Our first stop of the day was to have breakfast at The Arcade. The Arcade is the oldest cafe in Memphis. It was also one of Elvis' favorite spots. They even have a plaque in his favorite booth. I had the sweet potato pancakes and they were awesome!
We then headed to Sun Studio. This is where Elvis recorded his first record.
You can only visit Sun Studio by guided tour. They leave at the bottom of every hour.
There were about 20 people and the first stop is an upstairs room where they have an exhibit of various items from different artists that recorded there. They had the original machines used to record and then create vinyl records by Sam Philips, the owner of Sun Studios in the 50s.
They also had the original DJ booth of Dewey Philips who was the first person to play Elvis on the radio. The booth was found in a building that was going to be remodeled. The booth was set to be demolished but it was saved and moved over to the exhibit.
We then went downstairs to the recording studio itself.
Sam Philips had sold the building and moved to a bigger studio after about 8 years. The building was used for a barbershop and other retail stores until it was bought back by the current owner who made it Sun Studio again.
When he bought it, he had Sam Philips come in to look at it. Sam confirmed that all the rooms, including the floors, ceilings and lights were the originals. You can still see the hole in the floor where the bass player would put his stand.
Sam donated the original microphone that Elvis and many other great performers used to record there. His only request was that it never leave the recording studio. I was very excited that we were able to take a photo with it.
There is an X on the floor where Elvis stood. The guide played many recordings of records that were made there, including the original of That's Alright Mama, Elvis' first.
Sun Studio is still an operating recording studio and many famous artists have come there to record.
Our next stop was a Memphis BBQ food tour through Tastin' Round Town. We met up with our guide just off of Beale Street. It was just us and another couple.
It was a beautiful day though a little on the warm side. We ended up walking about 2 1/2 miles by the time we were done.
We had 5 stops and it was all good!! Our guide was great as well. He was born and raised in Memphis. He did a great job of giving us the history of Memphis as well as talking to us about the food. He cooks BBQ himself and he is a judge at the big BBQ contest they have in Memphis.
One attraction that we didn't get to do was the Civil Rights museum. We didn't know that the location was a stop on our tour. We didn't get to go inside but we did get to see the location where Martin Luther King was killed as well as the window where James Earl Ray was when he shot him.
They have a line in concrete that shows the path the bullet took from the window to where it killed Dr. King.
The cars that are parked outside have not moved since that day. Our guide said that the inside of his hotel room as also not been touched since that day.
Memphis Day 4 - Memphis Zoo
Whenever we visit a new city, we like to check out the zoo and / or aquarium. I had read that the Memphis Zoo was a great one and it definitely was.
The weather was perfect and there were a lot of school groups but it was spread out enough that it wasn't a problem.
The zoo is laid out in a big loop which made it easy to start by going one direction and see each exhibit until you ended up back at the beginning.
I took notice that there were a lot of places to sit to take a break and a lot of opportunities for rest rooms.
It took us about 4 1/2 hours to do all the exhibits including a short lunch break. We walked a little over 4 miles.
Below are just some of my favorite pictures of the day.
I have been to Graceland once before...30 years ago. Of course the house itself is the same but the complex across the street has expanded a lot.
We splurged and did the Ultimate VIP tour. This is a guided tour for up to 12 people. The alternative is a self guided tour with audio through an IPad.
We checked in and received our lanyard and had a few minutes to wait for the tour to start.
Our guide for the tour was Ecstasy and she was awesome. She said there were 4 people signed up but the other two didn't show up so it was now a private tour. Fine with us!
We rode over to the mansion and went to a back door area to watch a short introductory movie.
Then we went to the front of the mansion. Our first stop was the living room / music room. Ecstasy explained from the beginning that Elvis' father kept everything. Everything in the house is original. The management is always on the look out for original items that ended up in different locations. The white piano was the original piano in the music room and it took some time for them to track it down and purchase it back for the house.
She also told us that Elvis loved television so there is always at least one television in every room. The couch seated 15 people and Elvis had that custom made.
The next room was the dining room. Again there was a TV in the corner where Elvis could see it from his chair.
She told us that the Presley family still celebrates either Thanksgiving or Christmas in the house. The mansion is closed on both of those days. The staff will know what day they are planning to be there and they will prepare the house for them.
The next room was Gladys' bedroom (Elvis' mother). After she passed, Elvis had the room kept exactly as it had been when she was alive.
Next was the kitchen. Elvis had one of the first microwaves which he purchased for $600. His aunt had a bedroom off of the kitchen area. She lived in the mansion for several years after it had already opened for tours. Our guide said that tour groups would never knew if you may see her in the kitchen cooking.
