We sometimes get questions from first-time visitors about general cemetery etiquette. While each cemetery is different, at Laurel Hill, we welcome a wide range of activities here on our grounds. That fact may surprise some people, but it is 100% in keeping with the way this space was originally imagined.
Victorian garden cemeteries are unique in that they were designed with an eye towards peaceful rest for the dead, and relaxed enjoyment for the living. When planning your weekend destination, your first thought may not be to visit a cemetery, but for Victorian Philadelphians, things were quite different.
Today, we keep the spirit of Laurel Hill alive by offering a plethora of recreational activities, educational programs, and entertainment. With that in mind, here’s a list of some things you are welcome to do when you visit Laurel Hill.
Walk Your Dog
As long as you show up with a leash and a means of cleaning up after your pet, Laurel Hill is a very dog-friendly spot in the city. There are trash cans and a water bowl located right at the gate house, and there are always dog treats in the main office!
Ride Your Bike
There are lots of paved and gravel pathways in Laurel Hill, which make for a very pleasant and scenic ride. Those looking for a bit more of a challenge should definitely check out our hillier South Section, located across the bridge which goes over Hunting Park Ave. There is a bike rack located by the main office, inside the cemetery’s main gate.
Drive and Park
Clocking in at 78 acres, there’s a lot to see here, and not everyone is up for hiking the whole thing. Cars are welcome to drive along any of our paved roads, and parking is permitted as well. We just ask that you pull to the side of the road to let other cars pass when you park. Just keep your speed around 10 MPH, both for your safety, and so you can better enjoy the sites.
We consider ourselves a photography destination. Our monuments make excellent subject matter for amateur and professional photographers alike. Every season offers something new at Laurel Hill. Flowering trees in springtime, plants and animals in summer, brilliant autumn colors, and peaceful winter snowscapes await your lens and creativity. Remember to tag us on social media and use the hashtag #laurelhillcemetery for a chance to be featured!
Walk on the Grass
While there are many paths and roads around, not every gravesite can be reached this way. It is completely fine to walk across the grass to get a closer look at certain monuments. See our previous post about whether or not this means you’re “standing on someone” if you need a little extra reassurance.
Get in for Free
Casual visitors are welcome to come explore the cemetery every day, at no charge. Our gates are open from 8:00 am until 4:30 PM on weekdays, and 9:30 AM until 4:30 PM on weekends.
Take a Free Tour
We have a free audio tour which visitors are welcome to take at their leisure. All you need to do to get started is visit LHC.TOURS from your smart phone, and download our app for either Apple or Android. From there, you can choose one of three tours: Art & Architecture, Lore & Legend, or Pop Culture and Contemporary Stories. Each tour will take approximately 90 minutes to complete, and will fill you in on some of our best cemetery stories.
Take a Guided Tour
Want something a little more in-depth? We offer guided tours all throughout the year on a variety of topics. Those looking for a general interest tour should definitely check out our Hot Spots and Storied Plots tours which take place on the second Saturday, and fourth Friday of every month (and more frequently in the summer months). People interested in specific topics should check out our calendar of events for tours covering Civil War history, Titanic passengers, scandals, industry captains, strange deaths, artistic monuments, etc.
Watch a Movie
We offer a summer movie series called Cinema in the Cemetery. On three different dates, we set up a huge outdoor screen, and welcome guests carrying picnics, coolers, blankets and beach chairs. The movies are appropriately spooky, of course. In the past, we’ve shown such classics as Night of the Living Dead, Plan Nine from Outer Space, and The House on Haunted Hill. This year’s movie series will be: Edward Scissorhands, The Craft, and Nosferatu.
Over the years, we’ve welcomed a number of bands to Laurel Hill for live concerts. Punk band The Dead Milkmen is a regular performer, as lead singer Rodney Anonymous is a supporter of Laurel Hill. Music makes a wonderful addition to our cemetery, and yes, you’re invited to get up and dance if the spirit moves you – Especially when we host swing bands.
Again, we think our road and path system is pretty great, and local runners feel the same. Each fall, we host a 5k event right here in the cemetery. Runners are invited to come in costume, then stay for an after party which includes free beer, music, and prizes. Of course, you’re also welcome to come here any day and practice running the course ahead of time.
Running, biking, and walking aren’t the only kinds of exercise you can get here at Laurel Hill. In the warmer months, we offer a yoga series here among the tranquil tombs, and scenic overlooks of the Schuylkill river. The first Saturday of the month from May to September, yogis are welcome to come join us for a relaxing hour of stretching, meditation, and fitness.
Eat and Drink
Food and drink are perfectly okay to bring into our cemetery, and in fact, we think our grounds with their large shade trees and soft grasses make for an excellent picnic spot. For many of our events, you’ll even find a bar set up (donations always appreciated), or you’re welcome to BYO if you wish. During the colder months, be on the lookout for free hot chocolate, hot cider, and of course, loads of Halloween Candy.
Watch a Performance
Shakespeare, anyone? Laurel Hill welcomes a host of different performers throughout the year, and the atmosphere and ambiance of a twilight show in a cemetery are simply unmatched. The Ghostly Circus, the Graveyard Cabaret, and True Tales from the Tombs are a few examples of the mesmerizing live shows you can see here. Bring a chair, pack a cooler, and come enjoy a totally unique viewing experience.
Film a Movie
Rocky Balboa, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Law Abiding Citizen, Creed, and Creed II are a few of the major motion pictures which have used Laurel Hill to film scenes. To hear more about how these film shoots took place, you can attend one of our guided tours, or listen to our Pop Culture & Contemporary Stories audio tour.
No matter what brings you to visit us, before you leave, be sure to stop into our gift shop to get some truly unique souvenirs. We have a great array of books, mementos, clothing, jewelry, glassware, and candles, not to mention a few cool and quirky finds.
Have something else you want to do here? Get married? Host a party? Plan a field trip? Book a private tour? We’ve got you covered for that too. Just head on over to our main website to fill out the event form, or give our office a call at 215-228-8200.