Graceland’s new mega-complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a Disneyland for Elvis fans

Elvis Presley's Memphis

Upon entering the new Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex, fans will be overwhelmed by how much there is to see and do. The new $45 million, 200,000 square foot complex which opened in early March 2017 literally transformed a strip mall with a few Elvis attractions and turned it into an Elvis Presley theme park.

That’s not to imply that the complex is tacky, but rather there is just so much to choose from that the “suggested” time allotment for spending your day at Graceland is extremely underestimated.

In 7 hours, this Elvis fan was able to explore the “Elvis The Entertainer” Museum at a moderate pace, peruse the “Private Presley: Elvis in the Army” exhibit and breeze quickly through the Presley Motors Automobile Museum, in addition to taking a tour of the Graceland mansion across the street. Include an hour for a quick lunch and a dessert fit for The King at the Ice Cream shop: the Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream (a must have!).

There was not enough time on that same day to see the planes, watch an Elvis movie in the Graceland Soundstage or see several of the Elvis Discovery exhibits like “ICONS: The Influence of Elvis Presley” or “Fashion King”. Plus a true Elvis fan always needs to leave sufficient time to peruse the gift shops.

Elvis Presley's Memphis

There is so much to see that to fully immerse yourself, you need a minimum of 2 days at the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex or you will miss a good amount. Not to mention that the Sam Phillips exhibit, opening in the coming months, wasn’t even on display yet – add that to the list. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you want to stop and actually read a lot of the information, that will take up a good deal of time.

For fans that are familiar with the area across the street from Graceland, the area where the attractions used to be will be torn down and greenery will be put in its place – something that Elvis always wanted. To enter Elvis Presley’s Memphis, you have to go into the parking lot and the entrance is on the left side. It’s quite a walk from Elvis Presley Boulevard, so even the people staying at the Guesthouse at Graceland have to take a shuttle to get to the complex.

An overview of Elvis’ career which used to be featured in the Graceland mansion has now been relocated and expanded to become the “Elvis The Entertainer” Museum. Finally, a grand museum fit for The King showcasing all of Presley’s career highlights and accomplishments. This is the attraction you want to begin with.

The sections of the museum include the Sun Records era, Elvis Movies, the ’68 Special and Las Vegas concerts and jumpsuits. There is also a never-ending display of gold records and awards that Elvis received which were previously located in the Racquetball building. Now the Racquetball court behind the mansion has been restored to its original decor.

I enjoyed seeing up close the GRAMMY awards that Elvis received for his gospel performances and also the GRAMMY nomination plaques that he received in 1959 for songs like “Big Hunk of Love” and “A Fool Such As I.”

In the Sun Records section, there were numerous original 45 singles that Elvis released in 1954-55. I noticed how informally the records were credited to “Elvis Presley” with just simply “Scotty and Bill” listed underneath.

Towards the end of the Entertainer museum is a theater highlighting Elvis’ dynamic performances. The benches in the theater even have Elvis photos on top. Video highlights include Elvis performing on the Ed Sullivan Show, Jailhouse Rock, Viva Las Vegas and the ’68 Comeback Special.

The “Private Presley” exhibit was also very interesting. There were several of Elvis’ army uniforms on display and many details were revealed about those two years Presley was serving in the military. One fascinating fact I learned was that every night while Elvis was in Germany, he would come out from 7:30 to 8:00 pm to sign autographs in front of his house in Bad Nauheim for the fans.

Since the ticket for Elvis Presley’s Memphis includes a tour of the Graceland mansion, set aside 1-2 hours while you enjoy the iPad audio companion as you go through the house. John Stamos, a big Elvis fan, narrates the tour and you learn many interesting details – including the fact that Stamos’ Uncle Jesse character on Full House was intentionally named after Elvis’ twin brother, Jesse, who died at birth.

The former Trophy Building that is located next to the mansion was added on to the grounds in the mid-1960s, several years after Elvis bought Graceland. This building, which was once used for Elvis and Priscilla’s second wedding reception, now focuses more on Elvis’ personal life and features more details about the Graceland mansion. For example, when Elvis moved to Graceland, he ordered a custom-made bed for his bedroom with a 96″ x 96″ mattress – that’s an 8 foot by 8 foot bed for those of you who are curious.

Returning to the complex via the Graceland shuttle bus, I ended my day at the Presley Motors Automobile Museum which features a multitude of cars that Elvis and his family owned. There is also a Presley Cycles section featuring Elvis’ motorcycles and ski boats. I especially enjoyed seeing the little red MG that Elvis drove in the movie, Blue Hawaii.

As you can see, I just scratched the surface in terms of all the things you can learn and experience at the new Elvis Presley Memphis complex. Make sure you add an extra day or two to your ticket package so you can be sure to see everything!

For more information, visit https://www.graceland.com/visit/experience/

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