Pros: Wonderful tribute to Elvis; great exhibits.
Cons: I didn't find the staff friendly.
In order to review the Graceland Mansion I would be remiss to not tell you about the Graceland Platinum Tour. Rather than putting this in a separate category or writing about his airplanes separately I will give you a brief overview of how you can see Graceland, what you will see, and how much it will cost and then review the Mansion.
Graceland is a huge complex with the Mansion across the street. After purchasing whatever ticket or combination of tickets you want you will be taken by bus to the Mansion. It is within walking distance but you must go as your number is called. You can purchase a separate ticket to see Elvis Custom Jets. These jets are names Houndog II and the Lisa Marie. As you enter the area that these jets are housed which is outside you will show a staff member your ticket. Houndog II is very small and you will just walk up the steps and look in. It is closed off except for the very front area so there isnt much to see. His pride and joy, the Lisa Marie is beautiful and you will be able to walk the length of the jet, see Elvis bedroom, the conference room, the two baths (you cant walk into them, they are behind Plexiglass) and his relaxing areas. This is worth seeing. The cost of this is $7.00 for adults, $6.30 for students and seniors (62+); $3.50 for children 7-12 and under 6 children are free.
You can go to Elvis Automobile Museum where you will see his Harley Davidson motorcycles, his famous 1955 Pink Cadillac and 22 other vehicles he owned. You can sit for about 10 minutes and watch a video. The cost of this is $8.00 for adults; $7.20 for students and seniors; $4.00 for children 7-12 and under 6 children are free. This is also worth seeing. Even if you dont like cars, it gives you a fascinating look at Elvis.
The Sincerely Elvis Exhibit is another look at Elvis life and career. You will see more of his personal life and relationship with friends, family and fans. This costs $6.00 for adults; $5.40 for students and seniors; $3.00 for children 7-12 and it is free for the under 6 crowd.
Walk a Mile in My Shoes is free and a wonderful video of his life. If you see the video after the Mansion much of what you will see is repetitive. If you are fascinated with Elvis, though, seeing his life and career once again will be a treat. As you walk in you will have to stop and look at Elvis with baby Lisa Marie on the walls.
The Graceland Mansion I will review in a moment. It costs $18.00 for adults; $16.20 for students and seniors; $7.00 for children 7-12 and it is free for those under 6.
The Graceland Platinum Tour makes financial sense. It includes all the above and costs $27.00 for adults; $24.30 for students and seniors; $13.00 for children 7-12 and under 6 are free. For us the Mansion Tour was $18.00 and for another $9.00 we could see the jets, cars, etc. It made sense that for $9.00 even if we spent 10 minutes in each because we werent interested in the cars (Though as it turned out it is a great exhibit) it was worth the money. So I highly recommend you go this route unless for some reason you are really strained for time. The whole tour can take several hours or more.
There are discounts such as AAA. Dont forget your student identification or license is you are a senior.
There is a huge free parking lot behind the Graceland complex located on Elvis Presley Boulevard. This is a major road in Memphis. You can make reservations by calling 800-238-2000. On this Thursday in early June we were told that reservations were not necessary. What happens is this: Graceland is never sold out. However when we got there at 10:00, our bus was ready within 10 minutes because there wasnt much of a line to get tickets. During the busy season, which is July and August, the line can get very long and you can wait for an hour or more to get tickets and then wait for the bus. Waiting for the bus is not a problem because if you get the Platinum Tour you will be able to go into the other exhibits.
Graceland is open March-October, Monday-Sunday 10:00AM -4:00PM. December- February the Mansion is closed on Tuesdays but the other attractions are opened from 10:00AM to 4:00PM daily.
Also in the Graceland Complex, are 3 restaurants: Rockabillys Diner, Shake, Split & Dip (ice cream and drinks); and Chrome Grille. Each exhibit has its own store to go with the theme. There is Good Rockin Gallery Elvis, Welcome to My World, Walk a Mile, Elvis Kids, Elvis Threads and Highway 51 Gas. If you are an Elvis fan you may spend more time in these shops that virtually have anything you could ever think of. We left with a really nice souvenir book and of course a bell. Youll also find an automatic teller machine, taxi stand, restrooms, a post office and lockers on the Graceland complex.
Some information you should know:
As you stand in line waiting for the bus to the mansion you will be given headphones and an audio tape. I found this very helpful especially once I discovered that the cattle type setting of being pushed along wasnt necessary. We could easily step out of line once we got into the mansion and spend as long as we wanted in any one room. You can get any bus back. You are not assigned to a bus.
