Advertisement

No need to go to Mexico to mark the Day of the Dead. U.S. cities come alive with altars, skeletons and sweet pan de muerto

No need to go to Mexico to mark the Day of the Dead. U.S. cities come alive with altars, skeletons and sweet pan de muerto
Have your face painted skull-style at an arts-themed Dia de Los Muertos festival in Breckenridge, Colo. (Joe Kusamoto)

Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday dedicated to honoring the lives of those who have died. Skeleton masks and makeup along with homemade altars are part of the holiday, which this year falls on Thursday and Friday and is celebrated around those dates. Here are five places in the U.S. to celebrate with song, dance, art, togetherness and lots of face paint and sweet rolls (pan de muerto).

Arizona

Tucson’s All Souls Procession, adapted from Day of the Dead traditions, is what organizers call a “radically inclusive” event on a 1 1/2-mile route on which participants can walk, roll and stroll through the city’s streets starting at 4 p.m. Nov. 4.

Advertisement

More than 100,000 people gather wearing masks and costumes and carrying altars make their way toward a final ceremony.

Dancers and musicians perform, floats and artists exhibit on stage, and offerings to the dead are burned. Events are free and open to the public.

The procession starts at 6 p.m., but gather earlier for food trucks, face-painting and DJs.

Face-painting is part of pre-walk activities at Tucson's All Souls Procession.
Face-painting is part of pre-walk activities at Tucson's All Souls Procession. (Molly Hottle)

California

Head to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park for a weekend-long Day of the Dead festival where skeleton stilt walkers and puppeteers stroll freely. The free event starts at noon Friday through Nov. 4.

Aztec dancers, a procession to El Campo Santo Cemetery and a fully stocked food court and beer garden are some of the entertainment options. Kids can decorate sugar skulls, make paper flowers and have their faces painted.

Several Old Town businesses will host activities as part of the celebration. Look for more than 20 altars throughout the area.

Colorado

Have a try at folklorico dancing at an arts-themed Dia de Los Muertos festival in Breckenridge, Colo.
Have a try at folklorico dancing at an arts-themed Dia de Los Muertos festival in Breckenridge, Colo. (Jenise Jensen)

Breckenridge Creative Arts hosts a three-day family-friendly Día de Los Muertos festival in the ski town’s Arts District.

Free weekend activities include a screening and discussion of Disney/Pixar’s “Coco,” folklórico dance workshops, Mexican food and music, and La Corrida de los Muertos, a Day of the Dead costumed family fun run.

Get crafty by learning how to make papier-mâché masks, bedazzled skulls and Catrina dolls from local artists. Check the website to plan your weekend around specific events.

The festival opens at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, 3 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.

Florida

The highlight of Fort Lauderdale’s Day of the Dead festival is its evening Skeleton Processional, a parade of mariachi musicians, 18-foot-tall puppets and more than 2,000 skeletons down the city’s Riverwalk.

Advertisement

The rest of the festival, featuring food trucks, live music, folklórico dancing, interactive street performances and arts and crafts, begins at their final destination.

Come early to see altars of remembrance and sugar skull art — and to try your hand at mask- and puppet-making.

The procession is free and open to the public; 4 p.m. Friday.

New Mexico

Be prepared to get a little covered in paint and icing at the Dia de Los Muertos Art Fest in Deming, a town near the border with Mexico. Visitors are welcome to help decorate mini sugar skulls with royal icing and help paint a 10-foot-tall skull in a group art exhibit.

Also on the schedule are paper crafting, face-painting and costume contests, an altar-decorating competition and an instrument petting zoo, where you can try your hand at mariachi music with guitars and maracas.

Tickets cost $5. The event starts at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Advertisement
Advertisement