Five ways to experience Elvis in Memphis

By: Samantha Crespo

July 2, 2015

Whether you’re a diehard fan or just a little curious, you can’t visit Memphis without a nod to Elvis Presley. Follow in the footsteps of The King and experience Elvis in Memphis on your next trip to Tennessee.



Five ways to experience Elvis in Memphis
The Jungle Room at Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee © Andrea Zucker / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011

From the exterior, Graceland Mansion is genteel with its classic architecture and fringy azaleas. Then you step inside. The interior is a feast for the eyes, from the peacock motif stained glass panels in the living room to the chartreuse shag carpet of the Jungle Room. Move into the Trophy Building, and you’re glinting at a sea of bling: Gold and Platinum records, Grammy awards and sequined jumpsuits. The mood subdues in the Meditation Garden, where Elvis is buried along with family members. (Bring a token to place at his gravesite.) Depending on the type of ticket you buy, your tour of Graceland might include a spin through Elvis’ Automobile Museum – complete with pink Cadillac – and a sneak peak inside his two custom jets.


Elvis Week

LFive ways to experience Elvis in Memphis
At the site of Elvis’ first professional gig, the Levitt Shell in Memphis, Tennessee, hometown and travelling acts perform free concerts throughout several months of the year © Craig Thompson

Annually on 15th August, fans gather at the Graceland gates to walk to Elvis’ gravesite – but not before erecting pop-up shrines to The King, which you absolutely must see. The gates remain open until the procession is complete, usually in the early light of the next morning. This candlelight vigil is the transcendent event of Elvis Week, a celebration of Elvis in Memphis, including the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, gospel concerts, art exhibits and more. Can’t make it? Visit in January when the city celebrates Elvis’ birthday.


Elvis haunts

Five ways to experience Elvis in Memphis
Inside the recording studio at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee © Dan Ball / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011

Tour Sun Studio, where you can stand in the room – and even hold the mic – Elvis used to record the first song, and then the first hit, of his career. That was July 1954; the song was “That’s All Right.” Mere weeks after it hit the airwaves, Elvis performed his first professional gig at what is now Memphis’ Levitt Shell. Swing by for a look or to catch an open-air concert.


Downtown, visit the Memorabilia Room at The Peabody Memphis, where Elvis signed his first RCA contract. Try on a shirt (pop the collar) inside the Lansky Bros. building on Beale Street, where Elvis forged his signature fashion sense – don’t miss the black-and-white photographs of store founder Bernard Lansky fitting young Elvis. Do breakfast or lunch at The Arcade, where you can request the Elvis-themed booth and order the Peanut Butter ‘N’ Banana Sandwich, a favourite combination of The King’s.


Elvis tours

Five ways to experience Elvis in Memphis
Elvis Presley statue on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee © Vasha Hunt / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011

If it’s Elvis memorabilia you’re after, hit the Memphis Rock “˜n’ Soul Museum and the brand new Memphis Music Hall of Fame. The sites are located on Beale Street, within walking distance of each other, and the Backbeat Tours ticket office. Stop here for Memphis music-themed tours year ’round and specialty Hound Dog tours during Elvis Week. Or, commission a custom excursion with Mike’s Memphis Tours. With Backbeat or Mike, you’ll glimpse sites from Elvis’ high school to the first home he purchased in Memphis.


Kingly accommodations

Five ways to experience Elvis in Memphis
The Arcade Restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee’s South Main Street Historic District © Phillip Parker / Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011

If you eat, sleep and breathe The King, consider an overnight stay he’d approve of. Heartbreak Hotel at Graceland is a 1950s-themed favourite, though it will be replaced in autumn 2016 with The Guest House at Graceland, with hundreds more rooms and specialty suites designed with Priscilla Presley’s oversight. For an authentic experience, book the Elvis Presley Apartment at Lauderdale Courts. It was here that Elvis lived with his parents until the day before his 18th birthday, playing guitar for the neighbours and occasionally skipping off to Sun Studio.


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What’s your favourite Elvis Presley song? Where would you go to experience Elis in Memphis? Let us know in the comments section below.


Written by Samantha Crespo


Samantha Crespo

Samantha Crespo is a native of Florida, which she believes set her up to be a career tour guide. (It helps that she’s keen on playing tourist in her own town and beyond – Ensenada, Mexico, and Nafplio, Greece, are favourites – though she feels most at home in the American South.) Since 2005, Samantha has mixed pleasure with business as a travel writer and editor. She admits to squealing when assignments call her to listen to live music in her adopted hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, or to discover new campgrounds with her husband and daughter. Get her insider's perspective on exploring Memphis in her book, 100 Things To Do in Memphis Before You Die.

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