Hollywood Cemetery Tours: Explore Beauty & History in Richmond, Va.

Hollywood Cemetery Tours have come a long way since I first visited there 20 years ago and wandered aimlessly around.

The sprawling 135-acre Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA is by far one of the most beautiful, scenic, and mystical cemeteries I’ve ever visited. It’s got art, architecture, natural beauty and a wide array of notable historical figures buried there, including two presidents.

But don’t take my word for it. Hollywood Cemetery ranks as one of the most visited cemeteries in the state of Virginia.

Ready for your own visit? Let take a look at Hollywood Cemetery Tours and find the one that’s best for you.

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A beautiful granite cross headstone with a winged angel kneeling in front of it at Hollywood Cemetery.
This is one of the many beautiful tombstones that can be seen on a Hollywood Cemetery Tour.

Hollywood Cemetery Tours

Because Hollywood Cemetery’s paths wind over 135 acres – through valleys, over hills and beneath stately trees, it’s very easy to get lost. (Believe me)!

Thankfully, there are a wide variety of Hollywood Cemetery Tours, with knowledgeable guides who will show you around. Pick the one that appeals to you and book it today.

✔️ Guided Walking Tour

If you enjoy walking, the Hollywood Cemetery Guided Walking Tour is the way to go. A guide takes you to the most important sites and explains the history of this beautiful cemetery.

✔️Immersive History Tour

Learn about the historical figures buried there, as well as unusual occurrences and strange happenings with the Hollywood Cemetery Immersive History Tour.

✔️Segway Tour

See more in less time (and less energy) by Segway! With a Hollywood Cemetery Segway Tour you can glide through the cemetery quietly and with ease.

✔️Electric Car Tour

The Hollywood Cemetery Electric Car Tour sounds like an interesting way to learn about Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond! In addition to cruising along a slow speed, your driver will tell you stories about the historic figures buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

✔️Hollywood Cemetery Self-Guided Tour

You can also pick up a map at the Cemetery for $1 (when the office is open). This is how I did it, but I highly recommend you go with a Hollywood Cemetery Tour.

It is such a large, sprawling site, that you will probably miss a lot. Plus the tours have knowledgeable people who share stories that you otherwise wouldn’t hear.

What Can You See On A Hollywood Cemetery Tour?

Nature And Trees At Hollywood

Hollywood Cemetery was designed for the living, not the dead. It is literally a nature retreat and contains some of the best examples of native trees in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In fact, there are more than 2,000 trees in the cemetery today, including tulip poplars and white oaks.

Many of the trees predate the cemetery. 

If you like old trees like I do, check out the Angel Oak in S.C. and one of the Witness Trees in Gettysburg.

Hollywood Cemetery Famous Graves

Hollywood Cemetery doesn’t just have natural beauty. It is also worth the visit because it is the final resting place of two presidents.

Presidents Circle serves as the final resting place for the 5th President of the United States, James Monroe, and the 10th President of the United States, John Tyler.

A fact that few know is that James Monroe’s Gothic Revival cast iron canopy, (commonly known as “the Birdcage”) was registered as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1968.

The cast iron canopy around James Monroe's tomb can best be described as a birdcage, surrounded by other tombstones.
The ornate black memorial in the back is James Monroe’s “Birdcage.”

This recognition elevated Hollywood Cemetery to one of the most prominent places of burial in the state of Virginia.

Not far away is the Emmanuel Church cemetery where Mosby Ranger Joseph Bryan is buried.

Pro Tip: Did you know you can tour Hollywood Cemetery by Segway?

Confederate Soldiers Buried At Hollywood Cemetery

The list of Confederate soldiers buried at Hollywood is seemingly endless.

There are 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried there as well as 2,000 unknown soldiers interred there after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Some of the most well known Confederate soldiers include General JEB Stuart, George Pickett, Dr. Hunter McGuire, Fitz Hugh Lee, John Pegram, and President Jefferson Davis.

Related Post: Richmond is full of history, including being the final resting place of Mosby Ranger Joseph Bryan.

Other Notable Historical Figures

Many notable figures are buried in the cemetery, including six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, prominent authors and suffragists.

In 1953, the Hollywood Cemetery board designated an official list of 49 notables within the cemetery who have significantly influenced the course of history due to their actions or opinions.

You can see a full list of notable figures buried in the cemetery here.

Need a place to spend the night? Check out the historic Jefferson Hotel.

The Stone Pyramid at Hollywood Cemetery

Hollywood Cemetery Tours always stop at this pyramid made of granite that honor the Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. It contrasts against a blue sky with one small white cloud in the background.
The giant stone pyramid is one of the stops on a Hollywood Cemetery Tour.

