When my plane landed at Memphis airport, I called The Guest House at Graceland to request a complimentary shuttle to my accommodations. When I asked the hotel receptionist how I would recognize my ride, she just laughed.
“Oh, you will know it right away,” she said. “Don’t worry about that.”
How right she was!
A few minutes later, a sleek blue-and-gold shuttle arrived with huge likenesses of Elvis on the sides and back. I didn’t even need to read the name of The Guest House at Graceland printed on the vehicle to know I was in the right place.
A courteous driver loaded my luggage and we were off for the 10-minute ride to my home for the next few days. “You will love it,” the driver said. “Make sure you go to Graceland while you are here.”
That was already on my list. Even though the shuttle driver said he would be glad to drive me to Graceland once I was ready, I thanked him for his graciousness but noted that the Graceland entrance facility is just across the street from The Guest House.
And that is the whole purpose for the resort hotel that opened Oct. 27, 2016. “Elvis always said he wanted a guest house for people who came to visit him,” says Traci Franzone Rowan, Director of Sales & Catering at The Guest House. “In fact, he once had plans drawn up for one on a much smaller scale.”
As visitors from around the world flocked to the Graceland home where Elvis lived, died and is buried, the idea for a luxury nearby hotel became even more important. Before the pandemic hit, Graceland visitors had increased to an astonishing 600,000 people a year.
“On a normal year, people from over 125 counties and all 50 states visit Graceland, and many stay at The Guest House,” Traci says.
Located only steps from Graceland, the AAA Four Diamond Hotel offers 430 spacious guest rooms and 20 luxury suites, an expansive outdoor swimming pool and fitness facilities, two restaurants, lobby bar, coffee shop, 464-seat theater, gift shop, meeting and banquet facilities, Chapel in the Woods and much more.
Elegant Elvis touches abound
To help with the décor and other design aspects, Priscilla Presley shared her talents and memories of her time with Elvis. The result is elegant with the bold colors that Elvis loved and the mid-century furniture with which he had filled Graceland.
“Priscilla was very involved in all aspects,” Traci says. “She was instrumental in creating the design ‘inspired’ by Elvis and Graceland, so that the design took the colors, feeling and inspiration from Elvis’ favorite design elements, Graceland and his career.”
Folks expecting to see numerous Elvis photos and memorabilia throughout The Guest House might be surprised. The touches are far more subtle. For example, the large painting on the wall in my room features the toe stance that Elvis used when singing “Jailhouse Rock” in the movie of the same name. Not his face or photo, just that distinctive dance move.
At the main entrance, the lobby has symbols of Elvis such as the large comfortable lobby chairs with the high backs and chair arms that mimic the way Elvis wore his upturned shirt and jacket collars. “The ceiling in the lobby is spectacular. It was inspired by the jewels in Elvis’ jumpsuit capes,” Traci says.
“The outdoor fire pit is in the shape of a heart, inspired by the song ‘Love Me Tender.’ Playful and subtle touches throughout such as the lighting sconces in the shape of ‘EP’ add touches that once realized delight guests,” Traci says.
One of my favorite spots is down the hallway from the lobby where a staircase is modeled after the one at Graceland that leads to Elvis’ private area of the house. The chandelier was designed for Graceland but was deemed too large so Elvis put in in storage. When The Guest House was built, it seemed the perfect place for the chandelier.
Exclusive ‘Upstairs’ suites
Known as “The Upstairs,” the exclusive top floors of the resort are reminiscent of the upstairs at the Graceland mansion which was the private living quarters of Elvis and his family and not part of the mansion tour. The King Suite, or course, is inspired by Elvis’ own master bedroom down to the TV mounted in the ceiling over the bed.
The Las Vegas Suite features royal blue and purple with vintage touches commemorating Elvis’ years performing in Vegas. The Vernon & Gladys Suites are named after Elvis’ parents and are reminiscent of Elvis’ iconic Palm Springs home where he and Priscilla honeymooned. Elvis fans will know where the TCB Suites got their names – Elvis’ personal motto “Taking Care of Business.”
Checking into my room, I was happy to see one of Elvis’ performances playing on my TV. Guests can choose to hear and see Elvis in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s. The theater also plays one of Elvis’ 31 movies on nights when other theater events are not taking place. During my visit, I saw “Love Me Tender” and “Viva Las Vegas” on two different nights. A live three-piece band also performed Elvis-era rock tunes in the lobby.
For my first night, I ate at Delta’s Kitchen – named after one of Elvis’ aunts – with real southern cooking. I had fried green tomatoes, plus a bowl of corn chowder with bacon and roasted corn kernels. The restaurant features local ingredients and everything is fresh and delicious.
After that, I didn’t need an entree but the couple at the table next to me said they recommended next time the Berkshire pork chop with sweet potato puree, collard greens and white peach barbecue glaze. They also suggested that I try the Memphis Burger at EP’s Bar & Grill for lunch the next day. The popular sandwich has a beef patty, American cheese, maple pepper bacon, fried green tomato, onions, lettuce and EP’s special sauce along with sweet potato fries.
Another special touch at The Guest House at Graceland is the complimentary evening snack. Served between 10 and 11 nightly, the treat consists of bread, peanut butter, jelly, sliced bananas and other toppings like chocolate chips, marshmallows and M&Ms, with cold milk, hot chocolate and coffee to drink. It was fun to see adult guests waiting like little kids to eat what many consider a childhood favorite.
“Elvis enjoyed peanut butter and banana sandwiches, so it was to celebrate that,” Traci says. “They are a huge hit with guests who line up nightly to make their own creations.”
All in all, The Guest House at Graceland seems fit for the King. “It’s often said that Elvis was Graceland’s first tour guide,” Traci says. “He loved entertaining and Priscilla has commented several times that she knows Elvis would be thrilled with the resort hotel.”
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
Cover Photo: The Guest House lobby reflects the style of Elvis. Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch
P.S. from Jackie
Many of the American river cruises start and end in Memphis and this is a popular new place to stay.
I always advise cruisers to arrive a day early if possible for a cruise to make sure their flight doesn’t get delayed so they miss the cruise.
The Guest House is a perfect place to stay for that.
Of course, I’m a long time Elvis fan so I loved it.
Editor’s Note: You can search for cruises that visit Memphis here: https://www.cruisecompete.com/search.php