Unlikely Kid Friendly Activities: A Graveyard Walk

Sometimes I like to test out unlikely kid-friendly activities with my children. A few weeks ago I took Ella to the Opera. It was an outrageous success! Over the break I tried something else: a stroll though a graveyard.

As soon as we discovered Hillside Cemetery, one of the oldest grave sites in the country, we pulled the car over. The way the graves were so thin and leaning over made me think this place was something special. A quick google search taught me a few Revolutionary War soldiers are buried here. As we looked closer, it was shocking find dates before the country gained its independence. Such a classically haunting graveyard, especially when I found out the cemetery was flooded in 1902. So awful.

We didn't spend much time here because it was so cold and the kids lost interest quickly. After a stroll up and down the hill, we walked to Mama C's and ate a delicious lunch. Not surprisingly, our journey brought up some interesting questions. Who are all those people? What happens at night at a graveyard? Do their hands come out of the ground? Who knows?! I would never be brave enough to find out. But really, it was such an unlikely thing to do that turned out to be really fun and interesting. I'm glad we checked it out!
love the skull on the right. so interesting how that image on a gravestone would never be appropriate today. 
Rob: Putting the fun back in funeral. 
This unlikely kid-friendly activity was great because it was free. If it was a failure, it wouldn't have been a big loss. The opera, however, took more preparation on my part. Find out the things I did to make it a night Ella and I would never forget here. It's one of my favorite articles I've written for Elizabeth Street yet. :)


  1. This is so neat! I've always had a fascination with graveyards - as a kid, my mom and I would spend hours trolling through pioneer cemeteries in northern CA where I grew up. I also used to wonder who these people were, what their lives were like, what THEY were like, and I would write stories about them (pretty sure that's what sparked my love of historical fiction!).

    It's such a great way to honor the past and a neat way to teach your children!

  2. When I was a kid my mom worked for a doctor who had season tickets to a theatre where we lived and would often give them to my mom and so she took my and even though the plays were not geared for children it was alway so magical to me and instilled a great love for live performance in me. I think how you expose your children to so many varied experiences is great and will foster so many new and wonderful ideas in them.

  3. You should go check out Greenwood Cemetery in Bk, too. Beautiful landscape design and a good, tiring walk!

  4. My kids love graveyard walks! We've even taken them at night, they don't know it's spooky to some people, so much fun.

  5. I used to check out graveyards all the time as a child with my mom. I had so much fun trying to imagine who the people were like and learning their names. The older I get, the more I appreciate these visits.

  6. Nice! And, Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is worth a visit. It's gorgeous and they give tours.

  7. it's funny to me what you say about that gravestone with the skull, because my MIL always talks about how she wants a gravestone like that. We went to boston years ago and stopped at many old graveyards. The old ones are far more interesting.

  8. we quite often went on cemetery walks as children, there are all sorts of symbols that mean things in the decoration used, the only one I remember is that a column that looks broken or isn't complete signifies someone's life cut short, usually a young person, might be a fun hunt if you can find a list of symbols, maybe the skull is one too?

  9. I've always loved visiting graveyards! I too liked to imagine what they were like, and it too probably helped my love of history AND I don't get the willy-nilly's from graveyards.

    There's a cool one in Hugo, Oklahoma that has circus performers. The perimeter is "fenced" with small concrete standing elephants, and man, circus people know how to do headstones right.

  10. Love your blog,

    Great idea, just wanted to make you aware of something (sorry for being a pooper) I read a few months ago in the paper about a 5 year old boy who was killed while visiting an old graveyard - he was playing around old headstones and it fell of its stand while he was playing- he was there b/c his father was a photographer and was shooting something for his work. Just be careful. Odds are slim but something to consider with these older plots.


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