Before we left for our trip, we were warned by my brother Ryan — the only person we knew who had ever actually been there — to plan on spending a LOT of time at Graceland.
And man, he wasn’t kidding. One day wasn’t nearly enough!
Everything we did at Graceland was so cool and fun that describing our experiences there could literally fill volumes, so in the interest of time, I’ll condense the visit down into small, bite-size chapters (hence the ominous “Part I” mentioned above) for your reading pleasure.
That said, let’s start at the beginning. We arrived at Graceland just after 1pm and were stunned by the totally rinky-dink infrastructure. The parking lot was tiny and not even remotely as organized as it could be — you know, “You are parked in Section H for ‘Hound Dog!'” like they used to do at Disneyland — I mean, even just numbered sections would be nice.
It was pretty much a hillbilly free for all, but somehow in the flood of cars surging through the gates, we found a sweet parking spot near the main entrance. Thank you, Elvis!
Armed with our cameras and Elvis fans (embossed with the slogan “#1 Fan”, they were Courtney and Christine’s saving grace since we couldn’t find matching t-shirts in our size range) we followed the scent of BBQ hamburgers towards the only restaurant around.
Which brings up another infrastructure problem, there is practically nowhere to eat at Graceland. Seriously, my inner Walt Disney was screaming to slap up a couple themed restaurants — you know, “Colonel Parker’s Chicken Shack”, “Priscilla’s Rib Hut”, etc. — but my dreams of modernizing the food court at Graceland would have to wait as we were absolutely starving!
Ducking into the only restaurant in the area, we were instantly overwhelmed by the crowd. The picture above does not do that joint justice…because, let me tell ya, that place was packed!
And with upwards of 50-to-70,000 people in attendance that day alone they actually ran out of food about ten minutes after we ordered. Yes, they literally ran out of food to sell. Insanity!
A couple of the surly waitresses locked the doors to keep the hungry throngs at bay, but I swear to God, I thought people were gonna riot.
Lucky for us we had secured a safe haven (a row of four barstools at the back of the restaurant) so we were able to avoid the fireworks out front. And then, our lunch arrived!
Picture the most ordinary hamburger you’d find at any theme park and you have this place pegged. Nothing fancy, but here at this no name restaurant near the parking lot, with people banging on the doors out front, we experienced one of the true culinary highlights of our trip: Elvis’ late-night favorite, the legendary fried peanut butter and banana sandwich!
Pictured above with a side salad, though it usually comes with fries (!), this sandwich is so grease-tastic, you can almost hear yourself getting fatter as you eat it. And yes, that’s a compliment!
The girls each had the obligatory bite, followed by the obligatory gag, but I thought it was pretty damn tasty…if not exactly marriage-worthy on my food scale, then surely worthy of a trip to the drive-in in my van.
My only complaint is that they used smooth peanut butter and mashed it together with the bananas. Chunky peanut butter and whole slices of banana would have been much better and way more rustic to boot.
But hey, we were eating Elvis’ favorite fried food mere steps away from his final resting place…who were we to complain?
So, our bellies full, we checked in at the ticket booth (thankfully I had pre-ordered our tickets online weeks earlier, which allowed us to cut to the front of the reserved ticket line!) and joined the rabid fans waiting for the next Graceland shuttle bus.
We purchased the mid-level Graceland Platinum Tour (a steal at $27.00 per person!) which includes an audio guided tour of the mansion and grounds along with a self-guided tour of Elvis’ two custom airplanes (yes, he had two!), Elvis’ automobile museum, the Sincerely Elvis Museum (mostly filled with his super cool jumpsuits!) and finally, the Elvis After Dark museum which I’ll tell you more about later.
And even though it was roasting outside — we later heard that the temperature peaked at 115 degrees that day! Yikes! — we were so excited to be waiting in line to see the home of the King, that the gentle Southern breeze generated by our matching Elvis fans was more than enough to keep us cool.
Having finally reached the gates of Graceland, we were ready to step inside!