Day of the Dead in Los Angeles is easily one of our favorite holidays to commemorate locally. The celebration of the deceased isn’t about haunted spirits or prolonged mourning but instead offers a healthy perspective on the afterlife. Observers of the Mexican holiday (traditionally held after Halloween) visit loved ones’ gravestones, often as part of public gatherings; you’ll find cultural affairs around the city with dance rituals, musical performances and plenty of calaca (skeleton) costumes. Get a taste of the holiday with some of our favorite Day of the Dead events, as well as the tastiest Mexican food in town.
What is Day of the Dead?
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday in which family and friends come together to remember loved ones who have passed away and to guide their journey into the afterlife. Loved ones visit graves and build altars (or ofrendas) and often decorate them with sugar skulls and marigolds as well as the deceased’s favorite food, drinks and possessions.
When is Day of the Dead?
Day of the Dead begins October 31 and ends November 2, 2019. Many local events are held on the preceding weekend, though.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood
Nov 2 2019
At L.A.’s most photogenic Day of the Dead celebration, the cemetery grounds are covered with art exhibitions, dance rituals, musical performances, children’s arts and crafts projects and food vendors (and crowds) aplenty. You’ll see altars to the dead created by community artists, and can either watch or participate in the calaca (skeleton) costume contest. This year’s theme honors sacred migrations and the monarch butterfly. The event becomes exceedingly crowded after sunset; we suggest arriving before 4pm if you plan on parking in the adjacent neighborhoods or the Paramount parking structure.
Grand Park, Downtown
Oct 26 2019-Nov 3 2019
Join Grand Park and Self-Help Graphics & Art for a nine-day display of altars erected within the park alongside large-scale art installations curated by LORE Media and Arts. The altar displays kick off on October 26 with a traditional Noche de Ofrenda ceremony to pray for and honor the dead, featuring a communal circle and blessing led by the indigenous community. The festivities culminate in Selena for Sanctuary, a free concert on November 1 that features Empress Of, San Cha, Ceci Bastida and more.
Self Help Graphics & Art, Boyle Heights
Oct 26 2019-Nov 2 2019
Boyle Heights’ Self Help Graphics & Art has presented this Day of the Dead celebration for over four decades. The event begins at Mariachi Plaza, where a handful of theater groups lead an animated procession to Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School (across the street from Self Help) where you’ll find local food and craft vendors. In addition, the arts center hosts free community art workshops on Saturdays in October as well as a Day of the Dead-themed art exhibition.
Various locations in L.A.
Oct 27 2019
Stroll the streets of Downtown San Pedro during this waterfront Day of the Dead celebration. You’ll find traditional and contemporary Latin American performers. Snack on regional Mexican fare, sip on suds in the beer garden, shop for artisan crafts and clothing and let the kiddos run around and get their face painted. Make sure to stop by the ceremonial altars—you can enter your own in a free competition—in addition to the community-wide altar of remembrance. The event takes place on 6th Street between Pacific Avenue and Centre Street.
Olvera Street, Downtown
Oct 25 2019-Nov 2 2019
Peruse altars in the plaza of El Pueblo at this Day of the Dead celebration. Expect plenty of festive wares from the merchants on Olvera Street, along with children’s crafts in the morning and a candlelight procession every night. Stop by during weekends for face painting, mariachi bands, Aztec dancers and more.
Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena Playhouse District
Oct 26 2019
Pasadena’s charming Playhouse District pays its respects to the departed with this long-running community celebration. Marigolds and lanterns cover the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse in golden light, while the adjacent Zona Rosa Caffe decks out its upstairs lounge with a monthlong exhibition of holiday art from local schools. On top of face painting, altar decorations and papel picado demonstrations, you’ll want to stick around for food, horchata and live music.
Various locations in L.A.
Oct 25 2019-Oct 26 2019
Walk among a mix of traditional and contemporary altars outside of businesses across Old Pasadena at this two-day Day of the Dead celebration. This year’s event includes face painting, a salsa dance party in an alleyway, live music and more.
FIGat7th, Downtown Financial District
Oct 25 2019
FIGat7th is celebrating Day of the Dead in style with tequila tastings, music and face painting in the Taste Food Hall & Courtyard. The free festivities include a poster design workshop, a Halloween glamour eyes station and a complimentary, organic tequila tasting by Dulce Vida Tequila. Live DJs will spin tunes all day, including KCRW’s Raul Campos.
Source: Timeout LA