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Is Graceland worth visiting? August 15, 2019 marks the 42nd anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, and “The King” is more popular than ever. Below is our review of visiting Graceland, which reflects updates to the facility unveiled earlier this year.
The Elvis Presley Graceland home is a required pilgrimage for Elvis fans. Graceland Memphis TN is one of the most popular Memphis attractions, but with tickets ranging from roughly $40 to over $150, is Graceland worth visiting? We set out to see if a tour of the Elvis house was worth the price.
BEST VALUE: The Elvis Experience Tour
QUICK ACCESS: Elvis VIP Skip the Line
There are many different options for visiting, which we share below (along with our candid opinions). A lot depends on how much of a fan of “the King” you are, along with how much time you want to spend, and of course your budget. If you are a fan going to Memphis to walk in the footsteps of your musical idol then Graceland is a must. If you’re just passing through and are simply curious, it may not be as high a priority. (Although we do share a free hack for a quick visit at the bottom of the post.)
VISITING GRACELAND? COMPARE HOTEL PRICES
We’re casual fans. I like his music but I’ve never seen one of his movies in its entirety (Larissa has–I think it’s a “girl thing”) and I owned only one of his albums. Despite this, we were pleasantly surprised to find there was plenty to see, and it was one of the best Memphis tours that we took.
The entrance to Graceland: Elvis Presley’s legendary home
There are ticket packages with different options about what you can see, which range from below $50 to over $150. Since prices are subject to change we are categorizing them into 3 general price ranges:
- Low: Under $50
- Moderate: $50 to $90
- High: Over $90
1. The Graceland Mansion Only
(Price category: LOW) Includes: an audio-guided tour of Graceland, Elvis’ house, only. While this is the least expensive option, at around $40 it’s not exactly cheap; we don’t think it’s the best value.
2. The Elvis Experience Tour
(Price category: MODERATE) In our opinion, this is the best value. It’s about $20 extra, but you get to see a LOT more. This package includes the Graceland Mansion, plus full access to the all-new Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, which includes three self-guided exhibits:
- Presley Motors Automobile Museum: A great collection of Elvis’ favorite cars
- Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum: Gold records, the funky jumpsuits and more
- Elvis Discovery Exhibits: A collection of exhibits (some rotating) that showcase different facets of Presley’s life, such as his Army years and growing up in Tupelo, MS.
[BEST OVERALL VALUE]
3. The Elvis Experience + Airplanes Tour
(Price category: MODERATE) includes the above plus self-guided tour of Elvis’ jets–which Larissa insisted on, since she is a total plane geek. The Airplanes Tour is a few dollars extra. (Note: same tour as above, simply select the “tour the planes” add-on option.)
[BEST OVERALL VALUE . . . FOR PLANE GEEKS (Like Larissa)]
4. The Elvis Entourage VIP Tour
(Price category: HIGH) includes the above plus “Front-of-the-Line” mansion access, a Keepsake Backstage Pass and a Self-guided tour of Exclusive VIP Exhibit.
[RECOMMENDED for BUSY TIMES]
(NOTE: Most of what you are paying for on the VIP tours 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. However, if you’re visiting on a weekend, or during a special event, it may be worth the extra money.)
5. The Elvis Entourage VIP + Airplanes Tour
(Price Category: HIGH). So you have to pay an extra few 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.
[For BUSY TIMES/AIRPLANE GEEKS]
6. The Elvis Entourage VIP Tour (With Transportation)
(Price Category: HIGH) This is a good option if you’re staying in downtown Memphis and don’t have a car (or don’t feel like dealing with parking hassles). You get a full-day pass to the attractions listed above (Airplanes a modest surcharge), along with regularly scheduled shuttles to/from several Memphis hotels.
[For those without a car in Memphis]
7. The Ultimate VIP Tour
(Price category: HIGH+). 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 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. We didn’t take this tour, so we can’t recommend it. But to us it seems like a lot of extra doodads you could purchase at the souvenir shop, along with a meal at a restaurant that’s open to the public anyway.
