Gracing Graceland

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I was driving up from Mississippi to Southern Illinois for a family reunion. I saw that the route would take me though Memphis and decided to check out the most famous tourist attraction in the area, Graceland. Now I’m no diehard Elvis fan, but I do enjoy some of his music. I do appreciate the cultural significance of what he represents. I had also recently watched Elvis & Nixon on Amazon, which put me more into an Elvis mood.

In spite of arriving mid-morning on a weekday it was still quite crowded. As I came to learn, there were people here from around the world. I quickly recognized this was no cheap outing as they hit me up for $10 to park. After making my way from the parking lot to the museum grounds I saw that basic admission would be another $40. This kind of puts your level of interest to the test, but I figured what the heck, I’m here anyway.

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I had about 45 minutes to kill before it was time to catch the bus for my tour of the mansion. I spent some time wandering around the archives. It was basically a bunch of Elvis’s personal stuff along with some old albums, concert tickets and other things. It was actually pretty interesting. Some highlights included some of the police badges he collected over the years along with the original Graceland blueprints.

I also spent a few minutes inside the cheekily-named “I Shot Elvis” exhibit. The exhibit featured famous photos of Elvis and some of the history behind them. It also included some of his clothes. My personal favorite was his very flamboyant 70s-era outfits.

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Finally, it was my turn to get on the bus to the Graceland Mansion. After standing for the obligatory photo op in front of the mural, I waited in line for the bus. As you get closer to the bus they hand you a set of earphones and an iPad to use as your interactive guide to the mansion. This audiovisual extravaganza is narrated by none other than John Stamos. John helpfully reminded me that no flash photography was allowed inside the buildings. The iPad tour was actually pretty cool. It provides some neat footage and information that you wouldn’t be able to get from a standard tour guide.

After taking the bus across the street we were greeted with yet another line into the mansion. I guess getting hundreds of people through a house all at once takes some time. They take you into the living room first and then on through the dining room that still has the China set up from his wedding. Apparently Lisa Marie dines at this table when she’s in town.

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From there you head into the kitchen. This was like entering a time machine of wood paneling and old appliances. I was surprised to see a microwave, which, according to John Stamos, was one of the first ones sold in Memphis.

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After the kitchen you head into the basement where the real fun starts. You take a mirrored staircase down and are greeted with the iconic TV room. It’s easy to imagine the King snacking on a peanut butter and banana sandwich while watching Laugh In down here. Across the hall is the pool room which features some very eclectic decor as well as felt torn by a friend who was attempting a trick shot.

After leaving the basement you head upstairs to the famous jungle room. This room was an addition Elvis put on in the 70s. It also happens to be a time warp back to 70s kitsch. There is shag carpet on the floor…and the ceiling. The furniture has a very Tiki feel to it. Elvis supposedly liked this room because it reminded him of Hawaii.

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After poking around the grounds and the trophy room I came back to the museum area on the bus. I took a few minutes to check out the automotive museum. This was really well done and a real highlight. It was done in a cool-looking space that made it feel like a movie set. The pink Cadillac and the Ferrari were awesome.

I’m glad I visited Graceland. It’s a little expensive, but really cool to see the personal space of an icon like Elvis. I definitely recommend making the trip if you are near Memphis.

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