All posts by Chelsea Cariker

Chelsea Cariker is a senior from St. Louis, co-majoring in journalism and political science. She has interned at both the AJC’s print and online departments and hopes to one day be an investigative reporter, but at this point in her budding career will take any journalism job she can get.

Cemeteries are for lovers, too

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.”

These ghosts are more cute cartoon than creepy. But there sure are a lot of them.

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.

[timeline src=”” width=”100%” height=”650″ font=”Bevan-PotanoSans” maptype=”toner” lang=”en” ]

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.

Wilderness Works is sleep-away camp for city kids

A classic Wilderness Works selfie.
A classic Wilderness Works selfie.

Do you remember your first summer camp experience? Mine was a little traumatic. I was away from my parents for the first time and I was worried about making friends with the girls in my cabin. Even worse to the 9-year-old female psyche, I had to fix my own frizzy, unmanageable hair by myself each morning without the help of my mother’s practiced hands.  I remember I missed my parents a little, but by the end of camp I made great friends and exciting memories. And I don’t remember worrying much about my hair.

The typical Emory student could probably recount her memories of her first summer of camp, or of her many summers of camp that followed, however similar to or different from my own experience. But many kids grow up never going to camp, especially children growing up homeless or disadvantaged in some of Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods. Wilderness Works, located on Memorial Drive, just north of Zoo Atlanta seeks to change that.

Emory students lend a hand during Wilderness Works' Arts and Crafts time at WonderRoot fall 2011.
Emory students lend a hand during Wilderness Works’ Arts and Crafts time at WonderRoot fall 2011.

The organization is run out of a re-purposed old church and Bible college. During the school year, Wilderness Works puts on educational and enrichment programs, both at the center and around Atlanta, in the afternoons and on weekends. A dusty church library serves as a game room, the fellowship hall and kitchenette function as a mess hall, and old Sunday school rooms house colorful, cozy barracks for the dozens of boys and girls who come to stay for overnight programs known as City Camps. The floorboards creak and the whole place smells of your grandmother’s closet, but it’s well-used and well-loved. In the summer, Wilderness Works staff leads the children on summer camp excursions in northeast Georgia and North Carolina.

Wilderness Works is constantly looking for young, motivated people to mentor their kids. You can sign up with a school organization or group of friends to serve a meal or chaperon a City Camp during the school year. Volunteering with this organization is much more than a community service bullet on your resume. The children are energetic and eager to connect and learn, and the staff is passionate about the kids and their cause.

As a City Camp counselor, you won’t get much sleep and you definitely won’t get a shower, but you’ll have a lot of fun sharing in these children’s first “camp” experience.