Most people may find it strange to walk through a graveyard for fun, but the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is an enchanting Los Angeles landmark that should be on your itinerary. The cemetery is one of the oldest in the city and is located right next to Paramount Pictures Studio so it’s possible to plan a full day adventure touring both attractions. Guests wander the landscaped grounds and pay homage to its star studded residents including Mickey Rooney, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, Cecil DeMille, and two of the Ramone’s who rest amongst the palm trees.
HERE’S A LIST OF THE MOST UNIQUE THINGS TO DO AND SEE AT THE RESTING PLACE OF HOLLYWOOD’S BIGGEST STARS:
One of the most picturesque areas of the cemetery is the lake. Swans, geese, and ducks nest along the bank and the gigantic Lake Island Mausoleum sits in the pond’s center. William Clark Jr., the founder of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and his family are interred in the impressive granite crypt.
One of the world’s most beloved animal actors, Toto from The Wizard of Oz is remembered through a special memorial. A statue of the Cairn Terrier rests on top of a red marble base surrounded by blooming succulents. She passed away in 1945 and was buried on her owner’s ranch, but the site was later destroyed. Fans rallied to secure this permanent site in her memory by collecting donations through Facebook. The memorial is located on the western end of the Cathedral Mausoleum along the road.
Toto Memorial Hollywood Forever Cemetery
DÍA DE LAS MUERTOS FESTIVAL
One of the most fascinating events of the year is the extravagant Día de Las Muertos Festival in celebration of the dearly departed. Thousands of visitors pack into the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for this traditional Mexican holiday honoring their ancestors through music, art, food, and of course elaborate alters and shrines. The 19th edition honoring Coatlicue, “Mother of Gods” is on October 27 and is sure to sell out.
Dia de los Muertos, Hollywood Forever Cemetery
pc: Gabe Shore
JOHNNY RAMONE’S GRAVE
The $100,000 bronze statue of Johnny rocking out on his guitar reads “If a man can tell if he’s successful in life by having great friends, then I have been very successful.” Farewells from Eddie Vedder, Lisa Marie Presley, and other pals are engraved in the marble base. On the opposite side of the lake fans can visit the modest gravesite of bandmate Dee Dee Ramone who passed away two years prior to Johnny.
Johnny Ramone’s Statue, Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Hundreds of Hollywood legends are interred in this mausoleum on the eastern section of the graveyard. The interior hallways are lined with life-sized statues and floor-to ceiling marble tombs. From 10 am to 2 pm you can pay your respects to those laid to rest in the crypt. One of the most visited graves is that of actor Rudolph Valentino. A lady in black reportedly leaves red roses at his tomb every year which has sparked many ghost stories.
SUMMER CONCERT SERIES
Another popular event is the summer music nights held on the Fairbanks Lawn. Established musicians like Death Cab For Cutie as well as a variety of indie bands have taken the main stage. While there are more events during the summer months, keep an eye out for concerts throughout the year.
It’s hard to miss the intricate wrought iron details of the wishing well when entering the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Located right inside the main gate, Herman Schultheis’s work of art is complete with dancing cupids and a suspended bucket. Schultheis worked in the entertainment industry and is praised for his special effects work on Fantasia and Pinocchio. His wishing well is a prominent piece in the graveyard and is beautifully framed by the mountains, palm trees, and the famous Hollywood Sign.
Wishing Well, Hollywood Forever Cemetery
MOVIES IN THE CEMETERY
Each year Cinespia screens blockbuster hits like Big, Scream, Barbarella, Mean Girls, and Saturday Night Fever for an unforgettable evening under the stars. For those who find the idea creepy, choose one of the horror nights for an extra scare. This year organizers took the event to another level with a full on slumber party showcasing films all night long. Guests set up picnics on the grassy lawn and bring their own pillows, blankets, snacks, and drinks for the show.
One of my favorite sculptures in the entire cemetery is the trio of bronze owls. You can sit next to the artwork on a marble bench and look out over the lake. The owls along with the statue right next to them of Mama Irene were created by artist Caroline P.M. Jones.
Owls, Hollywood Forever Cemetery
The interactive map on the Hollywood Forever Cemetery website is an amazing resource. Whether meandering the paths or searching for a specific celebrity, the map shows the resting places of famous as well as lesser-known stars from music, literature, cinema, and sports. In addition to the location of the grave, the map summarizes each individual’s life story and you can filter by industry.
Address:6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Hours: Open from Monday to Sunday, 8:30 am-5:00 pm (5:30 pm in summer)
Admission: Free to visit on your own. Special events usually require tickets in advance.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. DO YOU FIND IT WEIRD OR CREEPY TO VISIT A CEMETERY WHERE YOU HAVE NO RELATIVES? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.