Making a pilgrimage to the King’s beloved residence is a bucket-list item for any Elvis Presley admirer, but you don’t have to be a “Blue Suede Shoes” uber-fan to appreciate the distinctive digs. The visit starts in the foyer, where you can see the living and dining rooms, furnished mostly in late 1960s/early 1970s décor. In the living room, pretty blue curtains accent white furniture on white carpet, and stained glass windows of blue peacocks frame the entrance to the music room. Here, Elvis played the baby grand piano and sang some of his favorite R&B songs. After walking through the kitchen, where Elvis kept a list of things to have on hand at all times (such as banana pudding, hamburger buns, and three packs of Juicy Fruit gum), you’ll pass through the poolroom and TV room before arriving in the famous Jungle Room. This shag-carpeted den (where the carpet covers both the floor and the ceiling) features a working waterfall, exotic plants and animal prints galore. For more information, visit graceland.com.
Although small in size (current population: 17,000), Concord, Massachusetts, is big in historical significance. Not only did the American Revolution’s first shots ring out here, but the town served as the epicenter for the transcendentalist movement and even lays claim to the tasty Concord grape. It was also home to a surprising number of prominent mid-19th-century literary figures, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. But it’s Louisa May Alcott who’s the focus at Orchard House, a two-story brown clapboard structure that dates back to around 1690. The groundbreaking author penned Little Women here, also the setting for the March family in the book. On the guided tour, see the desk (built for her by her father, Bronson) on which Alcott wrote her best-selling book, the parlor where the sisters performed their plays, and many original artifacts from the family. For more information, visit louisamayalcott.org.
San Simeon, California
In 1915, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst told architect Julia Morgan, “I get tired of going up there and camping in tents,” referring to the hilltop ranch he inherited from his parents. “I’m getting a little too old for that. I’d like to get something that would be a little more comfortable.”
Of course, “a little more comfortable” means something different for everyone, but for Hearst it meant a 165-room mega-mansion. On the Grand Rooms Tour, you’ll have the chance to find out what it was like to be a guest at this impressive retreat. It starts with the assembly room, where Renaissance and Baroque tapestries, a massive fireplace and a hand-chiseled walnut ceiling all jockey for attention. The next stop is the medieval-themed refectory, a dining room that could accommodate up to 40 people at its long table. After visiting the billiard room and theater, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the gardens and see two famous pools: the outdoor Neptune pool, flanked by statues and the façade of an ancient Roman temple, and the indoor Roman pool, covered in mosaic tiles. For more information, visit hearstcastle.org.
Victoria, British Columbia
When Scottish immigrant Robert Dunsmuir hit it big with Vancouver Island coal, he had a Victorian mansion constructed that proclaimed to the world how he was a pretty big deal. After serving as a military hospital, college and music conservatory, the 39-room home has been restored to its 1890s look. Docents are on hand to answer any questions as you wander through the rooms, taking in the plentiful stained glass windows, extensive woodwork, Persian carpets and period antiques. You’ll also learn more about the rise and fall of the Dunsmuir family, who were embroiled in their fair share of controversies.
For more information, visit thecastle.ca.