Tips for Tombstone Tourist Trips to San Diego

My suggestions for fellow cemetery enthusiasts that live outside of San Diego

Here are my tips for tombstone tourist trips to San Diego! We have a number of cemeteries, and a few graveyards. If you have a car you can easily visit most of them. Some are private, or limit access. Two that are open to the public are, in my opinion, good spots for short visits to San Diego. Why? They are located in historic districts, walking distance from nearby hotels!

El Campo Santo Cemetery

Photo of El Campo Santo in Old Town San Diego from kpbs.org
For Tips for Tombstone Tourist Trips to San Diego
Photo of El Campo Santo from kpbs.org

The first is El Campo Santo, in the Old Town section of the City of San Diego. It is not the first European cemetery in San Diego. It is relatively small now. Some historic events in the early days of San Diego happened here. These events include an execution by firing squad. There’s a good chance you have heard of Old Town San Diego, as it is a major tourist attraction for the city.

Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce – The Official Travel Resource for the San Diego Region

El Campo Santo – Old Town San Diego

Below is the findagrave.com link:

El Campo Santo Cemetery in San Diego, California – Find a Grave Cemetery

Dia de Los Muertos observation

Old Town experienced a heavy influence of culture from Spain and Mexico. The merging of cultures led to Dia de Los Muertos observation every year. Below is a link to hiddensandiego.com-scroll down the page to see photos of El Campo Santo decorated for Dia de Los Muertos:

El Campo Santo Cemetery | Hidden San Diego

As with El Campo Santo, Old Town was not the original European settlement. The area has a lot of local and state historical significance.

From findagrave.com, city expansion forced changes. A horse-drawn streetcar lane created a gap through the cemetery. Most graves in the path of the streetcar line were simply covered. In 1993, an archeology survey scanned the area outside of the cemetery walls. The survey detected what are thought to be 20 graves under what is now San Diego Avenue. Those graves are marked with numbered round metal tags. A plaque on the cemetery wall reminds visitors about those tags on the sidewalk and street.

Old Town San Diego is a short drive or bus ride from the airport, downtown San Diego, and Mission Valley. There are two hotels on opposite sides of Old Town that are within walking distance from El Campo Santo. You can easily explore the many attractions in Old Town on foot from either hotel.

You can find more information in “Cemeteries of San Diego” by Seth Mallios and David M. Catarino. It is one of the books for sale in my bookshop!

Julian Pioneer Cemetery

Photo from the Julian Pioneer Cemetery website for Tips for Tombstone Tourist Trips to San Diego
Photo from the Julian Pioneer Cemetery website

The City of Julian is up in the San Diego mountains. This is the second location of my tips for Tombstone Tourist trips to San Diego. Accessible only by car, it is about a 2 hour drive from Lindbergh Field. Enjoy the mountain atmosphere as you explore! The cemetery is located on a hill near the “downtown” area of Julian. It is also known as the Haven of Rest. The cemetery had to be created to accommodate deaths in the settlement as the local gold rush attracted more people:

Julian Cemetery – San Diego Ghosts (sdghosts.com)

Julian Cemetery Corporation (About) (visitjulian.com)

Here is the Find a Grave link:

Julian Cemetery in Julian, California – Find a Grave Cemetery

The stairs you see in some photos of the cemetery help pallbearers to keep a good footing as they carry caskets up the hillside to the gravesites.

Local shops and residents are proud of the pioneer history of Julian, and work to keep that “old time” vibe. The main street in “downtown” is flat, making it easy to explore most of the stores by foot. There are a few hotels in walking range as well.

Julian native David Lewis wrote a book about the cemetery based on his research about the people buried there. The book, “Last Known Address the history of the Julian Cemetery” is not available through the usual online sources.

Julian is one of the few places in San Diego County to get snow every year. Sometimes the snow is deep enough to require chains on car tires. This is sometimes a curse for Haven of Rest. “Flatlanders” drive up the mountain to see the snow. Some of them use “cemetery hill” for sledding.

Historic Julian, California (visitjulian.com)

About the author – Cultures and Graves

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