If you haven’t heard the exciting news: Graceland, Elvis Presley’s former home and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the United States, is headed to Las Vegas. While you’ll still be able to visit the original Memphis location, this second outpost at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino will feature Presley-inspired exhibitions, artifacts, memorabilia and Vegas-style live performances. In honor of the occasion — and to inspire all you Elvis Presley fans — here are 11 of the best Elvis sights and tours around the US.
1. See Elvis on Stage in Vegas
If you’re going to have one Elvis experience this year, make it seeing him (well, a very believable version of him) on the big stage in Las Vegas. All Shook Up is showing at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. During the show, dance and sing to Presley hits like Heartbreak Hotel, Suspicious Minds and, of course, All Shook Up, all performed by an impressive Elvis tribute artist.
2. Stay at the Heartbreak Hotel
We’ve all heard Elvis’ 1956 hit, Heartbreak Hotel. Instead of just listening to the song, why not stay in the actual Heartbreak Hotel? Located across from Graceland in Memphis, the 128-room accommodation allows guests to immerse themselves in Presley culture — in Elvis-themed suites with a retro ’60s vibe — including Elvis films looped on specified channels, Elvis memorabilia and complimentary pink Cadillac shuttle service to the Elvis-themed Marlowe’s Restaurant. What’s also great about the Heartbreak Hotel is your access to Graceland’s great attractions, no car necessary. Tip: If you visit in January — Elvis’ birthday month — make sure to book well in advance to reserve your room.
3. Celebrate Elvis Week in Memphis
Taking place every year at Memphis’ Graceland, this 10-day event is a must for any Elvis fan. During the happening, there are myriad sub-events, some put on by Graceland, others not, but all fun. Expect local music tours, Elvis trivia, Elvis tribute performances, Graceland tours and excellent people watching, as many dress up in costume. The highlight of the event is the Elvis Candlelight Vigil, during which — August 15 into the morning of August 16 — fans hold candles, walk through the Meditation Garden where Elvis is buried and listen to Elvis music to pay homage to the King.
Tickets for Elvis Week go on sale each year on May 1, and can be purchased by calling 800-238-2000. Tip: This is a very, very, very popular event, so book as early as possible to secure your place. This year’s Elvis Week will take place August 8-16, 2015.
4. Tour the Studio Where the King Recorded His Hits
Walk in Elvis’ footsteps, and head to Sun Studio for a guided tour — including the opportunity to record your own soundtrack on a CD to take home. This is the very place where Elvis recorded rock ‘n’ roll hits like Blue Moon, You’re a Heartbreaker and I Love You Because. Other big names that recorded here include Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
5. Get Married by Elvis
Getting married at Las Vegas’ Graceland Chapel certainly isn’t your average wedding. Stand out from the rest with a wedding that’s truly special, complete with “Elvis” walking you down the aisle and, if you choose, serenading you with his songs. What’s great about this is everything is arranged for you, from the photography to the limo transportation to the marriage certification — not to mention it’s budget friendly.
6. Tour the Strip with Elvis
Elvis fans are probably squealing at the thought of getting to ride around in a 1956 pink Cadillac in Las Vegas with the King (aka, a very talented impersonator), playing Elvis-themed roles from films like Fools Rush In and 3,000 Miles to Graceland. Along with getting to see Sin City through the eyes of Elvis, your day will be filled with interesting experiences (as if driving around in a pink car wasn’t quirky enough). Some of these include sipping a glass of bubbly under the Fabulous Las Vegas sign (an amazing photo opportunity), seeing the many Elvis-themed wedding chapels and exploring authentic Elvis memorabilia.
7. See Graceland
Graceland is consistently rated one of the USA’s top attractions and the second-most visited home in the country after the White House — and for good reason. This 23-room mansion is where the King himself lived and showcases his eccentric and lavish tastes. Wander the quarters to note the generous use of red fur and leopard print, his expansive car and airplane collection and the basement where he’d have three televisions going at once.
Graceland is also where Elvis died; his body is buried in the outdoor Meditation Garden, a popular place for visitors to say a prayer or take a moment of silence. There are a number of exciting Graceland tours to choose from, such as a Graceland VIP Tour (cut the line and get special access to typically closed-off exhibits), Graceland visit with Memphis city tour, and Graceland tour combined with Automobile Museum and Sincerely Elvis Museum visits.
8. Visit the Elvis Shrine at Goner Records
Goner Records in Memphis is a record label and store — not to mention the place where, for just 25 cents, you can peruse the Elvis Impersonator Shrine. You’ll hear Elvis songs by impersonators as well as see Presley memorabilia, inspired accessories (blue suede shoes, anyone?), Elvis action figures, photos of talented impersonators and Elvis-inspired folk art. The annual Gonerfest music festival is also worth marking your calendar for; in 2015, it takes place September 24-27th.
9. Wander the Elvis & Hollywood Legends Museum
Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the Elvis & Hollywood Legends Museum features exhibits on a number of big names; however, Elvis is the star of the show. There are many personal possessions on display, each with a detailed description. The staff is knowledgeable, and it’s fun to try to stump them with your most difficult Presley trivia.
10. Have an Elvis-Inspired Meal
Elvis was known for his passion for food, typically of the fried, greasy and fatty variety. To eat like Elvis, head to the Boston Burger Company and order “The King,” an eight-ounce Angus beef patty topped with three thick slices of bacon, cinnamon and sugar-coasted fried bananas, all squeezed together in a peanut-butter slathered bun.
11. Head to the Lake George Elvis Festival
Each year in New York, the Lake George Elvis Festival brings together beer, parties, sailing, Elvis memorabilia and tribute performers. Elvis impersonators battle it out over the course of the festival for the honor of competing in the annual Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis. This year’s Lake George Elvis Festival will take place from May 27-31, 2015.
— Contributed by Jessica Festa