Día de los Muertos: What Other City Has This Many Day of the Dead Celebrations?

Los Angeles Family Celebrations of Day of the Dead for LA Kids and Parents
Walking in the footsteps of our ancestors at Hollywood Forever's celebration, photo by Laura Esposito

Hauntingly close to Halloween, El Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – is a magical holiday that's also a living history lesson, demonstrating the tendency of conquerors to absorb indigenous customs into their own. Christian Europeans arrived in Mexico already fans of All Hallows Eve (modern day Halloween), only to stumble upon an ancient tradition celebrated by the Aztecs on November 2, with a spookily similar theme. Day of the Dead is a time when the door between worlds is meant to open, so that celebrants can honor departed loved ones and hopefully lure them back for a visit.

The traditions involved are anything but somber, the intention being to laugh in the face of death and allow it no power over the living. Festivities are full of dancing skeletons (calacas) with faces that are both creepy and beautiful, skulls (calaveras) made of sugar, plus plenty of candles, masks, and marigold petals. Eating candy and dressing up like skeletons are thus more American than apple pie.

We lucky Angelenos have several opportunities to dance with the calacas. Below you'll find a selection of Día de los Muertos events, offering families a taste of Aztec tradition and—in some cases—an extra airing for the Halloween costumes. Keep checking our calendar, as we add events daily!

All dressed up at Hollywood Forever. Photo by Salina Canizales/Flickr

Dia de los Muertos Novenario
Oct 25 - Nov 2, 2018
Olvera Street
The candlelight Novenario processions are held Downtown nightly for nine evenings. The traditional, pre-Columbian procession evokes special memories of deceased loved ones with colorful pageantry and indigenous blessings. Following each procession, free pan de muerto (sweet pastry) and champurrado (a Mexican hot beverage) are served.

Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever
Oct 27, 2018
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
LA's largest Day of the Dead events celebrates the memories of the departed among some of the city's most famous departed. Ceremonial tributes and memorable altar creations are set up throughout the grounds of the cemetery amidst music, dance, face painting, phenomenal food, and traditional processions of calacas. Every skeleton who is anyone turns up for this fiesta!

A Fishy Fest for Día de los Muertos
Oct 27 - 28, 2018
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
The aquarium celebrates the occasion with a fishy flair. Kids can create their own masks and explore a mad scientist's laboratory, along with face painting, crafts, naturalists' bioluminescence presentations, and a marine animal graveyard.

Día de los Muertos Family Festival
Oct 27, 2018
Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach
Activities include mask-making and other art workshops, an Aztec dance performance and procession, children’s storytime, interactive activities, sugar skull decoration, face painting, and a live DJ. Día de Los Muertos attire is strongly encouraged.

Aztec Dance JAM Session & Día de los Muertos Celebration
Oct 27, 2018
San Fernando Recreation Park
Families experience the splendor of the Aztec people with San Fernando’s Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc, exploring the music, choreography, and poetry of ancient Mesoamerican culture through the arts of drumming and dance.

San Pedro's Día de los Muertos Festival
Oct 28, 2018
Historic Downtown San Pedro
Art, culture, delicious cuisine, live entertainment, and Day of the Dead face painting accompany an altar exhibition featuring the work of artists and community members. Kids can make free Day of the Dead crafts, too.

Fiesta Muertos
Oct 25 - Nov 2, 2018
El Pueblo de Los Angeles / Olvera Street
Olvera Street hosts its annual Day of the Dead celebration with ofrendas, face painting, and entertainment throughout the week, especially on Oct 27 & 28, and Nov 1 & 2. Festival-goers can enjoy the display through November 2, including the nightly candlelight Novenario Procession (Parade of Living Muertos).

The happy wedding couple stroll down Olvera Street. ​Photo by Roberta Romero/CC BY 2.0

Día de los Muertos Community Procession
November 1, 2018
Cypress Park Branch Library
The free community procession is nearly a mile long and culminates in music, food, and refreshments for everyone, as well as the unveiling of grand altar/art installations.

Festival de los Muertos
November 2, 2018
24th Street Theater
The theater's annual Dia de los Muertos block party celebration features decorated altars as well as live music, dancing, theater, face painting, authentic Mexican food, and a graveyard where families can create their own altars for loved ones.

Jardín de Recuerdos - A Day of the Dead Celebration
November 2, 2018
Natural History Museum
Guests are invited to share images or objects of loved ones in a community ofrenda in the Nature Garden, constructed by master altarista Ofelia Esparza, and her daughter, artist Rosanna Esparza Ahrens.

Dia de los Muertos Fall Festival
November 3, 2018
Edison Language Academy
Santa Monica's biggest Dia de los Muertos fair includes traditional altars, home-made tamales, live music, crafts, games, bouncers, and a kid-friendly haunted house - all in support of a local school.

Noche de Altares
November 3, 2018
El Centro Cultural de Mexico, Santa Ana
This free community event invites families to create or enjoy altar displays amid music and dancers.

Dia de los Muertos Celebration
November 4, 2018
Woodlawn Cemetery
Families are invited to join in a traditional Mexican celebration. Last year's event included opportunities to create coronitas (crowns) of fresh marigolds and papel picado (paper art), tour grave sites of Santa Monica's ancestors, watch a documentary about the holiday, and enjoy a traditional Nahuatl Ceremony with live music.

Community Ofrenda & Family Festival
Nov 4, 2018
Bowers Museum, Santa Ana
Guests can join the free celebration and enjoy pan dulce with Mexican hot chocolate, face painting, special art projects, and performances by Rhythmo Mariachi Kids, Folklorico Raices de Mexico, Trio Tres Souls, and Xipe Totec Danza Azteca.

Canoga Park's Dia De Los Muertos Festival
Nov 4, 2018
Main Street
Canoga Park hosts its annual festival honoring the Day of the Dead. Families can spend the whole day at the free event, enjoying traditional holiday altars, arts & crafts, food, a car show, a children's art pavilion, a stage with live "Dead" entertainment, and chalk art.

Top photo by Salina Canizales/CC BY 2.0

Originally published October 18, 2011