Visiting Elvis Presley’s Graceland home is a required pilgrimage for Elvis fans. But with tickets ranging from $38.75 to $150, is Graceland worth visiting? A lot depends on how much of a fan of the King you are.
We’re casual fans. I like his music but I’ve never seen one of his movies in its entirety and owned only one of his albums. To the fan who is going to Memphis to walk in the footsteps of their idol, Graceland is a must. If you’re just passing through it may not be as high a priority. So we set out to see if Graceland is worth it.
Note: On March 2, 2017, Graceland is opening up a new entertainment complex across the street from the mansion and the prices below are the new ones as of that date.
There are six ticket packages with different options about what you can see:
— The Graceland Mansion Only Experience (admission $38.75 for adults) includes: an audio-guided tour of Graceland only. If you’re short on time and just want to get a taste of Graceland this is likely the tour for you. There’s more to the mansion than just the mansion and you’ll also see Elvis’ final resting place.
— The Elvis Experience Tour ($57.50 for adults) includes the above full access to the 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
— The Elvis Experience + Airplanes Tour ($62.50 for adults) includes the above plus self-guided tour of Elvis’ jets.
—The Elvis Entourage VIP Tour ($93.75 for adults) includes the above plus “Front-of-the-Line” mansion access, a
Keepsake Backstage Pass and a Self-guided tour of Exclusive VIP Exhibit. The ability to cut the line may be helpful during busy times. Note: despite being called a VIP tour you do not get access to the jets. For that you have to purchase the following tour. (Which makes no sense to me since the jets are included in the cheaper Elvis Experience Tour above. I think the jets are owned by a different entity.)
—The Elvis Entourage VIP + Airplanes Tour ($98.75 for adults). So you have to pay an extra 5 bucks to see the airplanes if you purchased only the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour. You still get the ‘Front-of-the-Line” mansion access and the backstage pass.
—The Ultimate VIP Tour ($150 for adults). If you just won the lottery this is the tour for you. Instead of touring the mansion via a self-guided audio tour you get a personal guide plus: transportation for your tour of Graceland Mansion in special vehicle, access to Ultimate Lounge at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, options to purchase special merchandise only available to our Ultimate guests, a meal with table service at one of the Elvis Presley’s Memphis restaurants, Exclusive Photo Opportunity, Personal Graceland Archives Show and Tell Session and the Keepsake Backstage pass.
(Note: AAA members get a 10% discount except for VIP tours. Various discounts are also available for active-duty military and college students.)
Elvis’ favorite car was this pink 1955 Cadillac he bought for his mother even though she couldn’t drive.
The best deal obviously is the Graceland Mansion Only Experience. But if you’re an Elvis fan you’ll want to fork out the extra bucks for the Elvis Experience Tour. You’ll see the car museum (I’m a classic car guy, and included the Presley Automobile Museum in my guide to classic car museums, so I had to see that) and a few more exhibits. Note that some of those exhibits are better than others. A few of them are just very large gift shops with a small exhibit attached to it. It turns out you can go to those for free just by walking in. If you want to pay more to go inside the airplanes is up to you. You’ll only be inside them for a few minutes tops.
It’s not worth paying the extra dollars for the Elvis Entourage VIP Tour. Most of what you are paying for is the ability to skip the line. We visited at 2:30 on a weekday afternoon in late August and there was absolutely NO line. We strolled through the house practically on our own and had the Jungle Room all to ourselves.
Ah, yes, the infamous Jungle Room.
Note the Amazon listing below for a CD of songs Elvis recorded in the last years of his life in the Jungle Room.
Graceland is more than just Elvis’ house, which is not that large for someone who was larger than life. It’s interesting to walk through the rooms he lived in, except for the off-limits second floor, and get a sense of the man, or at least his lavish taste in decoration.
The Jungle Room is legendary for what some consider its tackiness, but woe unto anyone who had the misfortune to die in the 1970s and have their design choices from that funky era of shag carpeting and garish colors be memorialized forever.
On the plus side, a set of headsets with a recorded guide tour comes with the admission ticket, most places charge extra for that. The grounds contained more than the house. His racquetball court has been converted to a display area for gold records and stage costumes.
Other buildings display videos of his early TV appearances and costumes and memorabilia from his movies. The outfits that he and Priscilla wore for their wedding are also shown. BTW, if you’re seeking a gift for the Elvis fan in your life, those costumes shown at the top of this post are available in the gift shop for a mere $2,000 and up.
The tour of the grounds ends beside the in-ground pool with a somber visit to the Meditation Garden containing the graves of Elvis and his family. A stone marker also commemorates his twin brother Jesse who was stillborn. The Meditation Garden is open for free from 7:30 to 8:30 AM daily.
The Graceland tour is well organized. The ticket office, automobile museum, jets, gift shops, cafeteria and rotating displays are on the west side of Elvis Presley Boulevard. Visitors board shuttle buses to cross the street to enter the mansion grounds. Once you’re over there, it’s just the house, outbuildings with some exhibits, a horse paddock and the Meditation Garden so it is not overrun by commercialism.
On the negative side they charge for parking. $10 to park the car effectively added five bucks to each of our admissions. I wasn’t too happy about that. It looked like at slow times free spaces may be available in the street.
If you made it this far you may as well stop at Rockabilly’s Diner for Elvis’ favorite sandwich: fried peanut butter and banana.
So is visiting Graceland worth it? While it depends on your level of fandom, even though we are casual Elvis fans it was still worthwhile. It’s not like visiting a zoo or fine arts museum that are fairly interchangeable between cities. There is only one home of the King of Rock and Roll and we’re glad we saw it.
If you’re heading to Memphis here are some top Elvis items to get you in the mood.
Visitor Information for Graceland:
Official Graceland web site: Visiting Graceland
For more opinions on whether Graceland is worth seeing here is a discussion on Fodors’s.
I saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
Then I watched him walk right through
Now, security did not see him
They just hovered round his tomb
But there’s a pretty little thing
Waiting for the King
And she’s down in the jungle room
~Marc Cohn, Walking in Memphis
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Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.