Listening to the music of Elvis Presley brings back the nostalgia that was my childhood home. It only seemed fitting that visiting the Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee was a “full circle moment” for me…
The Guest House at Graceland
Of course, there are several places you could opt to stay in Memphis, but I’d highly recommend the recently opened “The Guest House at Graceland.” Other than the convenience factor (the hotel is situated right next door to Graceland!), the place was inspired by Elvis Presley’s iconic home. Every aspect of it reflects the King’s personal style and follows the unique character of Graceland – from the southern colonial exterior to themed speciality suites. Many of the designs were supervised by Priscilla Presley. The hotel has spacious rooms and a range of elegant and contemporary facilities, including two full-service restaurants, expansive meeting and special events space, a large outdoor pool and a 464-seat theatre for live performances and movies. They even have a huge outdoor jacuzzi by the pool area.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I was immediately impressed with the room we were given. The décor looked high-end and the room and bathroom were spacious. The sample shampoo, conditioner and body wash were bigger than you’d usually find at a hotel. In terms of value for money, it’s definitely worth it! You can see updated prices here. They have various hotel packages on special as well.
Despite the fact that you can actually walk to Graceland, there is a free shuttle that will drop you there as well (for those lazy days). Both restaurants featured food items that Elvis loved (such as southern-style comfort food). I really loved that they had an in-house Starbucks for that early morning kickstart!
What to do?
If you’re in Memphis for a weekend (like I was), you NEED to do the following:
- Visit Graceland (Obviously!!)
- Visit Sun Records
- Explore Beale Street
- Visit Graceland
There are various packages available for the Graceland tour. I’m a huge Elvis fan so I went for the “Elvis Entourage VIP Tour ” with the added optional “Elvis’ Airplanes Tour”. This tour includes the following:
- Graceland Mansion Audio-Guided Tour with New Orientation Tour
- Self-guided tour of Elvis’ Custom Jets
Full Access to all-new Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, which includes:
- Self-guided tour of Presley Motors Automobile Museum
- Self-guided tour of Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum
- Self-guided tours of Elvis Discovery Exhibits
- Self-guided tour of Exclusive VIP Exhibit
- Front-of-the-Line Mansion Access
- Keepsake Backstage Pass
The average tour time is approximately 4 hours. You can also make return visits as many times as you’d like before closing time. The cost of this ticket is $98.75 (ZAR 1,295*)
For up to date ticket prices, please click here
The Audio-Guided Tour takes place through a provided iPad and headphones. The tour is interactive and you can watch various Elvis clips on the iPad.
All the museums are located in walking distance from each other. There are loads of memorabilia stores around the museums as well. So go wild!
The VIP entry means that you can skip the queue! So, the minute you get to the Graceland, your tour can start. As mentioned before, the whole tour is interactive using the iPad (with John Stamos as the narrator). Which is kind of cool because you can go at your own pace. You can pause the video and get more information on the iPad.
You start the tour at the front door and can tour the living room, his parents’ bedroom, the kitchen, TV room, pool room, the famous Jungle Room, his father’s office, the Trophy Building, the Racquetball Building, Meditation Garden, the graveyard, the pool area and the stables. The tour ends at his grave and when it gets to that point you can’t help but feel a little sad. Once the tour is done, as a VIP guest, you can view the Bonus Room! This room has various records and memorabilia worth seeing.
Once you’re back at the main pick-up point, you can check out the Presley Motors Automobile Museum. This is super fun! Once that is done, you can view the planes and go inside the private plane Elvis used. A few other tours are also around the same area.
Let me show you some awesome pics of the tour….
Presley Motors Automobile Museum
At the end of the tour visit….. you have the opportunity to pay your respects at the grave of Elvis. May he rest in peace…. This part left me feeling heartsore.
2.Visit Sun Records
There is a free shuttle bus that takes you from the entrance of the Elvis ticket centre to Sun Records and Beale Street. No need for an Uber or taxi. The shuttle does the schedule route the whole day ( I think the last pickup is at 7pm). I managed to get this great tip from the hotel I stayed at.
