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Elvis is in the building.
To Priscilla Presley, the Guest House at Graceland, which opened for business last weekend in Memphis just a few steps down the road from Graceland proper, is more than just a new hotel—it's the culmination of a decades-long dream and a tribute to Elvis's spirit and legacy.
"I think that one of the biggest challenges was to create a design that really complemented Graceland," Presley says. "This would be a dream hotel for him. If he were here, if this hotel were here when he was alive, he'd probably spend most of his time over here. A built-in theater—that's the place he would go. And the bar with the pool table inside—it's practically a man-cave in there."
The 430-room, 20-suite resort sits proudly alongside the Presley family home on Elvis Presley Boulevard in the Whitehaven neighborhood of Memphis—and its grand foyer, guest rooms, and specialty suites house archival imagery, specially commissioned artwork, and design elements inspired by the king of rock-and-roll himself. From the Elvis Presley cape-inspired glittering ceiling installation in the hotel lobby to the custom-built studded '60s-inspired armchairs reminiscent of his stand-up collars, Elvis' spirit and style are everywhere—even in the bathrooms, which are covered in dog tag embossed wallpaper, and all the hallway lighting fixtures: monogram "EP" wall sconces.
The suites feel particularly personal. Designed in close collaboration with Priscilla and based on the interiors of their family homes (shag carpet and everything): there's the Palm Springs-inspired suite, and the King Suites, which house canopy beds with televisions built into the ceilings overhead—the same way Elvis mounted the TV in his bedroom.
"One of the things in designing this hotel that we gave so much thought to is that it's not just an Elvis Presley hotel," Priscilla says. "It's for visitors, it's for people coming here for business, it's for local people."
The resort houses two full-fledged restaurants—Delta's Kitchen, a sleek contemporary space serving classic southern-inspired dishes (the cheese biscuits are to die for), and EP's, a sports bar and casual dining space dishing out some of Elvis' favorite foods (banana pudding, anyone?)—as well as a coffee counter, and lobby bar. The food program is overseen by Executive Chef Kurtis Johnson, who joined the Guest House from Washington, DC, and who's keen on developing a diverse crowd-pleasing menu across the board, inspired by regional flavors and ingredients (the hotel buys local meats and sausages from Porcellino's Craft Butcher, butter cookies and banana pudding from Makeda's, and goat cheese from Bonnie Blue Farms in nearby Waynesboro).
"Here at the hotel, being in Memphis, we're trying to play into the southern theme with subtle hints," Johnson says. "But everything isn't going to be corn bread, fried chicken and biscuits."
After four days of full-on Elvis Presley immersion at the property over its opening weekend, I will gladly go on the record endorsing EP's Memphis Burger—a towering double-patty construction layered with fried green tomatoes, fried onions, and bacon. "Our burger is on all our menus," Johnson says. "We wanted something that was affordable and easily recognizable for everybody. We did a lot of testing with the burger blend, and we ended up coming up with a chuck and short rib blend that's pure Angus beef. It's good."
For a luxury property that's bound to be a pilgrimage point of interest for die-hard fans from all over the world—opening weekend saw hundreds of Elvis-lovers descend on the hotel from far-flung corners of the Earth including England, Australia, and Japan—the Guest House at Graceland promises to remain committed to affordability and accessibility. It's all part of the Elvis hospitality credo.
"Elvis grew up poor—he earned every dollar he ever made," says Graceland Holdings Managing Partner Joel Weinshanker. "And he loved being charitable—he loved giving to people, he loved serving people before serving himself. It's not just a world class hotel, it's a world class hotel everyone can afford."
Good thing, too, since the opening of the Guest House at Graceland coincided with the shutter of the Heartbreak Hotel, a kitschy '50s-themed property across the street that for decades served as de facto housing for die-hard fans. The new Guest House plays to the same crowd—but on a whole new level of chic. And it has the Presley family's seal of approval.
"Walking in today, my first thought was 'My God,'" Priscilla Presley says. "Did you ever think, when you look at this hotel and think about the battles we've had and the people who've come and gone, who were a part of this. It has been a dream come true, for sure."