It’s time to celebrate Día De Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead,” and don’t let the name scare you away from taking part in a joyous celebration. This Mexican holiday uses food, music and art to honor loved ones who have passed on. With the rich Mexican-American culture of Los Angeles, we are lucky to have a bounty of Dia De Los Muertos celebrations to choose from. Keep reading for our family friendly picks of the best Day of the Dead celebrations in the city.
photo: Hollywood Forever
Eye Popping Art at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
If you want to experience the mama of all festivals in the city get to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for their 18th annual Dia De Los Muertos Festival. This year the festival will honor artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, whose work provided many of the foundational images for the Day of the Dead tradition. The festival begins at noon and marches on until midnight. Bring the family to see the elaborate altars made from the hearts and by the hands of families, see Aztec dances or a traditional Dia De Los Muertos procession with everyone in their best Calaca wear. Beyond the altars, this day is a celebration of life and there will be local artists and craftspeople, four stages with musical and theatrical performances, arts, crafts and face painting for the kids and lots of food. The cost is $20 per person, but kids 8 and under are free until 4 p.m. Adults 65 and older are also free until 4 p.m. The event is one day on Saturday, October 28 from noon until midnight.
Good to Know: For a behind the scenes peek, you can also show up for free (yes!) on Friday to watch the altars being set up.
6000 Santa Monica Blvd.
photo: ASEugenio via Flickr
Altars and Mariachis on Olvera Street
If you’re looking for a classic LA spot to celebrate, we can’t think of any better place than historic Olvera Street. The festivities run from October 25 until November 2. This is one of the largest events in the city and there is nothing like Olvera Street to jog your nostalgia and get the family into the spirit (pun intended) of the holiday. Evening festivities begin daily at 5 p.m. and including Aztec Dancers, classic Mariachis and nightly processions where you can see people in their best traditional (and not so traditional) Calaca wear. There will also be children’s art workshops. If your family truly wants to embody the day, there will be face painters on site to turn you into a beautiful Calaveras (skulls). Don’t fret, the artists are skilled and can do something slightly toned down if you’re worried about your wee ones being scared.
Good to Know: Community altars are on display from October 28-November 2. Also, Free pan dulce (sweet bread) and champurrado (a hot, sweet Mexican drink) will be served to everyone who participates in the evening processions.
El Pueblo De Los Angeles
200 N. Main St
photo: Javier Guillen for Grand Park/The Music Center
Get Immersed in Culture with Self Help Graphics at Grand Park
If you want some education with your celebrations make your way Downtown to Grand Park. Self Help Graphics has been hosting Dia De Los Muertos Events for over 40 years and are partnering with Grand Park for the fifth year in a row to put on a celebration that will engage the family and teach you a thing or two about the amazing piece of our cultural puzzle. The festivities begin on October 28 with a traditional Noche de Ofrenda to honor the dead and an evening of traditional dances in the Aztecan, Oaxacan and Michoacan style. A master altar created by Ofelia Esparanza will be unveiled. This will kick off the week long presentation of altars created by local artists and community groups. The altar presentation will run from October 29-November 5. The park will also offer free lunch time tours of the altar to highlight artwork and discuss the holiday.
Good to Know: As part of the Pacific Stand Time LA/LA event, the exhibition Dia De Los Muertos: A Cultural Legacy Past Present and Future will be presented at Self Help Graphics. The center will also be hosting community art workshops for the holiday every Saturday in October.
200 N. Grand Ave.
photo: Pretend City
Get Their Hands (and Mouths) Moving at Pretend City
Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine has create an ultimate educational experience for the family. On November 2 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. the museum will have multiple activities for the whole family. Your mini-anthropologists can get started with a “sensational storytime”, move on to paper marigold making or sugar skull creations and round off the day with Spanish lessons. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, the family can also bring a photo of a loved one who has passed to be included in the communal altar. This celebration is included with museum admission ($12.50 for everyone over 1). Yes, we know it’s in Irvine but this event is well-worth the drive.
Mask Making, Storytelling and Art Appreciation at Museum of Latin American Art
Make your way over to Long Beach to enjoy the Dia de los Muertos Family Festival at MOLAA. The festival is on Sunday October 29 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and is a well rounded celebration of this festive holiday. You can begin the day with a mask-making workshop followed by a procession led by Aztec dancers. The day continues with sugar skull making, face paintings, story time and docent led tours throughout the day. The day wouldn’t be complete without dancing, so MOLAA has live performances all day long. Plus, there will even be food vendors in the parking lot so you can take them home with full bellies. What more can you ask for?
628 Alamitos Ave.
photo: Old Pasadena
Join the Festival in Old Pasadena
Head North to Old Pasadena for the Day of the Dead Tour of Altars from October 27-October 29. At this weekend long event dozens of local business create beautiful altars to liven up the streets in the spirit of reverie. Grab a map and take the self-guided tour. Beyond the altars, the weekend will be full with a salsa dance party, free calaca face painting and “make and take” sugar skull making. There will also be great food, including a $1 Drink day on Friday Night from Amara Chocolate. Plus, if you can tag team the time with your tots, savvy parents may even be able to catch a lecture about the origins of chocolate! Check the website for a full scheudle of the weekends activities.
Throughout Old Pasadena
A Mexican Zocalo with Zona Rosa Cafe and Pasadena Playhouse
Zona Rose Cafe and Pasadena Playhouse are back for the 23rd year for another free family event on October 28 from 3-10 p.m. There will, of course, be altars in the Pasadena Playhouse courtyard where the family can begin with reflection. After a quiet moment, keep exploring where you will find fresh marigolds, calaca face painting and food by Zona Rosa Cafe. There will also be live performances by Ballet Folklorico Dancers, the Bob Baker Marionettes and story time at Vroman’s Book Store. This is a perfect opportunity to have a family night on the town in downtown Pasadena.
39 S. El Molino Ave.
photo: San Pedro Property Owners Alliance
The Streets Come Alive in San Pedro
On Sunday October 29 head to San Pedro where the streets will open up to pedestrians in celebration of Dia De Los Muertos. Come expecting a full evening of arts, entertainment and culture with an altar exhibition and competition, live performances by headliners like Buyeponog and traditional foods to savor. There is also an arts and crafts area where your little artists can create their own souvenir. Get everyone decked out in their party shoes and get ready to walk, eat and dance the night away (or at least the early side of the night). Added bonus: admission to the event is free!
Good to Know: The event lasts all afternoon and into the evening, from 3-9 p.m.
398 W. 6th St
How does your family celebrate the Day of the Dead? Let us know in the comments below!
—LeTania Kirkland Smith