Halloween may end once Oct. 31 comes and goes but there’s another way to celebrate spooky décor and haunted traditions. Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican celebration for the dead, which is celebrated Nov. 1 -2. The Day of the Dead is a time to honor and remember those who have passed away by preparing ofrendas (altars) filled with marigolds, sugar skulls, food and other treats for deceased loved ones. Although it sounds a bit scary, Dia de los Muertos celebrations are actually joyous events where people remember fondly those that have passed away. Here are our favorite kid-friendly ways to celebrate Dia de los Muertos in San Diego.


photo: Fiesta de Reyes

Day of the Dead – Sherman Heights
This community-wide event takes place over the course of a few weeks, with workshops on how to make clay masks, day of the dead makeup, and Yeso skulls. Be sure to check out the website to register for workshops and reserve your spot. The festivities kick off on Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Activities include a community breakfast, Muertos Festival, processions, and alter tours. All of these events lead up the the actual celebration where porches are transformed into elaborate ofrendas for deceased loved ones. These displays are open to the public, so everyone can check them out. Oct. 22 – Nov. 2. Event details.

Dia de los Muertos – Old Town San Diego
This community-wide commemoration, which honors ancestors and other deceased loved ones with special menus, music, dancing and crafts, includes Day of the Dead sugar skull decorating, mask and paper flower making; and face painting. Workshops will be free or cost a small fee to cover materials. There will be several face-painting locations throughout Old Town, including at Fiesta de Reyes and Bazaar del Mundo. New this year: Fiesta de Reyes will feature a  family-oriented indoor exhibit called Casa de las Calaveras. Guests will tour a series of colorful displays that tell a story of Dia de los Muertos and educate the whole family about the traditions of Dia de los Muertos. Oct. 29 – Nov. 2. Event details.

Tinkerers’ Club: Celebrate Dia de los Muertos at Fleet Science Center
Celebrate Dia de los Muertos with this multi-museum collaborative project. Decorate a sugar skull in the Tinkering Studio at the Fleet Science Center, and then head to the Mingei International Museum to make paper flowers. Oct. 29. Event details.

Dia de los Muertos, Oceanside
This special event is full of diverse cultural traditions. There will be entertainment, carnival rides, altar displays and a classic car show! Your children will be entertained all day with a variety of craft activities and exciting carnival rides. Check out more than 90 diverse vendors, traditional food, chalk cemetery, and the classic car show showcasing trunk altars put on by the Por Siempre Car Club. Oct. 30. Event details. 

face-paintphoto: Leah Singer

Day of the Dead Festival
Come celebrate this rich historical holiday and indulge in a diverse selection of traditional food and entertainment. The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation is partnering with Izcalli to present its third annual Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead festival. The community celebration includes a variety of performances from local bands and Mexican dances including la Danza de los Viejtos, an Danza Azteca. There’s also a large community altar, sand painting, vendors, food, storytelling, face painting, and more than 150 lowrider cars on display. Oct. 29. Event details.

Dia de los Muertos – Mission San Luis Rey
Attendees will enjoy an exciting celebration of Dia de los Muertos. The mission will come alive with entertainment at this free family-friendly event including mariachi bands, local dancing groups, Aztec entertainers, elaborate altars and much more. There’s even activities just for kids like themed arts and crafts and a mini-carnival. There will be over 75 different vendors, traditional food, chalk altars and a custom low-rider display from the Siempre Car Club, which will be showcasing traditional altars in their trunks commemorating their loved ones who have passed. Oct. 30. Event details.

Dia de los Muertos Festival at the Arts Center
Over 3,000 community members will gather at the Center’s annual Día de los Muertos Festival. Guests are invited to participate by creating altars in honor of their loved ones in a special area outside of the Center’s museum. Candles, crosses, and clay bowls will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring mementos, pictures, flowers, and other items for their altars. The festival will also feature traditional Mexican fare, face painting, Mariachi los Caballeros de San Diego, and kids will have the opportunity to decorate their own sugar skull and create miniature ofrendas, as well as other fun activities. Nov. 1. Event details.

Know any other awesome Dia de los Muertos celebrations going on in San Diego? Leave us a comment below!

— Leah R. Singer