It's easy to get stuck in the assumption that Mission Hills doesn't exist beyond Washington Street. That's where the bars, restaurants and M Theory Records are. The whole neighborhood is small enough that if you wanted to take a risk and get lost, it's not hard to find your way out. And better yet, you might stumble across Pioneer Park (1521 Washington Pl.).

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Mission Hills, just a block from Mission Hills Nursery, Pioneer Park is easy to overlook—until you notice the line-up of large and impressive gravestones in its southeast corner. Seem a little morbid? The story gets better from there. From the 1870s to the early 1900s, Pioneer Park was, in fact, a Catholic cemetery, and the bodies—wait for it—are still in the ground! This probably sounds like some creepy, Poltergeist-style realm of hauntings (no ghosts came to greet my wife and me when we picnicked there), but it's actually quite peaceful.

Pioneer Park welcomes families with both children and dogs. It's kind of an unofficial dog park, with plenty of space for four-legged friends to roam, lots of shade trees for picnics and even a playground. It also happens to have the former cemetery, and the grave markers are one of the best reasons for visiting. There's a long line of preserved stone monuments, many very old, and several are large and impressive. A weird thing in a park where you take little ones for a family outing? Definitely—but goth teenagers will feel right at home, as well. There's no reason creepy and family-friendly can't go hand in hand.


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