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Exploring the Cemeteries in New Orleans

Tips for Visiting the Cemeteries of New Orleans

I’m actually a fan of cemeteries. I know what you may be thinking, but before you write me off as some type of morbid freak and ban my blog from your RSS feed, maybe you should give me a minute to explain.

When we traveled with my husbands job for several years, we didn’t travel because we wanted to. We traveled due to necessity. That means we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on outings. In many cases, that meant we had NO money to spend for anything extra. I had to be creative about the places that we visited.

After I discovered a brochure for a self-guided cemetery tour in a small town in Virginia, visiting a cemetery once in a while became an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two. It also gave the kids and I a much-needed break from the hotel room.

Since then, we’ve visited a slave cemetery, a Confederate cemetery and an actual Coon Dog Cemetery.  Last year, I even shared how visiting cemeteries can be full blown field trip.

The cemeteries in New Orleans are like none I’ve ever visited. Finding them was an easy feat. I simply hopped on the streetcar that ran along Canal Street and rode it to the end of the line. It actually stops right in front of the cemeteries.

Seeing the cemeteries in New Orleans for the first time was a surreal experience. While I’d expected to see rows of tombs, monuments and mausoleums, I didn’t expect them to extend for blocks.

With only a short time before classes, I knew I wouldn’t have time to fully explore the above ground “cities of the dead” so when the Elk Monument at Greenwood Cemetery caught my eye, I decided to take a look there first.

Elk Statue at Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans

As I stepped through the fence, I spoke briefly with a caretaker and asked for recommendations on what to see in the cemetery. He couldn’t offer any so I explored on my own. It turns out that the monument that drew me to the cemetery is in fact one of the best known in Greenwood, the tomb of Lodge No. 30 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. This eye catching memorial contains eighteen burial vaults under the mound of grass.

Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans

I didn’t spend a lot of time in the cemetery, but I did find examples of barrel-vaulted tombs, parapet tombs and pitched roof tombs.

New Orleans Cemetery

Before returning to the hotel I took a few minutes to visit the New Orleans Katrina Memorial located just down the block.

While you’ll find many aboveground cemeteries grouped together at the end of the Canal Streetcar line, you won’t find the oldest, perhaps most well known St. Louis Cemetery among them.

The St. Louis Cemetery is said to hold the tomb of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau as well as famous New Orleanians. I ran into St. Louis Cemetery  #1 on my way out of town and stopped to take a look.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans

The cemetery had closed earlier in the day so I was only able to peek in between the padlocked wrought iron bars for a few minutes.

St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans

While the St. Louis Cemetery is located just one block from the French Market, it isn’t a desirable neighborhood, located right in the middle of one of the housing projects. This was the one place that I didn’t really feel safe and since returning from my trip, I’ve read that a cemetery tour is the best way to visit this cemetery due to safety.

St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans

Planning to visit the cemeteries in New Orleans? Here’s a few tips:

1. Take a cemetery tour.

One of my regrets of my trip to New Orleans was that I didn’t have time to take a cemetery tour- which really would have been a preferable way to see and learn about the history and architectural elements of the cemeteries.

2. If you are visiting during the summer, plan to visit early in the day.

New Orleans is hot and humid and you won’t find a great deal of shade in the cemeteries.

3. Familiarize yourself with types of tombs and memorials you’ll see. NolaCemeteries.com offers a wealth of information that I found helpful.

4. Don’t forget your camera!

New Orleans Greenwood Cemetery
Have you visited any of the New Orleans Cemeteries? What tips would you add?

This post is linked to Friday Daydreamin’ with R We There Yet, Mom?

The New Orleans Katrina Memorial
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Milena Yordanova

Wednesday 28th of January 2015

I love visiting cemeteries when I travel. This is a very unique experience. The Greenwood Cemetery looks very beautiful.

Tonya

Wednesday 4th of March 2015

Greenwood is beautiful, but there are several other cemeteries in the area that are equally stunning.

Penny

Tuesday 2nd of October 2012

What a great idea! I would never have thought to visit a cemetery to get history but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for the idea!

Allison

Friday 28th of September 2012

Cemeteries are great! There is so much history and local culture to be found there. One cemetery we happened upon in Isla Mujeres, Mexico was so colorful, crowded and unique. When we visited New England, for the first few days we were excited every time we found a 400-year-old cemetery because there aren't any established cemeteries that old in Utah. New Orleans cemeteries are special. That's one of the few places where it's worthwhile to put a cemetery tour on your travel itinerary rather than just stopping in for a short while.

Kate

Friday 28th of September 2012

We visited a few cemeteries when in New Orleans a few years ago as well. You are right--if you really want to learn about the history & other elements, you really need to take a tour. We found that we weren't allowed in without a guide, and ended up eavesdropping a bit before moving on! Not ideal.

Lisa

Friday 28th of September 2012

It is amazing the history that one can find in a cemetery! We visited one for the first time this summer when we were in Halifax - the Fairview Cemetery where many of the victims of the Titanic are buried. My younger daughter is obsessed with the Titanic and wanted to go. I thought that she would be freaked out by the actual cemetery but she found it fascinating.

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