Every fan of Elvis Presley has their own Elvis dream. Whether it’s to be married by a minister who’s donned a glittering jumpsuit or to spot Elvis himself, in the flesh, still alive (he would be 84 in the year 2019), Elvis fans will take any little piece of The King they can get.
While in search of the ghost of Elvis, why limit yourself to Tupelo (his birthplace), Vegas (where he lived it up), or Memphis (where he’s buried)?
Because “The Pelvis” also spent plenty of time in Southern California.
Not only did he work in Hollywood, but he also lived (and played) in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs.
Here are five of the best places in SoCal where the spirit of The King lives on.
1. Elvis Festival, Garden Grove
For a free, all-day tribute to The King – near the anniversary of his death (August 16, 1977) – look no further than Garden Grove, where you’ll find a bevy of Elvis impersonators and tribute performances that would rival none other than Vegas.
In 2019, the Elvis Festival is celebrating its 20th year on Historic Main Street – with a roster of performers that include Kirk Wall, the Festival’s ambassador since its inception, and a finale contributed by Scot Bruce and his band.
Alongside the music, you’ll find a classic car show (particularly Cadillacs, which Elvis loved), vintage motorcycles, and Elvis and Priscilla stilt-walkers. Not to mention the kindred spirits you’ll find in the membership of local Elvis fan clubs, like the Jailhouse Rockers.
Food specials also abound during this one-day event – but even if you miss the festivities in August, the Elvis Festival hosts various other Elvis-themed events throughout the year, including a recent Elvis Gospel Concert and Bruncheon.
Bonus: Thai Elvis, various locations throughout LA
Your Elvis impersonator dance card isn’t complete until you experience one of the dozens of Thai Elvis who perform throughout Los Angeles (and possibly beyond). Although the most famous Thai Elvis has departed Palms Thai Restaurant in Thai Town, other performers from Thailand or of Thai heritage have taken on the persona of The King to perform sets throughout Koreatown and beyond – including Nalin Presley who recently entertained patrons at MiniBar Hollywood.
2. Azteca Restaurant and Lounge, Garden Grove
It doesn’t make any sense for a Mexican restaurant to be devoted to Elvis Presley – but that’s just the point. It’s one of the most memorable Mexican meals you’ll have in all of Orange County, for sure. Maybe even in all of Southern California.
At Azteca Restaurant and Lounge, “The King” is everywhere. Memorabilia doesn’t just cover all the walls – it’s on the ceiling, too. The collection – reportedly the largest west of the Mississippi – comes courtesy of J.J. Jauregui, the restaurant’s former owner. He took over the business for his Aunt Connie Skipworth (who later died in 2005) in 1993 – but in 2014, he retired from Azteca and sold to a new owner. Lucky for us, he allowed his collection to stay.
In its present location on Main Street since 1980, Azteca has got Elvis’s music and movies on constant rotation, in addition to hosting Elvis karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. You won’t find any peanut butter and banana quesadillas on the dinner menu here, but some Elvis-themed libations are offered for the 21 and over set.
Bonus: Colonial Kitchen, San Marino
Every Elvis fan must make their pilgrimage to San Marino to pay tribute to The King at Colonial Kitchen. This homey American restaurant’s “Elvis Room” allows you to settle into a green leather booth, order breakfast all day, and bask in the 1970s-ness of the wood paneling and retro food offerings.
Once again, there’s really no connection between the “colonial” theme of this sit-down eatery and Elvis – other than a decent appreciation for kitsch.
3. Elvis “Honeymoon Hideaway,” Palm Springs
After eloping in Vegas to escape paparazzi in 1967, Elvis and Priscilla spent six months as newlyweds at the Alexander Estate, colloquially known as "The House of Tomorrow" (Palmer & Krisel, 1962) in the Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs. Now renamed the “Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway," memorabilia – framed photos, gold records and the like – plaster the walls and are scattered throughout the house.
But otherwise, its owners have tried to leave things just as they were back then. So, it's easy to imagine that this is actually where Elvis sat. And you can sit there, too.
A few modifications have been made to the house – including painting the vents black, and cutting down the wall that separated the elevated dining room from the front entrance – but in the kitchen, most of the fixtures are original, including a built-in grill.
The upstairs bathroom features a fantastic jetted tub, with a secret passageway behind a door that makes it look like just another closet. The master bedroom was officially Priscilla's bedroom until their wedding night – though thanks to the secret passageway, they were able to surreptitiously share it beforehand. The current bed is a replica of the original.
The House of Tomorrow still feels modern and futuristic. But its purpose now is to commemorate the past: it functions full-time as a museum dedicated to the year that Elvis spent there, more than a half-century ago, 10 years before his death.
Tours are offered daily at 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available online.
Bonus: Former Elvis Presley Estate, Palm Springs
Palm Springs was the West Coast home-away-from-Memphis of our dearly departed King of Rock and Roll. And from April 1970 to the day of his death in 1977, the house at 845 W. Chino Canyon Road in Palm Springs served as Elvis’s refuge from the world.
This “Graceland West” was his getaway from the “Hollywood zoo,” as he called it, where he could stay out of the public eye – particularly after divorcing Priscilla in 1973, which rendered him single and ready to mingle with new girls in the guitar-shaped pool and wet and dry saunas.
Elvis actually recorded nine songs in the living room of this house – including "Promised Land" and "Are You Sincere" – with soundproofing ceiling panels that were installed by RCA upon his request.
While tours ceased after it sold out of foreclosure in 2014 – and the silhouette of Elvis’s face no longer adorns the outside of the chimney – the house is still there and makes for a cool side trip to see it from the sidewalk.
4. Paramount Pictures Studio Tour, Hollywood
There's just one major Hollywood studio that's actually in Hollywood, and on the same property where it originally opened: Paramount Studios. And that’s where Elvis Presley the actor shot such movies as "Blue Hawaii," "G.I. Blues," "King Creole," "Roustabout," and more.
Take the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour to walk in Elvis’s footsteps from his time as a Hollywood movie star. There, you can see Stage 17 – which Elvis reportedly drove into once – and find out all the gossip about the filming that Elvis did there from 1956 to 1967 (after which he worked for MGM and Universal).
5. Velveteria, Chinatown Los Angeles
The art of velvet painting is probably most closely associated with the image of Elvis (particularly later-career Elvis). So, it’s fitting that L.A.’s own velvet art museum, Velveteria, has dedicated an entire corridor to the patron saint of velvet paintings.
Pay your admission charge and head straight to the back of this wonderfully oddball museum to pay homage to the plushest versions of Presleys you’ve ever seen.