You can use still photography in all areas of the Graceland Complex including the Mansion. You cannot use a flash inside the Mansion because of the damage it does to the costumes and irreplaceable items. I have some great pictures not using a flash. You cannot use tripods. You cant take in bags, backpacks, shopping bags, luggage or briefcases. Any items are subject to search. I had a small pocket book with me and one staff member said I would have to put it in the locker. I questioned that but she just looked in it and let me board the bus.
As we pulled up I was surprised at first glance to see that is was a very, very large house ok a mansion, but not an estate fit for a King. As we walked around inside I had the same feeling. Part of me said that this was due to the fact the house was redone in the 70s and it had the 70s look. For example the kitchen isnt modern nor is it as large as my husbands cousins kitchen in Cincinnati, Ohio! Elvis wanted for nothing in his house but my impression was that he spent a lot of money on cars, jets and a lifestyle rather than a home. The tour is essentially conducted by Lisa Marie. She considers this her home and welcomes us to it. We dont hear her on the tape so much that it is annoying, but the voices we hear are either Elvis or hers for the most part. Priscilla is barely mentioned though there is a display of their wedding and some great information about how they met. However, I know the story fairly well. Perhaps better than some. Graceland did a great job in skimming over really how young she was when she came to live in Graceland and they did a fantastic job in not showing his last several years. The last picture I saw of him was in 1973 when he started to show the signs of being a bit strange with his capes and heavy gold rings on each finger, his dark sunglasses and the weight he had put on. After that, though we dont see him again.
I found the staff to be among the grumpiest of our journey at this point. The woman who greeted us as we got off the bus sounded as if she had memorized a speech and gave it in a bored, flat monotone. In general I did not find the staff to be friendly or helpful. Please remember you will feel like cattle and if you dont walk fast enough you will just get pushed along to see the exhibits in the Mansion. Again, just step out of line and let that group pass or wait until there is an opening in the line so you can get a closer and longer look at some of the incredible things here.
What you will learn and see:
~You will learn that Elvis Aaron Presley was born in 1935 and died in 1977. You will learn about his parents and his very poor early days in Tupelo, Mississippi. I did not know he had a twin brother who died at birth and is buried at Graceland. The pictures are wonderful including a small model of what his house looked like in Mississippi.
~You will learn about his early days as a singer; his famous appearances on television especially the famous footage of Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show when he was only shot from the waist up because of this Elvis the Pelvis moves!
~You will learn about his military career that he thought might bring an end to his singing career but of course it didnt. If anything his absence fueled the fire for more of Elvis. There is a really cute clip of him returning home. This is a young 19 year old Elvis who appeared somewhat modest, shy and unassuming. He had a grin that would melt anyones heart. When asked if he met anyone in Germany, he did mention a special young girl he met who saw him off at the place. That young girl, of course, we would later know was Priscilla.
The Mansion takes you through his movie career both via posters and soundtracks on the audio tape. I had no idea he was so philanthropic. He was named by the US Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1970 as One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation. There is a plaque of some of the many charities to which he gave money including the March of Dimes and St. Judes Childrens Research Hospital. Youll learn about the Elvis Postage Stamp which came out in 1992.
Graceland is certainly large and stately. It is on 10 acres of land complete with pillars in the front and a swimming pool. Elvis bought Graceland at the age of 22 for $100,000. You will tour the main floor and the basement as well as the grounds outside. You cannot go upstairs to his private rooms and we were told that he allowed no visitors upstairs. I have since read that Lisa Marie made the decision to not allow visitors upstairs which holds a lot of personal meaning to her.
Youll be able to see up close the living room which Elvis had redone over the years. It is quite beautiful but not as ostentatious as I would have thought. His last change included a 15sofa, 10 coffee table. His tastes werent mine but again this was 30 years ago. Seeing red shag carpeting, red velvet French Provincial furniture, red satin curtains was strange but I learned that some of what I saw had been in storage and brought back to Graceland when the Mansion was open to the public.
The music room, much to nobodys surprise is taken over by a black Story & Clark baby grand piano which replaced another piano in 1974. It is said that this room was lived in and seeing Priscillas Great Danes playing in the room wasnt an unusual site.
Gladys and Vernon Presleys Bedroom Suite is on the tour. It is simple but elegant. The original furniture had been in the room but the decor was changed to reflect that of the 50s and taking some of the older accessories out of storage. I think Lisa Marie and those responsible for turning Graceland into a Museum did a fantastic job. Unlike other tours in which Ive been, you really can get fairly close up to the items and although we couldnt go upstairs, there are many rooms to see.
