It’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re wracking your brain to come up with a cool, fun, and, let’s be honest, cheap date for your special someone. Then, suddenly, an epiphany: Oakland Cemetery! The most romantic spot in Atlanta, right?
Or, maybe you’re thinking, “Never would I ever bring a date to a place filled with creepy dead people and their creepy ghosts.”
But, Oakland Cemetery is a pretty awesome place. Founded in 1850, Oakland is the final resting place for a lot of famous, and not-so-famous, Atlantans, including Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, golfer Bobby Jones, and Atlanta’s first African American mayor, Maynard Jackson.
Oakland is a public cemetery, meaning that, for a while, every Atlanta citizen was buried there. Those who either did not or could not purchase a family plot were buried in a 7.5-acre area known as Potter’s Field. Admittedly creepy factor: A Georgia State geological study conducted in the 1970’s revealed 17,000 bodies buried in the field, laid next to and on top of one another. Although strange to think that if the dead did walk in Atlanta then 17,000 would rise from the same spot, Oakland Cemetery is impressive.
The cemetery is located on the southeast side of the city, just a few blocks from the King Memorial MARTA station. It’s situated between Grant Park and Cabbagetown.
Walking through the cemetery is like walking through the city’s history. And, after a century and a half, Oakland Cemetery has seen Atlanta through some pretty major changes, most notably its massive population growth. When the cemetery was founded, Atlanta’s population neared 2,500. Today, more than 420,000 people call Atlanta home.
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Not only does Oakland Cemetery have a historical cool factor, it’s a beautiful park in its own right. The cemetery’s caretakers have gone to painstaking efforts to ensure that Oakland and its gardens age gracefully.
Back in the day, families tended to their own plots and planted their own flowers. Today, all of Oakland’s 38 acres of gardens are tended by three good-hearted ladies and a band of weekend volunteers with some serious green thumbs.Throughout the year, they plant and prune among the headstones and green spaces, resulting in a truly beautiful patchwork of gardens that just happen to grow near some dead people.
Huge, ornate mausoleums framed by rose bushes and perfectly pruned shrubs sit among small, humble (and sometimes hilariously inscribed) headstones and fragrant flowerbeds. The gardens at Oakland make for a fascinating, pretty, and peaceful stroll through the cemetery on a sunny afternoon.
And totally not scary. Or morbid.
Seriously, consider Oakland as a fun, free date option. Just maybe stick to the rules and get out of there by dusk, or, you know, your date may surprise you with a zombie flash mob. But if you’re into that sort of thing, that’s cool, too.
For more information on Oakland Cemetery, including directions and park hours, click here.