Elvis’ favorite car was this pink 1955 Cadillac he bought for his mother . . . even though she couldn’t drive!
Even if you’re not a fan we recommend the Elvis Experience Tour. It helps put the whole Elvis “Phenomenon” into context, and gives you a greater appreciation for the impact Elvis Presley made on music and pop culture in his relatively short life. 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. 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. (Well, most people will be–Larissa was in there for half an hour!)
Ah, yes, the infamous Jungle Room at Elvis’ Graceland.
Inside Graceland: Jungle Room & more
Graceland mansion includes Elvis’ house, which is not that large for someone who was larger than life, along with the paddock with his father Vernon’s office, and racquetball court. It’s interesting to walk through the rooms where he lived (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. 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 prerecorded guided tour with headsets is included with the admission ticket, most places charge extra for that.
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. [Note: If you simply want to pay your respects, here’s a free hack: the Meditation Garden is open daily from 7:30am to 8:30am for free walk-up visits.]
Elvis’ tomb. He is buried here, along with his family, including his twin brother Jesse (who was stillborn). 2017 is the 40th anniversary of the Elvis Presley death.
Elvis Presley’s Memphis: multiple museums and displays
On the west side of Elvis Presley Boulevard, you’ll find Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a recently-opened entertainment complex that houses the other museums and exhibits. [These are included in all tour packages except the “Mansion only” tour.] This is where you’ll find Elvis’ collection of gold records and those famous jumpsuits.
Other displays include videos of his early TV appearances and costumes and memorabilia from his movies. You can also see the outfits that he and Priscilla wore for their wedding. (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.)
There are also two restaurants–Vernon’s Smokehouse and Velma’s Diner–along with a coffee shop. This makes it easy to pace yourself through the many exhibits. We took a break, had a peanut butter & banana sandwich (Elvis’ fave) at Velma’s, and were refreshed and ready to continue exploring.
Jumpsuits and gold records: a hunk a hunk o’ burnin’ love.
Visiting Graceland: Practical Stuff
The Graceland tour is well organized. The ticket office, museums, jets, gift shops, restaurants and rotating displays are on the west side of Elvis Presley Boulevard, while the mansion is across the road. Visitors board shuttle buses to enter the mansion grounds. Once you’re over there, it’s just the house, some outbuildings and the Meditation Garden, so it is not overrun by commercialism.
One negative aspect was the parking charge. I could understand this during busy times and festivals, but on a midweek afternoon the lot was virtually empty and we still had to pay $10–effectively adding five bucks to each of our admissions. I wasn’t too happy about that. It looked like there might have been free spaces on the street, but we didn’t discover that until later.
Graceland Hours: Monday-Saturday from 9am to 5pm; Sunday 9am to 4pm for most of the year. Winter hours and holidays might be shorter–best to check the website.
Graceland Address: 3765 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN 38116 (about 20 minutes south of downtown Memphis)
Where to Stay: There are several hotels near Graceland. Check Prices!
For the full immersion experience, the best choice would be The Guesthouse at Graceland, which is part of the Graceland complex. (It didn’t open until after our visit, but you can bet we’re going to try it the next time we’re in town!)
If you made it this far you may as well stop at Gladys’ Diner for The King’s favorite sandwich: fried peanut butter and banana.
So is visiting Graceland worth it? While it depends on your level of fandom–and we’re not crazy fans–we still felt it was worthwhile. It’s not like visiting a zoo or fine arts museum, which you can find in any major city. There is only one home of King of Rock and Roll; Graceland is unique and we’re glad we went.
For more opinions on whether Graceland is worth seeing here is a discussion on Fodors.
🎶 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
Down in the Jungle Room 🎶
~Marc Cohn, from his song Walking in Memphis
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We’re Larissa and Michael: 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.