Have your kids begged you to bring home a few colorfully-decorated skulls during a recent trip to Target? El Dia de Los Muertos has gained popularity among kids with movies like The Book of Life and Disney’s upcoming release of Coco—but it’s more than just skeletons and face painting. This Mexican holiday brings families and communities together to celebrate loved ones who have passed away. Learn more about this cultural tradition at one of these twelve celebrations around the Bay Area.

Photo: Presidio

San Francisco

Day of the Dead Masks with Presidio Trust
Families can get spookily creative during Dia De Los Muertos mask making and learn all about the Presidio’s connection to Mexico. This event is free to all ages, but RSVP is required.

When: Sat., Oct. 28–Sun., Oct. 29, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: The Presidio Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Ave., San Francisco, Ca
Cost: Free but you have to RSVP
Ages: All Ages
Online: presidio.gov

                                                                                     Photo: Day of The Dead SF

SF’s Day of the Dead Procession 2017
Celebrate in skeletal style–this annual parade for Dia de los Muertos is one of the most festive in the country with skeleton and costumed community members joining up for a march of the dead! Think skeletons on parade would be somber? Think again! Music, dancing, songs and another chance to use those Halloween costumes–all are welcome to join the parade which culminates in a community Day of the Dead altar show at Garfield Park. Many participants bring candles or instruments and pictures of their dearly departed. The procession begins at 7 p.m. at 22nd and Bryant and the Festival of Altars is from 4-11 p.m. at Garfield Park (26th and Harrison).

When: Thurs., Nov. 2, 4-11 p.m. The procession begins at 7 p.m.
Where: Garfield Park, 26th and Harrison, San Francisco, Ca
Cost: Free
Ages: All Ages

Photo: OMC by Shaun Roberts

Community Concert at the SF Symphony
Celebrate the Day of the Dead with this 10th annual event at Davies Symphony Hall. Join Mexican cultural icon Eugenia León as she lends her exquisite vocals to the San Francisco Symphony for a family-friendly afternoon concert, conducted by Alondra de la Parra. At the evening performance, León performs an intimate set backed by her own band. Arrive early for refreshments, live music, dancing, colorful altars and folk art. Go VIP and join in the lunch starting at 11 a.m.

When: Sat., Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. or 8 p.m.
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, Ca
Cost: $12.50–$95 depending on seats and times.
Ages: The symphony recommends ages 7 and up, but younger kids are welcome!
Online: sfsymphony.org

Photo: SOMArts by J. Astra Brinkmann 

18th Annual Day of the Dead Show at SOMArts
Bring the kids to SOMArts to explore this year’s exhibition, Remembrance and Resistance: Dia de los Muertos 2017. Check out the colorful altars, multi-dimensional art installations and see how over 70 local artists view the cycles of life and death.

When: Oct. 6-Nov. 9. Hours: Tues.–Fri., noon–7 p.m., Sat., noon–5 p.m.
Where: SOMArts, 934 Brannan St., San Francisco, Ca
Cost: Free.
Ages: All Ages

Photo: Redwood City Improvement Association


Magic Lantern 3-D Show
Celebrate the 150th anniversary of this weekly light show with a special Dia de los Muertos show on Halloween night. See the San Mateo County History Museum illuminated with 3-D lights during this 15-minute show with the special holiday theme.

When: Oct. 31, 7:30-8 p.m.
Where: Redwood City Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway, Redwood City, Ca
Cost: Free
Ages: All Ages
Online: visitrwc.org/event/magic-lantern-3d-oct-31

Photo: OMCA by Odell Hussey Photography

East Bay

Metamophosis and Migration: Days of the Dead
This year, OMCA’s biennial Days of the Dead exhibition is inspired by the lifecycle of the Monarch Butterfly. Known for its mass migration each winter, this butterfly’s journey spans several generations, all of whom follow the same routes their ancestors took. In Mexico, the returning Monarchs also symbolize the returning souls of loved ones who have passed away. View rarely-seen butterfly specimens from OMCA’s collection alongside newly commissioned artworks. This year’s exhibition will have a special area honoring the artists who lost their lives in Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire of 2016.

