I woke up to the sound of the birds chirping. I was also sweating so much I wondered if I’d fallen asleep in a sauna.
Nope, I was just in my tent and the sun was beaming down on it so intensely, I felt like I was getting baked. I looked at the time on my phone. 7 am? Only about 5 hours earlier than I usually get up at on a Saturday (haha!).
But there was no way I could sleep a minute longer in this
Cowboy was already up. I guess he’s not a fan of ‘sleep & bake’ either. When he saw me slide out of the tent (that’s how sweaty I was–no joke) he offered to slay me a cup of coffee at the little campground shop. Have I mentioned that he’s a big sweetheart? (Nope, he didn’t pay me to say that).
We sat under a big tree (shade, yes!) sipping coffee and watching the activity of the other campers around us. As I slowly started to wake up, it dawned on me (pun intended): I just woke up in Elvis’s backyard!
While I may not be the biggest Elvis fan in the world, it is pretty cool to be sleeping on his homestead. I’ve been to Memphis once before, but I didn’t stay overnight on that trip. My friend Al and I had toured Graceland and then we were back on the road to our next destination. If we had stayed for the night, however, there was no way we would have camped. It was the middle of August then, so even spending two minutes outside was almost unbearable.
So for this trip, I suggested we come before the sticky summer heat sets in. Which is why we are here in May. While the sun did wake me up early this morning, it’s still quite pleasant to be outside.
Camping at Graceland was much cheaper than I expected. Given it’s a huge tourist destination, I thought they’d charge an arm and a leg even for a tent site. But it was only a little under $30, which is cheaper than many of the KOA’s I’ve been to. Plus we got a free parking coupon for the Graceland tour (normally $10). So we weren’t ‘all shook up’ over the cost whatsoever (HA! Sorry…).
And we got to sleep on ‘Don’t be Cruel’- lane, you really can’t get any more Graceland culture than that (well, aside from touring his house of course).
We packed up the tent so we could begin our pilmigage to the Graceland mansion. First though, we decided to stop for a quick breakfast (an IHOP, one of the only places close by) and then we were finally on our way to Graceland.
You then buy your tickets at the touristy ‘Elvis-ville’ shop near the parking lot, then line up for the shuttle bus which will take you to Elvis’s home.
When you get in line for the bus, the staff offers to take a photo of you under the Graceland sign in hopes that you will hopefully buy their (pricey) photo package after the tour. We opted out and took a fun selfie instead. I really like this shot.
While we were waiting, we asked if we can skip the line and walk across the street ourselves. Apparently they don’t allow this. The reason for the shuttle buses, the line up guide told me, is because they don’t want tourists running across the (very busy) 4-lane highway (‘Elvis Presley Boulevard’) to get to the mansion.
Mostly because most people would probably be too busy gawking at the mansion instead of making sure they don’t get run over by a car.
The drive was so ridiculously short (about 20 seconds), it was quite comical. Even though I was just here a few years ago, I completely forgot about having to take the shuttle bus. But I did remember being on a bus, which I couldn’t figure out. I guess I repressed that 20- second ride because it was SO short, it was almost like it didn’t happen.
We were let off the bus practically on the front steps of Elvis’s home. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Graceland!
When I first saw Graceland I was really surprised. I thought it would be much bigger and more grandiose.
It’s also much busier than when I was here 5 years ago. On my first visit here it was mid-summer so even the biggest Elvis fans know to avoid Memphis at this time of the year. I remembered expecting tons of crowds and line ups and had been very surprised at how quiet it was.
Not this time. There were long line ups for the bus and we had to wait a bit to get into the mansion as well. But the wait wasn’t too long, at least.
We took a few pictures to pass the time, ’cause normally we wouldn’t have thought to take a photo of the front door and posing in front of the sign.
When inside, the first room we see is Elvis’s living room. It’s very fancy and pristine-looking and I really love how all the vibrant stained glass decorations add a nice vibrant pop of colour to contrast the white furniture. Just stunning…
Right cross from the living room is the dining room, where many a dinners were served here to the Presley family. Who wouldn’t enjoy a delicious home-cooked southern meal under this spectacular chandelier?
