A few people may not have thought to put the words cemetery and tours together. For many of us, cemeteries may hold painful memories, while some believe we should observe them with tremendous respect. Many may not consider a
cemetery tour respectful or understand why anyone would want to visit them.
While we understand these perceptions, we also believe cemeteries can hold historical value. A tour is possibly one of the most accessible means to provide people with historical context and information about the people and their lives that are buried within. In some cases, the cost is entirely free. There are generally two types of cemetery tours: self-guided and guided.
In some cases, such as the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, tours are necessary to counter rampant vandalism.
Today, we'd like to touch on some of the fantastic cemetery tours available to convince you to give these tours a chance.
The Official Tour of St. Louis Cemetery No.1 is the only way to see inside the cemetery. From 9 AM until 3:45 PM, tours depart daily. It is recommended that reservations are made in advance, as this is one of the most popular guided tours in New Orleans. During the tour, licensed guides delve into the unique burial customs of above-ground crypts found throughout this famous 18th-Century cemetery.
Within the cemetery, you'll be able to spot tombs belonging to Voodoo queen Marie Laveau, many of New Orlean's city mayors, Homer Plessy, and even Nicolas Cage's eccentric pyramid tomb, a massive nine-foot tall future resting place.
Established in 1789, St. Louis No.1 is New Orlean's oldest extant cemetery that embodies over 300 years of history and culture. This is a cemetery tour that truly transcends history and time.
Old Burying Point Tours
Old Burying Point, Salem, Massachusetts, is estimated to date back to 1673, making it another historically significant cemetery within the United States. Also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, it is the second oldest in the U.S. Nearby the site, victims of the infamous Salem Witch Trials were convicted, and Jonathan Corwin and Jonathan Hawthorne, both Salem witch trial judges, were buried there.
Salem, once a major shipping port of the "New World," makes this cemetery particularly intriguing as rumors say a Mayflower pilgrim, one of the first to enter the U.S., has been put to rest within. The grave of former governor Samuel Bradstreet also can be found within, and many of the tombstones carved and created in the 1600s remain intact. Visiting and touring this cemetery is an excellent opportunity to learn about colonial-era history, including burial practices of the time and the lives of the crucial figures laid to rest here.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Founded in 1899, this cemetery is arguably one of the most visited landmarks in the U.S. and the final resting place of hundreds of Hollywood legends. We can't name them all, but just a few that can be found within are Judy Garland, Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, Tyrone Power, Douglas Fairbanks, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Valerie Harper, Chris Cornell, many, many others.
If you stick around after the tours, you can enjoy movies or music under the stars at the cemetery's Masonic Lodge. Every year, the cemetery hosts one of the largest Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, and the Beth Olam section is one of California's oldest, most active Kewish cemeteries.
Neptune Memorial Reef
Three-and-a-quarter miles east of Key Biscayne in Miami, Florida, and 40 feet under the sea, is one of the more unique cemeteries to visit. The Neptune Memorial Reef is an underwater columbarium ( a place for funeral urns with cremation ashes to be stored), and a work in progress. This artificial reef occupies roughly one-half acre of space, and a plan for adding 16 acres is underway. Though you may hear it referred to as a mausoleum or underwater cemetery, it meets neither criterion. Cremated remains are mixed with cement to form the features of the reef and memorial plaques are added. It is more of a memorial site than a cemetery, but it is a worthy addition to this list for its unusual and unique design.
Visitors are welcome, and scuba tours are available. However, visitors and tourists are asked never to fish, be gentle, and share space with any reef divers, as the memorial reef is also an essential part of Florida's ecological system.
When you tour a cemetery, you will see unique features, historic landmarks, and different layouts and artistry throughout time and areas of the country. A cemetery can be a place of remembering and learning all at once.