Celebrate Día de los Muertos, (Day of the Dead), at one of many festive events in San Diego. Families offer up bright marigolds, sweet sugar skulls and altars laden with special food and pictures to pay homage to deceased loved ones. Artists paint faces in fond remembrance of spirits, kids can dance along with folkloric dancers, enjoy authentic Mexican food while listening to a mariachi band and make crafts. Read on to find a Día de los Muertos event near you.

La Vista Memorial Park Festival

Get ready to admire a beautiful display of elaborate altars created by families. Even more, you'll see national and international artisans demonstrating their crafts and selling one-of-a-kind artworks. There will be food offerings and a kids fun zone to round out the festivities. Moreover, enjoy legendary world class musicians, “La Sonora Dinamita” performing to honor the families.

Oct. 19 Event details.

Day of the Dead Festival North Park

Head to the Day of the Dead Festival North Park celebration! Hosted by Artelexia, everyone in the community is invited to come celebrate and learn about this vibrant Mexican holiday. Dia de los Muertos is a time to honor and remember those who have passed. The unity of life and death is celebrated when friends and families come together to offer hospitality to the spirits of loved ones. To add to this magical celebration, you’ll find craft workshops, sugar skull decorating, face painting, food vendors, interactive art stations, a community altar, artisan vendors, a tequila & cerveza cantina and more.

Oct. 26 Event details.

City Heights Dia de los Muertos

This free event brings everyone together to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. You'll find beautiful community altars, face painting and prizes for the best catrina and catrin. There will also be dancing, singing and music, and artisans will be selling their crafts.

Oct. 26 Event details.

photo: Leah R. Singer

Day of the Dead Workshops & Celebrations – Sherman Heights

This community-wide event takes place over the course of a few weeks with workshops on how to do face painting for Day of the Dead makeup and how to make floral headpieces and altar boxes. Be sure to check out the website to register for workshops and reserve your spot. The main festivities kick off from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. for the Muertos Festival which includes great food, live entertainment 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 26 Event details.

Encinitas Dia de los Muertos

Twirl with the traditional folkloric dancers and cheer on the local Encinitas ballet. Also, little crafters get hands-on at the sugar skull making workshops and Day of the Dead artists paint faces with flowers, skulls and more. Further, dance to the La Ponderosa Banda San Martin near the end of the festival. Even more, check-out the low ride car show put on by the Por Siempre Car Club. Lastly, eat up with all kinds of choices from the food trucks.

Oct. 26 Event details.

Día de los Muertos at Rancho Guajome Adobe

Dress-up for this Dia de los Muertos festival and enter the La Catrina Costume Contest. There's plenty to do with the crew from live entertainment, many authentic food choices and free craft projects. Also, plan to spend the day from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Rancho Guajome Adobe County Park––admission includes a self-guided tour of the historic adobe ranch house.

Oct. 26 Event details.

Oceanside's Mission San Luis Rey’s Day of the Dead

This vibrant event will have ofrendas (altars) made from over 30,000 marigolds. Even more, write a message to a loved one at the chalk cemetery. There will be food (and lemonade!), music with traditional Mexican dancers and perfect for the little ones, an activity area for kids. The festival is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Mission San Luis Ray. It is free with a five dollar parking fee.

Oct. 27 Event details.

Dia de los Muertos at La Colonia Park in Solana Beach

Chow down a tamale as the City of Solana Beach celebrates Dia De Los Muertos at the La Colonia De Eden Gardens. This Day of the Dead festival has live music and decorated ofrendas (altars) as part of the cultural offerings. Moreover, enter a Catrin contest, eat authentic Mexican food and sway with the dancers.

Oct. 28 Event details.

Dia de los Muertos Cooking Class for Kids

If you have a kiddo (ages five to nine) who likes to cook, then this Day of the Dead adventure is perfect for him/her. Celebrate this popular holiday with a kid favorite dish: chicken tamale pie. Class ends with a delicious dessert: sweet sugar skull cookies junior chefs get to decorate by hand before eating them up. What a spook-tacular way to spend the holiday in Encinitas. Sign-up early.

Oct 29 Event details.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Dia de los Muertos

Head to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to celebrate a wild Dia de los Muertos. Nov. 1-3 kids 11 and younger get free admission when accompanied by an adult. Ride the Spanish language African tram and enjoy bilingual animal experiences. Nov. 2 & 3 there will also be crafts, festive foods, mariachis, dancing, and more. Food items include: Mexican nitro coffee, skull cookies, café de olla, South of the Border salad, elote (Mexican grilled corn) and Tajín fruit cups. Kids can enjoy the children’s activity table set up in the Safari Base Camp area (near the gorilla statue) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.  They'll also enjoy roving mariachis, stilt walkers, dancers and interactive puppet shows from 2-6 p.m. daily. Stop by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy table to learn how you can help support efforts to end extinction—and adopt an animal!

Nov. 1-3, Event details

Dia de los Muertos Festival at California Center for the Arts, Escondido

Celebrate with the community at California Center for the Arts Escondido’s annual Día de los Muertos Festival. Guests are invited to participate by making altars in honor of their loved ones in a special area created by artist Eloy Tarcisio. Enjoy music, art, ballet folklórico, face painting, arts and crafts and more. There will also be handmade goods and food for purchase. On Nov. 2, local brand The Movement will bring back Cultura Fest: Noche de Muertos, featuring over 40 Latinx artists and vendors. The night will conclude with a special performance in the Center’s Concert Hall with Tributo a la Reina, un Homenaje a Celia Cruz.

Nov. 1-4 Event details.

Day of the Dead 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, a giant skeleton puppet and stilt walker, face painting and much more. Immerse yourself in the culture with live music, dancing, tamale carts, mariachis, authentic food, piñatas, storytelling, complimentary Mexican hot chocolate––the list goes on and on! Don’t miss this fantastic celebration.

Nov. 2-3 Event details.

Day of the Dead Celebration at The Old Globe

Honor the Day of the Dead traditions with activities and artistic expression with the premiere of a community-generated theatre piece developed in a coLAB workshop. Community participants and local artists will share their traditions in this performance, hosted by a professional guest director. There will be music, singing and dancing, a display of community altars, face painting, and sugar-skull decorating.

Nov. 3 Event details.

Featured image: Henry Huey via Flickr

––Beth Shea & Nikki Walsh


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