We never intended to tour Graceland during the Pandemic
I love Elvis Presley and his famed home, but my husband Daniel and I had other places on our itinerary – specifically National Parks where we could recreate out of doors. After leaving Mammoth Cave National Park, we planned to travel southwest towards 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 during the pandemic. When we realized that Memphis was almost exactly halfway, we sort of couldn’t help ourselves.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Where are we now?
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:
- Days 110-111: Hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park
- Days 106-109: A Quick Visit to Huntington, West Virginia
- Days 104 & 105: Liberty Harbor RV Park: Urban Camping in Jersey City
- Days 102 & 103: A Quick Tour of the Office Shooting Locations in Scranton
- Days 96-101: Sidelined by Illness in Buffalo