Tourist attractions begin to reopen across the country, including Graceland and zoos

Posted at 11:51 AM, May 22, 2020

Tourist attractions are slowing reopening across the country as states have begun lowering restrictions related to COVID-19. In Tennessee, Graceland, the 13.8-acres estate once owned by Elvis Presley, is opening to visitors but with major limitations.

"It's top to bottom. It’s taking people’s temperatures, providing all of the employees with masks, basically providing antiseptic soap every time you turn around," explained Graceland majority owner Joel Weinshanker.

But most of the tourist attractions reopening are outdoor venues. In Atlanta, Georgia, the Botanical Gardens and Zoo Atlanta have opened to visitors but with some big changes.

In a statement to the public, Zoo Atlanta wrote, "Zoo Atlanta has transitioned to a timed ticketing system to control capacity and limit the number of guests who are inside the zoo at any given time. Tickets may only be purchased online and all transactions with in the zoo will be paperless, with no cash transactions."

Visitors also won't receive a perp map, like usual, just a digital one. At Graceland, there's also major limitation on the number of visitors who will be inside the mansion or on the property at any given time. Weinshanker says on a busy summer day, Graceland can see up to 3,200 guests. Now, the day will be capped at just 800 guests.

"Listen, for a very short period of time what you can expect is the greatest experience you’ve ever had, because it is really like everyone is taking a private tour. But that’s not really the important thing, what we’re doing is trying to help open up America," said Weinshanker.

Weinshanker says Graceland is a huge part of Memphis' tourism and brings a lot of business to the city. Graceland acknowledges they'll already be losing a lot of domestic and international tourists who have to get on a plane to visit.

"It's not about making any money. We’re actually going to lose money until we can get back to a realistic capacity and we actually, financially, might have done better not opening up, but this is about getting America back to some normalcy," said Weinshanker.

Graceland employees will be wearing specially designed polyester and cotton masks and they'll also be for sale to visitors.

"Until we have something where a hard immunity or a vaccine available to the masses, we’re not going to be back to 100 percent, but you know what, America at 75 percent is still better than any other place in the planet," said Weinshanker.

Graceland may increase its visitor limitations as time goes on but doesn't expect they'll be back to normal for at least another year.