A cemetery may not seem like a great place to take kids. This, however, isn’t any ordinary cemetery. Visiting Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery with kids is eye-opening with stories, a gorgeous public park that has an amazing statuary. Take advantage of good weather, pack a picnic and enjoy Oakland Cemetery with kids!
One a beautiful day, Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery is the perfect place to get some exercise, pick up a few history lessons and discover art. It’s the most famous cemetery in Atlanta – with some very famous names who made it their final resting place.
Oakland started at a little over 6 acres of land and its located in the SouthEast portion of the city. It was originally founded in 1850, but didn’t become Oakland until it was renamed in 1872 – after all of the oak and magnolia trees grew in the area.
In total, there are more than 70,000 souls that have their final resting spots in the Oakland Cemetery. There are so many fascinating pieces of history about the grounds, the people’s stories and it’s just a simply beautiful green space. As weird as it sounds, visiting Oakland Cemetery with kids is a must-do!
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About Oakland Cemetery History
Established in 1850 on what used to be the outskirts of Atlanta, Oakland Cemetery began as a 6 acre parcel of former farmland. As Atlanta grew (and needed to inter 7,000 Civil War soldiers) it grew to its current 48 acre size.
Oakland is a thing of beauty and that’s why it’s such a great destination to visit. It was developed in the Victorian “garden cemetery” fashion. There are stunning works of art there – painstakingly crafted mausoleums and monuments honor the most wealthy of Atlanta residents. In Spring, the blooms add to the overall beauty.
Discussing Social Justice Inequalities at Oakland Cemetery with Kids
Oakland was the municipal cemetery for Atlanta, so it also is the resting place for the less well-off, the less well known. Kids will naturally notice that there is a separate section for African Americans. It’s hard not to notice the towering obelisks for the wealthy and the tiny, crumbling headstones for the more humble graves.
The 65 foot tall Confederate monument dedicated on Robert E. Lee’s funeral day starkly contrasts the more modest graves in the African-American section. This is a great place to ask your kids what they think about historical monuments that glorify something that is no longer acceptable in our society.
If they don’t think twice about African-Americans having to be buried in a separate section, point it out to them and explain why. Then you can take them to see the impressive monument to Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta. Discuss how times have changed.
Notable Graves and Works of Art in Oakland Cemetery
There are two residents that Oakland Cemetery is most famous for – Margaret Mitchell Marsh and Bobby Jones.
Margaret Mitchell Marsh is the author of Gone With The Wind. Bobby Jones was a world-famous golfer that dominated with one of the first “grand slam”s – he won all 4 major golf tournaments of his day in one year. He also helped design the Augusta National Golf Club and co-found the Masters Tournament. Bring a few pennies to leave on Peggy Marsh’s grave and a golf ball for Bobby.
There are benches throughout and lovely gardens. Explain to your kids that cemeteries such as these were fashionable picnic spots and it was considered completely normal. Families would come to pay their respects to their departed and stay a while to visit.
If you plan to visit, go first to the Visitor’s Center and spring for the $4 map. This is essential to truly appreciating Oakland. Aside from being a map, it’s full of vignettes about many of the residents buried there and their connection to Atlanta. It’s fascinating! For students of art history, the guide also includes the most elaborate structures, when they were built and the style in which they were created.
Regardless of when you visit, I encourage you to do so. Teens especially love to visit and learn about the stories – it’s so fascinating. Oakland Cemetery is a hands-on history lesson that kids don’t forget.
Seasonal Oakland Cemetery Special Events
Oakland Cemetery is home to many special events throughout the year and most of them are family friendly. Just be aware that parking is limited; the King Memorial MARTA station is close by and a good option for getting to Oakland Cemetery with kids.
Tunes From The Tombs
Much like when the Victorians brought blankets and picnics to the cemetery, you are encouraged to get comfortable for the day and enjoy live music, food trucks and tours of the grounds. Tunes From the Tombs also includes craft beer/adult beverages sales, an artist’s market and a vendor market. The best part? Anyone under 12 is free!
Run Like Hell
The Run Like Hell event is an annual October 5K through the cemetery grounds. They offer a virtual bib option along with the in-person race. In the spring they traditionally host the “Pushing Up Daisies” 5K. I 100% applaud the irreverent and fun theme of both races!
Capturing the Spirit of Oakland: Halloween Tours
Listed on their website as “designed to enlighten rather than frighten”, these tours are family friendly. Costumed docents share stories and information about some of the cemetery’s more famous residents. Costumes are encouraged and musical performances will be held on the grounds. Check out the Oakland Cemetery event calendar for updated information.
Where To Eat Near Oakland Cemetery
If for no other reason than the name, you need to grab a bite at Six Feet Under. There is a location directly across the street from Oakland, so you don’t even need to get back in the car. They have rooftop seating overlooking the cemetery and a pretty extensive kids menu. Hungry kids are cranky kids and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Oakland Cemetery FAQ’s
Where: 248 Oakland Ave. SE
Hours: Grounds are open 9 AM – 5:30 PM
Visitor’s Center: 9:00-1:00 weekends and 10:00 – 2:00 weekdays
The paths are paved, so it is stroller friendly but it may be a bit bumpy. Wheelchairs might have a harder time.
Parking: Free in lot or nearby side street. The parking lot is on the small side; a good option is hopping on MARTA and getting off at the nearby King Memorial station.