Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexican culture traditionally between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 as a time when deceased loved ones are honored. Families offer up bright marigolds, sweet sugar skulls and altars laden with special food and pictures to pay homage to those who have passed away. Artists paint faces in fond remembrance of the spirits of loved ones, kids can dance along with folkloric dancers, enjoy authentic food or make a skull craft. Here in San Diego we honor Día de los Muertos with an abundance of festivals and gatherings. Read on to discover nine places to celebrate this holiday with your family.

Dia de los Muertos in 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. 2-4 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 the delicious holiday food and sway with the dancers.

Oct. 28 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. 27 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 sugar skull decorating, face painting, a community altar, artisan vendors, tequila & mezcal tasting, a biergarten and food trucks.

Oct. 27 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. 27 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. Don’t miss the live performance in the Concert Hall by Selena Tribute Band Como la Flor.

Nov. 1 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. 28 Event details.

Kids Kitchen by Lazy Acres Market Encinitas

If you have an older kiddo (ages six to nine) who likes to cook, then this Day of the Dead adventure might be perfect for him/her. Celebrate this popular holiday with a kid favorite dish: tacos. Junior chefs will roll a tortilla (and dye it black) as well as chop and dice ingredients to make guacamole, salsa and their choice of protein. Finally, they will make Dia de los Muertos cookies with ghoulish Mexican candy decorations. What a spook-tacular way to spend the holiday in Encinitas. Sign-up early.

Oct. 29 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.

TBD Event details.

––Beth Shea & Nikki Walsh


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