6+ Sensational Reasons To Visit Oakland Cemetery Before You Die

Oakland Cemetery is like a good Irish wake, there is an appropriate amount of reverence, lots of great stories, and a party that celebrates life.

And thankfully, no one has to pass on to enjoy this unusual Atlanta attraction.

HISTORIC OAKLAND CEMETERY

6+ Sensational Reasons To Visit Oakland Cemetery Before You Die

Historic Oakland Cemetery is the oldest Atlanta, Georgia, cemetery. Founded in 1850, it is located less than a mile from the heart of Downtown Atlanta. It is an outstanding example of a Victorian garden cemetery with a magnificent sculpture garden, botanical garden, flourishing wildlife habitat, and a public park.

It may seem funny to visit a cemetery for fun, but I assure you, this famous cemetery in Atlanta is for the living just as much as the dead.  In fact, one of the best ways to learn Atlanta history is to hear the stories of ‘residents’ on one of the Oakland Cemetery tours.  

The Oakland Cemetery events are some of the best in the city – I mean, who doesn’t want to participate in a 5K called the Run Like Hell or attend events like Tunes from the Tombs, Arts and Architecture, or a beer festival called Malts and Vaults?

There are so many reasons you should visit this historic cemetery…we’ve gathered up some of our favorites.

YEAR-ROUND GUIDED TOURS

6+ Sensational Reasons To Visit Oakland Cemetery Before You Die

One of the many great things about Oakland is the rich history. Wonder who is buried in Oakland Cemetery? There are Oakland Cemetery Tours that celebrate every group, from the famous Atlantans like Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones, to the not-so-famous, and together they tell the story of Atlanta. 

CIVIL WAR TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

From a hilltop in Oakland Cemetery, General John B. Hood watched the Battle of Atlanta and nearby lay soldiers from both sides who died in it. We took the Civil War Tour, and it was very interesting to hear stories of the generals, officers, and even the unknown enlisted men whose final resting place is at Oakland Cemetery.

If you’ve ever been to Kennesaw and heard the story of the Great Train Chase, you can see the grave of the confederate engineer, William Fuller, that chased the Union soldiers down and recovered the train. You can look past the cemetery to where the culprits were hanged. Legend has it that the confederate engineer was present at the hanging and received a piece of the rope.

FAMOUS OAKLAND CEMETERY BURIALS

Some other famous Oakland Cemetery burials include Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell and golf great Bobby Jones. Our guide said visitors to Jones’ grave often leave golf balls or other golf equipment. Pros lay their card on the gravestone and someone even put in a putting cup. Oakland is also the final resting place for several Atlanta mayors including Maynard Jackson, the city’s first black mayor.  

SELF GUIDES OAKLAND CEMETERY TOURS

6+ Sensational Reasons To Visit Oakland Cemetery Before You Die
Photo courtesy of Historic Oakland Cemetery.

I like to wander around Oakland without a guide. If you are like me, you might be interested in the self-guided tours available. Here are a couple of ways to take a self-guided tour:

  • Pick up an Oakland Cemetery Map at the Visitors Center and Museum shop. They have special self-guided tour maps for only $5. This guide has over 55 marked stops, and enough Oakland Cemetery history to keep you engaged for hours! View the monuments at your own pace and enjoy a walk through the history of Oakland. While at the museum store, take some time to look at the merchandise. My favorite find – a book on how to plan the perfect funeral.
  • Also at the Museum Shop you can purchase a Cluetown Book about Oakland. Inside are fun puzzles that must be solved by touring the cemetery. This is a great activity for kids too – I took my 11 year old and his cousin and they had a blast.
  • You can also explore Oakland Cemetery with your phone! Take their self-guided dial in tour of the African American Burial Grounds: “African American Voices”: (678) 365-0232

SPECIAL TOPIC OAKLAND CEMETERY TOURS

Oakland Cemetery Special Topic Tours are generally available on Saturdays and Sundays, March through October. Topics can include Art & Architecture, music, Jewish and African American history etc. Reservations aren’t usually required, but you may want to check before you go. These tours are also available to groups any day of the week. Many times they will add special topic tours during the year like the ones below.

