The annual Dia de los Muertos celebration is fast approaching with many celebrations taking place across California. Also known as Day of the Dead, this colorful two-day event is meant to honor family members who have passed away. Among the main highlights of this event are colorful altars (ofrendas) and Catrina face painting resembling a skull. Although Dia de los Muertos originates in Mexico, other regions worldwide have Day of the Dead celebrations. Indeed, you can experience all of the traditions associated with this event, particularly in states like California, Texas and Arizona.  If you plan to visit a celebration, visit the altars and try traditional foods like sugar skulls (calavera) and pan de muerto. With all this in mind, here are just 10 of the best Dia de los Muertos celebrations  in California.

Dia de Los Muertos at Disneyland

Disneyland Park
1313 Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA  92802
(714) 781-4636
www.disneyland.disney.go.com

Dates: September 2 to November 2, 2022

In Anaheim, the most popular Dia de los Muertos celebrations are at Disneyland Resort. In fact, festivities have been going on since early September and will last through November 2. Leading the way is is the Dia de los Muertos celebration at Disneyland’s Frontierland. In Frontierland you can enjoy an animated mariachi band and colorful altars in El Zócalo Park. Of course, you can also sample traditional Mexican food at Rancho del Zocalo. Meanwhile at California Adventure, another event is happening at the theme park’s Plaza de la Familia. With festive decorations and traditional artwork, the Plaza pays tribute to the Disney/Pixar film “Coco”. In addition, the plaza will feature live performances by mariachi bands with traditional Day of the Dead clothing and makeup.

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Traditional altar food like seasonal fruit and pan de muertos
Traditional Day of the Dead Food (credit: Randy Yagi)

Dia de los Muertos Celebration San Jose

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
San Jose State University
150 E. San Fernando St.
San Jose, CA  95112
www.sjmag.org/dia-de-los-muertos

San Jose was recently the host of the South Bay area’s largest Dia de los Muertos celebration. Yet even if you did not attend Dia San Jose, there are more festive local events. For example, the longest running celebration is happening at multiple locations in downtown San Jose. In case you’re in San Jose, there is an event at the San Jose Museum of Arts on Saturday, October 29. Yet another festive occasion will be at the Children’s Discovery Museum, Saturday November 5. These events are coupled with a virtual celebration October 23 and Remembrance Altar Exhibit at San Jose State University. Please note that the above address is for the Remembrance Altar Exhibit. Lastly, Teatro Vision will host live performances of “Macario” at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater. Performances will run from October 13 to October 23. Please visit the respective websites for additional details for each event.

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El Panteón de Sacramento

Latino Center of Art & Culture
2700 Front St.
Sacramento, CA  95818
www.thelatinocenter.org

Sacramento is already hosting Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, including a fiesta at the California Museum. However, many more events will occur closer towards the end of the month. For instance, the Latino Center of Art & Culture is hosting its 13th annual Panteón de Sacramento over three days. El Panteón (pantheon) will feature 40 community altars, in addition to food and drink and several dance groups. For instance, among the dance groups appearing are Ricones de mi Tierra and Ballet de Santa Helena. Admission and parking is free. There may be still time to make arrangements to set up your own altar at the center.

Pan de Muerto on a pink tray (traditional Day of the Dead sweet bread )
Pan de Muerto (credit: Randy Yagi)

Fiesta de Reyes Dia de Los Muertos/La Experiencia

Old Town San Diego
San Diego Ave.
San Diego, CA  92110
www.oldtownsandiego.com

Dates: October 15 to November 2
Time: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Old Town San Diego California State Historic Park is the setting for the city’s best Dia de los Muertos celebration. Set in the heart of the Historic Park at Fiesta de Reyes, La Experiencia will last 18 days. During this time, you and other visitors can see colorful ofrendas, enjoy live entertainment and more. That’s not to mention the many dining options at Fiesta de Reyes. For example, you have Mexican restaurants like Casa de Reyes and Barra Barra Saloon. Additionally, you can consider dining at the Park’s flagship establishment, the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant. Of course, many visitors will be wearing traditional costumes and makeup.

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Festival of Altars

Potrero del Sol Park
2827 Cesar Chavez St.
San Francisco, CA  94110
www.dayofthedeadsf.org/festival-of-altars

Date: November 2, 2022
Time: 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The 30th annual Festival of Altars will be held at Potrero del Sol Park at San Bruno Avenue and 25th Street. If you go, you can expect a large crowd to be on hand for one of the largest Dia de Los Muertos events in San Francisco. In fact, there may be a record number of people, especially last year was a virtual event. At the park also known as La Raza, you will see several altars set up by community members. If you want to have your own altar at this event, you can register online. The setup time to build your altar begins at 10 a.m. One of the highlights of the Festival of Altars will be the Ritual Ceremony. This ceremony is being held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at La Raza (the people).

