One doesn’t need to be a taphophile — that is, someone who loves graveyards and funerals — to enjoy these 30 must-visit cemeteries in America. Whether you’re looking for a unique sightseeing opportunity, have a love of history, or do indeed consider yourself a ‘tombstone tourist,’ the cemeteries below provide for some interesting entertainment, unique aesthetics, and fascinating history.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery may be the most famous cemetery in America. Situated just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, this beautiful 624-acre site is the final resting place for Americans who have perished in conflict (United States presidents are also eligible to be buried here). The cemetery has more than 400,000 graves, including those of President William Howard Taft, President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, General of the Armies John J. Pershing, and former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn. One of Arlington’s must-see features is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which has been perpetually guarded by a Tomb Guard of the U.S. Army since July 2, 1937.
Packed with history, Savannah, Georgia is home to a number of fascinating cemeteries. One must-visit cemetery in Savannah is Bonaventure Cemetery, the biggest of the city’s municipal graveyards. Though true taphophiles have long been coming to wander this 160-acre cemetery, other tombstone tourists are drawn to Bonaventure because of its role in the book and film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Bonaventure Cemetery includes a number of notable burials, including former Georgia governor Josiah Tattnall; his son and former Navy captain Josiah Tattnall, Jr.; and Gracie Watson, a six-year old girl whose grave sight is adorned with a famous sculpture depicting the girl’s exact likeness (pictured).
With a name like Tombstone, it should come as no surprise that this Arizona town is home to one of the country’s must-visit cemeteries. Boothill Graveyard, which also goes by the name “Old City Cemetery,” was established in 1883 as a place to bury outlaws. As a popular tourist attraction in Tombstone, Boothill contains a number of notable grave markers which are unfortunately faked. Still, the number of real stories make a visit to Boothill worth it. Among the graveyard’s actual residents are “Three Fingered Jack” Dunlop, the three men killed in the O.K. Corral Shootout, and China Mary, a female general store owner who sold American and Chinese goods and offered money on credit.
New York, New York
With approximately 3 million interments, Calvary Cemetery in Queens is one of America’s largest cemeteries. It’s also one of the country’s oldest. Established in 1848, the 365-acre cemetery is owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Perhaps not surprisingly, Calvary Cemetery holds a number of notable burials, including myriad Civil War Medal of Honor recipients, mobsters like Anthony Carfano and Ignatius “Lupo the Wolf” Lupo. There are countless other politicians, athletes, writers, and artists.
Cave Hill Cemetery
Located in the heart of Louisville is Cave Hill Cemetery, a Victorian-era cemetery and arboretum that is teeming with beauty and history. Established in 1848, Cave Hill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its vast history, unique Victorian architecture, and famous residents. Such residents include:
- Louisville founder and Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark
- Patty and Mildred Hill, the two sisters credited with composing the “Happy Birthday” song
- Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders
- boxing legend Muhammed Ali
Interestingly, Cave Hill Cemetery also includes a National Cemetery for those who have fought and died in battle. In “Section O” lie more than 200 Confederate soldiers killed during the Civil War, many of whom remain unidentified. A Confederate flag flies over the section.
Crown Hill Cemetery
Crown Hill Cemetery was named for the summit of Strawberry Hill, known as “the crown” and serving as the highest point of this Indianapolis-based must-visit cemetery. There are a few things that make this a must-visit cemetery. First, it spans a whopping 555 acres, making it the third biggest privately owned cemetery in the country. Second, it’s absolutely beautiful. Based on landscape designs by John Chislett, Sr. and Adolph Strauch, Crown Hill boasts 25 miles of paved road and more than 150 different species of trees and plants. Lastly, quite a few notable people are buried here, including president Benjamin Harrison and the infamous bank robber John Dillinger.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
One of three Los Angeles-area cemeteries to make our list is Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Established in 1906, Forest Lawn is frequently used for the funerals and burials of film stars and other entertainers. Some of Forest Lawn’s notable interments include:
- The Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum
- Nat King Cole
- Natalie Cole
- Sammy Davis Jr.
