Whether your musical tastes run closer to Elvis or Paul Simon, there’s no denying Graceland’s importance as a cultural cornerstone in this country. This Memphis mansion, set on 13.8 acres of green trees and manicured lawns, tells our nation’s most popular stories of rags to riches, glorious luxury, close-knit family and wanton excess in one place. It is also a whole lot of fun wondering what kind of wild times and which celebrities have “graced” its often gaudy rooms while Elvis Presley called it H.Q. for two decades.
Graceland’s popular history parallels the rise and fall of this treasured American icon, who bought the house in 1957 with proceeds from “Heartbreak Hotel” and moved in with his parents, a situation that quickly changed after his mother’s passing. As Elvis’ star and money vaults grew, so did the grandeur and showy details of the white Corinthian-columned abode, where the Jungle Room, which once boasted an indoor waterfall, ranks among one of the most popular sights for its personification of rock star indulgence.
While touring the grounds of Graceland, you can see a collection of Elvis’ shiny jumpsuits, cars, gold records and even planes at the Elvis Museum, and walk through much of the house on an audio tour, although the bathroom and Elvis’ bedroom, untouched since his death, are not accessible, along with the rest of the top floor. Among the many sites in the house are displays of the King’s belongings and jewelry, his game, music and media rooms, parent’s room, kitchen (peanut-butter and banana sandwiches anyone?) and trophy room which is impressively jam-packed with awards and gifts.
Elvis married Priscilla in 1967 after she’d lived there for 5 years, and their ensuing marriage there was in turns deeply devoted and disturbingly tumultuous. Elvis died in the house in 1977 and is now buried there by his beloved mother. After turning the property into a massive money-maker, Priscilla and her daughter recently turned over management of the house to a developer who has big plans to draw visitors, so see the house before it changes radically. The best or worst time to come, depending on your devotion, might be during the anniversary of Elvis’ passing when the site is flooded with parading mourners.
Elvis moved to Graceland to avoid attention and neighbors frustrated with his fans, we recommend staying at The Heartbreak Hotel if you still need more time with Elvis, or downtown at the stately Madison for a kingly retreat. Near to Graceland, Shoney’s is popular with people for seafood, but we prefer to go for mouth-watering barbecue at classic Corky’s or downtown to Paulette’s for good continental cuisine. The king would approve.
Graceland is where Elvis lived for most of his adult life and offers the expected introspection into his life and our culture. If you don’t take our word, Graceland is the 2nd most visited residence in the U.S. next to the White House. To appropriate the title of a great Elvis album, over 500,000 American visitors can’t be wrong!
Madison Hotel 79 Madison Ave. Memphis, TN
Get Directions(901) 333-1200, http://www.madisonhotelmemphis.com
Paulette’s 2110 Madison Ave Memphis, TN
Get Directions(901) 726-5128, http://www.paulettes.net
Corky’s 5259 Poplar Ave. Memphis, TN
Get Directions(901) 685-9744, http://www.corkysbbq.com