Outdoor Dia de los Muertos display with dolls in traditional costume and makeup
Outdoor Display (credit: Randy Yagi)

Grand Park’s Downtown Dia de Los Muertos

Grand Park
200 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA  90012
www.grandparkla.org

Dates: October 22 to November 2, 2022
Time: 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (normal park hours)

Grand Park continues to celebrate its 10th anniversary with one of LA’s largest Dia de Los Muertos events. What’s more, it’s one of the longest Day of the Dead events, held over 12 days. Conveniently located near Grand Park Metro station, several colorful altars will be on hand. The approximately 20 large scale ofrendas will be built by local artists and community members. The festivities begin with Noche de Ofrenda (Night of the Altars) on the first day. In addition, Grand Park will feature a communal circle and blessing. The co-hosts of this family-friendly event are Grand Park and Self Help Graphics. 

Noche de Altares

Birch Park
400 W. Third St.
Santa Ana, CA  92701
www.nochedealtares.info

Date: November 5, 2022
Time: 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Orange County will host several Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, like those events at Disneyland and California Adventure. However, the largest single day event is Noche de Altares is in Santa Ana, the county seat and second largest city. Now in its 20th year, Santa Ana’s Noche de Altares will feature traditional and freestyle altars by reservation on a first-come, first serve basis. In addition, the event will also host non-profit booths and several food and art vendors. El Centro Cultural de Mexico has been the host of this event since its inception. The local cultural center is responsible for promoting the culture and arts of Mexico as well as educational services.

Oakland Dia de los Muertos Celebration

International Blvd. at Fruitvale Ave.
Oakland, CA  94601
www.diaoakland.com

Date: Sunday, October 30, 2022
Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dia San Jose may be the South Bay’s largest, but Oakland’s festival is even larger. In fact, it’s one of the largest of its kind in California. Now in its 27th year, Oakland Dia de los Muertos will draw a large crowd to its annual outdoor event. In fact, more than 100,000 people may be in attendance to enjoy the arts and culture of Day of the Dead. With this in mind, you’ll have colorful altars, art and food vendors and entertainment like Ballet Folklorico and Aztec dancing. That’s not to mention kid-friendly rides and games and a vaccine classic. Lastly, you may want to visit one or more of the many Mexican eateries in this vibrant neighborhood. The Oakland Day of the Dead celebration is just a few blocks from the Fruitvale BART station.

Jack London Square Halloween Dia de los Muertos Festival

If you can’t make it to the Fruitvale celebration, there is another event at Jack London Square. Held on the same day, October 30, this is a family-friendly event that celebrates both Halloween and Day of the Dead. A DJ will be on hand, as well as a costume contest, mariachi bands and folklorico dancers.

Olvera Street Dia de Los Muertos

Olvera Street
Los Angeles, CA  90012
www.olveraevents.com/day-of-the-dead-olvera-street

Date: October 25 to November 2, 2022

In Los Angeles, the best place to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos is Olvera Street. After all, it’s in the oldest section of the city, as well as one of the liveliest. This year, the Festival is being held over nine days, with all merchants participating. While the event begins October 24, the many community altars will be on display In the plaza beginning October 29 to November 2. On the other hand, there will be nightly events during the festival. For example, there will be a Danza de La Muerte performance and a colorful parade each night. Additionally, there will be live entertainment and a 5K race. Due to its historical significance, Olvera Street will be one of the most important Dia de los Muertos celebrations in California.

Related: Dia de los Muertos Celebrations at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica

Stockton Dia de Los Muertos Street Fiesta

Mexican Heritage Center & Gallery
111 S. Sutter St.
Stockton, CA  95202
(209) 969-9306
www.visitstockton.org/dia-de-los-muertos

Date: Saturday, October 29, 2022

Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Downtown Stockton is closing four blocks to traffic for its upcoming Dia de los Muertos Fiesta. One of the more prominent Day of the Dead events in Central California, you can expect a full day of festivities. For example, there will be mariachi bands, as well a Latin soul band for live music entertainment. Equally important will be folkloric dancers, Aztec dancers and food and cultural vendors. One of the day’s highlights will be the Catrina pageant, featuring contestants in beautiful traditional clothing. Of course, there will

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About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.