Halloween isn't the only spooky holiday to celebrate this fall. Day of the Dead—or Día de los Muertos as it's known in Spanish—is observed by many Latino cultures and is especially popular in Mexico.
Day of the Dead officially takes place on November 1 and 2 to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. However, NYC events are spread throughout October and early November and most of them are FREE. Revelers honor friends and family members who have died by building altars, or ofrendas, and adorning them with colorful paper flowers, beautifully decorated skeletons, and candles. It's a joyful way to remember the deceased—without freaking kids out. We've rounded up nine Day of the Dead events where NYC kids and families can celebrate the holiday.
You can find more fall activities in our Fall Fun Guide and check out the Halloween Guide for all the other spooky, kid-friendly happenings in NYC this month.
Click through to our listings for all the info, including locations and times.
Kids listen to storytime during El Museo del Barrio's Day of the Dead celebration.
Super Sabado: Día de los Muertos Celebration — East Harlem
Saturday, October 20
My daughter and I have been to El Museo del Barrio's annual celebration many times. The museum constructs a giant Day of the Dead altar in its cafe and kids are encouraged to contribute to the display. Enjoy flower and skull face-painting, holiday art projects, storytelling, and a spooky procession from the nearby Dana Discovery Center in Central Park to the museum. The day closes out with an afternoon performance by Radio Jarocho and Zenen Zeferino. FREE
New York City Day of the Dead Festival — Staten Island
Sunday, October 21
Celebrate the holiday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta School's 26th annual fair, which begins with the construction of two altars, one by a local Mexican family, the other for the community, where visitors can contribute their own mementos. Afterward, craft paper skeletons and flowers, and enjoy traditional music and dance performances. FREE
RELATED: FREE Halloween Celebrations for Kids
The community-built altar at Mano a Mano's Day of the Dead fest is filled with family photos.
Day of the Dead — East Village
Friday, October 26 through Sunday, October 28
Mexican culture organization Mano a Mano throws one of the best Day of the Dead events in NYC at St. Mark's Church in the East Village. The three-day fest includes a marketplace with Mexican eats and wares, live music and dance performances, paper craft workshops, and a communal altar where you can place photos and other remembrances of your loved ones.
Familiy Art Project: Día de los Muertos — Riverdale, the Bronx
Saturday, October 27-Sunday, October 28
Families work with visiting artist Paulina Perera-Riveroll at Wave Hill to create retablos, special remembrance boxes, using found and natural materials, and also help decorate an altar in honor of special natural residents of the gardens. Included with park admission: $8 for adults, $2 for children 6 and older, FREE for children under 6. (Admission is FREE to all on Saturday before noon.)
Día de los Muertos | Day of the Dead — Financial District
Saturday, October 27
The always-free National Museum of the American Indian hosts an afternoon festival where families can try holiday activities like decorating skull masks and skeleton puppets, crafting paper flowers, painting plaster skulls, and contributing to the community altar. Cetiliztli Nauhcampa will also perform traditional dances. FREE
Día de los Muertos at the Staten Island Children's Museum — Staten Island
Sunday, October 28
Visit the Staten Island Children’s Museum to sample traditional foods for a Day of the Dead celebration, and join artist Tamara Geisler in creating Mexican folk art. Included with museum admission: $8 per person.
Día de los Muertos at the Museum of the City of New York — Upper East Side
Friday, November 2
Celebrate the Day of the Dead at the Museum of the City of New York. Bring photos of loved ones and decorate a frame to honor those still with us and those who have passed on. Registration is encouraged, but not required. Included with museum admission: $18 for adults, ages 19 and under are FREE.
Día de los Muertos at the Brooklyn Children's Museum — Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, November 3
Head to the Brooklyn Children's Museum for the best Day of the Dead celebration for preschoolers! Create and decorate your own museum altar, and keep the festivities going with Día de los Muertos story time, art, and music. Free with museum admission: $11 for everyone ages 1 and older.
Día de los Muertos at the American Museum of Natural History — Upper West Side
Saturday, November 3
The American Museum of Natural History invites you to immerse yourself in the traditions of Día de Muertos in this family-friendly, full-day festival featuring altars dedicated to extinct animal species, performances by Mexican folk musicians and dance troupes, hands-on artisanal and scientific workshops, and a craft marketplace. Included with museum admission: $23 for adults, $13 for ages 2 to 12, under 2 FREE.
Unless otherwise noted all photos courtesy of the museums/events.
This post was first published in October 2010 but is updated annually. Katie Nave Freeman contributed reporting.