For visitors to Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, its new tribute to Elvis Presley is both a museum exhibit and thrilling entertainment. But to the King’s family, it’s much more: a legacy reclamation project. “My daughter and I want to preserve who Elvis was as a man, as an entertainer, as a performer, as an actor, as a human being,” says Priscilla Presley, “and not have this caricature that we see out there, especially in Las Vegas.”
Endorsed by the Presley family, “Graceland Presents Elvis: The Exhibition, The Show, The Experience” combines a 28,000- square-foot permanent exhibit, a retail center, a wedding chapel, and the newly renamed Elvis Presley Theater at the International Showroom—the renowned venue where Elvis performed 636 consecutive sold-out shows from 1969 to 1976 and where the renowned venue where Elvis performed 636 consecutive sold-out shows from 1969 to 1976 and where a variety of Elvis-themed productions will continue to be shown.
The exhibit is filled with authentic Elvis memorabilia from the archives of his home and museum, Graceland, including his high school yearbook, his first gold album, outfits he wore onstage and on film (like the mechanic’s jumpsuit from Viva Las Vegas), several of his personal automobiles, and contracts signed by him and Colonel Tom Parker. Video clips and vintage photos are displayed throughout the space, and a 30-minute documentary on his career plays in a small theater built into the attraction.
Priscilla Presley has made a concerted effort to keep this tribute faithful to her late husband, so there will be no Elvis impersonator officiating or performing at weddings in the chapel. “We’re cleaning it up,” Priscilla says. “If someone wants [the Elvis caricature], well, they’ll have to go searching somewhere else. We’re keeping Elvis authentic.”
The hotel now called Westgate opened in 1969 as the International and was purchased by Conrad Hilton two years later and renamed the Las Vegas Hilton. But Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was surprised to find it standing. “I didn’t even know the building was still in existence, to be honest with you,” she said on April 23, the day the attraction opened. “But it feels right. It feels like we’re resurrecting everything.”
Lisa Marie—who had not been on the property since her father’s final shows there in December 1976, when she was 8—admits to some nostalgia on returning. “I spent so much time here just running around. That’s what I remember, always being able to run upstairs in the suite when he did his shows,” she says, chuckling. “I would be upstairs trying to do stuff like walking outside on the balcony by myself, which I probably shouldn’t have been doing. There was a slot machine in the suite, and I remember playing that a lot. This was like a second home, really.”
According to Priscilla, the exhibit is as close as today’s Vegas audiences can get to the real Elvis. “No one can ever, ever replace him,” she says, “but you get the feel of what it was like to be near him.” Open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM. Westgate North Tower, 800-222-5361