoor racquetball court where he played this piano on the morning of his death in his music room before he went upstairs to his bathroom. This room used to house his massive platinum records which have since been moved into their own gallery.
The Presley graves
At the end of the tour you come to the Meditation Garden where Elvis’s grave alongside his parents and grandmother also lie. Each day gifts still arrive by mail from fans and staff make sure they all get placed here for a turn with the king.
An eternal flame burns and a statue of Jesus, given to Elvis by his friends and that used to stand in the garden, stands at his feet.
Elvis Presley was a twin, but his brother Jessie died at birth on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo Mississippi. He had a plaque made for his big brother (by few minutes) that he never met, placed beside his parents here in the memorial garden at Graceland.
Do some Elvis Presley shopping!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a tourist attraction without the shopping! Back across the road where you got your tickets are several stores selling Elvis Presley merchandise, including the king of rock ‘n’ roll’s onesies that go for upwards of $3000!
Tour Elvis’s planes
The Lisa Marie is named after his daughter who used to be taken on whimsical jaunts as a little girl. One time they flew to see the snow and touched down for only an hour!
Look through the Graceland Guest House hotel!
This 450-room hotel with a pool, a ball room that can hold 1000, convention hall and theatre is just a few steps from Graceland and as you’ll see below, its rooms have been decorated with a nod to Elvis Presley’s quirky 1970s design aesthetic.
Check out latest prices for Graceland Guest House here on booking.com
Other things to do in Memphis
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Memphis (now that you’ve put Graceland on your list!) you should read my The 12 Best things to do in Memphis post. It covers Sun Studios, the Civil Rights Museum, a Grizzlies game, Al Green’s Gospel Church and more, plus some great suggestions for where to eat like Memphis BBQ at Central BBQ.
A visit to the Lorraine Motel and Civil Rights History Museum is another Memphis must-do. It is about so much more than the Martin Luther King era, but a sobering insight into the back story of the slave trade and Rosa Parks, right up to MLK’s murder.
If you’re planning a Music road trip, check out my 10-day itinerary including Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans >