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Travel trend alert: tombstone tourism

Cemeteries may be closely associated with loss and grief, but “tombstone tourism” has become a worldwide travel trend. This is especially true when the graves are the final resting places of celebrities – as they are at this sought-after “destination” cemetery in Los Angeles.

Have you ever visited a famous burial site or the tomb of a celebrity? If so, you’re far from alone. In fact, so-called tombstone tourism is a growing market that attracts millions of visitors a year to cemeteries around the world. This may be an up-and-coming travel trend, but it’s hardly a new phenomenon. 
“I think cemetery tourism has been around for a lot longer than most people realize. Many cemeteries were designed to be parks and meant to be explored and enjoyed by the public,” film historian Karie Bible says. 

Bible leads tours at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles – one of the most visited burial sites in the world. Founded in 1899, and an integral part of Hollywood, this cemetery is the final resting place of hundreds of movie stars and music industry greats, including Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and many more.
“I think it’s very meaningful for people to see the grave of a star they loved or admired. Most of us will never get to meet our idols, so standing at their grave is often as close as we can get,” she says. 

It was back in 2002 that Bible started giving her Hollywood Forever tours. Now she believes that cemeteries in general have become more accessible to the public, which may be a factor in the rise of tombstone tourism. 
“Today there are websites, apps, YouTube videos and all sorts of ways for people to figure out where stars are buried and to learn more about them,” she says. 

Bible cites some of her best tour memories observing the reactions of certain visitors when they encounter the grave of their favorite Hollywood star for the first time. 
“I’ve had guests on my tour start to cry when we got to Judy Garland. She touched so many lives and will continue to do so forever. One man started singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ at the top of his lungs during a tour,” Bible recalls. 

 

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