on June 3, 2010
I think somewhere in the Memphis law books it is written that first time visitor’s must stop in at Graceland. Just think about it. How many people do you know that have been here and haven’t been to Graceland?Graceland is of course the home of Elvis Presley. The home was built in 1939 in the Classic Revival style. The home was originally owned by SC Toof who owned the SC Toof & company, a local commercial printing company. Elvis purchased the home in 1957. He moved the home to its current location for privacy and security. Elvis lived there with his parents, Grace and Vernon. His mother dies the following year and his father remarries and his new step mother moved in. Pricilla stayed here 5 years before they were married. One of the first things that strike you about Graceland is the size. Not in the same way as when you see the massive size of a home like the Biltmore Estate. You’re struck by the fact that it isn’t massive by today’s standards. Go into any snooty McMansion neighborhood, and you will find homes twice the size of Graceland. But for the time it was built, it was grand. The home sits on 13.8 acres. The home has 23 rooms and after Elvis’ expansions the home is now over 17,000 square feet. In 1991 the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006 it was declared a National Landmark. While people tend to think the home has been open to the public since his death, it was only opened in 1982. Pricilla Presley was head of the company and she opened the home so that fans could experience the home. No mater what you may think of her, under her guidance the home has been a major boon to the Memphis economy and it allows his fans to get close to their idol. Other than on special occasions, there are not any guided tours of the mansion. It is go at your own pace. You can listen to the recorded tour or just read the information at each exhibit. I started out with the audio tour, but by the end I just read the info. And moved on to the next display. Just remember when you’re here, you will not be the only person at the estate. Just listen to the tape or read the plaque and move on to the display. There was one very annoying family during our visit that had to stop in front of every display and take their picture mugging. Every….freakin’…display! Please don’t be that family. Chances are it will be crowded and other people will want to look! Also keep in mind when Elvis lived here. The first room we walked into was the living room. This room was my favorite. It is furnished with a white couch set, piano, and 2 beautiful stain glassed panes with peacocks on them. Then there was the dining room which is tastefully decorated. Things get a bit different after this. The kitchen looks like any other normal kitchen, until you think about the fact the microwave ovens and dishwashers weren’t common place in the 50’s. You eyes will get a big shock from the bright yellow of the media room. You have to wonder why all the TV’s. After all we only have two eyes! The jungle room was atrocious. The pool room was to busy and about gives you a headache. There are plenty of displays featuring movie memorabilia, everyday items, and his stage costumes. I couldn’t get over how tiny he was when he was young. I mean I knew young Elvis was skinny, but he was tiny! There are also items from his family members and the wedding clothes from his marriage to Pricilla. Then there is what I call the bling, bling room. This room reminds visitors just what made Elvis is legend. The walls are wall to wall awards. Gold records, recording industry awards, etc line the walls from wall to ceiling. You can see his guitars. Then there are some of his most famous (and heavy on the sequins) costumes. The Eagle Suite and the Tiger suite are just a few of the blingy costumes that gave Liberace a run for his money. After you tour the mansion you go to an outbuilding which Elvis used for his office. There is also a large collection of gifts Elvis received from his fans on display. Next to it is where Elvis used to target practice. Then guests walk back outside and head towards the pool and gardens. You can see the pastures where Elvis’ horses often graze. On our visit, none were to be found. Then you reach the gardens and pool area. The perfectly manicures gardens are simply gorgeous compared to the often gaudy displays inside the house. The main focus of this area is of course the memorial gardens. This is the final resting place of Elvis and his parents, grandmother, as well and a small marker for his brother. This is where fans still line up to say their good byes to the king of rock & roll. Fans still spend a few minutes, some crying, but all being respectful. There are no shouts, screams, or kids running amuck. In addition to the mansion there is a whole Elvis experience. There is the ’68 Special Exhibit, the Lisa Marie and Hound Dog 2 planes, Elvis Lives, Sincerely Elvis, and the Automobile Museum. For the Ultimate Elvis fan, you can check into the Heartbreak Hotel and Campground and there is a strip mall with even more ways to bring Elvis into your home at the Graceland Crossing. There are several restaurants on the premises, lockers, ATM's, restrooms, and one HUGEEEEE Man gift shop with everything that you can think of with Elvis on it. Guests can plan to spend several hours here to pretty much the whole day. Currently visitors to the home have a choice of 3 tickets from your basic to the whole hog. You wallet and Elvis fandom dedicates which ticket you will make you happy. I just wanted to see the mansion so we just purchased the basic ticket. But a group of sisters who I sent to Memphis and Nashville about the same time as my trip are huge fans and got the ultimate ticket and pretty much spent the day here. Even just getting the basic ticket, you will need to allow several hours. We checked in, picked up our ticket, and then went and got in line for the shuttle since they were already taking our group. We were still in line 45 minutes. The mansion is across from the complex where you check in and you can not just walk over. You have to take the shuttle over and wait for the shuttle to return. While in line you can get a cool souvenir picture for your scrapbook. After touring, we were hot from the Memphis sun, so we stopped in at the Chrome Grill and grabbed a snack and something to drink. Then we went and I did some souvenir shopping. You can go on line and order your tickets in advanced. There are a number of different packages and many require advanced purchases. During Elvis week (Aug) they offer a number of special packages. Just go on line for current rates, packages, information, or to order your tickets. Website www.elvis.com*Please note…unless you are staying at the Heart Break hotel, if you need accommodations, then look else where. This area is no longer the best part of town and not the safest in the evening when tourists have disappeared. You are closer to the airport here than downtown. Look at hotels in the airport area first and then downtown. But stay away from hotels in this area. So do your recommend it? Of course. It is one of those things you just have to experience. Ok, so maybe you’re not the biggest fan on the planet. But you just have to come see this place for your self. Despite the sometime gaudy, the home is still beautiful.
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