One of the most remarkable monuments in the cemetery is a 90-foot high pyramid that was built in 1869 as a memorial to the more than 18,000 enlisted men of the Confederate Army buried in the cemetery.

Made from granite quarried from the James River, the monument took an entire year to build. What’s even more amazing about this memorial is that it is dry-laid with no mortar. The stones are immense!

The pyramid is located on a hill in the cemetery, close to where 2,000 unknowns from the Battle of Gettysburg are buried.

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The Legend of The Iron Dog In Hollywood Cemetery

Perhaps the most famous — or at least most visited grave marker — is the “Iron Dog.” This statue of a Newfoundland stands guard over the grave of a little girl who died in 1862.

iron dog at hollywood

There are many stories about how the Iron Dog came to be in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery. The most popular version is that it was moved to keep it from being melted down into bullets during the Civil War. There are also many ghost stories surrounding this memorial.

guard dog at hollywood

I couldn’t find the story behind the death of the little girl, except an account that said it was “tragic.” Every tombstone in the cemetery tells part of a story, but the details will perhaps never be known.

(Some day I will write a post on ghost stories surrounding Hollywood. There are a few of them, one of which involves a vampire!)

Loyal Dogs Honored At Hollywood Cemetery Richmond

I happened to find another dog statue while there on my last visit. One can only imagine the story behind this one. It is beautiful!

hollywood cemetery dog guard

It’s hard to capture the beauty and the serenity of Hollywood in words. I shot a little bit of video from my phone (see below), but it’s hard to do while driving since the roads are very curvy and hilly!

Click HERE to see the short clip.

Pro Tip: If you visit Hollywood Cemetery, plan on spending some time there.

Hollywood Cemetery History

Opened in 1849, Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va., was constructed on land known as “Harvie’s Woods” that was once owned by William Byrd II.

It was designed in the rural garden style, with its name coming from the holly trees dotting the hills of the property.

Located beside the James River, Hollywood Cemetery is spread out across hills and dales, with roads that wind beneath stately trees.

Many of the monuments are works of art, and the natural and architectural beauty of this cemetery sets it apart from the grid-like layout of most others.

Landscape architect John Notman designed Hollywood in 1847 as a “rural” style garden cemetery, and specifically left trees and other plants untouched in order to create a peaceful haven.

Today, there are heritage roses, magnificent trees, and other blooms that live up to the name of a garden cemetery. The sound of chirping birds and the relaxing sound of the James River flowing over rapids close by add to the peacefulness of the place.

Like Old Cemeteries? Check out the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease in S.C. and the Old Burying Ground in N.C.

Note: Just a few days after my most recent visit to the cemetery, it was heavily vandalized with many irreplaceable monuments destroyed. It is heartbreaking, but not surprising, since the historical monuments throughout Richmond have been permitted to be desecrated, removed, and destroyed in actions that are condoned — and even encouraged — by officials and politicians. No arrests have been made at this time.

Toppled graves at hollywood cemetery in richmond.
Vandalism at Hollywood Cemetery.

Other Tours Near Hollywood Cemetery

Church Hill Food Tour or Arts District Food Tour (Both sound yummy)

Richmond Ghosts Haunted Walking Tour

Richmond Downtown Walking Tour

Tuk-Tuk Sightseeing Tour. This small open air vehicles lets you go slow and see the sites with a guide.

Where To Stay In Richmond, Va

The Jefferson Hotel: Highly rated (and so is the price)

The Westin: Conveniently located downtown

Pick a Hotel North of Richmond: Convenient to Richmond but less expensive than downtown.

Wrap-Up Of Hollywood Cemetery Tours

As is noted on the Cemetery website, Hollywood is more than a cemetery, it is a fascinating outdoor museum that tells its story through stone, iron and the beautiful landscape.

I know many people don’t have cemeteries on their travel bucket list, but Hollywood should be an exception.

Its history and natural beauty make it an important historical, cultural and natural landmark.

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  1. We walk a mile and a half each day at Fairmount Park Cemetery in Spokane Washington. It overlooks the Spokane River and is home to much wildlife. It’s flat with lots of large pine trees and has many historical sites including an English person buired there from the Titanic along with a plaque discribing the incident.

  2. We nave visited Hollywood several times. My husband s parents are buried there . Many of his relatives are also there His several greats grandfather was governor of Viriginia. We are not sure if he is also there. So distressing to learn of the recent distruction in the cemetery as well as other monuments. Really enjoy all your art I also. Keep them coming,