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Top Place to Clear Your Head: Swan Point Cemetery

Off the beaten path, cemetery offers serenity

Swan Point Cemetery585 Blackstone Blvd., Providence (click for map)8 a.m. to 5 p.m. October through March, to 7 p.m. in summer

With all the zombies, mummies and assorted spooks who haunt today's popular culture, it can be pretty easy to forget just how restful the dead really are. But a great reminder is not too far away - Swan Point Cemetery, one of the best places for peaceful reflection the Ocean State has to offer.

With 200 acres of meandering pathways, grassy hills and yawning trees, Swan Point feels more like a park than a graveyard. But its reverential atmosphere and relative seclusion lend it a sense of poignant calm too often reserved for the dearly departed.

Founded in 1846, Swan Point is, a sign reminds visitors at the entrance, "primarily a resting place for past generations." But that's no reason for present company to miss out: as a historic garden cemetery, it's also available to the public for "quiet enjoyment" daily.

Maps available in the main office at the front can get you started. For the tree-hugger, there's one to point you to the tallest and most impressive timber the wooded cemetery has to offer - there are nearly 100 varieties in all. Another pinpoints the cemetery's most impressive monuments and noteworthy residents.

But your best bet is just to go for a stroll or a bike ride - permissible if you keep it tastefully slow - and poke around a bit. You'll be sure to stumble across some familiar names if you keep your eyes peeled, and you'll also find a handful of secluded benches situated by ponds and burbling fountains.

Best of all, you're apt to find solitude somewhere among Swan Point's gently sloping hills and shady maple groves. The prevailing company is of the underground variety and decidedly un-talkative, and the handful of fellow wanderers you may encounter are likely to be as lost in thought or quiet conversation as you are.

In the warmer months, Swan Point's serenity is accentuated by the scurry of squirrels and flitters of birds, and windy leaves make a soothing soundtrack. On a sunny day, bring a blanket, a good book and a few hours of free time to spend in a particularly removed nook. You might even doze off for a mid-afternoon siesta if the breeze is just right.

Though tucked away in the northeastern-most corner of Providence on Blackstone Boulevard, Swan Point provides plenty of parking and can be reached on RIPTA's Number 40 bus. It's also a nice destination for a bike ride or a light jog, as the boulevard itself features a mile and a half of tree-lined gravel path.

Whatever you do at Swan Point and however you get there, odds are you'll leave feeling relaxed and refreshed - making it always worth the trip. Life can be stressful and hectic, but Swan Point Cemetery is a wonderful reminder that resting places don't have to be final.



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