Touring Graceland during the COVID-19 Pandemic

After leaving Mammoth Cave National Park, Daniel and I continued our journey southwest. Our next destination was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains. We didn’t want to drive that far in one day, however, so we looked for a place to stop midway.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we ended up going to Graceland. We hadn’t initially planned on visiting Elvis Presley’s famed home. But when we realized that Memphis was right on our route, we sort of couldn’t help ourselves.

The Graceland Mansion

Outside of Graceland

I first visited Graceland about 20 years ago. A lot has changed since then, including a new giant entertainment complex that was constructed across the street. The complex houses Elvis’ cars and planes and other memorabilia, along with the gift shop and a couple of restaurants. The Graceland Mansion, however, remains the star attraction. And that is where we started our tour.

Elvis purchased Graceland in 1957 as a residence for himself and his parents. Elvis lived there for 20 years until his death on August 16, 1977. The mansion was open to the public as a museum in 1982 and is now the second most-visited house in the United States (after the White House).

Daniel’s first pilgrimage to Graceland
Graceland from the back
The swimming pool
Elvis and his family owned several horses during his years at Graceland. There are still horses in residence today.

Inside the Mansion

Today, visitors to Graceland can see the house exactly as Elvis left it. He lived a famously lavish lifestyle and remodeled the house several times to suit his changing tastes. Graceland is now frozen in the 1970’s with over-the-top color schemes and decorations.

Although I’ve forgotten a lot about my first visit to Graceland those many years ago, I could never forget the Jungle Room. It’s exactly as I remembered it – green shag carpet and all.

Graceland’s living room. A grand piano is just visible through the doorway.
The dining room. Fancy!
The kitchen. Yes that’s carpet on the floor.
The TV room features 3 televisions!
The pool room.
The infamous Jungle Room. Elvis recorded two albums here in 1976 and 1977.

The Meditation Garden

Elvis added a meditation garden to the property in 1964-1965 to be used for quiet reflection. Now, Elvis and members of his family are buried there. The tour of Graceland Mansion ends at the meditation garden so that visitors can pay their respects.

The meditation garden is typically open for free-admission walk-up visits every morning from 7:30 am to 8:30 am. However, morning walkups are currently on-hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daniel pays his respects to the King.
May you rest in peace, Elvis.

Presley Motors Automobile Museum

One of the biggest attractions at the new Graceland entertainment complex is the automobile museum. Here, visitors can see some of the many cars, motorcycles, golf carts and even boats that the King owned during his lifetime. I’m not much of a car nut but even I was impressed by his diverse collection of toys.

The infamous pink Cadillac! This 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood was his mother’s favorite car.
1969 Mercedes-Benz 600 Limousine
“E.P. Special” Solar Midget Race Car
One of the many golf carts owned by Elvis. He used to drive around his property along with his family and friends in a group of golf carts.
1960 Willys Jeep. This vehicle was primarily used by Graceland’s security guards when patrolling the property.

The Graceland Airplanes Exhibit

While there was a lot more to see at the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex, we were in a bit of a hurry. So we concluded our visit with a tour of his airplanes. The King owned two private jets which he used while on tour. The bigger of the two, a 1958 Convair 880, was christened Lisa Marie after his daughter. The jet was lavishly remodeled to include a bedroom, living room and conference room – and even featured gold-plated seat belts.

His second airplane, a smaller Lockheed Jet Star, was customized with a yellow and green interior.

The Lisa Marie
The living room inside Elvis’ private jet, the Lisa Marie. The conference room is visible through the open door.
Elvis’s bedroom on the Lisa Marie includes a large seat belt that can be strapped across the bed.
The bathroom inside the Lisa Marie features a gold-flecked sink.
Interior of Elvis’ smaller jet

Visiting Graceland During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Visiting tourist attractions during the COVID-19 pandemic can be a little tricky. Although some museums and attractions are still closed, many are now open – albeit with various restrictions. The measures put in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus vary widely by location.

Before heading to Graceland, I checked Graceland’s COVID-19 protocols page. I was encouraged by the mandatory temperature checks and the requirement that all guests wear masks. Tour group sizes have been reduced by 50% and enhanced sanitation measures are now in place.

What sold me, however, was the fact that the tours are all self-guided. This meant that we could go at our own speed and put as much distance between us and the other visitors as possible.

We toured Graceland on a Sunday morning and I’m happy to say that the place was pretty empty. It was fairly easy to put a healthy distance between ourselves and the other guests. There was one notable exception, however. A shuttle ride is required when traveling from the ticket office to the Graceland Mansion across the street. While shuttle capacity has been reduced by 50%, we were still packed together fairly closely in an indoor space. It was impossible to maintain an adequate social distance. But thankfully it was a short ride.

Front entrance to the Graceland entertainment complex. This is where you enter and pick up tickets.
In front of the Graceland complex. Photo by Daniel.
Glady’s diner at Graceland features a car booth! We were very excited to snag this table.
Peanut butter and banana sandwich? Yes please!
Social distancing, Graceland style!

The Graceland RV Park and Campground

I would be remiss to conclude this blog post without mentioning our accommodations. During our visit to Graceland, Daniel and I stayed at the Graceland RV Park and Campground. The RV Park is located right next door Graceland and is super convenient. Our site was no-frills but it was only $40 a night and also entitled us to free parking at Graceland (which is kindof pricey, especially if you’re in an RV). Two thumbs up.

View of the Graceland RV Park and Campground from Graceland’s parking lot

Where are we now?

We are at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee!

Date: October 25, 2020
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 112
Starting Location: Graceland RV Park & Campground – Memphis, TN
Ending Location: The Happy Hollow Motel – Hot Springs, AR

Miles Traveled: 189.9
Total Trip Mileage: 8137.8

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

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