Long live the king

| October 01, 2006

In the town where Elvis was born, Tupelo, Miss., June 1-3 is the time to celebrate The King with impersonators, parades and a pet look-alike contest.

Television host Johnny Carson once said, “If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.”

Elvis Presley’s life and musical legacy have been documented down to the last sequin in museums everywhere. Women in bedazzled sweatshirts reading, “Elvis is King,” swear they saw him in the grocery store or at a tiki bar in St. Tropez. And then there are the men who impersonate him, donning either the white Vegas jumpsuit or black high-water pants and a striped jailhouse shirt.

Whichever Elvis era you prefer, you’ll find something to love at these interesting sites dedicated to The King.

Graceland Mansion
Set on Elvis’ choice 14-acre plot of land in Memphis, Tenn., tourists pay a moderate fee to view the jungle den, Elvis’ custom airplanes, the TV room, the pool room and the racquetball building, just to name a few. The ticket office is located across the street from the Corinthian entrance to the house, and a shuttle will take you to the front door.

A new exhibit, “Elvis After Dark,” allows VIP tourists to stay on Graceland grounds after closing and experience how Elvis entertained himself with friends and family after sunset. The exhibit includes Elvis’ thematic “nighttime” clothing, personal items, photos and more. Tourists can only view this exhibit with the purchase of an “Entourage VIP” tour package.

Another new exhibit, “Sincerely Elvis,” takes visitors on a tour of the landmark year 1956, a year that made Elvis’ career and changed pop music forever. A 22-minute film, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” highlights Elvis’ career, and the Automobile Museum contains an interesting collection of Elvis’ road tastes.

The tour ends with a visit to the Meditation Garden to view Elvis’ tombstone and the graves of other family members. Tourists can take an audio tour with comments from Elvis and daughter Lisa Marie, as well as a self-guided tour, depending on the tour package. Packages range from the $22 tour of the mansion to the $55 “Entourage VIP” tour. Reservations are not required but definitely recommended, and you can purchase tickets at this site.

Heartbreak Hotel
For a full Elvis experience, no place brings the King to you like Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis. Indulge yourself in a plush suite full of Elvis-inspired furniture, including a heart-shaped ottoman in the Burning Love Suite, or choose a smaller room with Elvis paintings and memorabilia on every wall. The hotel also features a large, heart-shaped pool for sunny swims or late-night plunges.

Regular guest rooms are priced from $99, and themed suites are priced from $520. And of course, you can always purchase a Graceland Package, which includes a Graceland tour and a few nights of lodging at the Heartbreak Hotel. For other rates and reservations, check out this site.

Sun Records
The day music producer Sam Phillips decided to take a chance on a dark-haired country boy was a day that changed history. Sun Records, now a museum dedicated to Elvis and other music artists made famous in the soundproof booth, is a small but infinitely important monument to the life of Elvis Presley.

Located in downtown Memphis on Union Avenue, the corner brick building features the original sign it had when Elvis first rapped on the front door.

Birthplace
Graceland may have been Elvis’ final destination, but his home in Tupelo, Miss., was only the beginning. Located at 306 Elvis Presley Drive, the modest dairy farmer’s home is open for tours year round in its original location where Gladys Presley gave birth to Elvis on Jan. 8, 1935.

Though the furniture in the home is not original, it is accurate to the time period and farming class of Elvis’ family. The hammer his father used to build the house is still hanging in the Elvis Presley Museum.

The Elvis Presley Chapel, dedicated to his fans in 1979, was Elvis’ lifelong dream come true. The Chapel features stained glass windows and is available for weddings and receptions.

Birthplace hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, log on to this site.

Tupelo Elvis Festival
Don’t even think about visiting Elvis’ birthplace unless you plan to go to the 2007 Tupelo Elvis Festival. Every year, thousands of Elvis fans flock to Mississippi to see dead-on impersonators perform favorites like, “Hounddog.” June 1 through 3, be prepared for a lot of food and music by gospel and country groups. Bring the dog and participate in the Elvis Look-A-Like Pet Parade, or jog in the “Running with The King” 5K race.

If you have an RV, take it to the campgrounds for the festival. Log on the Tupelo Elvis Festival website for campground reservations, event schedules, ticket prices and maps.

Elvis-A-Rama
Beyond all of the well-known Elvis landmarks lies a glamorous world of impersonators, memorabilia and shuttles that takes visitors from the Las Vegas Strip straight to Elvisland. At Elvis-A-Rama, they’ve got it all, including a huge museum and daily shows. Named one of Las Vegas’ top three attractions in 2000, the museum boasts such artifacts as Elvis’ 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III, 1969 Mercedes Benz limousine and original “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Tickets are $12.95 for adults and $9.95 for children. For more info, check out this site.

Elvis Wedding Chapel
Getting’ hitched? Do it at the Elvis Wedding Chapel. Or at least stop by and see the lovely blue and white chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard, where Elvis impersonators perform the ceremony.

A basic wedding package gets you use of the chapel, an Elvis escort down the aisle for the bride and a two-song concert by Elvis before the exchange of nuptials. But why go for the minimum when in the deluxe “Dueling Elvis Package,” you can have two Elvis impersonators sing different songs from eras in Elvis’ career, a dozen roses and a marriage certificate holder?

Even if wedding bells aren’t in your future, check out the chapel at this site.

Graceland Too
In a small corner of Holly Springs, Miss., exists a shrine that could possibly be the largest amateur collection of Elvis memorabilia on Earth. Graceland Too, the home of Elvis fan Paul Mcleod, is room after room of figurines, guitars and records dedicated to the King. Mcleod sleeps next to several televisions in case he hears a news anchor say the sacred name of Mr. Presley.

The house is a bubble gum pink, split-level dwelling that has been turned into a quirky, small-town museum open 24 hours a day. Mcleod only sleeps four hours a night, so if you want to visit at 2 a.m. or later, just knock hard for a non-optional guided tour through the museum. Paul’s son, Elvis Aaron Presley Mcleod, helps care for the collection that has accumulated over 50 years. People from all over the world visit Graceland Too, including celebrities and tycoons.

A quick Google search will help you locate other Elvis destinations, like cities where he filmed movies or the Hollywood Wax Museum.

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