Cemeteries are places where we lay our dead to rest and honor their memories. As such, they’re somber places that even fill some people with a sense of dread, perhaps because cemeteries remind them of their own mortality. For others, there is a superstitious fear of the dead.
When you step back, though, you might notice that many cemeteries are beautiful places due to both design and the preservation of the natural landscape. Moreover, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that and appreciating and even visiting them for their own sake.
Here are 11 of the most beautiful cemeteries in the U.S. They’re worth a visit, and you might even choose one as your own final resting place.
1. Punchbowl Crater– Honolulu, Hawaii
Punchbowl Crater is part of an extinct volcano on the island of Oahu. Inside it, you’ll find the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. It honors men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and millions visit it each year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii.
2. Neptune Memorial Reef– Key Biscayne, Florida
This unique cemetery is actually in the Atlantic Ocean about 3 miles east of Key Biscayne. It’s an example of a “green burial,” which prioritizes the preservation of the natural environment and oneness with it. The cemetery is a human-made reef, with structures containing and memorializing those who choose to be buried there. After construction, the reef became a haven for marine life, and visitors can don scuba gear to visit it.
3. Forest Home Cemetery– Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Founded in 1850, this cemetery has a garden theme meant to help soothe the grieving of loved ones remembering their departed. It’s notable for its beautiful landscaping, monuments, and arched roadways.
4. Colorado Burial Cemetery– Florence, Colorado
“Natural burial” minimizes unnatural materials. Instead, bodies decompose naturally and return to the earth after being wrapped in shrouds or biodegradable containers and then
placed in the ground. This Colorado cemetery has a dedication to preserving and restoring the land.
5. Bonaventure Cemetery– Savannah, Georgia
Once privately owned and spanning 14 acres, this cemetery, founded in 1846, now has more than 100 acres to it. Antiquity and charm define this cemetery, and there’s even a group dedicated to its preservation and upkeep.
6. Graceland– Chicago, Illinois
No, this is not where Elvis is; that’s the Graceland in Memphis, assuming he wasn’t abducted by aliens after all. At this beautifully landscaped Chicago cemetery, you will find the gravesites of plenty of other historical figures, though.
7. Sleepy Hollow Ceremony– Tarrytown, New York
Given the name, it’s no surprise that this cemetery is rich in legend and folklore, and you can even go on spooky lantern tours. This is the final resting site of author Washington Irving, whose famous short story made Sleepy Hollow immortal.
8. Woodlawn Cemetery– Bronx, New York
The Bronx in New York City is home to this famous cemetery that contains the graves of many famous American cultural figures, Miles Davis and Irving Berlin being among them. It’s also rumored to be the haunting place of several ghosts, and you can learn about them during a Halloween tour.
9. Laurel Hill Cemetery– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Wanting someplace better than a local churchyard for his daughter’s burial, a local Quaker established this cemetery that combines tranquility with natural beauty. It’s now a National Historic Landmark and contains tens of thousands of graves.
10. Magnolia Cemetery– Charleston, South Carolina
Thousands of Civil War veterans, as well as many famous Charleston historical figures, are buried here. At this cemetery that once was a rice plantation, you can also go on Confederate ghost walks every October.
11. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1– New Orleans, Louisiana
Because New Orleans is very close to or below sea level, there are above-ground cemeteries. Due to the striking architecture of the tombs and the sidewalks between them, these cemeteries are colloquially known as “Cities of the Dead.” St. Louis No. 1 is the oldest active cemetery in the city, and it holds the tomb of the famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
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Featured Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey
Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.