Elvis Presley’s aura saturates Memphis like the winter sun dancing on the Mississippi River, warming the soul of the city and welcoming everyone to the music and magic of his home. Immerse yourself, and you’ll understand why The King kept his roots here. You can even get a little taste of what his life must have been like.
GRACELAND: EXCESS AND ELEGANCE
Elvis loved watching TV, so he had a TV mounted precariously in the ceiling over his bed at Graceland. You can stare into a TV mounted over your bed, too, if you book one of two King Suites at the latest posh hotel in Memphis, The Guest House at Graceland.
Your TV, of course, is a flat screen embedded in red velvet folds, not the big box that dangled over The King.
The ceiling TV is part of a hotel that stirs just enough Elvis quirk and subtle Vegas bling into its recipe of elegant Southern hospitality. The Guest House, which two years ago replaced the kitschy Heartbreak Hotel, pays homage to The King with little touches like purple and gold accents, “EP” hall sconces and a TV channel in each room that continuously plays Elvis’s 1968 “Comeback Special,” but it doesn’t descend into a crater of camp. Priscilla Presley supervised the suite designs at this comfortable, charming place to lay your head while you’re exploring Graceland.
You’ll need a day or two to do that, because Graceland now has huge exhibit halls filled with such wonders as Elvis’s cars, clothes, records, trophies, firing range, even his airplanes. You’ll learn about his youth in Tupelo, Mississippi, as well as his movies and his family.
That’s all in addition to touring the Graceland home itself, with its wondrous 15-foot-long white couch in the living room, and, of course, the Jungle Room, with its waterfall and shag-carpeted floor, walls and ceiling. Yes, ceiling.
But, at the end of the day, you’ll have had enough of excess, and you’ll be ready to hop the shuttle back across the street to sink into the quiet comfort of the columned Guest House.
Grab a drink in the bar, relax in the pool, try a game of bocce, maybe toast a hunka-hunka burnin’ marshmallow over the fire pit, then crawl into your ultra-soft robe on the way to a good night’s sleep in your quiet, luxurious room or suite before another dynamic day dawns in Memphis.
BYO blue suede shoes.
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE
Rockabilly Rides: Get an overview of Memphis in style with a classic car tour guided by a Memphis musician. Hop into your ‘50s ride and let Rockabilly (rockabillyrides.com) do the work. Two tours are offered, one Elvis-centric (his apartment, the salon where he got his ducktail greased) and one more general (churches, historic homes). The tours are for one to four people.
Beale Street: Music lovers won’t want to miss the rowdy downtown street where B. B. King and W.C. Handy got their starts. Elvis would walk over to get bluesy inspiration as a teen. Delve into the blues at B. B. King’s Blues Club. People-watch on Silky O’Sullivan’s patio. There’s nothing upscale about this experience, but it’s quintessential Memphis.
Sun Studio: Elvis, B.B., Jerry Lee Lewis and more pressed early discs here, and it’s a fun 45-minute tour with plenty of music, memorabilia, and, oh, the stories.
DUCK INTO THE PEABODY
It’s not a trip to Memphis without a visit to downtown’s 149-year-old Peabody Hotel, where you can sip a Manhattan or mint julep and watch ducks waddle out of their pond and onto an elevator to ride up to their rooftop home. Inside the hotel, drop by Lansky Bros. and buy a shirt, like Elvis used to do. Don’t forget the hotel’s Feathers Spa, the city’s ultimate ahhhh.
The Guest House at Graceland
Elvis loved PB&J, but he adored peanut butter and bananas even more. Visit the hotel’s PB&J bar to either make your own — bread, toasters, peanut butter, jellies and bananas are provided — or enjoy a pre-assembled sandwich. For heartier fare, Delta’s Kitchen serves up juicy steaks, earthy mushroom pasta and more in a casual atmosphere. Don’t miss the bourbon pecan pie.
CHARLIE VERGOS' RENDEZVOUS
For 70 years, this basement off a downtown alley at 52 S. Second St. has been serving up vinegar-moistened, spicy dry-rubbed Memphis barbecue to ardent local followers as well as, among others, The Rolling Stones. The ribs are a must.
PEARL'S OYSTER HOUSE
You’re suffering from oyster withdrawal? Please don’t. The bubbly, garlicky char-grilled morsels are perfect here at 299 S. Main St., washed down with a frosty glass of Ghost River Gold.