WHERE IS IT ?:
Graceland is on Elvis Presley Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
We were staying in Gatlinburg which was about 7 hours drive from Memphis but I'm glad we made the effort to go to visit this famous home of Elvis.
This is the package we booked on the website:
* One night deluxe accommodations for two people at Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel with free continental breakfast
* Two reservations for the Graceland Platinum Tour, which includes an audio-guided tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds, and a self-guided tour of Elvis's two custom airplanes, Elvis's Automobile Museum, Private Presley and the Sincerely Elvis Museum.
We paid about $160 per couple and shared a 2 double bedded room in the hotel so I think it was actually quite good value. I looked at other hotels in the area and they might have been a bit cheaper but we thought lets go really kitsch and do the whole thing properly as we will not go another time.
COLLECTING OUR PASSES:
We arrived at the Heartbreak hotel at about 10.30 am and although our rooms we not ready they put our cases in a store and gave us our Graceland passes. From the hotel you just walk across a car park area to the Graceland ticket office. Show your passes and then you get given special tickets with each bit that tear off as you go to each exhibit.
THE TOUR STARTS:
We decided we'd go straight to Graceland, the house as it does get busy. As it was we had to wait for 2 buses to go first. As you queue up you have the obligatory photos taken in from of a large Graceland photo. We were also handed headphones which would be our audio guide throughout the Graceland house and gardens. The house is only over the road but Elvis Presley Boulevard is quite a wide road to cross and also by using this way they can control the numbers of visitors going in. We hopped on the small bus and were taken across the road through the main gates up to the house.
The house has been open to the public since 1982 and I was actually amazed that the house was quite normal looking a bit like the nice houses you see well off Americans living in on the movies , a small version of the White house with pillars either side of the front door. The wall along the road was just an ordinary high wall nothing really secure at all. Someone with a bit of gymnastic ability could actually hop over this wall without any trouble. We drove through the gate, not exactly in style but through the hallowed gates none the less. We were dropped off at the front door and as we entered the hall we were instructed to start our audio guide.
INSIDE THE MANSION:
The front hall was quite a normal sort of large hall from which we could see the formal lounge on the right which was a bit dated but quite fresh and bright with stained glass decorative 'windows' at either side about half way down with peacocks on them. All in all it looked a very pleasant and normal sort of 1960/70s lounge.
From this we moved down along the right hand of the staircase towards the 'granny flat area he had converted for his grandparents. There was largish double bedroom with ensuite all very nicely furnished on this ground floor so his grandparents did not have to cope with stairs.
The next room we passed by was the dining room which was very traditional with a large table laid with good cutlery. The furnishings were dark wood and looked like any other dining room of moderately well off people.
The kitchen was quite large, a bit like a farmhouse kitchen but no big table in the middle. All the units were in 60/70s darkish wood and looked quite dated and there were a number of kitchen gadget, a very large cooker and microwave. Again it was so very ordinary and this was something that struck me in most of these rooms.
We were not allowed upstairs as these were private. I'm not really sure why as no-one lives there and they are making a huge amount of money from all the visitors but we could only obey the rules of entry and comply.
As we passed through the kitchen we came to the most disgusting idea of interior decorating I think I have ever seen. This is the 'Jungle room which was used as a sort of rumpus/casual entertaining/family room. This room had sludgy green shag pile carpets on the floor and part way up the walls - that was bad enough but then at one end was a huge waterfall and of course being a jungle room there were various animal faux skins and vegetation. You really had to see this to believe it. There are two virtual tours on the Graceland website and I do recommend a view of this room if no other as it has to be see to be believed.
We went on through the house to a music and television room (a bank of televisions so he could watch several channels at once) bar and other rooms which were all interesting in their own way and all stuck in a time warp in decor terms in my humble opinion.
OUTSIDE THE MANSION:
Once outside we saw the offices of his brother who was his manager of the Elvis Presley Empire with their moto TCB - Taking Care of Business. In these outer buildings were all Elvis's awards, gold silver and platinum records, his outfits and other memorabilia. It was room after room of Elvis's life through his music, photos, clothes and awards and it was astounding. I'm not a mad Elvis fan by any means but I have grown up with his films and music being around but I had no ideas to the scale of his popularity and I was gob smacked by it all.