Note: Registration is required for most tours. Check online before attending. Check the website for exact dates and times for tours.

SIGHTS, SYMBOLS, AND STORIES OF OAKLAND

Discover the history, the period gardens, and the art and architecture that give Oakland its distinctive character. Oakland is an outdoor museum of Atlanta’s history with over 70,000 stories to tell; stories filled with both stunning victories and heart-wrenching tragedies. Join one of our knowledgeable and entertaining guides for a 90-minute walking tour of the grounds. Held Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays.

Adults: $12, Children (aged 6-17) and Students (with ID): $6, and Seniors (65 and older): $6
Historic Oakland Foundation Members: FREE

BOYS OF BASEBALL

On May 12, 1866, the Gate City Nine and the Atlanta Baseball Club took to the field to play the first baseball game in Atlanta.

Imagine looking west beyond the main gates of Oakland to a lush patch of green grass complete with a baseball diamond. Beyond the playing field is a city devastated and still emotionally smoldering from General Sherman’s fires. Red flags hang from the doors of homes housing people with smallpox. It is May 12, 1866, and the city desperately needs something to celebrate. On this day, the Gate City Nine and the Atlanta Baseball Club took to the field to play the first baseball game in Atlanta. Join us for a tour that recaptures the spirit of the day and examines the lives of several of the players taking part in that historic game.

Adults: $12, Children (aged 6-17) and Students (with ID): $6, and Seniors (65 and older): $6
Historic Oakland Foundation Members: FREE

ART AND ARCHITECTURE OF DEATH

Discover how architectural and design choices made during life created a lasting and eternal legacy for many Oakland residents.

People have sought to honor the memory of departed loved ones since ancient times, but the 19th century ushered in a new era of funerary art. Innovative building materials came available and styles changed to reflect the popular architecture of the day, such as Egyptian and Gothic Revival. New money meant bigger and bolder memorials to reflect the social status and power of prominent families. This tour explores the origin and use of popular Oakland grave markers, including tombs and towering monuments, obelisks and angels, and many magnificent mausoleums. Discover how architectural and design choices made during life created a lasting and eternal legacy for many Oakland residents.

Adults: $12, Children (aged 6-17) and Students (with ID): $6, and Seniors (65 and older): $6
Historic Oakland Foundation Members: FREE

OAKLAND CEMETERY EVENTS

One of my favorite ways to experience Oakland is through their many, many incredible events. And the t-shirts are always uniquely awesome! Check the website for a full listing of events, but here are a few of our favorites. And what’s cool is that all proceeds from these events benefit the Oakland Cemetery Restoration Fund.

SPRING SCRAMBLER SCAVENGER HUNT (APRIL & MAY)

Gather a group of friends or family for a day of cemetery sleuthing on this self-guided scavenger hunt throughout historic Oakland Cemetery! Choose from three different packets, organized by degree of cemetery riddle difficulty:

  • Easy: Kid-friendly riddles and perfect for families (expected hunt time:1 hour)
  • Medium: Challenging, but not impossible to solve, riddles (Expected hunt time: 1.5-2 hours)
  • Deadly: Try it if you dare (Expected hunt time: 2-3 hours)

Each team that purchases a packet will be entered into a drawing for prizes. Prizes include tour tickets, memberships, Museum Store gift cards, and more. There will be weekly prize drawings, and winners will be notified by email.

OAKLAND PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP (MAY-JUNE)

Sharpen your photography skills during this four-part workshop series at Oakland Cemetery!

Rich in subjects and scenes, Historic Oakland Cemetery is a photographer’s dream setting. Led by seasoned professionals, this series will explore different photography genres with technical advice and hands-on instruction. Whether you are a seasoned photographer or still learning the basics of your camera, you will discover tips and techniques to improve your skills during each class.

JUNETEENTH AT OAKLAND CEMETERY

Juneteenth National Independence Day, celebrated on June 19, is a federal holiday that commemorates the end of enslavement in the United States. Celebrate Juneteenth at Oakland Cemetery with two weeks of free programs open and available to the public!