- Dorothy Dandridge
- Jean Harlow
- Clark Gable
- Walt Disney.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
San Diego, California
Located about 10 miles from downtown San Diego is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Run by the Department of Veteran Affairs, this beautiful cemetery has been built over 78 acres overlooking San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. As a National Cemetery, Fort Rosecrans is the final resting place for a number of American service men and women. Many notable burials have taken place here, including myriad Medal of Honor winners.
Golden Gate National Cemetery
San Bruno, California
Yet another National Cemetery to make our list of America’s must-visit graveyards is Golden Gate National Cemetery. Located in San Bruno and boasting a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, this historic cemetery dates back to 1937. It currently holds just under 138,000 interments, including:
- myriad Medal of Honor recipients
- Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
- three British Commonwealth World War II servicemen
- 44 German and Italian prisoners-of-war
Interestingly, Golden Gate National Cemetery was the first of its kind to initiate a flag ceremony on Memorial Day.
For anyone interested in Chicago’s storied past, Graceland Cemetery is an absolute must visit! Established in 1960, Graceland covers 121 acres and is the final resting place for a number of famous Chicagoans. Just a few are:
- Film critic Roger Ebert (cremated)
- businessman Marshall Field
- boxing champion Jack Johnson
- Augustus Dickens, the brother of Charles Dickens
But its famous interments aren’t Graceland Cemetery’s only points of interest. The cemetery’s many notable tombs and monuments also prove a major draw for Tombstone Tourists and architecture buffs alike. These include the Louis Sullivan-designed Getty Tomb, the Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum, and the sculpture entitled The Crusader, which watches over Victor Lawson’s grave.
Granary Burying Ground
Established in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground in Boston is one of the oldest graveyards on our list of must-visit cemeteries. Even still, it’s only the city’s third-oldest cemetery! But Granary Burying Ground is notable as the final resting spot for many of the Revolutionary War-era’s most famous characters. Paul Revere is buried here, as are Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and the five victims of the Boston Massacre. While there are 2,345 unique grave markers at Granary Burying Ground, it is estimated that there are actually more than 5,000 interments.
Brooklyn, New York
In 1866, about 30 years after Green-Wood Cemetery was established, it was written in The New York Times:“It is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon the Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the Central Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood.” Indeed, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery has become one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks. It is listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places and has been granted National Historic Landmark and New York City Landmark status. Myriad notable burials have taken place in Green-Wood, including
- artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
- actress and serial mistress Lola Montez
- Wizard of Oz. actor Frank Morgan
- Samuel F.B. Morse, who invented the Morse Code.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Los Angeles, California
Founded in 1899, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of Los Angeles’s oldest resting spots. Though it has gone through multiple name changes over the years, it has always been a popular burial place for those prominent in the entertainment industry. Some of the cemetery’s most famous interments include:
- Mel Blanc
- Cecil B. DeMille
- Fay Wray
- Judy Garland
- Anton Yelchin
Interestingly, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is also a popular events space, and routinely holds outdoor concerts and summer movie screenings.
Key West Cemetery
Key West, Florida
Though only 30,000 people live on the island of Key West, Key West Cemetery is “home” to some 100,000! The 19-acre cemetery is situated at the foot of Solares Hill in the Old Town section of the island. The graveyard is full of interesting historical graves with notable epitaphs, such as “I told you I was sick,” “I’m just resting my eyes,” and “I Always Dreamed Of Owning A Small Place In Key West.”
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
New Orleans, Louisiana
The city of New Orleans is well known for its must-visit cemeteries, one of which is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Amazingly, Lafayette Cemetery spans a single city block, yet holds as many as 7,000 people in 1,100 family tombs. This must-visit cemetery draws hundreds of tourists each year, all of whom are eager to see the many notable architectural features of the tombs and mausoleums. Lafayette Cemetery is also a popular filming location, and has appeared in movies such as Interview with the Vampire, Double Jeopardy, and Jonah Hex, among others.
