California Cemetery Tours: 9 Graveyards You Can Visit

Cemeteries hold the remains of some fascinating characters and chronicle the history of their area. Some people want to tour them for the thrills and ghosts, but they're also some of the best places to explore a locale's history.

These cemeteries and graveyards offer guided tours. Some are hosted year-round and others only happen in October.

01 of 09

Cypress Lawn Cemetery, Colma (San Francisco)

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Cypress Lawn is a late 19th Century cemetery full of spectacular angels, over-the-top mausoleums. It's just south of San Francisco - and the last resting place of famous, infamous and just plain interesting San Franciscans.

Guided walking tours are held on Saturdays between April and October. They also offer historical trolley tours of the grounds, Victorian heritage days, and other events. Check their website for details and a full list of events.

02 of 09

Alhambra Cemetery, Contra Costa County

Early Contra Costa County pioneers came to California by gold but fulfilled their dreams of a prosperous life in other ways, settling the area around the town of Martinez. Earliest burials date to the 1850s.

The Martinez Historical Society offers public walking tours of the Alhambra Cemetery once a year, but you can take a self-guided version anytime by going to their website, where you can also check their events calendar for the live tours.

03 of 09

Forest Lawn, Glendale (Los Angeles)

Forest Lawn is the final resting place of more famous people than you can count and chockful of interesting chapels and artwork. They don't offer public tours, and their staff isn't helpful to visitors, but you can still do a self-guided tour. 

The overview of the cemetery at Seeing Stars is one of the best places to start your research.

04 of 09

Ghosts and Gravestones in San Diego

Tours with Ghosts and Gravestones include a walk through the old El Campo Santo Cemetery and a trip to the Whaley House, both of them sites of many reported paranormal occurrences.

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05 of 09

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery dates from the early days of Hollywood, next to Paramount Studios and the last resting place of many famous stars and filmmakers.

In late October, Hollywood Forever hosts the Los Angeles Day of the Dead celebration.

Otherwise, you can take their regular tour a couple of times a month.

06 of 09

Long Beach Municipal and Sunnyside Cemeteries

Around Halloween time, the Long Beach Historical Society hosts tours of the city's two oldest resting grounds, where (as they say) "every plot has a story."

Tours include  graveside presentations by professional and volunteer actors who relate the life and demise of the person lying in rest.

07 of 09

Old City Cemetery, Sacramento

Sacramento mayors, California governors, Civil War Veterans, and victims of the 1850 Cholera Epidemic are only a few of the folks interred at Old City Cemetery.

They offer plenty of guided tours so you can learn all about those fascinating former residents. In late October, their Lantern Tours raise lots of money, selling out well in advance.

08 of 09

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Sonoma County

You can take a self-guided tour through the Rural Cemetery near Santa Rosa, or take one of their themed tours that may include Stones and Images, the Darkside, or Lamplight tours are given after dark.

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09 of 09

Yorba Cemetery, Orange County

The historic Yorba Cemetery dates back to 1834, and it was active until 1939.

Now it's part of the Orange County Parks system, and they give tours on a regular basis.