  • We Shall Overcome Walking Tour: “We Shall Overcome” became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but the origin of the song dates back to antebellum days and a spiritual sung by enslaved people, “No More Auction Block for Me.” This tour explores the lives and accomplishments of outstanding and ordinary African Americans who fought to overcome the effects of slavery and discrimination to help shape the history of Atlanta.
  • Black Magnolias Guided Walking Tour: This guided walking tour explores the history, lives, and labors of Atlanta’s African American women.
  • Storytelling Hour: Join their storyteller for an hour of interactive tales and music at Oakland. Recommended for ages 5-12. Meet in North Public Grounds. Picnic blankets are encouraged!

TUNES FROM THE TOMBS AND SUNDAY IN THE PARK (SEPTEMBER 25, 2022)

Typically held in June, Tunes from the Tombs has been combined with Sunday in the Park in September. Enjoy the sunset over the Atlanta skyline as the music flows from Oakland’s North Public Grounds.

I love listening to bands on an outdoor stage and being able to float between stages is even better. Tunes from the Tombs music festival is perfect.

The Historic Oakland Foundation presents the Tunes from the Tombs music festival at Historic Oakland Cemetery in September. It’s a fundraising event featuring musicians performing in and among Oakland’s extraordinary monuments, mausoleums, and renowned gardens. All genres of music are represented: rock, folk, Americana, jazz, classical, and everything in between.

SWAPTEMBER (SEPTEMBER)

Swap the savings during the annual SWAPtember event at 22 metro Atlanta attractions! Show your Historic Oakland Foundation membership card when you visit these participating Atlanta attractions between September 1-30, 2022 and receive $10 off a membership purchase.

Or show your membership card from one of these participating attractions at Oakland’s Museum Store and get $10 off your Historic Oakland Foundation membership. You’ll also get 10% off your purchase at the Museum Store when you show your card from a participating attraction.

Some attractions are also offering additional discounts on general admission during the month-long savings event. For full offer details, visit the participating attraction’s website.

CAPTURING THE SPIRIT OF OAKLAND HALLOWEEN TOURS (OCTOBER)

Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween tours are a favorite autumn tradition in Atlanta, selling out every year in July. The event returns for its 16th year, offering two weekends of history and delight from October 20 through October 30, 2022.

Designed to enlighten rather than frighten, Capturing the Spirit of Oakland tours bring to life the stories of some of the cemetery’s notable and notorious residents and allow visitors to experience Oakland Cemetery after dark. A costumed docent guides you through the cemetery’s beautifully lit Victorian Gardens where you’ll meet some of Oakland’s fascinating residents and hear their tales. The evening also includes musical performances, craft beer and cocktails, and an Oakland gift shop. Guests are encouraged to arrive in costume to set the mood.

There are tons of awesome events at Oakland Cemetery and too many to list. Check their website often to stay up-to-date!

TOUR THE GARDENS IN THE SPRING

You must experience Oakland Cemetery in the spring! The flowers are bursting with color, and they look magnificent against the aging tombstones of our cities historical figures.  You can take a guided tour, or like me, you can roam the grounds with your littles and experience it yourself.  I highly recommend the Audio Tour, even if your kids are young. While it might be over their heads, it will help you navigate the cemetery and also give you some “talking points” that the kids might enjoy.

I find it peaceful. I love being in the midst of “scared ground” with flowers around me and gorgeous views of the city.  I love seeing my boys run up and down a row, stopping to smell a flower or point out an angel.  If they are a little loud…hey, that’s OK.

MORE INFORMATION:

Follow us here: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube | MSN | TripAdvisor | Flipboard

All articles belong to 365 Atlanta Family LLC, and all photos belong to us as well, unless otherwise noted. It’s all copyrighted. Please don’t repost anything elsewhere without asking me first. All rights reserved. This site uses cookies to enhance your experience.

We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We are not responsible for content on external web sites linked from ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites. We only write about places we love in an attempt to help you in your adventures, but we can’t guarantee you will love them, too.

Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you – opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. We do not sell links or accept unsolicited guest posts under any circumstances. Don’t even ask.

United States Copyright, 365 Atlanta Family, LLC

View our Privacy Policy | Subscribe to our Newsletter | Contact Site Owner | View Terms & Conditions | About Us

6+ Sensational Reasons To Visit Oakland Cemetery Before You Die