Day of the Dead for NYC Kids: Mexican Culture Comes Alive with Día de los Muertos Family Celebrations
Even though the big night is still more than two weeks away, you're probably busy figuring out which Halloween events and activities you'll have time to hit this month as October 31 draws near. But how about mixing something multicultural into your celebrating this year?
Day of the Dead—or Día de los Muertos as it's known in Spanish—is observed by many Latino cultures. While it's not a Halloween event per se, it occurs around the same time and features many of the same trappings (skulls, colorful outfits, parades, etc.). During Day of the Dead, revelers celebrate friends and family members who have passed on by building altars and adorning them with colorful paper flowers, grinning skeletons and candles. It's a really joyful way to honor the deceased without freaking kids out.
Day of the Dead technically takes place on November 1 and 2 to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, however the events are spread out throughout October and early November. Here are six ways to celebrate Day of the Dead with kids in New York City, most of which are totally FREE.
Super Sabado: Dia de los Muertos Celebration – East Harlem
El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street
Saturday, October 19 11am-5pm
We passed by the museum the other day and its massive Day of the Dead display is already on view in its cafe. My daughter and I go to this celebration every year and we always have a blast (that's her in skeleton face paint). Kids can contribute to a colorful collaborative altar, catch traditional Aztec and Mexican dance performances, hear stories about the holiday, get their faces painted with skeletons and flowers, and enjoy kid-friendly tours of the galleries. The fest kicks off with a spooky musical procession from the nearby Dana Discovery Center in Central Park to the museum at 11am.
Dead or Alive: Halloween at NYSCI – Corona
New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 47-01 111th Street
Saturday, October 26-Sunday, October 27 and Saturday, November 2-Sunday, November 3, times vary. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
Most activities are free with admission: $11 for adults, $8 for children 2-17; animal presentations are an extra $6 for adults, $5 for children.
One of our top 12 Halloween event picks, the science museum's annual fete celebrates Halloween and Day of the Dead with offbeat activities like pumpkin chucking, and face time with cool and creepy creatures like Arctic gray wolf Atka and live bats. The main event is the holiday-themed Dead or Alive Party on Saturday, November 2 featuring hands-on forensic fun, delicious Mexican Day of the Dead treats, Halloween and Day of the Dead art projects, and prizes for kids in costume. Check the calendar for the complete lineup of activities. Afterward, discover all of the other attractions Flushing Meadows Corona Park has to offer.
Halloween Remixed – Flushing
Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard near Linden Place
Thursday, October 31 4-7pm
Mark Day of the Dead, Halloween and All Saints' Day in one shot at this true multicultural family festival. Kids (and parents) are encouraged to wear costumes to this trifecta, which includes spooky songs and dances, and cool crafts like making Mexican sugar skulls to place on the Day of the Dead altar.
Day of the Dead at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery – East Village
131 East 10th Street between Second and Third Avenues
Thursday, October 31-Sunday, November 3 times vary. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
This annual activity-packed four-day fete earned a spot on our October Go List. Mexican culture organization Mano a Mano recreates a village churchyard and offers events to honor those who have passed. Workshops are for all ages and include altar-building, paper flower making, poetry writing and bread baking. Bring photographs, candles and flowers to adorn the altar in honor of your deceased loved ones, or just drop by and enjoy the experience of this cultural celebration, which also includes musical performances and a traditional dance procession. Be sure to check the website for the full schedule as the lineup changes every day.
Day of the Dead at the National Museum of the American Indian – Financial District
1 Bowling Green between Broadway and State Street
Saturday, November 2 noon-5pm
The always-free institutions hosts this afternoon celebration. Families can make traditional Day of the Dead crafts like paper flowers, plaster skulls and skull masks, and enjoy live dance performances by Cetiliztli Nauhcampa.
Come Celebrate: Dia de los Muertos! – Crown Heights
145 Brooklyn Avenue between Prospect Place and St. Marks Avenue
Saturday, November 2-Sunday, November 3 at 2:30pm
Free with admission: $9
The best bet for preschoolers, this program introduces children ages 5 and under to the holiday through stories and a skeleton puppet craft.
If you're wondering about the big Day of the Dead street festival that used to take place on East 116th Street, unfortunately it looks like it's no long happening.
For more seasonal fun, check out our Halloween Guide.
- Dia de los Muertos: Mostly Free Day of the Dead Events for Westchester Families
- 13 Free Día de los Muertos Celebrations around Los Angeles
- Weekend Fun: Free Day of the Dead Celebrations, Diwali, Late Halloween Events for NYC Kids
- Halloween 2013 for NYC Kids: Best Halloween Parades, Parties and Trick-or-Treating on Thursday, October 31