It’s easy to see why cemeteries freak a lot of people out. There’s something unsettling about drifting between the headstones as ghost stories play out in your head. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are historic cemeteries around the country that are designed with gorgeous architecture, set in beautiful landscapes and host cultural programming for the public to enjoy. Best of all, they throw parties and events that feature cocktails. Here are five of our favorite U.S. cemeteries that host boozy happenings.
Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 and is a National Historic landmark with 560,000 “permanent residents,” including people like Boss Tweed and Jean-Michel Basquiat. History buffs and bird watchers flock to the site, along with people coming to pay their respects to baseball legends and entertainers. Green-Wood holds weekly events like historic trolley tours and birding excursions, along with a number of cultural events that turn into damn good parties. Concerts usually include a pre-performance reception with food and drinks, and film screenings are followed by after-parties, sponsored by the likes of Corona, Ketel One and Fever-Tree.
This Los Angeles resting place was founded in 1899 and was a great help in the early days of Hollywood—Paramount Studios was built on the back half of the original cemetery, and it’s still in operation today. Some of Tinseltown’s greatest stars are buried there, from Cecil B. DeMille to Jayne Mansfield. Not only does Hollywood Forever screen films like Barbarella
and The Graduate
outdoors on The Fairbanks Lawn where you can bring your own food and drinks, but they also host concerts at on-site venue The Masonic Lodge where you can enjoy libations from a small but mighty bar.
When Bostonians founded Mount Auburn in 1831, it quickly became the model for the “rural” cemetery movement in America—aka, beautiful places rich in artwork and horticulture where city dwellers could escape to celebrate their loved ones. In addition to weddings and other private functions, the cemetery hosts a number of events to attend where you can enjoy a libation or two. Their Bees, Blooms & Bluegrass takes guests behind the scenes of urban beekeeping in the greenhouse before returning to the flower gardens for honeyed refreshments and bluegrass music. Mount Auburn also hosts wine tastings so you can enjoy a variety of vinos while taking in the scenery.
Another cemetery designed in the rural garden style, Oakland Cemetery was first founded in 1850 with six acres, but quickly expanded to 48 acres by 1867 to accommodate the massive casualties of the Civil War. The cemetery throws fun, seasonal events where people can come and pay their respects while reveling in some celebration. The annual Sunday in the Park, which is now in its 40th year, is a day of music, art, tours and theater performances, and some of Atlanta’s best food trucks roll in to serve grub, wine and beer. Capturing the Spirits of Oakland Halloween Tours always sells out. The party series encourages attendees to dress in costume and features live music, plenty of drinks and a guided tour through the cemetery’s illuminated Victorian gardens.
Not only does Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery offer 285 acres of stunning grounds, but it also boasts some elaborate architecture. The James A. Garfield Monument is the final resting place for the 20th U.S. President and combines stunning details from Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine styles. His casket is the only Presidential casket on full display. After exploring the grounds, take in a live show at Lake View’s Summer Concert Series, which happen on select Sundays throughout the season. Attendees are welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets, and of course, a picnic with food and refreshments for maximum enjoyment.