A truly relaxing getaway is one where you can check into a hotel and never get behind the wheel again until it’s time to head home.
Visitors to Memphis will find two new resort hotels and one established classic that offer plenty to keep guests entertained. And more adventures off-site are just a short walk or Uber ride away.
You may never want to leave your room at these hotels, but you really should. One-of-a-kind experiences await.
Rock star luxury: Guest House at Graceland
Think of the Guest House at Graceland as an Elvis Presley-inspired hotel, rather than as an Elvis Presley-themed hotel. You certainly don’t need to be his No. 1 fan to stay here — it’s pretty cool on its own.
The Guest House opened in October on property adjacent to the Graceland mansion, where Presley lived from 1957 until his death in 1977.
With suites designed by the rock ’n’ roll legend’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, the 450-room resort is excessively stylish.
In the glitzy lobby — where we spotted a bouffant and thick sideburns waiting in line at the check-in counter, along with several contenders for No. 1 fan — high-back chairs evoke the stand-up collars of Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits. Splashes of color liven up midcentury-style furnishings.
Stylized close-up photos in guest rooms and common areas highlight details from Presley’s life: sunglasses, microphones, his iconic TCB (“Taking Care of Business”) jewelry.
Above a grand staircase at one end of the hotel, a replica of Graceland’s foyer stairs, is a chandelier originally purchased by Presley for his own mansion.
“Elvis never threw anything away,” explains Anna Hamilton, the hotel’s night manager. She graduated from Humes High School 12 years after Presley. “When he discovered that the chandelier was too big, he went out and bought a smaller one.”
Hamilton — a veteran of Memphis’ restaurant and hospitality industry who was a manager at the now-shuttered Heartbreak Hotel across the street — delights in showing off the Guest House.
“I think it’s probably one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever been on,” she said.
Each of the well-appointed guest rooms is filled with luscious textures, silky-soft bedding, mirrored surfaces and basics such as a refrigerator, Keurig coffee machine and plenty of places to plug in USB devices. (The Gideons Bible in the nightstand is gold, naturally.)
Themed suites such as the King’s Suites were inspired by Presley’s own master bedroom, with canopy beds and TVs on the ceiling. Living Room Suites use bold combinations of deep yellow and navy blue. TCB Suites have a living room and dining area.
“The furniture, to me, is extraordinary,” Hamilton says. “Every piece is something that Elvis would have loved.”
Guests can grab a drink at the lobby bar — we tried the crisp whiskey-ginger TCB and the tequila-based Blue Suede — and enjoy it out on the back lawn. That’s where there’s a pool, hot tub and heart-shaped fire pit, all set against a serene wooded backdrop.
A state-of-the-art fitness center also has great views of the courtyard — or you can focus on the TVs built into each machine.
Dining options at the Guest House include Delta’s Kitchen, a fine-dining spot named for Presley’s aunt, and the more casual EP’s Bar & Grill, which serves up comfort food with a contemporary twist. There’s also a Shake, Rattle & Go coffee shop serving Starbucks coffee.
At the lively EP’s, we tried the mac-and-cheese bites, which our server recommended without hesitation. They arrived within minutes, piping hot and ooey-gooey. Also delicious was the Memphis Burger, a mess of cheese, onions, tomatoes (both red and fried green), bacon and house-made pickles, served with fries in a guitar-shaped basket.
In addition to conference and banquet rooms, the Guest House has a 464-seat theater, which on our visit was hosting a student jazz competition.
“We’re welcoming all aspects of the music world,” Hamilton says. “We want everyone to feel welcome — not just the Elvis fans.”
Rustic elegance: Big Cypress Lodge
Stepping onto the hotel-room balcony and gazing at the wildlife below, then at the stainless-steel “sky” above, one thing comes to mind: “Bio-Dome.”
The Pyramid downtown once was home to the Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis basketball program. But when those teams left in 2004 for new arenas, the 322-foot-tall structure sat empty.
Then Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, took over.
Since April 2015, the distinctive structure has been home to Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid and Big Cypress Lodge.
The world’s largest Bass Pro occupies the first floor and a portion of the second. Big Cypress sprawls over the second and third floors, with guest rooms overlooking the retail store, which includes towering trees in a giant cypress swamp with ponds and ducks, a tank with three real alligators, 10 aquariums with more than 1,800 fish, displays of taxidermy (obtained from collectors and museums) and the world’s tallest freestanding elevator, which takes visitors to a restaurant and observation deck at the Pyramid’s pinnacle.
“It’s been a really cool experience — I’ve been here since these rooms were down to the studs,” says Anthony Long, assistant front office manager for Big Cypress. “I helped put all the mattresses in. A lot of us that have been here since opening have really had a hand in putting it all together.”
