3 Memphis Getaways: Rock Star, Rustic or Refined – Excerpt As Published On STLToday.com
Published On: May 30th, 2017
MEMPHIS, Tenn. • A truly relaxing getaway is one where you can check into a hotel and never get behind the wheel again until it’s time to head home.
Visitors to Memphis, just a four-hour drive down Interstate 55, will find two new resort hotels and one established classic that offer plenty to keep guests entertained. And more adventures off-site are just a short walk or Uber ride away.
You may never want to leave your room at these hotels, but you really should. One-of-a-kind experiences await.
Rock-star luxury: The Guest House at Graceland
Think of the Guest House at Graceland as an Elvis Presley-inspired hotel, rather than as an Elvis Presley-themed hotel. You certainly don’t need to be his No. 1 fan to stay here — it’s pretty cool on its own.
The Guest House opened in October on property adjacent to the Graceland mansion, where Presley lived from 1957 until his death in 1977.
With suites designed by the rock ’n’ roll legend’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, the 450-room resort is excessively stylish. In the glitzy lobby — where we spotted a bouffant and thick sideburns waiting in line at the check-in counter, along with several contenders for No. 1 fan — high-back chairs evoke the stand-up collars of Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits. Splashes of color liven up midcentury-style furnishings. Stylized close-up photos in guest rooms and common areas highlight details from Presley’s life: sunglasses, microphones, his iconic TCB (“Taking Care of Business”) jewelry.
Above a grand staircase at one end of the hotel, a replica of Graceland’s foyer stairs, is a chandelier originally purchased by Presley for his own mansion.
“Elvis never threw anything away,” explains Anna Hamilton, the hotel’s night manager. She graduated from Humes High School 12 years after Presley. “When he discovered that the chandelier was too big, he went out and bought a smaller one.”
Hamilton — a veteran of Memphis’ restaurant and hospitality industry who previously was a manager at the now-shuttered Heartbreak Hotel across the street — delights in showing off the Guest House. “I think it’s probably one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever been on.”
Each of the well-appointed guest rooms is filled with luscious textures, silky-soft bedding, mirrored surfaces and basics such as a refrigerator, Keurig coffee machine and plenty of places to plug in USB devices. (The Gideons Bible in the nightstand is gold, naturally.)
Themed suites such as the King’s Suites were inspired by Presley’s own master bedroom, with canopy beds and TVs on the ceiling. Living Room Suites use bold combinations of deep yellow and navy blue. TCB Suites have a living room and dining area. “The furniture, to me, is extraordinary,” Hamilton says. “Every piece is something that Elvis would have loved.”
Guests can grab a drink at the lobby bar — we tried the crisp whiskey-ginger TCB and the tequila-based Blue Suede — and enjoy it out on the back lawn. That’s where there’s a pool and heart-shaped fire pit, all set against a serene wooded backdrop.
A state-of-the-art fitness center also has great views of the courtyard — or you can focus on the TVs built into each machine.
Dining options at the Guest House include Delta’s Kitchen, a fine-dining spot named for Presley’s aunt, and the more casual EP’s Bar & Grill, which serves up comfort food with a contemporary twist. There’s also a Shake, Rattle & Go coffee shop serving Starbucks Coffee.
A Memphis Burger, topped with cheese, onions, tomatoes both regular and fried green, bacon and housemade pickles, served with fries in a guitar-shaped basket, at EP’s Bar & Grill at the Guest House at Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. Photo by Gabe Hartwig, email@example.com
At the lively EP’s, we tried the mac-and-cheese bites, which our server recommended without hesitation. They arrived within minutes, piping hot and ooey-gooey. Also delicious was the Memphis Burger, a mess of cheese, onions, tomatoes both regular and fried green, bacon and housemade pickles, served with fries in a guitar-shaped basket.
In addition to conference and banquet rooms, the Guest House has a 464-seat theater, which on our visit was hosting a student jazz competition.
“We’re welcoming all aspects of the music world,” Hamilton says. “We want everyone to feel welcome — not just the Elvis fans.”
Across Elvis Presley Boulevard, the new Elvis Presley’s Memphis greets visitors as the welcome center for Graceland tours. The complex opened in March, replacing Graceland Plaza, and is the attraction’s most significant expansion since opening in 1982.
Visitors can purchase tickets, board shuttles bound for the mansion, where 600,000 visitors tour annually, and browse well-designed exhibits of artifacts from Presley’s life and career.
A display of jumpsuits at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, which opened in March 2017 across the street from Graceland. Handout photo
The 200,000-square-foot space, which still smells like new construction, allows for double the amount of memorabilia to be displayed, including, for the first time, Presley’s boat. A room is also devoted to automobiles, including his pink Cadillac, and visitors can tour his airplanes outside.
But what visitors see is still only about 20 percent of a 1.5 million-item archive.
Libby Perry, a public relations coordinator for Elvis Presley Enterprises, says archivists aren’t finished yet. “We’ve got tons of receipts, contracts and papers. They’re still cataloging. It’ll be 40 years in August. They’re still working.”
A new archives exhibit shows some of the more mundane yet oddly fascinating artifacts from the star’s life — a shot-out TV set from his Palm Springs home, childhood toys, a TAB soda fountain from his TV room. There’s also memorabilia from his time in the Army.
A display of artifacts at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, which opened in March 2017. The new complex replaces Graceland Plaza and is the attraction’s most significant expansion since opening in 1982. Handout photo
The Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum is home to a floor-to-ceiling collection of Presley’s awards, including gold and platinum records that had been on display at Graceland’s racquetball court. (It’s now, once again, a racquetball court.) And a space devoted to Presley’s influence on the music world includes costumes worn by other stars including Trisha Yearwood (with an album cover signed by a young Patricia Yearwood), Justin Timberlake, Gene Simmons and more. John Lennon’s piano is also on view.
To display Dwayne Johnson’s Elvis-inspired jumpsuit from a 2016 Spike TV special, Perry says, “We had to get a buff mannequin. It just kind of hung on a normal mannequin.”
Since opening, she says, other artists have reached out wanting to be represented. “We’re trying to make space for everybody,” she says.