Photo By: Miguel Gonzalez on Unsplash

11 Ways to Celebrate Día de los Muertos in San Diego

From Lowriders to Live Mariachis, These Activities Will Get Everyone into the Los Muertos Spirit 

One of Mexico’s most beloved holidays, Día de los Muertos, is when families gather to honor and remember the lives of deceased loved ones, building ofrendas (remembrance altars) decorated with marigold flowers, photos and other symbolic and meaningful mementos. Celebrated between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, from folklórico dancers and face painting to alfood trucks (including where to find delicious pan de muerto)​​, here’s how and where to get into the Día de los Muertos spirit around San Diego. Día de los Muertos San Diego


Spooky & Sweet Day of the Dead Makeup

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The sugar skull (calaveras de azúcar) is one of the most recognized and requested looks when it comes to dressing up for Día de los Muertos. While the gorgeous design is a beautiful way to celebrate the Day of the Dead, anyone that feels inspired to grab their own makeup brushes and brightest eyeshadows should check out this handy YouTube video tutorial for an easy-to-follow DIY guide.

Día de los Muertos San Diego

Milagro Tequila’s Sugar Skull Snapchat Lens

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Equal parts creative expression and cultural celebration, as noted above, the sugar-skull look is always on point at this time of year. But for anyone not so handy when it comes to makeup, Milagro Tequila has created a special Snapchat Lens in time to celebrate Día de los Muertos. The best bit? A filter makes it easy for photo ops without the commitment of a major makeover.


Día de los Muertos in Encinitas

This family-friendly celebration on Saturday, Oct. 30 will pack in a lowrider show by the Callejeros de Encinitas Car Club and Day of the Dead art exhibit. Plus, food trucks and hands-on activities like tissue flower and sugar-skull workshops will also be there. Enjoy performances by Mariachi Juvenil de San Diego and Ballet Folklorico de San Dieguito and look for the community ofrenda featuring a replica of Encinitas’ famous Surfing Madonna.

Location: Encinitas

Día de los Muertos San Diego

Mexican Music & Dance at The Rady Shell

San Diego’s stunning new outdoor concert space, The Rady Shell, is celebrating Día de los Muertos on Sunday, October 31 with a special one-off show that pays tribute to traditional music and dance from Mexico’s Veracruz region and the state of Michoacán. Including standout performances by Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles and Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, OFRENDA will also feature songs from the 2017 Disney movie, Coco.

Location: Marina Park South


Día de los Muertos in City Heights

Founded over 20 years ago by local resident Hermelinda Figueroa, San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood is hosting a lineup of community altars, live entertainment, food trucks and face painting on Saturday, Oct. 30 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. La Catrina (one of Latin America’s first grand ladies of the afterlife) outfits are encouraged, and there’s a special event at 7 p.m.

Location: City Heights

Día de los Muertos San Diego

Oceanside’s 20th Annual Festival

Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash

Celebrate all things Día de los Muertos at Oceanside’s landmark 20th annual festival on Sunday, Oct. 24 when downtown O’side will play host to community and family altars, a classic car show and a chalk cemetery for visitors to leave messages for loved ones. Retail and food booths, selling Day of the Dead bread (pan de muerto) among other treats, plus a Catarina contest on the main stage will also be featured.

Location: Oceanside


Celebrate in Old Town San Diego

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There’s nowhere more atmospheric to celebrate the Day of the Dead than Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Head to the Fiesta de Reyes plaza (Nov. 2-3) for the annual Día de los Muertos Celebration, where Aztec and Folklórico dancers, theatrical plays and Latin music bands will be keeping the crowds entertained. On the food side, look out for tamale carts and the beer garden at El Fandango.

Location: Old Town

Día de los Muertos San Diego

Mexican Mixology at Urbana Del Mar

Head to the just-opened Urbana Del Mar at Del Mar Highlands Town Center’s new culinary destination, the Sky Deck, for its grand opening and all-day event celebrating Día de los Muertos. Plus, dishes like enchiladas suizas with sautéed garlic shrimp and queso Oaxaca are sure to please your palate. And when it comes to drinks, the Diablo is a devilish concoction you’ll love, featuring Milagro Tequila, ginger syrup, lime juice and cassis! Urbana is set to announce DDLM specials on social media, so stay tuned!

Location: Del Mar


Heavy Metal Mariachi at The Holding Company

A little after Day of the Dead, Ocean Beach’s multi-story dining and entertainment venue, The Holding Company, will host a live event on Monday, Nov. 4 with the world’s first heavy metal Mariachi band, Metalachi. Best paired with a specialty cocktail from their menu—try the California Love made with Milagro Silver Tequila, ancho reyes verde and housemade passion fruit puree for a headbanging good time.

Location: Ocean Beach


Party at Piña

Chef Valerie Cervantes helms the kitchen at this new hot spot in Encinitas’ Moonlight Plaza Shopping Center, where a Halloween celebration will take place all weekend long! In honor of the Day of the Dead, the eatery’s regular weekend bottomless brunch (served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sunday) will also be available. Don’t leave without trying the Candy Margarita made with blanco tequila, lemon, lime, agave, tamarindo and watermelon syrup! This drink is sure to put you in the holiday spirit, and if you’re looking to kick it up a notch, ask for a splash of Milagro Silver Tequila! Executive Chef Valerie Cervantes says, “Día de los Muertos is a day we welcome back our loved ones who have passed. Food sparks memories! I love making signature dishes that have been passed down to me and honoring my loved ones.” 

Location: Encinitas


Shop Fiesta Décor at Artelexia

When it comes to decorating for Día de los Muertos or a spot of self-gifting, Elexia de la Parra’s North Park boutique is the place to find Mexican-inspired home goods, art and food. Packed with cool finds from across Mexico, shop fiesta decor (think floral party plates and Frida Khalo balloons), plus goodie bags—including a Lotería Game Packto help celebrate.

Last year, Elexia de la Parra created a special Artelexia Día de los Muertos Coloring Book as a fun way for kids to learn about the history and customs behind this Latino cultural celebration.

Location: North Park

Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.




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