Elvis Presley - "The King" - was Rock n' Roll's first American idol. Although the singer and heartthrob died more than three decades ago, his legacy continues to drive tourism in several parts of the United States and the world. Elvis Tourism is a real thing, particularly in Memphis, Tennessee, site of Presley's mansion and first recording studio.
Read on to learn about Elvis tourism in Memphis; Tupelo, Mississippi; Las Vegas; and other American destinations that can claim to have been touched by The King.
Top Places to Spot Elvis - Tupelo, Mississippi
Elvis Aron Presley was born in the small Mississippi town of Tupelo on January 8, 1935. Although Elvis lived here for only the first 13 years of his life, the city has capitalized on its native son with several tourist attractions and events.
The Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum is at the site of the railroad-style, shotgun house where Elvis was born and it features exhibits dedicated to the musician's early life. Tupelo has also devised the Elvis Driving Tour (the link goes to a PDF file of the driving tour map), which includes stops at Elvis' schools, his family church, and the hardware store where his mother bought him his first guitar.
Elvis fans wishing to visit his Mississippi birthplace would do well to visit in June when Tupelo puts on the Elvis Presley Festival.
Top Places to Spot Elvis - Tennessee
Memphis was already the "Birthplace of the Blues" before Elvis Presley and his family arrived there in 1948. But within several years, the Tennessee city would become synonymous with Elvis Presley and the Rock n' Roll music that he pioneered.
Elvis lived and died in Memphis, so there are numerous "Elvis trails" to follow in the city, including taking a tour of Elvis Presley's Memphis homes. But the two attractions in Memphis that stand out are Sun Studio, the recording studio where Elvis recorded his first song, and Graceland, Elvis' famous mansion.
Elvis was just 18 when he first walked into Sun Studio, the place where he recorded his first single "That's All Right, Mama." Elvis fans can visit Sun Studio in its original location on Union Avenue.
Presley's surprise hit with Sun Studios landed him a recording contract with RCA Records in Nashville, where he wrote and recorded more than 200 songs. The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville has original recordings and videos of The King as well as artifacts, such as his gold Cadillac.
Back in Memphis, Elvis lived in Graceland, a mansion he bought in 1957 and lived in until his death on August 16, 1977. The sprawling estate has exhibits dedicated to Elvis' home life, cars, private jets, and other memorabilia and is the site of the yearly Elvis Week festival, which is held in August to commemorate the legend's death.
Top Places to Spot Elvis - California
Elvis' stardom went beyond the music industry to include film. During the 1960s, Elvis went to Hollywood, where he starred in 33 feature films. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located on the 7100 block of Marshfield Way, is a tribute to his film and musical legacy.
While out West, Elvis spent a great deal of time in Palm Springs. From 1966 to 1967, he leased a home at 1350 Ladera Circle. This mid-century modern home came to be known as the Elvis Honeymoon House (warning! this site plays groovy Bossanova jazz music upon opening!) because it is where he and his wife Priscilla returned on May 1, 1967, after a quick wedding in Las Vegas. In 1970, Elvis bought a house at 845 W. Chino Canyon. The Elvis Presley Palm Springs Home is where Elvis lived with Priscilla and their daughter Lisa Marie. It still retains the period furnishings that were there when Elvis lived in the 5,100 square foot "trophy estate."
Top Places to Spot Elvis - Hawaii
Three of Elvis Presley's best-loved films - Blue Hawaii; Girls Girls Girls; and Paradise, Hawaiian Style - were set in Hawaii.
Elvis performed in Hawaii, too. In 1967, he perfomed at a benefit concert to raise money for the memorial at Pearl Harbor. He also gave one of his most famous concert performances, Aloha from Hawaii, in 1973. Elvis fans can visit sites like Puu Ualakaa Park and the Coco Palms Resort to relive some of Elvis' Hawaii moments. Hawaiian Joe's Hawaiian Elvis Tour is one such organized tour for Elvis tourists. About's guide to Hawaii Travel also suggests the "Rock-A-Hula" show for diehard Elvis fans that aren't afraid of a bit of kitsch.
Top Places to Spot Elvis - Las Vegas
Elvis is associated with Las Vegas in a number of ways. First, there is the 1963 film "Viva Las Vegas," which starred Elvis, Ann Margret, and the unforgettable title song. Elvis married Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967, at a private suite in the Aladdin Hotel, now the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.
From 1969 to 1976, after a long run of acting in Hollywood films, Elvis returned to performing his music on stage in Las Vegas. He performed his shows at the International, now the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, or The LVH. According to the official Vegas travel site Vegas.com, the shows were an overwhelming success, forever cementing The King's legend in Sin City:
"In 1969 Elvis performed his first show at the International to a sold-out crowd and he went on to perform regular engagements at the property for seven years -- a total of 837 consecutive sold-out performances in front of 2.5 million people.
The sheer numbers from these performances are mind-boggling. In one 29-day period Elvis entertained 101,509 guests, bringing in $1.5 million in ticket sales. In the course of his 800-plus performances in Vegas, Elvis sold $43.7 million in show tickets, about $270 million in 2011 dollars. In the months when Elvis was performing, 1 in 2 visitors to Las Vegas saw his show."
Elvis is everywhere in Las Vegas today, from the Elvis Wedding Chapel to the Flying Elvi, a skydiving performance troupe, the members of which don white sequined jumpsuits similar to the ones Elvis was known to wear during his 1970s shows while parachuting. About's guide to Las Vegas Travel provides additional information on Elvis shows, including Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil.