Dia de los Muertos, known also as Day of the Dead, is a traditional Mexican holiday honoring friends and family who have passed.
With vibrant shrines of sugar skulls, flowers, candles and sweetened foods, it’s a joyous festivity that transforms death into a warm and cheerful commemoration of life. By remembering and respecting the deceased, people hope to welcome the spirits so that their prayers and love can be received.
Discover local Dia de los Muertos celebrations taking place around San Diego
Dia de los Muertos at Sherman Heights – Oct. 27 & 28
The Sherman Heights Community Center presents their 18th annual celebration, presented by the Historic Barrio District CDC. From 10am to 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday, locals are invited to enjoy the traditional foods, vendors, entertainment and of course, altars honoring the dead throughout the neighborhood. Meander through the streets to view the decorative altars on display at historic homes, or view the indoor dedication on display at the Sherman Heights Community Center. Since 2001, the Sherman Heights Neighborhood Cultural Council has been organizing the outdoor altars in collaboration with local artists and residents. shermanheights.com
Day of the Dead Workshops at Back From Tomboctou – Oct. 27
Head to this cultural space where art meets education. Special for Dia de los Muertos, Back From Tomboctou is hosting a slew of events to teach locals how to share the spirit in their own homes. On Saturday, learn how to prepare and set up a traditional altar. Participants will have the chance to decorate a small shadow box altar in celebration of departed loved ones for $20, taking place from 1:30pm to 3:30pm. Or, take part in the skull decorating workshop, where guests can paint skulls for the October festivities at a $10 cost from 1pm to 3pm. Lastly, become the skull yourself with face painting ongoing from 1pm to 3pm. Back From Tomboctou is also one of the largest importers of Mexican Day of the Dead merchandise, so pick up the essentials while you’re there. backfromtomboctou.com
Mission San Luis Rey’s Day of the Dead – Oct. 28
A frenzy of lively entertainment leads this cultural celebration, taking place from 10am to 4pm on Sunday with free admission. Open to all ages, the festival will present mariachi bands, ballet folklorico dancing, Aztec entertainers, colorful and elaborate altars, arts and craft activities and traditional foods. A public chalk cemetery will allow visitors to tribute the deceased by designing a memory square with supplies such as marigolds and candles. Traditional Dia de los Muertos art will be set up throughout the event. If the kids need to get some extra squeals out after all the candy, carnival rides and games will be ever-present, too. The Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside is a National Historical Landmark known as “King of Missions”. mslrdiadelosmuertos.com
Saints, Souls & Style at Bazaar del Mundo Shops – Nov. 1 & 2
Spooky skulls get styled at this Bazaar del Mundo event, held in conjunction with Old Town’s Dia de Los Muertos Tour of Altars. These welcoming shops will transform into a walking trail paying respect to the dead. Don some colorful threads as guest artists sell specialty Day of the Dead-inspired clothing, accessories and crafts. Or, learn the basics at a sugar-skull decorating class held on Friday only. Then, feast on authentic eats as Casa Guadalajara serves up Mexican cuisine. Saints, Souls & Style puts a little sass into this traditional holiday to be enjoyed by young and old. And while paying due respects, pick up a few new looks – for you or as a gift. The event will take place both Thursday and Friday from 10am to 8pm. bazaardelmundo.com
Old Town San Diego’s Dia de los Muertos – Nov. 1 & 2
Head to the center of Mexican culture in San Diego for the two-day festival of Dia de los Muertos. Old Town honors the history, culture and heritage of the region, produced by Save Our Heritage Organization. Locals can take an enlightening Tour of Altars set to explore over fifty local businesses, museums and shops filled with traditional Dia de los Muertos altars. A procession will take place on Nov. 2 at 6pm starting in the plaza in Old Town State Historic Park and ending at the El Campo Santo Cemetery, where guests will pay their respects at a public altar. This free event will also include family craft activities such as papel picado making, skull face painting, paper mask making, sugar and plaster skull decorating and more. Enjoy free live music and folkloric dancing presented on Old Town's plazas and courtyards. sddayofthedead.org