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The most interesting cemeteries to visit in the United States

Cemeteries are an unexpected way to experience a new place.

It may sound strange, but hear me out. They’re often meticulously maintained, offer beautiful walking paths, and insight into local history. With that in mind, here are a few of the most interesting cemeteries to visit in the United States.

Cities of the Dead – New Orleans

St Louis Cemetery No 1 - New Orleans

The Big Easy is filled with iconic places of rest, and the city’s above-ground tombs are stuff of legend. Both beautiful and haunting, a stroll through a NOLA cemetery is something you won’t soon forget. If you’re staying in the French Quarter, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is an easy walk. It’s the oldest cemetery in town (dating back to 1789), and allegedly houses the remains of voodoo queen Marie Laveau. You have to check out the pure white pyramid that actor Nicolas Cage erected for himself. Cemetery hours run Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Lafayette Cemetery - NOLA

You can check off a few boxes visiting this historic Lafayette Cemetery. Since it’s located in the Garden District, you can take the St. Charles Streetcar from the French Quarter for a city tour. Take your time wandering through this non-denominational, non-segregated cemetery from 1833. Fun fact: Horror writer Anne Rice used to live around the corner, and drew inspiration for the Mayfair Witches and Lestat the vampire’s tombs. The cemetery is open Monday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After, grab lunch at the historic Commander’s Palace—it’s just kitty corner (or is it katty corner? Guess that depends on where you’re from!). Open since 1880, this is the where fancy people enjoy turtle soup, shrimp & tasso henican– wild Louisiana white shrimp, tasso ham, pickled okra, five-pepper jelly and served with Crystal hot sauce beurre blanc, gumbo and fresh Gulf fish. Don’t come dressed like a schlub—the dress code prohibits shorts, flip-flops, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, and ripped jeans. That sounds so southern, doesn’t it?

 

Arlington National Cemetery – Arlington County, VA

Arlington National Cemetery

Located in Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., this iconic American cemetery sprawls over 624 rolling acres. Established in 1864, this land serves as the final resting place for Civil War soldiers (and some reinterred soldiers from prior wars), US presidents, politicians, chief justices, notable astronauts and more. Today, the cemetery still conducts between 27 and 30 funerals each weekday.

Arlington National Cemetery

ANC is the perfect place to reflect on American history and the sacrifices made to establish this great country. Visit the enteral flame burning for JFK, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the changing of the guard (which happens every hour on the hour October 1 to March 31; and from April 1 through September 30  another change is added on the half hour).

You may schedule a tour, or if you’re more of a DIY-er, download the ANC Explorer app. This app enables families, visitors and the public to locate gravesites, events or other points of interest throughout the cemetery. It also offers self-guided tours, easy access to general information, and provides the ability to save searched burial records to a mobile device.

Freedom Trail Burying Grounds – Boston, MA

Boston Freedom trail graveyard

As one of one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston is home to many a historic graveyard. One of the best ways to visit a few is by walking the Freedom Trail. This 2.5-mile, red-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites, including museums and meetinghouses, churches, and yes, burying grounds. You can book a guided tour, but the free app tells you everything you want to know and lets you do the walk at your own pace.

boston freedom trail graveyard

You’ll find three cemeteries included on the Freedom Trail. The Granary Burying Ground, which dates back to 1660, has 2,300 markers though it’s estimated over 5,000 people are actually buried here. Pay your respects to John Hancock, Paul Revere, James Otis and Samuel Adams. King’s Chapel Burying Ground and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground also sit along the Freedom Trail.

 

Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Hollywood, CA

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The culture of celebrity lives on for eternity at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Hundreds of celebrities permanently call this 64-acre park home. Founded in 1899 by Lankersheim and Van Nuys, visitors pay their respects to stars like Mickey Rooney, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Jr., Peter Lorre, Judy Garland, Cecil B. DeMille, Fay Wray, both Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, and my personal favorite Mel Blanc—the voice of Bugs Bunny.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

But wait! There’s more! Hollywood Forever also hosts incredible movie nights. Bring a blanket, pillows, low chairs and a picnic (with your own beer and wine if you want!) and enjoy a flick on the Fairbanks Lawn. Films have included Ghostbusters, Night of the Living Dead, Some Like It Hot, and The Princess Bride. The cemetery also hosts concerts at the onsite Masonic Lodge. I love how this place continues to celebrate both the living and the dead.

Do you ever visit cemeteries when you travel, or is that just weird? Share in the comments!

Photos: 1 / 2 / 3

Cemeteries are an unexpected way to experience a new place. Here are a few of the most interesting cemeteries to visit in the United States.

This Post Has 34 Comments
  1. We often visit cemeteries. I have been to Arlington several times and have also been to the Freedom Trail Burying Ground. The cemetery in key West is also above ground, although no doubt not as large as the one in New Orleans. Visiting battlefield cemeteries is always interesting, especially Civil War cemeteries such as Gettysburg. Then there’s the old Burying Ground at Salem, Massachusetts where the 19 hung for being witches are buried. There are many more, and if you find an ancestor in one of these notable cemeteries, it makes it all the more interesting.

