Graceland: Exploring Elvis’ Home

Lisa Fritscher February 1, 2011 2 Comments

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Elvis Gravesite

Be sure to stop by Elvis' gravesite

Memphis is home to plenty of tourist attractions including Beale Street and the legendary Sun Studios. But arguably the most famous stop in Memphis, and perhaps all of Tennessee, is Graceland. The last home of Elvis Presley, Graceland is shrouded in myth and legend.

Graceland History

Elvis purchased a modest home in Memphis for his family shortly after his career began. Once he became a superstar, however, the neighbors began to complain about the constant barrage of fans and paparazzi. Elvis realized he needed to move the family into a more secluded location, so he gave his parents $100,000 to find a new home on plenty of land.

Graceland Farms was originally built by S.F. Toof, who owned a Memphis commercial printing company, and named after his daughter Grace. After Toof’s death, Grace gave the portion that is now Graceland to her niece. The niece and her husband built the mansion in 1939.

Graceland Mansion dates to 1939

The mansion dates to 1939

Elvis made significant renovations and additions to the home, eventually expanding it from 10,266 square feet to 17,552 square feet. Among the Elvis-era additions are the racquetball court, swimming pool and Jungle Room, which features a working waterfall.

Graceland Today

Graceland Self Guided Tour

The tour is self guided

Following Elvis’ sudden death in 1977, his ex-wife Priscilla became executor for the portion of the estate belonging to their daughter, Lisa Marie, who was then 11. When she discovered that Elvis’ vast wealth had dwindled considerably and Lisa Marie stood to inherit only $1 million, half of which would go to taxes, Priscilla decided to take a risk. She hired a CEO and, in 1982, opened Graceland as a tourist destination. Lisa Marie’s trust skyrocketed to more than 100 million dollars.

Planning Your Trip

Graceland Mansion

The home is visually stunning

Although it is possible to just show up at Graceland and buy tickets, pre-planning can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. There are three tour options: the Mansion Tour, the Platinum Tour and the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour. The Mansion Tour is best for those on a tight schedule or budget. It includes the home and grounds and takes approximately an hour to complete. The Platinum Tour adds several additional Elvis exhibits, including two private airplanes and an automobile museum. Expect to spend around three hours on the Platinum Tour. The Elvis Entourage VIP Tour is designed for hard-core fans. It is an all-day experience that includes everything on the Platinum Tour along with a keepsake Backstage Pass and front-of-line access to the mansion. It is the only option that lets you return repeatedly throughout the day. Children aged six and under are free on all tours. Students, seniors and children receive discounts on the Mansion Tour and Platinum Tour, but not the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour.

Although there is plenty of lodging throughout Memphis, hard-core fans may want to stay at the Heartbreak Hotel or the Graceland RV Park & Campground. The 128 guest rooms at the Heartbreak Hotel feature black and white photos of Elvis and some Elvis-inspired decorating touches, while the four suites are heavily Elvis themed. The campground offers RV sites with full hookups, a separate tent camping area, and even rustic camping cabins.

What to Expect

Graceland Photos of Elvis

Personal photos are everywhere

Graceland has earned a place in our collective imaginations, and is one of the rare tourist attractions to actually live up to the hype. Graceland is larger than life in every way, from the sheer number of rooms to the over-the-top decorating choices. A guide will meet you in front of the mansion to give a bit of background, and then you are on your own with an audio tour and several thousand other tourists. Depending on your level of interest in Elvis, you may be overawed, overjoyed, or overly annoyed with other guests.

Tips for Parents

Graceland Memorabilia Collection

The vast collection of memorabilia is fascinating

Visit the official Graceland website before your trip to download materials designed to help your kids get the most out of your visit. Graceland can be overwhelming, but the Field Guide, Scavenger Hunt and other activities focus on those elements that are generally most appealing to kids. When you arrive at Graceland, stop by the Guest Services desk with your kids’ tickets. Each child 12 and under receives a free activity book.

Graceland Pool

The pool area is a great place to relax

Graceland is always crowded, but some seasons are more so than others. Elvis Week is an annual August event that draws thousands of Elvis fans from around the world. Elvis’ birthday is celebrated in grand style in early January each year. Christmas and other holidays also tend to be particularly popular.

The audio tour is self-guided, and you can take as long as you want. If you or your kids start feeling overwhelmed, get out of the crowd and take a break. There are multiple restaurants and gift shops on site, allowing you to sit down and relax before resuming your tour.

Elvis Exhibits at Graceland

Graceland is a must-see piece of Americana

No matter how you feel about Elvis, Graceland is a bit of Americana that everyone should see at least once. Virtually the entire tour is wheelchair accessible, with the exception of two rooms in the basement and the interiors of the airplanes. Videos of both locations are shown in the alternate wheelchair areas, so that guests do not miss out. The audio tour is offered in eight different languages. In 2006, Graceland became the only non-presidential residence in America to host a joint visit between a sitting president and a foreign leader. The tremendous impact that Graceland has on visitors from around the world is truly amazing to witness.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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2 Comments to “Graceland: Exploring Elvis’ Home”
  1. avatar Memphis Family Vacation Memories - Ducks, Dining, and Beale Street says:

    [...] with lots of music, great music-themed attractions – including but certainly not limited to Elvis’ home, Graceland – and a really family-friendly vibe in the restaurants and music venues across the city. Strolling [...]

  2. avatar Rock N Soul and History: Museums in Memphis Tennessee says:

    [...] b q and the tourist-centered fun of Beale Street’s music emporiums. It’s not all about Elvis’ Graceland, with its myriad of tours and tourist hordes, either. While Graceland is synonymous with Memphis, [...]