Bass Pro owns and operates another hotel property, Big Cedar Lodge, near Branson, Mo., but this is the first to be built with a store attached.
“Even though it is a lively shopping environment in the center, you really don’t hear a lot of it until you open that door,” he says. “You can hear the shoppers moving around, you hear the music playing, but at night it’s almost serene how quiet it is.”
Indeed. At night, after relaxing in rockers “outside,” it was tempting to sleep with the balcony door open, if only to enjoy the aroma of fudge and glazed nuts that wafts throughout the building.
While most rooms have interior views, a few suites give views of downtown and access to a terrace. Other suites, such as the Governor’s Suite, include living and dining areas. “The last two Super Bowl Sundays we’ve had, this room is gone almost as quick as people realize they can book,” Long says.
Each of the 104 rustic guest rooms brings the outdoors inside, with handcrafted furnishings, taxidermy and antler chandeliers. Some walls are covered with flattened tree bark, and the spacious bathrooms have lighting that creates a theatrical sunlight-through-trees effect over the big Jacuzzi tub.
Each room also includes an electric fireplace, wooden-beam ceilings, stained-glass accents, a refrigerator, coffeemaker and complimentary snacks. (Bonus: cellphone charging cables and an adapter that allows you to connect streaming devices to the TV.)
The mattresses and pillows are also incredibly comfy. Big Cypress knows; they’ll give you a list of where you can buy ’em for yourself.
“Even though Bass Pro is for the outdoors traveler, you don’t have to be an outdoors person to come and experience and have a good time,” Long says. “It’s got a little bit of everything for everyone.
“We’ve got a lot of people who check in and don’t see the light of day until they decide to check out again.”
Classic sophistication: The Peabody
It’s hard to say who has it better: the ducks at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, who live in an environment resembling the great outdoors, or the ducks at the swanky Peabody hotel, who walk a red carpet and are treated like celebrities.
Every year, 200,000 people watch the Peabody’s famous ducks march daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. The birds spend the day in an ornate lobby fountain before retiring to their rooftop palace. Ducks serve for three months, then return to the farm that has been supplying them since 1981.
Jimmy Ogle, the hotel’s duckmaster, likens them to the Budweiser Clydesdales. Edward Pembroke first held the “duckmaster” title for 50 years.
Ogle has been on duck patrol for about nine months, but he’s no stranger to Memphis and Peabody history. He dispenses a lot of it on his 11:30 a.m. tours of the hotel, a good way to get an overview of downtown.
“You’ll put a CD in your car, you’ll have the radio turned on, you know 400, 500, 600 songs. I’m just singing Memphis history — that’s my lyrics,” he said on our tour. A lifelong Memphian, he’s also the Shelby County historian and gives walking tours downtown.
The first Peabody hotel was built in 1869, a few blocks north. The current structure dates to 1923. After closing in 1975, it was sold on the courthouse steps for just over half a million dollars. It took five years and $25 million to restore the hotel to its original splendor.
“It was the catalyst — it was the symbol of the redevelopment of downtown,” Ogle says.
With Italian Renaissance revival architecture throughout, the Peabody was the first Memphis hotel on the National Register of Historic Places. Its grand ballroom was the site of Elvis Presley’s high school prom, and a piano on the mezzanine once belonged to Francis Scott Key.
Each elegant guest room is comfortable and spacious, with a sitting area, a walk-in closet and a beaded chandelier. A phone and TV in the bathroom are nice touches. Other suites include fireplaces, loft bedrooms, dining rooms and more.
The opulent lobby is a great spot for people-watching. Settle into one of the comfy chairs, and order a well-made cocktail from the bar (we recommend the Jack’s Bramble, made with Jack Daniel’s Honey, or the Memphis Mule, with Pyramid vodka and ginger beer). A server will also bring you a trio of snacks: wasabi peas, crackers and nuts. There’s also the Corner Bar and Capriccio Grill, which serves a Sunday brunch buffet.
For souvenirs or light shopping, duck into one of the hotel’s street-level boutiques such as Lansky at the Peabody, where you can pick up a beautiful jacket like the one Elvis wore when he married Priscilla. Bernard Lansky was “clothier to the King.”
On Thursday evenings through Aug. 17, the Peabody hosts rooftop parties with live music, food and drinks. Admission is free for hotel guests.
If You Go
Guest House at Graceland 3600 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, Tenn.; $209 and up, Graceland packages available; 800-238-2000; guesthousegraceland.com
Big Cypress Lodge and Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid 1 Bass Pro Drive, Memphis; $180 and up; 800-225-6343; big-cypress.com
The Peabody 149 Union Ave., Memphis; $199 and up; 901-529-4000; peabodymemphis.com