    1. Thanks so much for mentioning the Old Burying Point in Salem! It is one of the oldest cemeteries in Massachusetts, but the victims of the Witch Trials are not buried there. They were not entitled to Christian burials, so they do not have marked graves. The victims of the Trials do have marked stones in the Witch Trials Memorial, which is adjacent to the cemetery, and one of the Trials Judges (Hathorne) is buried in the Old Burying Point.

  2. Spring Hrove Cemetery in Cincinnati OH. It is on National Register and its absolutely beautiful. You can literally spend an entire day there and not see everything.

  3. My family just completed a tour of West Point which included their cemetery. Much history to be found (buried) here, great stories told by guides, plus WP is situated in one of America’s most beautiful locations

  4. These are all great, but I don’t believe there are “many U.S. presidents” buried in Arlington. I believe there are just two; Taft and Kennedy. Please let me know if I’m incorrect, but most presidents preferred burial in their home states.

  5. Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, IN is a beautiful place. They have wonderful tours. There are so many ornate tombstones, a gothic chapel, and miles of roads to walk or bike.

  6. Yes, we’ve visited cemeteries when we travel! The most interesting was in Paris – Pere Lachaise. Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, Marcel Marceau and on and on!

  7. Samantha,
    You’ve definitely hit a nerve with this article. My entire family (and many friends) know of my love of cemeteries. I could walk in one all day, reading the stories on the stones and imagining the lives lived. I’ve visited many you’ve listed here, but have to say my favorite is the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, GA.

  8. In just one small area of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA, you will find Authors Ridge, where, within 30 feet of each other, lie the remains of Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau,Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and more….

  9. Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, KY is beautiful and full of history. In addition to the military section, the graves of the ladies who wrote “Happy Birthday” are buried there, and Colonel Sanders and his wife, as well as many other significant persons. Lots of interesting wildlife roaming about, also.

  10. The only cemetery I ever visited on vacation was Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France to see Jim Morrison’s grave. Came away slightly disappointed. I actually found Chopin, Moliere, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde’s graves more meaningful. Still glad I visited though.

    1. Scott, I’ve been to Pere Lachaise many times. It was the first place that I visited on my first visit to Paris in 1988 and I’ve returned again and again. Jim’s grave has changed over the years, as his surroundings also changed. In 1988 there was no security or barriers around his grave. In the 1990’s a barrier gate was erected and gendarmes were on patrol duty. One year around 2010 there was a new fad: chew gum and stick it to the tree nearest his grave. Yuck! The gate was still erected but the patrols were gone, shortly after his father died in Coronado CA.

  11. Hi!
    The cemetery at my church is interesting because there are Revolutionary War soldiers there. The cemeteries in Philadelphia are interesting – Ben Franklin is buried there for one. Cemeteries are so interesting! We even took our Brownie Troop to do grave rubbings – something I did when I was little too. That all being said, I’m not a fan of Halloween. I can scare myself – I don’t need anyone else to do it for me LOL
    My brother lives in CA, and has visited the cemetery in Hollywood.

  12. Mount Auburn Cemetery ( The Silent City on a Hill ) has always been special to me because it was built on land owned by my early ancestors. In 1844 Caroline Orne wrote of the Stone Family attachment to the land in her poems.

  13. I always visit cemeteries when possible while traveling. Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, GA is fantastic to visit. As is Oakland Cemetery in downtown Atlanta. There are some great cemeteries to visit in San Juan, PR. All feature beautiful statues, headstones, above ground crypts, and more.

  14. If you ever make it up to Alaska, I highly recommend visiting cemeteries out in the Native villages. Every time I visit a village, I visit the cemetery (and take photos). One in particular I would suggest is a short drive away from Anchorage, at the Athabascan village of Eklutna. There, they have “spirit houses” that are made of wood and contain the dead, painted in colors that represent the particular family.

  15. We love to visit cemeteries when we travel, both in North America and during our visits abroad. My uncle is buried in Forest Lawn in Los Angeles so he has many famous neighbors. We also love the cemetery in downtown LA where Marilyn Monroe and Frank Zappa are buried. We’ve visited plots in New Orleans and Lafayette, Jimi Hendrix’ family’s amazing monument in Washington, Pere LaChaise and Montparnasse in Paris, the island of the dead in Venice Italy, and the non-Catholic one in Rome. We’ve walked through the tightly set head stones in Prague’s Jewish cemetery, saw plots for famous violin and bow makers in MIrecourt France. We’ve also made our way through the cemeteries that house our ancestors in tiny towns in Germany and France.

  16. Woodlands Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton, OH! Took an Inventors Tour with my daughters 3rd grade class. Final resting place of Wilber and Orvill Wright, Charles Kettering (self starting auto ignition), James Patterson (NCR), George P. Huffman (Huffy Bicycles), George Mead (Mead Paper), and Preserved Smith (Barney & Smith Mfg. Co.). Also writer Erma Bombeck and poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. The grounds are beautiful and there are many unique grave markers.

  17. We always visit the cemeteries in places we travel to on vacations. You can learn a lot of history in an old cemetery. We loved the cemeteries in Savannah, Georgia and Key West, Florida. Some of the cemeteries are interesting in Hawaii also, especially the small ones on Kauai. Of course the U.S. military cemeteries in Europe should not be missed.

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The Most Interesting Cemeteries To Visit In The United States
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