Visitors to New Orleans have no shortage of things to do: Sports fans can check out the Saints and the Pelicans, night owls are obligated to stop by the raucous French Quarter, and foodies can’t leave without trying Cajun cuisine. This fall, travelers in the Big Easy may want to try one of the city’s lesser known activities: graveyard tours! Because the city is built atop a swamp, generations of New Orleans residents have buried their loved ones in above ground crypts and mausoleums. Many of the city’s cemeteries boast such elaborate, intricately-decorated structures that they resemble villages and are nicknamed “Cities of the Dead.” Fans of art history and architecture, or visitors just looking for a good scare in time for Halloween, would do well to visit the Crescent City this fall and check out the following three sites in particular.
The Mid-City neighborhood is less tourist-heavy than other parts of the city, but it doesn’t lack things to see and do. The streetcar system can take you one of two routes: The City Park car drops off near the New Orleans Museum of Art, while the Cemetery car drops off at several cemeteries worth exploring, such as the Cypress Grove Cemetery, the first cemetery built to honor New Orleans volunteer firemen, or Greenwood Cemetery, built to accommodate thousands stricken by a yellow fever epidemic in 1852. To stay nearby, check out the Courtyard Marriott Metairie or the Residence Inn Metairie, both less than a 10 minute drive from the neighborhood.
Named for the gardens surrounding its residences, New Orleans’ Garden District is home to the best-preserved historic Southern mansions in the U.S., with many of the homes known by the names of the families who built them. The area is worth exploring for the titular beautiful and ostentatious gardens, but visitors should also consider a stroll in the Lafayette Cemetery. Within its walls, wanderers can chart the development of the city, starting with Creoles, and also see the graves of major Civil War figures. The Clarion Hotel Grand Boutique is right in the area and serves as a great option for travelers on a budget.
Treme is not just an HBO show, but also the New Orleans neighborhood that is the undisputed home to some of the best live music in the United States, with current residents claiming their predecessors invented jazz. One of the oldest African-American neighborhoods in the country, Treme was a place where free persons of color were able to acquire and own property as early as the 18th century. Today, Treme is a destination known for its liveliness: There is always a parade or jazz session going on somewhere. Further worth exploring is the St. Louis Cemetery, founded in 1789 and proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of New Orleans’ most famous citizens are buried here, and supposedly, “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau rests here as well. The cemetery also boasts beautiful examples of French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish tombs. Fans of the 1969 classic film Easy Rider might recognize this cemetery as well. Those wishing to stay nearby should definitely check out the affordable and comfortable Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans.