If you only make one stop in Memphis, it should be here: the sublimely kitschy, gloriously bizarre home of the King of Rock and Roll. Though born in Mississippi, Elvis Presley was a true son of Memphis, raised in the Lauderdale Courts public-housing projects, inspired by blues clubs on Beale St, and discovered at Sun Studio. In the spring of 1957, the already-famous 22-year-old spent $100,000 on a colonial-style mansion, named Graceland by its previous owners.
The King himself had the place, ahem, redecorated in 1974. With a 15ft couch, a fake waterfall, yellow vinyl walls and a green shag-carpet ceiling, it's a virtual textbook of ostentatious '70s style. You'll begin your tour by hopping on a shuttle near the ticket office at the $45-million entertainment complex and visitor center Elvis Presley's Memphis, on the other side of Elvis Presley Blvd. It's best to visit Graceland before the entertainment complex, which now houses Elvis' car museum and a near-exhaustive lineup of artifacts and exhibits; these run an extra $20 for adults. Tack on $5 more to access two custom planes (check out the blue-and-gold private bathroom on the Lisa Marie, a Convair 880 Jet). Book ahead in the busy season (June to August and important Elvis dates) to ensure a prompt tour time. The basic self-guided mansion tour comes with an engaging multimedia iPad narration by John Stamos.
Priscilla Presley (who divorced Elvis in 1973) opened Graceland to tours in 1982, and now millions come to pay homage to the King, who died here (in the upstairs bathroom) from heart failure in 1977. Throngs of fans still weep at his grave, next to the swimming pool out back. Graceland is 9 miles south of downtown on US 51, also called 'Elvis Presley Blvd.' A free shuttle runs from Sun Studio. Parking costs $10.