Friday the 13th seems the perfect time for a post about Philly’s Victorian, river-side cemetery, Laurel Hill.  The Victorian’s (maybe because of their fascination with death) really knew how to do cemeteries – they designed them for the living as much for the dead and filled them with great sculpture and architecture, pretty gardens and lots of open spots to picnic.

Begun in 1836, Laurel Hill was the second major rural cemetery built in the US. It is filled with not only great Victorian monuments, but is also home to the “graves” of Adrian and Paulie from the Rocky movies.Adrian Balboa's tombstone Laurel Hill Cemetery Philadelphia

Staff today carry on this tradition, and offer all kinds of themed tours, movies, theater, hearse shows, photography walks, ghost tours AND evening explorations. Although there are fees to attend events, visiting the cemetery is free. It’s not too early to purchase tickets for the haunted Halloween flashlight tours in October (they frequently sell out). These photos are from the 2017 Halloween tour:


And from the August 2018 Ghostly Circus:

Ghostly Circus Laurel Hill Cemetery Philadelphia

Ghostly Circus Laurel Hill Cemetery Philadelphia

The cemetery soon outgrew its space and in 1869 land was purchased across the river and became West Laurel Hill. It is not only full of stained glass in the mausoleums and other fun architecture, but is also home to Philly’s first certified natural burial ground.

Tobey says: Creepy at night, but pretty during the day.

Field Trips: Yes, this is a terrific place for a field trip – and one the kids totally enjoyed.  You can book a tour focusing on a zillion different themes (check their website).  We did one on Victorian funerary symbolism (during our year studying 19th century literature).  Perfect with a trip to the Poe house (Edgar Allan Poe’s Philadelphia)!