The garden area was quite large and there were stables and fields for horses which Elvis had for his family but they did not seem to be part of the estate now. Outside the garage/office was Lisa Marie's swing set which was a rather shabby old set but I thought that in those days that must have been quite a good set and it was rather poignant that it was still there. It looked a bit like the sort you see in neglected gardens in a tense movie. He had his own racket ball court with a lounge area within it and this had yet more Elvis awards and other paraphernalia on display.
Round by the swimming pool was the area I felt least comfortable with. This was the memorial garden with grave stones and plaques to the various family members. I'm afraid I did not linger too long around here. Some people were taking photos of the gravestones but I never really feel this is appropriate as I am quite a private person and feel that this is one area where people should be left in peace to grieve - it should not involve total strangers.
BACK OVER THE ROAD:
We were brought back from Graceland Mansion in the bus as Elvis Presley Avenue is a huge road too dangerous to cross like many in the States. All the rest of the tour is on the same side of the road as the heartbreak hotel and the ticket office.
ELVIS'S AUTOMBILE MUSEUM:
We chose to go and see Elvis's Automobile Museum which is housed in a huge building and each car and motor bike in the display is set within its own mini display scene. For someone interested in cars and motorbikes this building might have been even more interesting but I am not a big petrol head so it was just mild curiosity that drew me in. I really wanted to see the pink Cadillac that was his mother's favourite car, apart from that there were several other huge beasts including Rolls Royces , Chevrolets and other Cadillacs as well some sporty numbers like Mercedes sports and I am afraid what the others were escaped me. There were also several motorbikes and quad bikes in the exhibition too. Apparently Elvis and his friends would take the quad bikes out on Elvis Presley Avenue and ride them up and down there. I guess the road was a little quieter then and he must not have been quite so well known as today he would be pounced upon by paparazzi and fans as soon as he stepped out of the gates.
SINCERELY ELVIS MUSEUM:
Elvis in films was the subject of the Sincerely Elvis Museum and this is fairly self explanatory. Displays of film memorabilia and scenes from the films, posters and outfits worn in the films. After each exhibition you were guided out through an extremely pricey gift shop. There was nothing cheap at all, even small key-rings were $10. I looked at a guitar pick for our boys and they were $8 each - they pay about 20p usually so they have not got an Elvis guitar pick souvenir.
At this stage we were getting a little hungry so chose to visit the Rockabilly's Diner which offered Elvis's favourite peanut butter and banana sandwich as well as cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, fries and other casual fare in the nostalgic feel of a fifties diner. We had to try the Elvis speciality of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. They were interesting, in fact even quite tasty but you needed a drink to wash it down. I have not made any since our return so they were not THAT good. On the tables were the old fashioned jukeboxes and of course Elvis music was playing EVERYWHERE you went but it did get you in the mood for Elvis worship.
Elvis's short stint in the US army was not forgotten either as Private Presley was an exhibition just about his time away in the army, mainly in Germany I believe. Then the obligatory gift shop to get out.
ELVIS'S CUSTOM AIRPLANES:
Elvis's two custom airplanes planes were my favourite. Not many people have their own planes and certainly no-one I know personally. Elvis had two; one large plane a bit like you see in 'Air force One' the film and this was called 'Lisa Marie'. It had reclining seats, TV, beds, bathroom and so on. It was completely OTT in its decor and set up but I guess if you have that much money you can do what you like. The other was a small jet with extremely garish interior, bright yellow if I remember rightly, it looked like something a child would have chosen but each to his own when it comes to taste for decor. We then were guided carefully through the next gift shop before we were allowed out.
By this time we were well and truly Elvised out and decided that we would go and check in at the Heartbreak Hotel, clean up a bit and then take advantage of the free mini bus which took us into the city of Memphis. Look out for the next Memphis update coming shortly.
I am really pleased I have been to Graceland though it was never high on my bucket list of places to see before I die. We were in Tennessee so we made the extra effort to get to Memphis to experience Elvis land. In this section I have just covered the Mansion Graceland as otherwise this review would be too long. It was fascinating to see how very popular Elvis was and indeed still is. The house itself was very unpretentious; he provided a comfortable and pleasant place for his family with horses to ride, quad bikes, cars and everything they needed behind those gates. It is well worth a look even for those who are not great fans; his is a person famous within his lifetime who has touched so many people's lives that he merits a place in 20th century history.
Thanks for reading and I hope it has been of some interest. This review may be published on other sites under my name
Take a step back into the life and times of the home of Elvis Presley.