The dining room is beautiful. For that time period it is quite lavish with a huge formal table and the focal point of the room is the cut glass chandelier in a Maria Theresa pattern. Its really very pretty. Youll see some specific artifacts that were Elvis on shelves and pictures on the walls of, for example Lisa Marie opening Christmas presents.
As I said I wasnt all that impressed with the size of the kitchen. Although large by most of our standards it isnt huge and I did wonder how all the cooks and housekeepers kept from tripping over one another. In any case the original items, such as the toaster and television are still in the room.
We went downstairs to the basement where there are two main rooms. One is the pool room where the tape told us about the good times Elvis and the guys had here. This is the most unusually decorated room Ive seen. There are about 400 yards of brightly colored and patterned cotton fabric on the walls and ceiling.
The other room is the TV room. This is one of the more unusual rooms. He uses a lightening bolt from his TCB logo (Take Care of Business in a flash). This room is super modern and seems out of place in this stately, formal mansion. I like the room decorated in bright yellow and blue. Youll see a stereo system, 3 televisions side by side (We are told he got this idea because President Lyndon Johnson liked to watch all 3 networks at once.) and a built-in radio/home jukebox system wired to speakers all over the house. Youll see a small sample of his huge collection of records. He especially liked gospel music and much of his music is gospel even in the later years.
What was the den which is now known as The Jungle Room. It started out as a screened porch and ended up with a waterfall, lots of carved wood and green shag carpeting on the floor and ceiling. This was not only a 70s fad but also fun for Elvis.
There are wonderful displays of items that were brought down from upstairs for the public to see. These include some of his wardrobe and jewelry along with his white fake fur bed. There are a display of his love of sports including his equipment and accessories from his favorites: football, karate, horseback riding and racquetball. There is also a display in this room of some of his huge gun collection and law enforcement badge collection.
I was fascinated by some of his jewelry. One picture I took was of a Chai pendant. This is a gold and diamond version of the Hebrew symbol for life. Although he was raised in the Assembly of God Church he studied many religions and philosophies searching for truth and wisdom.
The office is in a separate building. Youll see the original desk and filing cabinets. Some of the mail that was received by the tons is shown as w4ell as an ashtray, the phone, desk lamp and ledger. It appears as I imagine it did before Graceland became a Museum.
Youll go into the trophy building where you will see many of his costumes and a wall of gold and platinum records adorn it. There are pictures of Elvis receiving these awards. Some of them have pictures of him on them. This is where I last saw a picture of him in 1973.
Youll see exhibits of Elvis army years his uniforms and pictures both in Germany and on his return home. Youll see pictures of him in his movies. One very popular picture and one shown in the videos is the movie Viva Las Vegas, shot in 1963 with Ann-Margaret.
Youll see the tuxedo he wore and dress Priscilla wore when he received the Ten Outstanding Young Men Award.
The outside of Graceland is very beautiful. Make sure you look at the back of the house because you can get a glimpse of the second floor that cant be seen on the tour. The rooms on the second floor all have balconies. There are stables on the property and at least on horse is housed here. One was grazing in the pasture.
The patio and pool is in need of some attention, though it is quite pretty but a smaller area than I think one would see in Elvis mansion if it had been built in 2004.
The meditation garden is very nice. As you leave the pool area you enter the area where there are 4 large graves. One is his moms, one his dads, one his paternal grandmother and of course his own. There is also a small one for his twin. Youll see some bears and other items sent by fans. I was surprised though at two things. One was that the flowers were not real. I would think that real flowers could adorn his grave. The other was the fountain. There is a small fountain on the outside of the grave area and it wasnt working. It looked like it hadnt been working for a long time and this took away from the peace, serenity and true sadness that many felt. All I could think about was why this fountain was in this condition!
In any case, this concludes the tour of Graceland. My entire visit was wonderful. I enjoyed every display and exhibit in Graceland. I enjoyed my visit to the Mansion enormously though I felt it was too fast paced and though the line for tickets wasnt crowded it seemed once we got to the Mansion it was mobbed. The other exhibits- cars and jets, for example were not crowded and very comfortable to walk around. This is certainly worth a trip if you are anywhere in the area and for the money; the Platinum Tour is the way to go in my opinion.
Feel free to leave me a comment or question.
Other reviews in our 3-month cross country journey include:
Applebee's in Ohio
Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky
Bella Notte This is a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky.
Buckstaff Bathhouse This is in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Bicentennial Mall State Park in Nashville, TN
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN
Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN
The title of this review is similar to the motto being used now to celebrate 50 years of rock and roll.