No, seriously. A cemetery. Hanging out with the dead may sound exclusively like the stuff of Halloween lore, but Laurel Hill, a national landmark, has the potential to be quite the social spot.
Located in East Falls, Philadelphia and accessible by SEPTA buses, the cemetery first impresses with its size. Its ornate columned entrance invites passersby to wander on in, and if you can ignore the tacky brown memorial to the park’s permanency – unfortunately, the first thing you see upon entering – then you’ll likely be pressed to explore the sprawling hills of grass and marble.
I traveled to the cemetery on a dreary afternoon when clouds were rolling in and lighting could be spotted off in the distance. It would have been creepy, if not for the somehow cheerful-looking grave markers scattered around the grounds by no particular method of organization. This yard of the dead features some of the prettiest stonework I’ve seen – angels, pyramids, and mausoleums designed after Egyptian and Roman art as well as art deco. Random, yes. Scary (during the day), no.
At the back of the cemetery, there are gorgeous land overlooks that support some fancy mausoleums by the Schuylkill River, which runs right next door. According to my guide, those overlooks are also great places for getting in some private moments with a date, and while I won’t be following up on his insinuation, I do think that the spot could be a romantic place for picnicking.
Notable residents include members of the Wharton clan (i.e. Penn royalty) and General George Meade of the Civil War. Laurel Hill has been featured in several Hollywood films, including the latest Rocky installment and Law Abiding Citizen.
The best selling point for the place is that it offers a quiet refuge of nature with the guarantee of visitor’s contemplation. There aren’t many sprawling greens in Philly, and there aren’t many graveyards anywhere that look so welcoming that you’d want to visit, especially without knowing anyone inside of it.
Plus, Laurel Hill offers a ton of public programs to engage the community, especially around Halloween. It’s allowed to take advantage of spooky stereotypes when the events sound this cool: the Rest in Peace 5K on October 6; “Edgar Allen Poe: Deep into that Darkness Peering” on October 23, nighttime flashlight tours of the cemetery on October 26, 27 and 30; and a Fall Family Fun Day on October 14. There’s stuff going on year-round though. Check out their website for event details.
Entrance to the museum is always FREE on Monday-Friday 8:00am-4:30pm and Saturday-Sunday 9:30-4:30pm. Temple PEX Pass holders can receive $5 off of a public tour or program.