America's Most Beautiful Cemeteries
It’s not only ghosts who haunt cemeteries. You, too, can spend time in some of our nation’s most beautiful and storied burial grounds, dating back to the Civil War and earlier. Fall is the perfect time of year to wander through the gardens, monuments, and tombstones of this collection of lovely, historically significant graveyards.
Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts
A jewel in Boston’s Emerald Necklace of parks and green spaces, Forest Hills comprises more than 275 acres of outdoor art and gardens. A walk through this living memorial, opened in 1848, takes you past the graves of many notable Americans, including abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and suffragist Lucy Stone.
flickr.com via Bill Ilott
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York
For a truly authentic experience, read Washington Irving’s spooky short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," while sitting under a tree in the original Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. This is, after all, where the famous author is buried, not far from the Old Dutch Church that inspired such memorable characters as Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
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Wikimedia Commons via Acroterion
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia
Arlington National Cemetery is an intensely moving tribute to American military service. The cemetery was established during the Civil War, and today rows upon rows of white headstones covering the grassy hills stand in solemn homage to the more than 400,000 members of the military who are buried there.
Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City
This urban graveyard in the heart of Wall Street dates back to the 17th century. Today, it offers visitors tree-lined walkways and a welcome breath of fresh air amid skyscrapers and hurried lives. A stroll through this National Historic Landmark is like a walk through American history, as this is the final resting place of assorted delegates to the Continental Congress, one signer of the Declaration of Independence, and founding father Alexander Hamilton.
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Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Laurel Hill, which opened in 1836, contains more than 33,000 monuments and sculptures, including one by Alexander Calder. The cemetery is the eternal home of many noteworthy Philadelphians and more than its share of Civil War-era generals—yet it also has a knack for fun. Among the events offered at this National Historic Landmark are the annual Rest in Peace 5k, Fall Family Day, and Haunted Halloween History Tours.
Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois
This Victorian-era cemetery is aptly named: The large family lots, imposing monuments, and "landscape rooms" purchased and erected by wealthy Chicagoans give the cemetery a gracious, pastoral air. "Residents" include retail magnate Marshall Field and architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn
Spend a day meandering the 478 rolling acres of Green-Wood, a National Historic Landmark where conductor Leonard Bernstein and machine politician Boss Tweed are buried, along with approximately 600,000 others. Visitors can enjoy bird-watching, Historic Trolley Tours of the sprawling grounds, and a host of special programs at this cemetery that was established back in 1838.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California
For film buffs and star-gazers alike, there is no better place than Hollywood Forever, founded in 1899. The roster of permanent denizens of this cemetery reads like a who’s who of screen legends, including Douglas Fairbanks and Judy Garland.
flickr.com via Licorice Medusa
San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco
With stunning views of San Francisco Bay and a history dating back to the site's first settlement in 1776, this national cemetery—the first on the West Coast—is dotted with eucalyptus trees and Spanish Revival buildings. The first known American was buried here in 1854, and it became a national cemetery in 1884. Today, it is the final resting place of more than 30,000 soldiers.
flickr.com via Thomas Hawk
Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California
This military burial ground was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1942 by then-Attorney General Earl Warren, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Every year on Memorial Day, an elaborate flag ceremony pays tribute to veterans, living and departed. A carillon donated by the American Veterans chimes background music for this beautiful cemetery bathed in California sunshine.
flickr.com via Pargon
Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California
Is it a cemetery or a nature preserve? Mountain View stretches across 226 acres of gorgeous Bay-area property, with seasonal gardens, flowering trees, clear pools, and stately monuments along the grassy slopes. Guests can even book weddings in these lush, eloquent surroundings.
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flickr.com via Melinda Stuart
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California
Though its history reaches back to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), Fort Rosecrans didn't become a national military cemetery until 1934. Monuments and memorials to those who died for our country pay tribute to human tragedy, international flash points, and famous battles, including the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Battle of San Pasqual, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
flickr.com via Michael Mayer
Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky
One of America’s earliest “garden” (or rural) cemeteries, Cave Hill first became a graveyard in 1846. By creating cultivated, beautifully landscaped spaces for contemplation and remembrance, its founders wished to change the way the public viewed cemeteries
Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York
Fall foliage is exquisite at Mount Hope, as one would expect with 196 acres of forestland. Graves date back 175 years, but the cemetery is forward-looking in its care for the earth, offering green burial options that include a Garden of Renewal, where loved ones are interred “in a simpler fashion.”
Wikimedia Commons via Daniel Penfield
Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana
In 1863, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation—and Crown Hill Cemetery opened its gates. The cemetery is truly a testament to democracy; you will find people of all kinds here, from President Benjamin Harrison to criminals and unknowns.
flickr.com via MCC_Indianapolis
Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx
At Woodlawn, yet another Civil War-era cemetery that is also a National Historic Landmark, visitors can pay tribute to some of our nation’s favorite artists, writers, civic leaders, and musicians. Novelist Herman Melville, poet Countee Cullen, and many jazz legends are buried here.
Wikimedia Commons via Jim Henderson
Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia
There’s no better place to begin your exploration of Atlanta than Oakland Cemetery. History converges under the oaks and magnolias, where both Civil War soldiers and Civil Rights leaders are interred. Art history buffs will enjoy the architecture, which borrows from Greek, Egyptian, and Victorian themes.
Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
All are welcome at Oak Hill, a nondenominational cemetery that serves people of all backgrounds and beliefs. It is also a living classroom where visitors can learn the intimate backstory of America. For example, the sons of both President Lincoln and Confederate leader Jefferson Davis were once buried in Oak Hill, although both were later removed and reinterred elsewhere.
flickr.com via Mr.TinDC
Neptune Memorial Reef in Key Biscayne, Florida
You’ll need a wetsuit and diving license to explore this cemetery. The Neptune Memorial Reef is the largest man-made reef in the world—and an underwater burial ground. Cremated remains are used in the materials to build the reef, which is situated 40 feet below the surface. Visitors are welcome by boat or scuba diving.
flickr.com via Matthew Hoelscher
Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts
Granary Burial Ground is one of the many historic sites along the Freedom Trail in Boston. Established in 1660, the third oldest cemetery has around 2,345 graves but it’s estimated that over 5,000 people are buried here. Notable names from American history that are laid to rest in Granary include Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.
Key West Cemetery in Key West, Florida
Although it’s a fairly small coastal town, it’s believed that there are around 100,000 remains buried at the Key West Cemetery. The cemetery has garnered attention for humorous epitaphs. However it’s not all jokes, amongst the graves is a memorial for the U.S.S. Maine, which was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898 killing 260 American sailors.
Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio
Opened in 1869, Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland was a part of the trend to make cemeteries that are park-like spaces. The grand Lake View Cemetery is the final resting place of John D. Rockefeller and other Rockefeller family members, as well as the home of the James A. Garfield Monument, the tombstone and memorial for President Garfield.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. It earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places due in part for the architecture of its tombs and mausoleums. It also has played a cameo in various pop culture moments, including being featured in Anne Rice novels and the movie Interview with a Vampire. It is currently closed to the public for repairs.
Mount Auburn Cemetery in Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Consecrated in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery is the resting place of prominent Bostonians and many Mayflower descendants. Mount Auburn is one of a handful of cemeteries that have been designated National Historic Landmarks, and it's also a haven for trees, making it an excellent place to admire New England’s finest autumn colors.
flickr.com via Jeremy Brooks
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