Lake View Cemetery
Lake View Cemetery has so many interesting features it’s known locally as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum.” Located on the shores of Lake Erie, this must-visit cemetery was established in 1869 and modeled after the beautiful garden cemeteries popular in Victorian-era Western Europe. Lake View is the final resting place of a number of notable figures, including John D. Rockefeller, Salisbury steak inventor James Salisbury, and famous Prohibition-era detective Eliot Ness, to name but a few. But Lake View Cemetery’s most famous feature is certainly the James A. Garfield Memorial. This massive memorial features an ornate interior of stained glass, marble statues, and bas relief. In the memorial’s lower level lie the coffins of the former president and his wife. Lake View Cemetery also served as a filming location for the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Laurel Hill Cemetery
Few cemeteries have received the distinction of National Historic Landmark, though Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery was placed on the list in 1998. The 74-acre cemetery is most noted for its large collection of 33,000 monuments and mausoleums. Many of these date back to the 19th and 20th centuries, and feature ornate marble sculptures and grand obelisks. Some of Laurel Hill’s most notable burials include:
- Commodore Isaac Hull
- Wharton Business School founder Joseph Wharton
- Battle of Gettysburg victor General George Meade.
Mount Auburn Cemetery
True taphophiles — that is, people who enjoying spending time in and exploring cemeteries — would do well to add Mount Auburn Cemetery to their list of must-see cemeteries. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mount Auburn was one of America’s first cemeteries to be designed with a park-like setting, rather than the Colonial-era graveyard with its graves in neat rows and marked by uniform tombstones. Spanning 174 acres, Mount Auburn has long been the final resting place of choice for New England’s wealthiest. A few notable burials include:
- writer and publisher John Bartlett
- cookbook author Fannie Farmer
- poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Mount Hope Cemetery
Rochester, New York
Mount Hope Cemetery’s main claim to fame is as the first municipal cemetery in America. Of course, visitors to this beautiful cemetery in Rochester, NY are sure to find that that’s far from its most interesting fact. More than 350,000 people are buried at Mount Hope. A few of these include:
- American social reformer Susan B. Anthony
- former slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass
- Nobel Prize winning physician and researcher George Whipple.
Mount Hope Cemetery is also home to Sally James Farnham’s stunning sculpture Defenders of the Flag, a Civil War monument.
Mountain View Cemetery
Located on 226 hillside acres in Oakland, California, Mountain View Cemetery was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect most famous for designing Central Park in New York City. Because of the Olmsted association, Mountain View Cemetery has long been a chosen resting place for California elite. Many of California’s wealthiest can be found in the area known as “Millionaire’s Row,” notable for its ornate crypts and mausoleums. Famous names to be found in Mountain View include myriad state politicians, local business magnates, artists, and military.
Neptune Memorial Reef
Key Biscayne, Florida
There’s no other cemetery on our list quite like Neptune Memorial Reef! As its name suggests, Neptune Memorial Reef is an underwater columbarium located about three miles from Key Biscayne, Florida. Currently, the reef is designed to hold the remains of about 850 people. It will ultimately be able to accommodate upwards of 125,000 people desiring a burial at sea. Unlike most cemeteries on our list, Neptune Memorial Reef actually combines cremated remains with cement to form features like tombstones, statues, and even cemetery gates.
One of Atlanta’s largest green spaces is Oakland Cemetery, a 48-acre burying ground established in 1850. Like Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts, Oakland Cemetery was designed to resemble the peaceful and picturesque garden-like cemeteries popular in France and England. Named for the many oak and magnolia trees which grow in the area, Oakland Cemetery holds approximately 70,000 interments. Though the last plots were sold in 1884, burials still occur today in some of the larger family-owned plots. Twenty-seven former mayors of Atlanta and six former Georgia governors are buried at Oakland, as is Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell. Oakland Cemetery also has a section for Confederate soldiers killed during the Civil War. Of the nearly 7,000 interments in this section, about 3,000 remain unidentified.
Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary
Los Angeles, California
Like the previously described Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary is a popular eternal resting place for those prominent in the entertainment industry. Though it has been used as a burial ground since the 1880s it wasn’t officially established until 1905 (as Sunset Cemetery). The list of notable interments here is a long one, and includes, among others:
- Alexis Arquette
- Ray Bradbury
- Truman Capote
- Farrah Fawcett
- the Gabor sisters
- Elizabeth Montgomery
- Marilyn Monroe.
Reformed Dutch Church of Tappan Cemetery
Tappan, New York
To see one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, tombstone tourists should head to Tappan, New York and the Reformed Church of Tappan. Formed in 1694, but built in 1716, this beautiful historic church is most famous for holding the trial that convicted British Major John Andre of conspiring with Benedict Arnold. The church’s cemetery is a true graveyard, with small uniform headstones arranged in neat rows. Many of the headstones are inscribed in Dutch, and mark the graves of early American settlers. Myriad soldiers killed during the Revolutionary War are also buried here.
Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1
New Orleans, Louisiana
Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 is arguably New Orleans’ most famous cemetery. It’s also the city’s oldest. Established in 1789 (at which point it replaced an even older cemetery!), Saint Louis spans a mere city block, yet holds thousands of above-ground interments. Some of the cemetery’s most famous residents include:
- the first mayor of New Orleans, Etienne de Boré
- Homer Plessy of the groundbreaking civil rights Supreme Court case
- Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau
Though he isn’t a full-time resident quite yet, Nicolas Cage is also said to have purchased a pyramid-shaped tomb for himself.
San Carlos Borromea de Carmelo Cemetery
Those interested in California history can’t miss the church and churchyard at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in Carmel, California. The National Register of Historic Places listed mission as headquarters for all of the Alta California missions. Saint Junipero Serra managed the missions from Carmel from 1770 until his death in 1784. Today, Serra is buried in the church under a beautiful grave. Other notable interments of the mission’s graveyard include Spanish governor of California Jose Antonio Romeu, and Juan Crespi and Fermin Lasuen, both Spanish missionaries and explorers.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
The first of two Sleepy Hollow Cemeteries to make our list is located in Concord, Massachusetts. Established in 1855, it’s the final resting place for a number of famous Concord residents. A few notable interments include:
- Little Women author Louisa May Alcott and her entire family
- essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson
- The Scarlett Letter author Nathaniel Hawthorne
- philosopher and essayist Henry David Thoreau
Literary fans often come from all over to visit “Author’s Ridge,” where many of history’s greatest thinkers and writers are buried.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Sleepy Hollow, New York
Though not to be confused with the must-visit cemetery described above, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York is also the final resting place of a famous writer: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irving. Established in 1849, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has a number of other notable interments, including:
- businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie
- cosmetics queen Elizabeth Arden
- The New York Times co-founder George Jones
- a number of Alexander Hamilton’s children.
Trinity Church Cemeteries
New York City, New York
New York City is chock full of things to do, both modern and historical. One must-visit site in the latter category is certainly Trinity Church and its cemeteries. Actually consisting of three separate burial grounds, this iconic church and cemetery is the final resting place for an astounding number of famous New Yorkers. A few of these include
- Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, son Philip, and sister-in-law Angelica
- War of 1812 hero James Lawrence
- business magnate John Jacob Astor
- actor Jerry Orbach
A walk through any of Trinity Church’s cemeteries is bound to yield a number of fascinating historical finds.
Bronx, New York
Those walking around Woodlawn Cemetery are likely to forget they’re in one of New York City’s largest cemeteries. Green and lush, this park-like cemetery was established during the Civil War. Quite a few notable figures are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. These include:
- Moby Dick author Herman Melville
- musicians Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and Miles Davis
- magicians Alexander and Adelaide Hermann.
By BCR Staff
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