The Great River Road

Scratch the surface of Memphis and you’ll always turn up a little Elvis, like pennies and pocket lint in an old sofa. That guy behind the counter? His mom used to give piano lessons to Elvis’s stepbrothers. That woman at the next table? Her after-school job was in the Libertyland amusement park, which Elvis would rent out in its entirety just so he could ride the Zippin’ Pippin’ roller coaster for hours on end. A frequent Graceland visitor during the Elvis years collected fuzz from the shag carpet to give to friends; maybe the woman paying for her coffee still has her tuft. Even the owner of the greasiest old pizza joint will tell you how Elvis would come in with his band, “back when he was nothin’.” Get used to it: Even decades after his sudden death, Elvis is still everywhere.

The font of all this meta-Elvis-ness is, of course, Graceland (3734 Elvis Presley Blvd./US-51, 901/332-3322 or 800/238-2000, daily, from $42.50), about 1 mi (1.6 km) south of I-55 amid a clutter of barbecue joints and muffler shops. At age 21, flush with his early success, Elvis paid $100,000 for Graceland, which was one of the more fashionable houses in Memphis in 1957, and seeing what happens when Elvis’s poor-white-boy taste and Hollywood budget run amok is well worth the price of admission, especially since the opening of the expansive new “Elvis: The Entertainer” museum complex in 2017, centerpiece of a $130 million overhaul. Even if you opt out of the $159 VIP Guided Tour, you can buy tickets to each part of Graceland, or splurge on a $57.50 Experience Tour that gives admission to the mansion as well as the other “collections.” See the King’s private jet or his collection of classic cars, including his famous pink 1955 Cadillac. A room shows off a wall full of gold and platinum records, and the expanded museum traces his love of gospel, blues, and country music.

Elvis is buried on the property, alongside his father and mother, in the Meditation Garden. If you want to pay your respects, his gravesite is free to visit 7:30-8:30am.

Related Travel Guides

Map of the Great River Road in Tennessee

Map of the Great River Road through Kentucky and Tennessee.
Map of the GRR through Kentucky and Tennessee.