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12 of the most stunning N. American cemeteries

By: Matt Hickman on Feb. 21, 2016, 3:11 p.m.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego at sunset

Photo: Chad McDonald/flickr

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A beautiful resting place

Cemeteries often get a bum rap, and it's understandable why.

Largely associated with grief, mourning and those long, uncomfortable once-a-year car rides to "go visit great grandma" when you were a kid, burial grounds are inherently unnerving. After all, these are phobia-inducing places where the dead largely outnumber the living; places where you'd never want be forced to spend the night or be subjected to a traumatic, childish prank.

Despite their reputation for being populated by ghosts, ghouls and reanimated cadavers, cemeteries can also be beautiful and fascinating places. Peaceful and tranquil (as to not disturb the eternally resting, obviously), a cemetery, at its best, is a scenic walk in the park, an architectural survey and a history lesson rolled into one. Just ask any seasoned taphophile (aka tombstone tourist): there's nothing necessarily morbid or unusual about visiting cemeteries on a recreational basis. Designed to accommodate the deceased while also connecting the living with lushly planted natural landscapes, cemeteries were the preferred hangout spots, from daytrips to first dates, in 19th century America prior to the advent of public urban parks. Many cemeteries were, and continue to be, leading tourist destinations.

With an eye toward natural beauty and historic or cultural significance, here's a look at North America's most stunning cemeteries — and yes, a few have their creepy qualities.