For as long as I can remember, I have been an Elvis fan. When I was a child, my mum used to tell me stories about her & her sisters staying up past their bedtime to watch Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. In my teens, people started buying me Elvis collectibles for my birthday & Christmas. My mum gave me an Elvis calendar every year. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, I do not live in an Elvis shrine. Devon would kill me! I haven’t been travelling long, I only started vacationing six years ago. A dream trip of mine has always been to go to Memphis, to visit Graceland.
About a year ago, Devon started dropping hints about finally knowing where to take me & that I’d never guess where. She told everybody about it, constantly teasing me by withholding all clues as to the destination. Even my mum told her it was impossible to give me any hints without giving it away. When she finally told me that it was a trip to Memphis to go Graceland, it took all of my energy to not lose it & jump up and down with excitement.
With minimal planning, the only thing that was set in stone were our Graceland tour tickets, everything else was up in the air. Once we made the drive down to Memphis, we were a few days early so we took one day to rest and another to explore the city itself. Then, it was finally time to see the one place I’ve always dreamt of visiting… Graceland. While at dinner the night before, Devon was talking to her friend Lisa and they were trying to figure out why it was called Graceland and not “Lisa-land” seeing how Elvis LOVED his daughter. These two crack me up, but I prayed to the baby jesus Devon would not ask this the day of the tour.
Waking up early, we drove over to the parking lot & walked the pathway to the ticket office. Standing in front of the window, the very nice ladies behind the counter could not locate our reservations. Devon’s name was locked in the system. We had stopped by the ticket booth the day before and changed our tour time from 12:30pm to 9:00am. Devon understood the technical issue & the three ladies assisting her assured her that all would end well. Unable to listen to the conversation, I’ll admit, I panicked a bit. There was a small part of me that thought, “Amazing, we’re here & our tickets are lost. Crap.” If it weren’t for the televisions on the wall playing Elvis concert footage & Devon staying calm and knowing what was happening, I just might have pitched a fit.
Finally, the issue was resolved and we were handed our tickets & VIP passes. The well oiled machine that is Elvis Presley Enterprises was impressive to see in action. We get ushered into groups, then off to a green screen where an employee takes our picture. Back to the group, we’re then led out to another line where they do bag checks. Not having any bags, we once again returned to the group & were then handed our headsets for the audio tour. It was hard not to feel a little bit like cattle with the way the employees move you about. Devon insisted on mooing like a cow while this took place, at least she got a few laughs from others in our group. (Blue hairs LOVE Devon, she must be a Golden Girl at heart.)
We boarded a shuttle, drove across Elvis Presley Boulevard, through the famous music gates & up the long driveway to Graceland. Before the tour, years before, I had already known that Graceland itself is modest in size. Several people on the shuttle remarked that it was smaller than they thought.
Arriving behind the mansion, just before the groundskeepers garage, we unloaded and walked back around to the front. Taking a few photos of the famous facade, the tour guide started with some information about the property & the house itself. Then she opens the door and says “Welcome to Graceland” & Devon starts humming the Jurassic Park theme behind me and again has people in stitches. Whatever keeps her occupied I guess. You’re left to start a self guided tour with the headset providing you with facts & curios along the way. I must admit, I was a bit nervous that Devon would do or say something to embarrass me but the tour had just started, anything was possible.
The tour itself is pretty cool. You have access to the main entryway & are able to walk through the hallways freely. Each room is lush in colour & very distinct in individual design. Every room is roped off & you have no access to the second floor at all. This was the same when Elvis was alive. It was off limits then to all but a few and out of respect they honour Elvis’ privacy by keeping it that way. On the way down to Memphis, Devon kept telling me how she was going to try and go up to the second floor. Now standing at the foot of the stairs, I was beyond relieved when Devon realized that it was impossible for her to attempt ascending the stairs with all of the tour guides & guards around.
There’s no use of flash photography in Graceland & they use such low, yellow hued lighting that it’s actually quite hard to get good photos. That didn’t stop everyone from furiously clicking away though. I noticed a few minutes into the tour that my headset wasn’t working properly. Devon offered hers to me, she didn’t seem like she was paying much attention to it anyways. She was more interested in people watching and laughing at the tourists. (That’s love.) We stopped at every room, every hallway, every framed picture hung on the walls, taking photos each time. We got to see every cool room available to the public. The living room, the music room, the dining room, the kitchen & the jungle room. Then there’s downstairs. The tv room & the pool room. While standing in the pool room, we marveled at an older southern woman who was very serious when she remarked that Elvis had such style and flare and that she would love to do a room in the same fashion. The pool room’s walls and ceiling are covered in over 300 feet of fabric. The look on Devon’s face said it all. I had to bite my cheek to keep myself from laughing out loud. Devon was egging the lady on saying she SHOULD do it and she was in the design business, she’s seen it done before. That lady quipped to her husband that they would be doing this when they got home. I wonder if she really did it?… Once you’re done inside the mansion the tour moves outside to the back yard.
