Elvis Week 2017 Survival Guide
Updated August 2017
Elvis Week officially runs from Friday, August 11 through August 19. This year is extra special because it’s the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, as well as the first year that the new Guest House at Graceland hotel and Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex have been open.
Whether you’re visiting Memphis for the week or are a local preparing for the influx of visiting Elvis lovers, here’s what you need to know.
1. They’re not impersonators, they’re tribute artists.
Please, don’t call the people paying musical homage to Elvis impersonators. The official term is Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs for short). There will be plenty of them in town, and while some have greased their hair for fun, others have worked really hard and won a series of preliminary competitions around the country.
They’re here to compete in the official Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. The finals are on Saturday, August 13 at the Soundstage at Graceland and they tend to sell out well in advance.
Hard Rock Cafe hosts the “Last Chance” preliminary competition, which is an ETA’s last chance to win a prelim and go to the Ultimate ETA Contest. The finals are on Wednesday, August 10 at 7 p.m. You can buy tickets at the door for $15 while supplies last. It’s absolutely worth going to, if you’re able to get there early enough to get a seat.
2. Plan ahead.
There are a ton of Elvis Week events. Some are official Graceland-sanctioned and others are…not. Here’s a very brief, basic rundown of just a few of the events. For the full schedule and details go here.
Saturday, August 12: Elvis 5K Run (Graceland)
Saturday, August 12: Gospel Music of Elvis Concert (Graceland Soundstage)
Sunday, August 13: A Salute To Sun Records Concert (Graceland Soundstage)
Tuesday, August 15: Candlelight Vigil (Graceland Front Gate)
Wednesday, August 16: 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert (FedExForum)
Thursday, August 17: Celebration of Elvis w/ EP Fan Club of Qatar (The Guest House)
Saturday, August 19: Ultimate ETA Contest Finals (SOLD OUT – Graceland Soundstage)
Also, Backbeat Tours will offer an Elvis-themed Hound Dog Tour nearly every day during Elvis Week. Details.
3. Check Out The Other Elvis and Memphis Music Sites
After you go to Graceland, there’s plenty more Memphis music history to explore. Visit Sun Studios (where Elvis got his big break), Levitt Shell (where he played his first concert), and Lauderdale Courts (where he lived as a teen).
You can also take one of the excellent Backbeat Tours – they ride you around town in style while they tell you (and sing about) Memphis’ musical history. Especially if you’re just in town for the week, you’ll want to soak up as much Memphis music as you can, so make time for the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and the Stax Musuem, too.
Don’t miss shopping at Lanksy Bros. Clothier to the King at 126 Beale Street (in the photo above) for all your Elvis-inspired outfits (yes, they have blue suede shoes) as well as a bunch of cool Memphis and rock ‘n’ roll t-shirts.
4. Go to the Candlelight Vigil.
The Vigil is the centerpiece of Elvis Week, and all visitors and locals should do it at least once. It’s a somber, candlelit walk past Elvis’ grave at Graceland on the day of the King’s death on August 15, beginning at 8:30 p.m. (thought people will line up many hours earlier). Elvis Presley Blvd. is closed, and many people set up elaborate roadside shrines. You’ll probably be in line for a while, so pack a snack and plan to make some friends.
5. Make time to people watch.
Whether you park yourself at the downtown Flying Saucer window, walk along Beale at dusk, or have dinner at Marlowe’s on Elvis Presley, the people watching during Elvis Week can’t be beat.
6. Be prepared for traffic and crowds.
In recent years, about 35,000 people came to Memphis for Elvis week. That’s a lot. Consider that many of those people will be making their pilgrimage by car and staying downtown, so prepare to deal with heavy foot and car traffic, especially on Elvis Presley Boulevard and downtown/Beale Street area.
If you’re going to those areas, allow yourself plenty of extra time. If you’re planning to hang out at Graceland for a while, there’s plenty of parking, but bring cash.
7. Check out some of the extra-curricular Elvis Week activities
Let me be clear: these aren’t official Elvis Week events, but they do show that Memphis is embracing the King and his fans this week. Check them out! If you know of others, please leave them in the comments.
– Stumbling Elvis Pub Crawl on Saturday, August 19 (starts at Flying Saucer downtown)
– Burnin’ Love show with Elvis Tribute Artist on Saturday, August 19 (Minglewood Hall)
– Elvis Week Specials & giveaways at Overton Square
8. Be Nice
Welcome our Elvis Week visitors to the Memphis area with class. Give directions and suggestions, sing along if you know the words, and don’t be afraid to make some new friends. It’s what the King would have wanted.
9. Find out more information
If you’re visiting and have stumbled upon this blog post, welcome! I will be on Twitter all week @ilovememphis answering questions. Plus, there are seven years worth of posts about Memphis on this blog, so don’t be afraid to use the search bar if you’re look for something in particular. Here are some things you might find particularly helpful:
– If you want to stay connected to all the official sources for Elvis Week and Graceland info, you can visit ElvisWeek.com, follow Graceland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, read the official Graceland blog, or watch the events via livestream at https://livestream.com/
– I have a Handy Dandy Memphis Cheat Sheet written specifically for folks who are only in town for a few days. You can check that out here.
– If you’re looking for restaurant recommendations beyond barbecue, here are a few of my favorite places and things to eat in Memphis.
Happy Elvis Week!