The staircase going upstairs was roped off and we were told it was out-of-bounds (only Elvis’s family can go up there). Darn, I was hoping to jump the rope and check it out (because I’m nosey, mostly) but the staff were guarding the staircase like hawks.
We wandered down the hallway and soon arrived at the kitchen. I laughed at the 1960s decor, especially when I saw the technology. I’m sure back in 1969, this kitchen was cutting-edge!
Look at that snazzy microwave in the corner! Rumour has it this was the first microwave in America. Back in the early 70s, this baby probably cost a grand (pocket change for the King, of course). Nowadays you can’t even pay someone $20 to get rid of your microwave, especially if it’s an older model.
I like how they’ve kept Elvis’s home decorated like it was back in the day. Makes you feel like you’ve entered a time machine as you walk through the front door.
Right near the kitchen is the bedroom which was used by Elvis’s parents.
Then we moved on to the Jungle Room, which I found one of the most interesting and eccentric rooms here at Graceland. Elvis loved Hawaii so this room was designed with his favourite vacation spot in mind.
The floor AND the walls are covered in green shag carpeting, and the wood furniture have animal shapes carved into them. He definitely had unique taste!
The next room was the “Pool Room”, which is almost as
guady interesting as the jungle room. Lots of colour and the walls & ceiling were lined with fabric here too. A few couches surrounded the pool tables but they had a gazillion throw pillows on them, so no room to sit, really.
We head to the basement to this room which is decorated in a lot of yellow and black, and 3 T.V’s so Elvis could watch a few shows at once. At that time, the only other person in America with this many TVs was probably the President.
And lots of beautiful flowers and trees, too.
Elvis loved horses and kept a few in the stables. Apparently the horses at Graceland these days are rescue horses (yeah!!). You can tour the stables in the summer months too if you’re interested (for an extra fee).
From the backyard, the Graceland mansion looks even smaller, I thought. There are houses on my street back home that are bigger than this one (and it’s not a fancy street I live on, either). Graceland really does look a bit more like a farm-house than a mansion. But it is beautiful and the house and grounds are kept in immaculate condition.
Next up was Elvis’s Raquetball building. During the ’70s, Elvis started playing racquetball which was beginning to be a popular sport at the time. In the building was a full service bar, pinball machines, games and a deep sunk lounge right beside the racquetball court.
Sadly, we learned that it was right in this room on the morning of August 16th, 1977, that Elvis sat down at this piano and played his last song. Soon after, he headed back into the house, went upstairs and died in his bathrom.
The end of the tour is a bit sombre as we arrive at the cemetery where Elvis and many of his family members are buried.
Over all, I was impressed with the tour (even having done it once before already). It hasn’t changed at all in the few years I’ve been here, but it was still fun to see it with someone who really loves the King. Cowboy just loved it and was glad to finally get here.
The regular tour was $36, but I just noticed that it’s gone up a little even since May (2014) when we were here. Check this site for more info on prices. If you want to camp at Graceland, here’s info on the campground.
If you’re coming to Graceland and have an iPad, they have just released a brand new iPad tour. It’s narrated by actor John Stamos and includes fun random hotspots to learn more about Elvis’s life. Probably a little more exciting than the regular audio tour, I’ll bet (which wasn’t bad, but a tad boring I found).
After a wonderful couple days in Memphis, we’re off to our next destination: New Orleans. Woohoo!
The first part of this Deep South Road Trip Series are here, in case you missed them:
First Day in Nashville, Nashville Day 2: Grand Ol Opry , Belle Meade Plantation, Nashville , Dinner at the local…Drug Store: Franklin, TN (outside Nashville) , Rockin’ in Memphis , Tour of Sun Studios, Memphis , Walking in Memphis: Beale Street
Have you ever been to Graceland, and if so, what did you think? Was it worth it? (Even if you aren’t a hardcore fan? ). If you went, did you do the regular tour or one of the fancier packages?