Going to Graceland
Elvis Presley’s Graceland is the ultimate pilgrimage for fans of the king of rock ‘n’ roll.
As an aspiring young musician, Elvis Presley once promised his parents he would end the family’s longtime financial struggles and one day buy them the biggest house in town. After he soared to international stardom through his iconic film and music career, Presley made good on that promise in 1957—purchasing the enormous Graceland estate in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Today, the Graceland mansion stands as one of the world’s most famous celebrity properties and is a must-see destination for music and history lovers.
While Presley went on to own many homes around the country, the Graceland property was his most beloved homestead. The two-story, colonial revival-style mansion was over 10,000 square feet when Presley bought it. Graceland was where Presley and his family lived up until his sudden death in 1977 at the age of 42. In 1982, the surviving Presley family members decided to open Graceland to the public to showcase the rock-and-roll star’s unique life and his vast collection of personal belongings. “Graceland is truly a special pilgrimage, where fans come from around the world to visit the home of the king of rock ‘n’ roll and celebrate his life and legacy,” says Libby Perry, public relations coordinator, Elvis Presley Enterprises. “More than 20 million visitors have made the trip to Memphis since Graceland opened for public tours in 1982, and we host over 600,000 visitors each year.”
The nearly six-hectare Graceland mansion was named to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1991, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. There are also museums and exhibits which showcase legendary artifacts like Presley’s famous Las Vegas performance jumpsuits, awards, gold records, his extensive collection of classic automobiles and even his two customized private jets. Admission to Graceland ranges from $40 (Rs. 2,680 approximately for the Graceland Mansion Tour) to $80 (Rs. 5,360 approximately for the VIP Tour + Airplanes Tour), and includes an iPad self-guided multimedia tour that takes around three hours to complete.
Every August, the month of Presley’s death, Graceland holds Elvis Week in remembrance of “the king.” Fans from all over the globe come to celebrate the music, movies and legacy of Presley with special concerts, tributes, contests, panel discussions, dances and more. Presley’s grave is located inside the property’s serene Meditation Garden, and thousands of fans visit his final resting place during the traditional Candlelight Vigil.
At the conclusion of the 2016 Elvis Week, Graceland made a huge announcement: its largest and most exciting expansion since it first opened to the public. “Elvis: Past, Present & Future” will be a new 200,000-square-foot, $45 million (Rs. 300 crores approximately) entertainment complex. It is already under construction across the street from the Graceland mansion. “The state-of-the-art facility opens in the spring of 2017 and will be five times the size of the current visitor center,” says Perry. “It will present the life, career and legacy of the greatest entertainer like never before—with interactive and immersive pop culture experiences that uniquely connect to Presley’s personal interests and activities throughout his life.” The new facility will include “Elvis: The Entertainer,” a 20,000-square-foot museum celebrating Presley’s music and movies through hundreds of artifacts from the mansion archives; and a new “Graceland Soundstage” venue for live performances and movie screenings; two new restaurants named after Presley’s parents; a new Elvis Presley Automobile Museum; and a new 450-room resort hotel to accommodate visitors to the Memphis area.
With so many additions to an iconic property that already boasts of a wealth of history and mystique, there has never been a better time to visit Graceland. Few celebrities are as beloved as the great Presley. By walking a day in his shoes inside his prized Graceland home, among his most beloved possessions and life’s works, visitors will understand why Presley continues to live on today.
Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.