Then we went downstairs to the TV room which our guide called the ultimate man cave. She said that Elvis liked to be there with his friends and had a movie screen that would come down from the ceiling. The room next to it had a pool table where he also used to hang out. It is covered in a fabric that Elvis saw and feel in love with and then had a designer work to put on the walls and ceilings.
Going back upstairs, we came to the famous Jungle room
From here, we went out in the back to some additional buildings. There was Vernon's office as well as an archive building that houses a variety of different items from throughout Elvis' life.
We also went to the racquetball court building. This is where Elvis was on his last day and played his last two songs on the piano in that building.
Our last stop at the house was to the meditation gardens. Originally Elvis and his mother where buried at a local cemetery. Due to security issues, Vernon had them moved to Graceland. Elvis father and grandmother are also buried there. There is a marker for Elvis' twin brother.
Before we went back across the street to the Elvis' Memphis complex, our guide told us she would take our photo in front of the mansion without any other people in it. It was pretty busy with a continuous shuttle buses dropping people off but she said "Don't worry. We will get it." She basically held up people coming off the bus and waited for everyone else to get inside the door and then she said "let's go." She was great!!
She called for our shuttle bus and then we rode back over to the complex. There is so much more to see there. Our first stop was the car museum. This is just a few of the cars and other vehicles there:
Our next stop was an exhibit that walked you through Elvis' career. Again, there is so much to see here, including many of Elvis' outfits. My favorite area was a special section for his spiritual music. Elvis won 3 Grammys and they were all for his Gospel music.
Our last stop with our guide was a special area only for the Ultimate tour. It was a chance to see some items from the archive collection. We were allowed to hold one of the items as long as we were white gloves. Then we got to see a few more items as well.
That was the end of our time with the guide. She was just amazing. We got so much more information from her than we would have received from the audio tour. Our tour ticket got us access to the rest of the complex and also included lunch at Vernon's Smokehouse. We enjoyed our lunch and then spent some more time seeing the rest of the exhibits.
We ended up being there for 6 hours! We were tired by the end but it was a great day.
Memphis Day 1 - Elvis' Birthplace
We actually started our first full day in Memphis by driving to Tupelo, Mississippi. It was about a 90 minute drive and we had smooth sailing.
We arrived at Elvis' Birthplace by mid-morning. We knew there was three main areas to visit: the museum, the church and the house. We purchased a "grand tour" ticket that got us access to all three. The woman at the ticket counter told us we had an assigned time for a presentation at the church in about 20 minutes. We decided to make that our first stop so we looked around the gift shop a bit and then headed over to the church.
The church is the original church that Elvis attended. It used to be about a block away from its current location.
The church was sold and a family turned it into a 2 bedroom home for quite some time. Then it was bought by the Elvis foundation and moved to the birthplace grounds. It was restored to look like the church. The only original piece of furniture is the pulpit.
We entered at our assigned time and took a seat in a pew. A woman told us the history of the church and told us that we would now see a multimedia presentation. Three big screens lowered from the ceiling, one covering the front wall and two covering the side walls. Little projectors dropped down from panels in the ceiling as well.
What followed was about a 15 minute presentation that simulated what it would have been like to attend the church. The side screens made it look like you were seated with the rest of the congregation.
The pastor spoke some but it was most about the music. They sang as a whole congregation and they had a quartet sing as well. They also had a young Elvis come up with his parents and sing a little song.
At the end, they showed video of the process of moving the church and restoring it.
We did not expect the presentation to be like that but we really enjoyed it.
We then moved on to see the house. The house was built by Elvis' father and still stands in its original location. It was only two rooms. The front room had a bed and a small sitting area. It was in that room that Elvis was born. Being the only bedroom, it is also the room that Elvis shared with his parents.
The second room was a kitchen area and a table with a bowl and pitcher.
While electricity was available, the Presleys could not afford it so they used lamps. They also did not have a bathroom. They used an outhouse.
Obviously, being so small, it really doesn't take long to walk through the house. There is a volunteer there to ask questions and she provided basic information about the house.
Our last stop on the "grand tour" was the museum. No photos were allowed inside. It was mainly some items from throughout Elvis' life and some information about his upbringing in Tupelo.
After we were finished there, we walked up to a memorial area called "Becoming." It has two statues of Elvis: one of him as a boy and a second standing behind with his cape spread out as if during a concert.
The total time it took us to go through everything was about 2 hours, at the most. It is well worth the trip there. The grounds are well laid out and easy to get around.
We have arrived for a few days of touring in Memphis!
It was a rainy day with scattered thunderstorms in NY so our flight ended up being delayed but thankfully we made it out.
Nothing planned for today except to arrive and get settled. We are staying at the Guest House from Graceland which is associated with Graceland. It used to the "Heartbreak Hotel" but it has had a big makeover.
We ate at their casual restaurant tonight.
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.