4 Reasons to Go on a New Orleans Cemetery Tour This Halloween
Have you seen candy, decorations, and jack-o’-lanterns popping up in your local stores lately? You know what that means… Halloween is right around the corner!
You might not be ready to let go of summer just yet, but our favorite fall holiday is only a couple months away. And there’s no city that does Halloween better than New Orleans.
If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans and want to avoid the crowds of Mardi Gras, Halloween, in our opinion, is the second-best holiday in the Big Easy (maybe even the best if you can’t get enough of all things spooky).
New Orleans goes all out for Halloween, with over-the-top costumes, parades, haunted tours, and everyone’s favorite – cemetery tours.
You can go on a New Orleans cemetery tour year-round. But there’s something special about visiting the city’s famous above-ground cemeteries during the Halloween season. Prepare to be mesmerized by the beauty and history of the thousands upon thousands of crumbling tombs, known as cities of the dead.
After reading these four reasons to take a cemetery tour this October, you’ll be ready to get into the spirit of Halloween in New Orleans!
1. Visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
The first item on everyone’s New Orleans cemetery itinerary is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. As the most well-known cemetery in the city – and one of the most visited in the U.S. – many visitors are eager to cross it off their bucket list.
Not only is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 astoundingly beautiful, but it’s also rich in history. The labyrinth of above-ground graves tells the story of NOLA’s French and Spanish heritage, as well as common burial practices of recent centuries. Periodic flooding made underground tombs impossible to sustain – it wasn’t uncommon for coffins to come floating to the surface.
As you walk the rows of tombs on a cemetery tour, your guide will point out famous graves, like that of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and the future resting place of actor Nicolas Cage, who purchased the pyramid-shaped tomb in 2010.
One of the biggest reasons to go on a cemetery tour in New Orleans is that you can’t visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 unless you’re accompanied by a licensed tour guide. We’ll leave the rest of its fascinating stories to the guide, and it’s up to you to decide if you think it’s haunted or not. Don’t miss the chance to see it in person!
2. Explore Cemeteries You Might Not Find on Your Own
Your New Orleans cemetery adventure doesn’t end at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Embrace the Halloween spirit and tour other cemeteries in the city! Many visitors make the mistake of only touring this popular cemetery, missing out on the other incredible graveyards with their own eerie legends and amazing histories. There are 42 cemeteries in New Orleans, and many tour operators offer combo experiences that take you to multiple graveyards in one tour.
Some of the most infamous cities of the dead include St. Louis Cemeteries 2 and 3, St. Roch Cemeteries 1 and 2, Lafayette Cemetery 1, Cypress Grove Cemetery, Holt Cemetery, and others.
Visit multiple cemeteries at night for a truly ghoulish adventure.
3. Discover the History and Symbols of the Cemeteries
The best part of touring New Orleans’ historic cemeteries is that they can be as scary as you’d like (or not!). The experience is in the eye of the beholder, and many tour guides will point out that the cities of the dead symbolize all aspects of life, both good and bad.
Catholic symbols like crosses abound. In fact, you have to be Catholic in order to be buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, as well as a few others. You have to look closely to spot additional symbols in the New Orleans cemeteries, but once you do, you’ll find messages from the past on every tomb.
There are hourglasses symbolizing the impermanence of time, wreaths representing victory, and flowers expressing love for the deceased. You’ll also see military tombs, memorials for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and Voodoo tombs marked with three Xs, representing the intersection of the physical and spiritual worlds.
Taking the time to look for these symbols and markings will give you a better appreciation for the cemeteries of New Orleans.
4. Experience All Saints’ Day
The Halloween season isn’t just about Halloween night. Celebrated on November 1, All Saints’ Day celebrates the people we’ve lost, with the souls of those who departed in the past year traveling to the “other side.” On this day, New Orleanians honor their loved ones with beautiful traditions like cleaning and decorating the family tombs with vases, candles, and flowers, followed by attending church services.
If you’re in the city on All Saints’ Day, go for a walk past the cemeteries and observe the peaceful gatherings unfolding. This is a nice way to wind down after a raucous Halloween night. Seeing this tradition unfold is a beautiful experience, but please remember not to disturb the families or enter the cemeteries, as you should only participate in All Saints’ Day if you’re visiting a family grave. Catholic mass is open to the public at most churches around the city.
Halloween is a special time of year in New Orleans. Whether you’re in it for the history and symbolism or hauntings and scares, you can’t go wrong with touring one of the city’s cemeteries during the Halloween season.
Looking for something even scarier? Check out our ghost and haunted tours!