When you think of fun outings, traipsing through the local graveyard may not be your first choice. Or your second. Like me, you may have been brought up to think of a cemetery as a solemn place of sadness, not a venue for recreation.
My views changed drastically nearly 10 years ago when my family explored the historic East Coast. We discovered that most burial sites are not creepy or morbid, but hold a lot of history, culture and art.
Today, cemetery tourism is a growing market as traveler’s trek to graveyards around the world to reflect on their lives, seek out the grave of a famous person, or travel to learn more about their family by finding the final resting place of loved ones.
Visiting a graveyard wasn’t always reserved for those in mourning. Many historic cemeteries were designed as a park-like setting to welcome families onto the grounds and were meant to be explored. People once flocked to cemeteries for picnics and to socialize. The Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio is one such cemetery. Often referred to as the city’s “outdoor art museum,” walking, jogging, and driving through the cemetery is acceptable. There’s also another option to welcome tourists, a Sunday trolley is offered during the summer months that touches on many of the architectural and historical highlights of the cemetery.
Wandering through a graveyard or taking a guided tour allows us to learn more about the people who lived before us. We can reflect on the changing customs and attitudes about the hereafter. Today, people visit cemeteries for a number of reasons. They may study genealogy, or love photography. Maybe they like the architecture of the stones and monuments you find on the grounds. They may enjoy reading the endearing epitaphs or comparing the differences between an historic cemetery and a memorial park.
Most cemeteries welcome the public at no charge and many offer maps, brochures, smartphone apps, audio tours, or guided tours that highlight notable graves, statues, monuments, chapels and other architectural structures. There are also many books that have been written on the topic in recent years. I’ve selected some that I think you’ll enjoy here.
Today, cemeteries are more than a place of reflection. They are a place of beauty and a place of history.
When was the last time you visited a cemetery?