For those of you not familiar with Sun Records, let’s just say that it’s where Rock ‘n Roll was born! The recording studio opened in the 50’s by a guy named Sam Phillips. Artists such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins recorded at this studio. You can check out the full list here. They recently started airing a new series called “Sun Records” which is based on the life of Sam Phillips (and Elvis of course!).
Sun Studio Records was re-opened as a historic tourist attraction and a recording studio for a few artists. You can read more about the history of Sun Studio Records here.
When entering the building, you are immediately drawn to the “ease” of the building. There is a little “bar-like” coffee shop inside with memorabilia for purchase around the coffee shop/ waiting area.
The tour begins with a walk up to the top floor of which you get to view some old recording equipment, furniture and musical instruments used during the 1950’s. I even saw an old wooden chair signed by BB King! The tour guide tells the story of Sun Studio Records with such enthusiasm and clarity that you can clearly visualise the scene he describes. He even played the first song that Elvis Presley recorded at Sun Studio Records which was “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. Elvis paid about $4.00 for the recording. The song was for his mom (so adorable!) and he gave it to her as a belated birthday gift.
Elvis Presley recorded another demo after that and Sam Philips was not impressed. It was actually Sam Philips assistant, Marion Keisker, who convinced Sam to work with Elvis. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt that he would have even been discovered! Read more about Elvis Presley’s rise to fame here.
After the formal tour upstairs, the tour moves to the recording studio. To stand in a place where great music was created by the greatest artists of all time is pretty damn amazing! The stories continue and you get to listen to a recording by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. These recordings were later released in a CD format called the “Million Dollar Quartet.” You can buy it online for about $23.
It was a privilege to hear the uncut version and I was also a privileged to pose with the same microphone that Elvis and so many other artists used when recording at the studio.
The tour guide could be lying about the microphone but I would like to believe that he was telling the truth.
The whole experience costs $12. Totally worth it for the experience!
3. Explore Beale Street
Beale Street is known as the street from which the Blues was born. Today it is buzzing with restaurants, shops and many more attractions. A few establishments are listed below :
- Hard Rock Cafe (126 Beale)
- Blues City Cafe & the Band Box (138-142 Beale)
- Blues City General Store (144 Beale)
- B. King’s Blues Club (143 Beale)
- Memphis Music (149 Beale)
- Club 152 (152 Beale)
- The Shadows – 3rd floor of Club 152 (152 Beale)
- Tater Red’s (153 Beale)
- Miss Polly’s Soul City Cafe (154 Beale)
- Alley Katz (156 Beale)
- King Jerry Lawler’s Hall of Fame Bar & Grille (159 Beale)
- King’s Palace Cafe (162 Beale)
- Schwabs (163 Beale)
- The Pig (167 Beale)
- Beale Street Tap Room (168 Beale)
- The Black Diamond (153 Beale)
- Johnny G’s Creole Kitchen (156 Beale)
- Strange Cargo (172 Beale)
- Silky O’Sullivan’s (183 Beale)
- Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum (191 Beale)
- Alfred’s on Beale (197 Beale)
- Beale Street Blues Gifts (200 Beale)
- Dyer’s Famous Hamburgers (205 Beale)
- Wet Willies (209 Beale)
- People’s Billiard Club (323 Beale)
- Coyote Ugly (326 Beale)
- Historic Daisy Theatre (329 Beale)
- The New Daisy Theatre (330 Beale)
- The Lange Place
- Handy’s Blues Hall
- Eel Etc. Fashions (333 Beale)
- Jerry Lee Lewis’ Cafe and Honky Tonk (310 Beale)
- Lil Anthony’s Cafe (341 Beale)
- C. Handy historic home (352 Beale)
- Red Rooster (340 Beale)
- The Beale Street Flippers
If you visit Beale Street, try and plan your trip during the first weekend of May. This is the weekend of the annual Beale Street Music Festival.
I would like to end off this post by saying that out of all the places that I have travelled too, Memphis has truly left me feeling inspired. Inspired to be the greatest I can be.
“You only pass through this life once, you don’t come back for an encore.” – Elvis Presley
With that said, I hope that you feel inspired to do something great!
*Exchange rate as at 22/4/2017
Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116
Phone:+1 (901) 332-3322
Images: Self-taken and google images