Laurel Hill Cemetery is a hidden gem that many locals don't know about, and those who do have put it on their bucket list of places to go. The cemetery is also on many “first” lists: The first planned rural cemetery for the city. The first architecturally designed cemetery in the US. The first US cemetery designated a National Historic Landmark. A sprawling 78 acres of hillside overlooking the Schuylkill River, Laurel Hill is now within the city limits but when conceived in 1836, this area was considered a rural suburb.
Laurel Hill was the final resting place for Victorian gentry, Civil War generals, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (who was re-buried here), architects, spiritualists and industrialists, and local hero and beloved Phillies sportscaster Harry Kalas (on whose grave are blue seats from the old Veterans Stadium).
To appreciate the architecture of the tombstones and mausoleums, visitors can wander the winding paths on a self-guided tour. Download a map from the website or get one in the gift shop (Yes! There is a charming gift shop). Or consider checking the website for unique and informative tours, held year-round. Spring and fall are the best times to go; the grounds are elegantly landscaped and maintained. If you drive, there is a parking lot across from the cemetery’s gatehouse entrance. By public transit, Septa’s Route 61 bus from Center City stops near the entrance. There is a small museum across from the gift shop that shouldn’t be missed.