Welcome to Graceland:
The legendary home of Elvis Presley is many things to many visitors. Some view their trip as a solemn experience, while others are motivated by amusement or curiosity. Whatever your reason for coming here, no one can deny that a stopover is a unique American experience that attracts people from around the world. Here are some strategies for a cheap Graceland tour.
When to visit:
The peak time for visitors is the annual Elvis Week in early- to mid-August. During this time, there are scores of special events such as concerts, movie screenings and an Elvis Expo (off property in downtown Memphis) of memorabilia. Reservations during this time are highly recommended, as individual events sell out months in advance.
Basic admission to the mansion for adults is $27 USD per person. For $32, you may add self-guided tours of Elvis's two custom airplanes, automobile museum, jumpsuits exhibit and Private Presley exhibit. For those who want even more, a $68 ticket adds front-of-the-line admission privileges and looks at areas that are off-limits to everyone else, including a restored dressing room and a barn behind Graceland where Elvis liked to unwind. Children and students receive discounts on all but the VIP ticket; children under 6 do not pay admission.
As you search for flights and rooms, consider Graceland's location. It is only four miles from Memphis International Airport, and some people use layovers to make a mansion visit. Cab fare from the airport averages about $10 each way. Hotels in the area around Graceland tend to be run-down or expensive. But the proximity to I-55 means you can reach a bargain room in another part of the city fairly quickly (unless it's rush hour). Some chain offerings are good values in the Bartlett area and just across the state line in Mississippi.
How the tours work:
The mansion and the visitor pavilion/parking complex sit on opposite sides of Elvis Presley Blvd. Transportation across the street to the grounds and a headset enabling a self-guided tour of the property are included in the admission fee. The additional options available with the $32 ticket are on the pavilion-side of the boulevard: the jumpsuit, automobile and airplane exhibits. You will be reminded at every turn that security cameras are watching you and that indoor flash photography is prohibited. The second floor of the mansion is off-limits. These rooms were Elvis' private quarters.
Hours of operation vary by season, with longer hours during the summer months. Note that the mansion itself is closed on Tuesdays from December-March, but other attractions are open at that time. If driving to Graceland, take I-55 to exit 5-B (some mistake this as the number 58). By the way, it's possible to rent sections of the facility for private parties. Some people even get married here!
Elsewhere in Memphis:
This city is known for more than Elvis' home. In downtown Memphis you find Beale Street, which bills itself as the "home of blues and the birthplace of rock n' roll." There are more than two dozen places to enjoy Memphis barbecue or live music. Just a few blocks away on Mulberry St. is the National Civil Rights Museum, on the site of the former Lorraine Motel. This is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Mud Island River Park can be reached by tram from the riverfront. Here you'll find a five-block-long scale model of the lower Mississippi river, from Cairo, Ill. to New Orleans, La.