Elvis Week 2021: The Guide
Elvis Week Guide
Elvis Week officially runs from August 11 through August 17, 2021. 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.
Things To Know About Elvis Week
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 world.
The latter are here to compete in the official Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, which has Semifinals on Wednesday night and Finals on Thursday night at the Graceland Soundstage. Whoever wins this gets to work for Graceland for a year as the Official ETA at events around the world, and they get $20, 000.
Holly here—I have judged multiple ETA Contests and I have to say that these people are some of the nicest, most hardworking, talented performers I've ever seen. Their love for The King is clear, and they do this because they love the fans...and the fans loves them back!
2. Plan ahead.
There are a ton of Elvis Week events. Some are official Graceland-sanctioned and others are not. For the official events, you'll need to plan way in advance and buy tickets for most, but not all. Graceland has the fully detailed scheduled and ticket information on their website. Some events are sold out, some you can stay get tickets for or are included in packages.
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). For unique tours in cool antique cars, check out Rock 'n' Rides Tours (I highly recommend this.)
You can also take one of the excellent Backbeat Tours—they drive you around town in style while they tell you (and sing about) Memphis' musical history.
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. and continuing all night long into the wee hours of the morning.
People will line up many hours earlier than 8:30 p.m., Elvis Presley Blvd. is closed, and some people set up elaborate roadside shrines. You'll probably be in line for several hours, so pack a snack, some bug spray, and plan to make some friends. You don't need tickets or a wristband to attend. Expect crowds and mask up.
If you can't make it in person, you can watch the event online. Read contributor Veena's account of the 40th anniversary of Elvis' Candlelight Vigil here.
5. Visit the Graceland Exhibition Center
You can't miss the huge entertainment complex across the street from the Graceland Mansion. It's called Elvis Presley's Memphis, and it has casual restaurants, Presley Motors Automobile Museum, and the Graceland Exhibition Center. Right now the Exhibition Center is hosting a very special exhibit, "Inside the Walt Disney Archives" featuring ton of movie props, artwork, costumes, and much more from your favorite Disney movies and shows. Read more about the Exhibition Center here.
6. 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.
7. Be prepared for traffic and crowds.
In recent years, about 35,000 people came to Memphis for Elvis week. That's a lot. Elvis Week went virtual in 2020, and we may be expecting less people for the 2021 event due to the pandemic.
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.
8. Check out some of the extra-curricular Elvis Week activities
In normal years, local shops and businesses will offer specials and host fun unofficial Elvis Week events. With the ongoing pandemic, I'm not seeing a lot going on but if you have a tip, email me at [email protected]
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.
9. 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.
10. 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, or you can search this blog.
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.