Perched on a hill above bucolic Kelly Drive and the Schuylkill River, Laurel Hill Cemetery is the resting place of some of the city’s most important families. It was one of the first garden-designed cemeteries in the US, a peaceful and sprawling green space that doubles as an arboretum.
I love to meander among the stately graves of its inhabitants. It was established in 1836 and is designated as a Historical Landmark. Solemn stone and statuary studs its rolling green acres, and you can find important Philadelphia names like Rittenhouse here. Look for temples, cherubs, and lots of obelisks, which were in vogue in the latter half of the 19th century, thanks to the construction of the Washington Monument in DC. All the wealthy families wanted one!
Guest can walk the grounds on their own, and the cemetery offers an app that will help guests find their way around and make sense of the stone. Self-guided walks include Art & Architecture, Pop Culture & Contemporary Stories, and Lore & Legend.
The cemetery also organizes a robust schedule of events and guided walks around seasonal events, like love stories for Valentine’s Day, ghost walks for Halloween, and even a Classy Broads and Daring Dames talk for Women’s History Month.
Equal parts public garden, sculpture park, historical campus, and graveyard, Laurel Hill is a special spot, at once peaceful and buzzing with stories of a city’s complicated past. Rest in peace in shade of its trees and enjoy its views over the river.