We ain’t afraid of no ghosts. I’m sorry, but I had to say it. When you write an article about cemeteries in New Orleans, or cemeteries anywhere, you need to mention ghosts. And if you mention ghosts, it’s a law that you have to make at least two Ghostbusters references. I’m still working on the second one…
Official Cemetery Tours in New Orleans
There are a bunch of tour companies all over New Orleans that will give guided tours of cemeteries. New Orleans Online is a site that can give you a lot of different information about things to do in the city. It was one of the top sites listed when we were looking for things to do in New Orleans.
Create Your Own Cemetery Tour
Lynn and I are always looking to save money, so we decided to look online and find all of the closest cemeteries and go explore them ourselves. We found that there were 5 cemeteries within a few miles of the French Quarter on Curbed.com, which had a great article about cemeteries in New Orleans. Two of them were within walking distance and one of the others was a quick ride via a New Orleans streetcar.
Even though we looked up where the cemeteries were, we probably should have done some more research to find out when they are open. I guess we didn’t realize that cemeteries had hours that they were open during the day and after closing they would lock the gates.
The first cemetery we tried to visit is one of the oldest and most famous in New Orleans. It is the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and is located just a short walk, northeast from the French Quarter at Basin and St. Louis Street. This cemetery is actually locked and the only way to visit it is to schedule a tour with Save Our Cemeteries. We found this sort of annoying even though they are obviously trying to restore it and keep it from being destroyed by people and the elements. There were probably some terrible people that couldn’t just walk through the cemetery and look at things, but had to break stuff and ruin it for everyone else. If you’re interested, there are tours daily and the current price is $20. Lynn and I were too late and had missed all of the tour times, but we also thought that the $20 ticket price was a little high for a tour of a cemetery.
The second cemetery that we went to was just a couple blocks further on St. Louis Street and is conveniently called St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. To our surprise, this one was actually open, so we were excited that we would be able to walk around and look at all the old gravestones and tombs. Before we went in I turned to Lynn and said, “If someone asks you if you’re a God, you say, ‘YES!'” Ok, I didn’t actually say that, but I think you understand the point of the quote…
I wasn’t really sure how interesting the cemeteries would be, but we really enjoyed walking around and looking at all the names and dates on the tombs. Because most of the tombs are above ground it was really cool to think about how some of the structures were built nearly 200 years ago and are still standing. You could definitely tell which families were more wealthy than others by the size of the tombs and the materials used. The walls of the cemetery were very thick as well and contained multiple tombs stacked on top of each other.
After walking around the cemetery for a little while we headed back to Canal Street and hopped on a streetcar to make our way to our final cemetery for the day. We had to catch the Canal line back to the French Quarter and then get on the St. Charles line. At this point it was already getting late, but as I said before, we weren’t even thinking that cemeteries had hours they were open.
Our final stop was supposed to be the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, but just as we got there they were making sure everyone was out of the cemetery so they could close and lock the gates. Ugh. Disappointing. The author, Anne Rice, used to live around the corner from this cemetery and it’s believed that the vampire tombs from her novels are based off of this cemetery.
Even though we were disappointed that we weren’t able to go in and walk around, it was still a beautiful day, so we walked down to check out the Commander’s Palace Restaurant which is on the same street. Even though we didn’t end up eating there, it’s a pretty famous restaurant (and very colorful as well) so it was fun to walk by and see it.
Before we left, we also noticed that the wall surrounding the Lafayette Cemetery was pretty cool looking because it was old and falling apart in places. We were lucky enough to see a family coming our way so we started up a conversation and asked them to take a picture of us by the wall. They liked our photo choice and decided to get a family shot by the wall as well.
We definitely had a good time going around to the cemeteries, but wish that we would have done a little more research to find out what hours most of them are open. Even though we needed to pay for a tour at the first St. Louis Cemetery, the other two were free and open earlier in the day. All three of these cemeteries date back to the early 19th century, so the history is amazing. Maybe a little creepy as well, but still enjoyable.
Overall, I would recommend visiting at least one or two of the cemeteries in New Orleans while you’re there. Two of these cemeteries were free, which is a hard price to beat. Definitely check out the Curbed.com article I mentioned earlier for more info on what cemeteries are best to visit. Finally, to sum up our experience… “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass.” That’s an extra Ghostbusters reference for you… enjoy.