I’ve been an Elvis fan since I was young, and I’ve always loved listening to his recording of Blue Christmas during the holidays. But I had never made it to Graceland—Elvis’ home and what is basically Mecca to his legion of fans—until last year. What I found was a home that—while far larger in my imagination—was well worth a visit for fans of The King as well as anyone who loves music, pop culture, and bling.
A visit to this famous home is easy to do, and the tours are run with military precision, which makes sense when you learn that more than 500,000 visitors tour the home each year! Guests check in across the street from Graceland, and are first introduced to Elvis through a short video, then are driven by shuttle to his home through a driveway adorned by iron gates covered in musical notes.
I was surprised at first by the size of the house—while I expected a massive mansion, it wasn’t that much larger than some of the homes you see in some of Pittsburgh’s wealthier suburbs. When it was bought by Elvis for his parents, Gladys and Vernon Presley in 1957, it was probably considered quite impressive; the house and 13.8 acres cost $103,000! Considering that Elvis was born in a tiny two-room shotgun house 22 years earlier in Tupelo, MS, (which you can visit while in that city), the 17,552 sq. ft. home probably seemed like the ultimate in luxury.
Elvis moved into the house with his parents and grandmother and lived there until his death in 1977. Only the first floor is open for tours, however; his private quarters on the second floor are closed to the public.
The downstairs rooms were full of surprises—not only in the eclectic décor that includes everything from ceramic monkeys and dogs to carpet on every conceivable surface, including ceilings—but in the fact that the mansion feels far more like a 1960-‘70s home than a multimillionaire’s abode.
One of the big plusses of the tour is that it comes with an iPad for each guest with information on the different rooms narrated by John Stamos, so you get the inside scoop without having to follow a tour guide from room to room. Guided tours are also available, however.
A building outside the house includes Elvis’ father’s office as well as an indoor racquetball court and what used to be a firing range, where Elvis and his buddies would blow off steam. A meditation garden, located beside the pool, serves as the final resting place for Elvis, his mother, father and his grandmother, and a small stone also commemorates Elvis’ twin brother, who died at birth.
Those expecting to see the bling that made up Elvis’ later Las Vegas performances won’t be disappointed by the home’s unpretentiousness, however; after a tour of the house, guests shuttle back to Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, which includes 12 museums and exhibits and more than 200,000 sq. ft. of display space. Here, you can take a virtual tour on a golf cart through the property, as Elvis used to do, as well as see concert footage, pose for a photo with The King, and even dance along to his songs. The Graceland Archives Experience includes more than 3,650 recordings, one million documents and 5,000 textiles—including those famous jumpsuits—and that’s just a start!
Depending on the tour you choose, you can check our Elvis’ private planes and cars, or spend hours walking among the costumes not only worn by The King himself, but by other music stars including Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Troy Gentry, Carrie Underwood and KISS, to name a few. There’s also an entire exhibit dedicated to ‘Private Presley,’ documenting Elvis’ military service which came at the height of his recording and movie fame.
Depending on the time of year, there is always something going on at Graceland, and the holiday season is no exception. Special tours this year include a Christmas VIP Evening Tour ($259) that allows access to all of the regular sites as well as a tour of the grounds decorated for the holidays, and a less expensive afternoon Christmas Tour ($60-$93) includes the mansion’s tour guides sharing personal stories of their time with Elvis during the holidays. The tours are available from Nov. 17-Dec. 23, and the grounds will be decorated through Jan. 8, 2023.
To learn more about visiting Graceland, visit https://www.graceland.com.