A King is Born: A Visit to the Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi
There are lots of things to see at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and most folks choose to begin their exploration at the house that Elvis was born in. It is a small, two room shotgun house and therefore it doesn't take much time to get through. A docent in the front room (bedroom) will explain how Presley's father Vernon built the home, now furnished mostly with replicas of the original furnishings, although there are a couple of original pieces too. Photos are allowed but due to the home being so small and the amount of people going through, you might have to wait a bit to get your shot. Embedded in the ground outside the home are a number of tiles tracing the timeline of significant dates in the Presley family history.
Photo opportunities abound on the expansive grounds of the Elvis Presley Birthplace. There's a statue of Elvis as a guitar-wielding 13-year-old, numerous Mississippi Music markers, and a water feature with symbolic meaning called Fountain of Life. The fountain features 13 upper waterspouts that represent Presley's time in Tupelo and 29 lower spouts that represent the years he spent in Memphis. Not to be missed is a visit to the Assembly of God Pentecostal Church, the actual church building where Presley attended services and where a thrilling audio-visual presentation takes place. After a short talk by a docent, the church undergoes a transformation as projectors pop out of the ceiling and screens come down on three sides. The projections then make it seem like you are actually attending a service, back in time, right in the church. Everyone in the film is an actor, including the young man portraying Elvis singing in public for the first time. It is really something to experience! Separate from the church is the Elvis Presley Chapel, a perfect place for quiet reflection. All of the pews in the small chapel were paid for with donations and each one has a small placard on it noting who the donor was. Something to see here is the bench paid for by Colonel Tom Parker, Presley's long time manager. Many fans have not forgiven Parker for the way he manipulated Presley and the marking on the pew is constantly suffering from vandalism as some visitors try to obliterate Parker's name by scratching at it. On a happier note, the chapel can be booked for weddings.
The main building at the Elvis Presley Birthplace houses both a large gift shop and the Elvis Presley Museum. All kinds of Elvis-related souvenirs are available at the gift shop, from CDs of his albums and DVDs of his films to t-shirts and posters and unique Presley tchotchkes of all sorts. It is definitely the place to load up on stuff to take to that big Elvis fan back home. The museum has lots of interesting Elvis memorabilia with an emphasis on Tupelo-related items. Photos are not allowed in the museum. Also, from the gift shop/museum area, there's a passageway that leads to an event center where special events are held and the walls of the walkway are lined with glass cases that house memorabilia. These displays change on a regular basis and visitors may see things like an "Elvis is a jerk" button. Lots of "I love Elvis" buttons were sold back in the day and the jerk buttons were sold to those who didn't quite feel the love.
Marker tributing Elvis Presley's contribution to the blues
The Elvis Presley Birthplace offers a free guide book that can be downloaded from their website. Find it and lots of other information here.
There are a lot of other fun things to do in Tupelo, Elvis-related and otherwise. Go here to find ideas for more to explore during your visit.
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