However, we were able to make the most of our early wake-up call. Our plan for the morning was to go to Graceland for more Elvis tourism before saying farewell to Memphis. I had read that between 7:30-8:30 a.m., the Meditation Garden (one of Elvis's favorite places on the grounds, and where he, his parents and his grandmother are buried) is free and open to the public. We thought that if we hurried, we may just be able to make the free hours before going on our paid tour. We put it in high gear and lo and behold, we did make it (thanks to a bit of uphill running) with about five minutes to spare.
I was really glad we were able to make it for that free time. Tours of Graceland hadn't yet started for the day, so it was very quiet and peaceful. We were able to visit the garden with the place almost entirely to ourselves, without throngs of tourists traipsing through. It was very nice.
The Meditation Garden
Presley family graves at Graceland
Left: Elvis's grave. Right: Due to security concerns, Elvis's father had the bodies of Elvis and his mother moved from Forest Hill Cemetery to Graceland in 1977. The large marble cross was Elvis's mother's original monument at the cemetery.
Memorial stone for Elvis's stillborn twin brother
The graves were adorned by flowers and tributes sent from Elvis fans all around the world. All remembrances are accepted. Live flowers are kept until they wilt (sometimes, some are put in the racquetball building so they'll last longer), and plastic or silk arrangements are kept until they start to show signs of the weather.
Ellie rockin' her blue suede shoes in front of Graceland. (Not literally, of course. Clearly we had to buy her an appropriate onesie for the occasion, but we drew the line at the shoes.)
In front of Graceland
When we left the grounds, we took some time to examine "the wall": the brick wall in front of the estate, which is covered in graffiti from adoring fans. It was quite impressive. This is also where Ellie chose to take a nosedive into the sidewalk, with me watching in horror as her little face skidded along the pavement, thus earning herself some scrapes that only looked worse and worse as time went on. Oh, toddlers.
Checking out all the signatures on the wall
She faceplanted, sure, but then got right back to it!
Welcome to Graceland!
After you purchase your tickets, you get in line for the shuttle bus to take you across the street to the mansion. As you board the bus, they give you your headset for the audio tour.
Tour groups waiting to get inside
Ellie and Eric are ready to check this place out!
When you first enter the house, you see the living room to your right, staircase directly in front (with a little hallway to his parents' room beside it), and the dining room to the left.
The main entrance
Portrait of Elvis in the living room (and a handsome photographer reflected in the mirrored wall)
Elvis's living room
Elvis's parents' room
The dining room
I thought this was a beautiful portrait of Priscilla and Lisa Marie in the dining room
From the dining room you move into the kitchen, which was very, very dark. And carpeted! You sure don't see many carpeted kitchens these days.
From there we went down a staircase lined fully with mirrors (trippy!)...
Our reflection in the ceiling!
...to the basement, where there was a media room (with three TVs, something Elvis was apparently very proud of, and a monkey statue that Ellie could not stop laughing at), a bar, and a billiards room that was covered completely in drapes. It was a very dark, heavy-feeling room - very unusual.
The media room
The billiards room
Left: Close-up of the draperies on the ceiling and walls; Right: A better view of the drape design on the ceiling
The green carpet staircase
Then it was up to the Jungle Room, which was just...jungle-y.
The Jungle Room
The opposite side of the Jungle Room
Lisa's swingset outside of the office
Elvis's father's office
A long hallway of gold records and such
Costumes from his movies
Elvis and Priscilla's wedding attire
Items from Lisa's nursery
The swimming pool
...to the racquetball building, which Elvis had built in the early 1970s and included a weight training area, full size racquetball court, Jacuzzi and dressing rooms. Now it houses more awards and memorabilia.
Front part of the racquetball building
Some Elvis's stage outfits
Ellie is loving it!
The tour then concluded in the Meditation Garden, back where we started our day.
Tour groups passing by the gravesites
Ellie in the Meditation Garden
Ellie and Eric listening to the end of the audio tour
We then boarded our shuttle bus back to the main building, saying farewell to Graceland. Then we loaded ourselves back up into our car and set off back to St. Louis for the evening, stopping for lunch along the way. We still had one last baseball game to cross off our list before completing the sightseeing portion of our trip!
Coming up next: A ball game in St. Louis, then on to Bloomington!
To see more pictures from Graceland, click here.