Honor the Dead with Art, Music, and a Lowrider Show for Día de los Muertos in LA

LA’s Day of the Dead celebrations range from the iconic Hollywood Forever cemetery takeover to museum parties, processions at historic landmarks, plant-based food specials, and more.

Día de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever cemetery
Photo by Robert Swapp, courtesy of Criteria Entertainment
Photo by Robert Swapp, courtesy of Criteria Entertainment

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday that celebrates and honors those who have passed on. In the Dia de los Muertos tradition, which primarily developed in Mexico, the living invite departed family and friends to revisit our earthly dimension by decorating their graves and creating ofrendas, or altars, that are decked out with candles, photos, cempasúchil (marigold) flowers, and special foods like pan de muerto. Mariachi bands serenade tombstones, and celebrants paint their faces like calaveras, or skulls, and hold parades in which Catrins and Catrinas, large, lively skeletal figures dressed in traditional outfits, joyfully dance down the street.

While the holiday has been observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries for centuries, it’s gained international attention more recently. In LA, the Día de los Muertos tradition extends back decades—Boyle Heights’ Self Help Graphics & Art held one of the city’s first official celebrations almost 50 years ago.

Now, though, there are tons of ways to observe Día de los Muertos in LA, from beloved annual events to one-night-only dinners, parties, pop-ups and beyond. Here are some of the best ways to celebrate Día de los Muertos in LA this year:

Dia De Los Muertos and Noche De Los Muertos at Hollywood Forever
Photo courtesy of Hollywood Forever

Saturday, October 28
Hollywood Forever, $35–$250
The iconic Hollywood Forever Cemetery hosts one of LA’s largest Día de los Muertos festivals each year. During the day, they have a kid-friendly Día de los Muertos, featuring a children's plaza, altars, crafts, and food vendors, as well as live music and other activities from 9 am to 3 pm.

After dark, the cemetery transitions to Noche de los Muertos, which runs from 5 pm to midnight with altars, food, arts and crafts, traditional dance, a ceremonial procession, and more. The musical performances are always a highlight, and this year the night will include sets by Bomba Estéreo, Bratty, Banda Las Angelinas, and Los Yesterdays. There’s a killer list of food vendors, too, including some of LA’s best taqueros curated by LA Taco.

Sunday, October 29
Downey Theatre Plaza, Free
Head to Downey for a family-friendly Día de los Muertos event that has become a Southeast LA area staple. The festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, with folkloric dance performances, an art gallery, face painting, community altars, and more.

Sunday, October 29
Museum of Latin American Art, Free
Long Beach’s Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is celebrating Dia de los Muertos with a full slate of festivities, including folkloric and Aztec dance performances, a Catrin/Catrina costume contest with a $500 prize, face painting, a children’s sugar skull workshop, a printmaking station, and a tattoo artist. There will also be a DJ spinning all day, and plenty to eat and drink—they’re set to have beer and wine, and also nine food stations in honor of their upcoming exhibition Festín de Sabores, all about Mexican cuisine.

Sunday, October 29
Oakwood Park, Free
If you’d rather get your Día de los Muertos celebration with a side of lowriders and oldies, head out to Oakwood Park in Venice. There will be classic cars and lowriders on display around the park, and there will also be Aztec Dancers, food, local vendors, a clown, a piñata, and more free fun for the whole family. Even better, the event is a fundraiser for the Venice Mexican-American Traquero Monument, so your raffle dollars will be going to a good cause.

Sunday, October 29
Mercado La Paloma, Free
South LA’s Mercado La Paloma is home to some of our favorite restaurants in the city, including stunning seafood counter Holbox and Yucatecan sister restaurant Chichen Itza. On Sunday, October 29 from noon to 4:30 pm, the market will host an afternoon of free festivities, including an altar exhibition, face painting, flower crown workshop, alebrijes painting, and a storytelling booth, plus a performance from Maria Reyna with Maestro Joaquín Garzón and the Maqueos Youth Philharmonic and folkloric dancing.

Sunday, October 29
Highland Park, Prices vary
Food is an important piece of any ritual celebration, and Día de los Muertos is no exception. For the plant-based eaters among us, though, that can sometimes be a challenge. Not so at Maciel’s Plant-Based Butcher Shop in Highland Park. The shop makes some of our favorite vegan-friendly sandwiches and breakfasts, and on October 29 they’re doing a full Día de los Muertos dinner menu. There will be plant-based Esquites, Flautas, Pan de Muerto and more, including beer and wine, available for pickup at the shop. Advance orders will help them guage interest, and then you can take it home or eat it all there.

Grand Park Downtown Día de los Muertos
Grand Park

Ongoing through Thursday, November 2
Grand Park, Free
From October 21 through November 2, Downtown’s Grand Park will be transformed with 19 different colorful and vibrant altars from community organizations and artists, dedicated to recently passed loved ones and ancestors. It’s the perfect way to add a little peace and contemplation to your Downtown adventures, offering a moment to appreciate life and reflect on mortality. There will also be a 20th altar this year, a community altar that is open to contributions from the public, dedicated to victims of gun violence in Monterey Park and the victims of Maui’s wildfires. For its closing celebration on November 2, the park is partnering with the GuadaLAjara Film Festival to present a screening of the 1960 film Macario.

Ongoing through Thursday, November 2
Olvera Street, Free
LA’s historic district continues its traditional Día de los Muertos celebrations for the 36th year, with events and activities that incorporate pre-Columbian, indigenous, and Catholic customs, including the traditional Mayan Blessing and soul cleansing that takes place before and after the Novenario procession. There will also be Aztec dancers, participants dressed up as skeletons, and free sweet bread and beverages. There’s a nightly Danza de la Muerte at 6 pm, followed by the procession at 7 pm, and family-friendly entertainment and face painting run every day from October 28 through November 2.

Noche de Ofrenda at Self Help Graphics
Self Help Graphics & Art

Saturday, November 4
Civic Center Park, Free
Self Help Graphics’ 50th annual Día de los Muertos celebration is sure to be a big one. They’ve got community art workshops through the month of October, followed by a party at Civic Center Park in East LA on November 4th. The party will run from 3–8 pm, and there will be altars, live music, food vendors, an art market, a kids’ zone, and more. They’re also debuting a commemorative print and a special 50th anniversary t-shirt based on the same print.

Sunday, November 5
Canoga Park, Free
If you want to catch the tail end of the Día de los Muertos season, head out to the Valley for Canoga Park’s 23rd annual celebration. There will be ofrendas, folkloric dancers, live music, a children’s art pavilion, and plenty of food vendors. The festival will also include a classic car show and a Catrina contest, and they’re closing down Sherman Way for the event, so you know the block party vibes will be immaculate.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Jennifer Velez is a contributor for Thrillist.
Ben Mesirow is Thrillist's LA Staff Writer, and an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.