Spring Break 2012: St. Louis and Memphis, Part Two-GRACELAND

For Part One, click here.

The parking lot for Graceland is across the street from the estate (that’ll be ten dollars, please). And that said, the lot is huge. This is no mere roadside attraction–this is GRACELAND.

I went into the Graceland experience expecting cheese, kitsch, and ridiculousness. In truth, the people running the Elvis estate have created a tasteful and engrossing experience.

The tour deals with the legacy of “the King,” as well as his personal/family life. The overarching takeaway is meant to be that Presley was human, and no amount of tacky decor can diminish that fact. The Elvis who is the subject of this tour isn’t the cartoon image many of us envision when we hear Elvis’ name. To that end, and perhaps sadly, there are no velvet Elvises available for purchase in the gift shop (though pretty much every other iteration of Elvis product can be found there).

As for the finer points of the tour, the mansion itself is modest-looking, by today’s standards.

The mansion’s interiors have been preserved with time capsule attentiveness. Some of my favorite rooms include the infamous Jungle Room, complete with mini waterfall:

… the basement with three televisions thematically set to period-appropriate shows.

… and the decidedly old-school kitchen.

The upstairs rooms at Graceland are completely off-limits. It’s safe to assume that giving tourists visual access to Elvis’ death throne would take the Graceland experience in an unwanted direction.

The estate beyond the mansion was much more interesting, particularly the “trophy room” that serves as home for hundreds of gold records, as well as Elvis’ Grammy Awards.

Beyond the trophy room is the racquetball court, which has a handful of Elvis’ most famous jumpsuits on display, as well as … more gold records.

One of the last sights on the tour was Elvis’ grave, settled in alongside the graves of his parents, grandmother, and stillborn twin. I guess I never paid much attention, but I was surprised to find out that Elvis’ tomb was part of the Graceland property.

The Graceland experience isn’t a pop culture moment; it’s an Elvis moment. I left the tour with an implacable desire to spin some of the Sun Records-era Elvis songs and to buy the ’68 Comeback Special on DVD.


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