When: Oct. 18-Jan. 14, 2018. Hours: Wed.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland, Ca
Cost: Adults $15.95, Kids 9-17 $6.95, under 8 are free
Ages: All Ages
Online: museumca.org/exhibit/days-of-the-dead-2017

Photo: The Unity Council

Fruitvale Dia De Los Muertos Festival
This vibrant outdoor festival will celebrate its 22nd year with world-class live music plus the artistic installations to commemorate the Day of The Dead. There is a children’s pavilion with carnival rides and local vendors will be selling authentic food, drinks and other festival favorites.

When: Sun., Oct. 29. Time to be announced. Check their events site for updates.
Where: 3301 E12th Street, Oakland, Ca
Cost: Free
Ages: All ages
Online: unitycouncil.org/dia-de-los-muertos

calvarycemetery_diadelosmuertosPhoto: Ballet Folklorico at Calvary Cemetery by Mike via flickr

South Bay

7th Annual Day of the Dead at Calvary Cemetery
Calvary Catholic Cemetery 8th Annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration is a lively affair that honors relatives and loved ones who have passed. Join in the community celebration with rituals, music, dance, a community altar where you can place photos and memorabilia along with tons of fun for the kids. Crafts, face painting, bounce houses, a costume parade (11:45 a.m.) and even trick-or-treating.

When: Sat., Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Calvary Cemetery , 2650 Madden Ave., San Jose, Ca
Cost: Free
Ages: All Ages
Online: catholiccemeteriesdsj.org/events/dia-de-los-muertos.aspx

Photo: San Jose Museum of Art

Community Day: El Dia de los Muertos
Celebrate the Day of the Dead with a full day of live entertainment, cultural demonstrations and an eclectic mix of art-making experiences. Decorate calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls) and engage with your family and community at SJMA.

When: Sat., Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: San Jose Museum of Art, 110 South Market St., San Jose, Ca
Cost: Free, order tickets here
Ages: All Ages
Online: sjmusart.org/event/community-day-el-dia-de-los-muertos-2017

Photo: Santa Cruz MAH

Día de los Muertos Community Festival
This full-day celebration kicks off at 12:30 p.m. with face painting, tissue paper flower making and other art activities in Abbott Square. At 2 p.m., join the procession to Evergreen Cemetery where there will be music, dancing and Mexican food. The day concludes with an outdoor screening of The Book of Life at 6:15 p.m.

When: Sat., Nov. 4., 12:30-6 p.m.
Where: See schedule of events here for locations throughout the day
Cost: Free
Ages: All Ages
Online: santacruzmah.org/diadelosmuertos

Photo: MVCC


Dia de Los Muertos with MVCC
Mill Valley Recreation joins the joyful celebration of dearly departed family, friends and pets during the Day of the Dead Mexican festival. Join this festival by celebrating at the Community Center. The Center will have fun decorating, sugar skulls, face painting, snacking on traditional pastries and creating your own memory box.

When: Sat., Oct. 28, 10:30 a.m. -1:00 p.m.
Where: Mill Valley Community Center, 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley, Ca
Cost: Free, register here
Ages: All Ages
Online: cityofmillvalley.org

San Rafael’s Day of the Dead Celebration
Take it to the streets of San Rafael for a community-wide Day of the Dead celebration, which includes cultural performances and live music. Enjoy delicious food along with arts, crafts and more. The Bay Area Discovery Museum hosts art workshops for kids plus there will be face-painting and a spirited procession.

When: Sat., Nov. 4, 4-9 p.m. Procession starts at 6 p.m.
Where: Albert J. Boro Community Center, 50 Canal St., San Rafael, Ca
Cost: Free
Ages: All Ages
Online: dayofthedeadsr.org

What’s your favorite Day of the Dead tradition? Let us know in the comments!

–Kate Loweth & Sabine Klensch