You get to see Elvis’ car port & Vernon’s office in the garage. There’s the smokehouse that Elvis converted into a firing range & then you walk along a path way to the corrals with his horses (one is an off-spring from Elvis’ original horses and the others are all rescues). From there you go to the trophy room, which is exactly what it sounds like. A large building displaying a massive amount of gold records & many more of Elvis’ numerous awards, including his three Grammy awards. Part of the building also houses some of his more famous outfits, like his wedding suit & several movie suits too. Once done there, you walk down another short path to the racket ball court. Built for $300,000 in the 70s when Elvis took up the sport, it houses a pinball machine & other parlour games. Then there’s a lounge area, where Elvis played two songs on the piano the morning he died. Inside the court itself, it’s been converted into more space for even more awards & recognition as well as some of his famous jumpsuits.
Walking out of the racket ball court, you get to stop & take more photos of the the horses in the paddock before making the final walk around the grounds, to the meditation garden & Elvis’ final resting place.
The meditation garden is beautiful. The air is tranquil, there with the marble statue of Jesus & the Italian themed marble fountain. This is the part of the tour that everyone seems to take the longest time getting through. Everybody wants a few minutes of quiet reflection with The King. There is a solemn marker in place for his stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon. He is actually buried in Tupelo, MS, Elvis’ birth place. Next is the grave of his mother, Gladys, whom he adored. Then his dad, Vernon. Then Elvis himself. Finally, his paternal grandmother Minnie Mae, whom he lovingly referred to as Dodger. After spending some time in the meditation garden, we slowly made our way around the side of the house past the swimming pool & down the driveway toward the front of the house again. Along the way, there are memorials & fan art to view. Once done with the tour, you’re then told to go back to where the shuttle let you off so you can be led into a bonus room in the basement.
A tour guide opens the door to the bonus basement room and you’re immediately taken back in time to the late 60s/early 70s. This is a special exhibit designed by Lisa Marie, essentially, her father through her eyes. The dated yellow & white wall paper once adorned the walls of her nursery. Her crib & several other mementos from her birth & childhood are set up around the room along with some of Lisa’s favourite items of her Dad’s. She had his personal office brought down into the room and reassembled, as well as his wardrobe. Normally you wouldn’t have access to these things as they’re from the second floor and very much off limits. Walking around the rest of the mansion, you do get the feeling that a presence is around. You can feel an energy in the air. Looking through each display & room, you can see his taste in decor & style. And while the jumpsuits are beautiful, you also understand that they are costumes (Devon tried in vein to buy me one to walk the dog in, I was not amused). However, walking through the bonus room you feel something different. You’re viewing his wardrobe, things he wore every day. You’re looking at his personal tote that never left his side when traveling. You get to take pictures of his personal books that he took everywhere. This is definitely the most personal room. One could even argue that it’s as close to viewing his bedroom as you can get. I’m glad that they leave this bonus room for last.
It’s a good note to leave Graceland on.
Walking back out of the room you’re left in the covered carport where there is water, fans & chairs set up for you to wait in while a shuttle comes up to get you. Once on the shuttle, they take a quick tour of the back forty of the property. Explaining along the way the groundskeeping, some of the equipment, the horses, stables, the extra out buildings & a gate that Elvis used to use as a means of leaving the property in a big black panel van so as to go unnoticed.
The shuttle turns around and starts its way back down the long driveway toward the music gate. After crossing Elvis Presley Boulevard, the tour concludes. From there you continue onto six other exhibits on your own speed.
I am still incredibly shocked that Devon didn’t do or say anything to embarrass me or herself too much. I don’t know how she managed to make it through without a peep. One could argue that she even enjoyed herself. Right before we left for Memphis I had a friend, who we will call “Blanche”, dare me to wear a princess tiara made of Duct Tape outside the gates of Graceland… Challenge accepted!!
I could continue on with the remainder of awesomeness, but I really feel like I should keep this to myself in the hope that you’ll be intrigued enough to make the trek out to Tennessee and take the tour yourself. Whether you are an Elvis fan or not, Graceland is one of the most fascinating homes in the world. Everybody should see it up close at least once in their life.
I did… And it was the most amazing day.
So thank ya, Devon. Uh, thankyouverymuch. 😉