Exploring a cemetery may seem like an odd option to pass a morning or afternoon, but in the past decade, a growing number of families have discovered the benefits of becoming budding taphophiles*.
In fact, visiting a cemetery can be the perfect budget friendly way to interest school-age children in a city’s history and dignitaries as well as start the conversation about concepts of mortality and immortality.
Our sons went on their first cemetery excursion at the age of seven and have enjoyed visiting local cemeteries in the different countries ever since. After touring the world’s most intriguing cemeteries, we’ve compiled our top five family friendly cemeteries in the list below.
*A Taphophile -an individual who has a passion for photography, art, and history of cemeteries.
American Cemetery in Normandy, France
Located east of St. Laurent-sur-Mer and northwest of Bayeux, Normandy the American Cemetery contains the grave sites of 9,387 US soldiers and a memorial to 1,557 others whose remains were never found.
The cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel showcases what seems like endless rows of white marble Latin Crosses and Stars of David surrounded by vast lawns and manicured trees.
Touring the D-day battlefields and cemeteries was one of the most emotional days we’ve experienced in our decade of travel and like many others, we stopped by the tombstones of Robert and Preston, the Niland brothers who inspired in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’ movie to pay our respects.
For a sensory and educational experience take your kids for a walk along the beach so they can see the area from the soldiers ‘ perspective.
Pack an extra set of clothes to change into since the ground is uneven and can become slippery during the rainy season.
A Do-it- yourself tour is a good option if you can do some research on the internet and learn about the different areas in advance.The underground visitor center provides an exceptional multimedia presentation of the D-day stories told by actual survivors.
La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The immaculate 13.5-acre cemetery features impressive entrance gates, gargantuan mausoleums and maze-like paths that lead the visitors to an adventure of exploration.
Even though Eva Duarte de Peron is La Recoleta‘s most famous resident, other tombs like Facundo Quiroga’s (buried standing upright) and the Argentinean politician Sarmiento are impressive too.
However, the real show stealers are the 70 plus feral cats that roam the premises undisturbed and follow the tourists around.
If you are planning to visit in summer with a heat intolerant kid, you should arrive early as possible since the cemetery doesn’t have shaded areas, and the cement structures make the place feel quite hot.
There are several coffee shops and restaurants across the street. If you need to take a break.
Free English guided tours are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11, but you can also print a map off the internet and just walk around.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France
Located in Paris’ 20th district, Pere Lachaise is the final address for over 300,000 people, including some French and international dignitaries. The most visited grave site by far is Jim Morrison’s of The Doors fame who died at young age of twenty-seven, but the tombstones of painters (Modigliani, Delacroix), writers (Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde) and musicians (Edith Piaf, Yves Montaigne) are popular too.
The cemetery named after King Louis XIV’s Jesuit confessor encompasses over 100 acres of cobbled avenues and tree-lined paths weaving around 19th-century monuments, making it one of the more romantic places to stroll in the city of lights.
Enter by the Gambetta Gate to catch gorgeous city views and walk downhill since the ground is uneven (muddy and slippery on rainy days) and somewhat difficult to negotiate.
There are benches throughout so you can take a break, sit and enjoy a snack and drink of water.
You can tour on your own with a downloaded map from the internet or purchased one from the flower shop by the entrance.Guided tours are given by City Hall for approx 6 Euros.
St Louis One in New Orleans, Louisiana (U.S.A)
Opened in 1789, St Louis One is the city’s first and best-known cemetery located a short distance from the French Quarter.Like all other New Orleans cemeteries, the tombs are built above ground to prevent the caskets from floating away after the rain storms.
Among the famous locals buried here are Etienne de Boré, pioneer of the sugar industry, Homer Plessy, the plaintiff from the landmark 1896 civil rights lawsuit, NOLA’s first African-American mayor ” Dutch ” Morial and infamous Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau ( believed to be resting in the Glapion family crypt).
If your child is temperature sensitive go early in the morning since the cemetery has no real shade or benches to rest.
Forewarn your kids not to comment if they notice strange objects in front of Marie Laveau.
Touring on your own is not especially recommended for the area is a bit sketchy.Guided tours are available.
Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California(U.S.A)
The museum ‘s permanently exhibit includes an extensive stained glass collection from medieval France and Germany, a bronze sculptures collection, a wall mosaic depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence, replicas of the British crown jewels, and even an authentic Easter Island statue nicknamed Henry.The cemetery ‘s residents include many Hollywood icons like Sammy Davis, Clark Gable, and Elizabeth Taylor, but most visitors come to pay homage to the late King of Pop Michael Jackson whose grave site is not even accessible to the general public.
Forest Lawn is by far the most autism-friendly cemetery providing visitors with many different outdoor and indoor options.
For a Do-it-Yourself tour, you need to do some extensive Internet research, especially if you are interested in visiting specific grave sites many of which are not accessible to the public.
Be aware the staff is not helpful or willing to moonlight as tour guides. Guided tours are offered but bundled with visiting other sites in L.A, so you end up spending a limited time in the cemetery.