on September 2, 2006
A visit to Memphis is not complete without a trip to Graceland, the home of the late, great Elvis Presley. I never considered myself one of his biggest fans, but the life of Elvis was an extraordinary one, and for me I found myself fascinated with Graceland, not because I wanted to mourn the loss of one of music’s genius performers, but because it gave me the chance to learn things I would never have known.Graceland is excellently set up, with an enormous amount of interesting facts and information, but on arrival it could easily be mistaken for a slightly tacky tourist trap, especially upon arrival at the visitor centre, modelled on an airport terminal. I would not blame anyone for thinking Graceland is nothing more than a money-making venture for the Presley family. If, like me, you thought this, then you will be pleasantly surprised that when taking the short bus ride across the road to Graceland, you feel like you are about to enter an old stately home than the home of a celebrity.Graceland, located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard, is situated on Elvis’s 14-acre estate and was opened as a museum in 1982. Today, everything has been left the same as when inhabited by Elvis. Elvis lived here from the late 1950s until August 16, 1977, when he tragically died, a result of an overdose of mixed drugs and complications of severe heart disease. His body is buried in Graceland and has become a shrine and pilgrimage for true Elvis fans.During the tour of Graceland, you get taken through many of the rooms, including living areas, kitchen, basement, bar and billiards rooms, and the famous jungle room. After this you visit Elvis’s trophy room and auditorium, the place where Elvis collapsed and died. You finish the tour at Elvis’s grave. I was expecting this part to be a little over the top, but like the rest of the tour, the set-up was very tasteful and respectful. There was also none of the mass hysteria of grown women collapsing and fainting, like I was expecting. What also surprised me was the variety of languages and ages of visitors. Elvis might have died almost 30 years ago, but he still reaches out to a vast array of people. The tour is given through a headset, which I think is an excellent idea, as it allows you to tour the house at your own pace. My tour here lasted around 2 hours. If you want to experience the ultimate Elvis experience, you can book yourself into Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel, located across the road from Graceland, although this would have been too much of an Elvis overload for me. Other attractions at Graceland include Elvis’s jet, the Lisa Marie, and Elvis’s extensive car collection.Entry to Graceland costs between $20 and $27, depending on what you want to see. Parking costs $2. For more information on directions, opening times, and prices, information can be found at http://www.elvis.com/graceland.
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