California Cemetery Tours: 11 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.

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    John/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

    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.

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    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.

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    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 aren'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.

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    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.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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    Columbia is a gold-rush town in the Sierras with lots of stories to tell. You can hear some of them on night tours guided by costumed docents.

    You will stop at a selection of grave sites to hear the stories of those who lived — and died — in Columbia.

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    USA, California, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Garden of the Legends and Lake Island
    Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

    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.

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

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

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    On Halloween night, 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.

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    Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery is so beautiful that locals go there for relaxing walks - and so do the local deer.

    This burial ground dates from the 1860s and it's so interesting and popular that they offer tours twice a month, all year round.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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    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.

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    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 given after dark.

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    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.