Los Angeles

How to Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in LA This Year

The traditional Mexican holiday falls on November 1 and 2.

Hollywood Forever
Hollywood Forever
Hollywood Forever

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead as it’s known in the US, is a celebration that honors loved ones who have passed away. The Mexican belief is that every year on November 1 and 2, these departed souls come back to reunite with their beloved relatives and friends, who welcome them with ofrendas, or altars adorned with photos, foods, and personal items. Cempasuchil, or Mexican marigolds, are placed on altars to guide spirits to their shrine. Portraits and calaveras (sugar skulls) are symbolically arranged; candies and dishes including mole and pan de muerto (sweet bread that’s traditionally spiced with ground anise and brushed with an orange glaze) are laid on altars for visiting spirits to eat.

The annual tradition is a jubilant way of honoring ancestors and often uses humor to welcome back the dead. La Catrina, a feminine skeleton outfitted in colorful clothing and a hat full of feathers, is one of the holiday’s most well-known icons, stemming from a satirical illustration by political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada, and lightheartedly brings death to life at Dia de los Muertos festivities.

Here in Los Angeles, Dia de los Muertos celebrations have been part of the cultural landscape for almost 50 years. In 1972, Sister Karen Boccalero, the founder of Self-Help Graphics, held a public commemoration that acted as one of the first in Los Angeles and across the US-and the Boyle Heights-based arts center’s celebrations are still going strong, drawing over 10,000 attendees to its annual celebrations. These days, the holiday has become more mainstream thanks to the popularity of films like Disney’s Coco, and skeletal iconography along with marigold bouquets have become commonplace on grocery store shelves next to pumpkins and decorative gourds.

While many Dia de los Muertos celebrations were put on pause or converted to a virtual format last year, the holiday is returning in full force this year, with events across the city and beyond. Here are 14 events to help you celebrate Dia de los Muertos this year:

Editor’s note: Many events and businesses now require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test for entry. It’s recommended to check the requirements of each event before purchasing tickets.

Grand Park
Grand Park
Grand Park

Grand Park Downtown Dia De Los Muertos

Grand Park, Downtown LA
Friday, October 22–Tuesday, November 2
This almost-two-week-long celebration in Downtown LA is now in its ninth year, offering a family-friendly program that’s free for anyone to attend. Presented in partnership with Self Help Graphics, attendees are invited to contribute to a community altar created by 2018 NEA National Heritage Fellow Ofelia Esparza. Stroll through the park and marvel at 20 more altars created by professional artists and local community organizations like the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, Community Power Collective, and Eastside LEADS, that are personally and culturally significant to Los Angeles. The artistic altars are spaced to encourage social distancing.

Los Muertos 5K

Historic Olvera Street, Downtown LA
Saturday, October 30
What better way to honor the past than taking in the sights of one of LA’s oldest neighborhoods? Set an early alarm and walk or run this 5k course that takes you through historic Olvera Street, with live music and performances to enjoy along the way. Participants will receive a t-shirt and finishers medal upon completion, and a post-race festival will commence at 10 am. Still not comfortable with crowds? There’s also the option to compete virtually and receive your race goods in the mail.

Dia De Los Muertos 48th Annual Celebration

Self-Help Graphics, Boyle Heights
Saturday, October 30
At Self-Help Graphics, home to LA’s longest running Dia de los Muertos celebrations, Dia de los Muertos isn’t just a two-day event, it’s an entire season. The main event happens on Saturday, October 30, beginning with a decked-out car caravan starting at East Los Angeles Civic Center at 3 pm and followed by a walking procession from Mariachi Plaza at 4 pm. From 4–10 pm, you can enjoy live performances curated by The Paramount, shop the Muertos Market for art and crafts by local artists and artisans, browse the altars, and eat food from local street vendors. The community art center’s annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition is on view through November 24, with a theme of Everything Connected: Land, Body, Cosmos, and art curated by the 2021 Commemorative Print Artist, Miyo Stevens-Gandara. On November 6, artist Sandra de la Loza will lead a mobile ofrenda workshop followed by an eight-mile bike ride where participants will become mobile altars as they bike around the neighborhood.

Hollywood Forever
Hollywood Forever
Hollywood Forever

22nd Annual Dia y Noche De Los Muertos

Hollywood Forever Ceremony
Saturday, October 30
One of LA’s most beloved Dia De Los Muertos traditions returns this year after a one-year absence, with celebrations separated into day (9 am–3 pm) and night (5 pm–9 pm) events in an attempt to keep it intimate for all attendees. The theme for this year’s festival is The Return of Quetzalcoatl, The Feathered Serpent, an homage to the Mayan and Aztec deity who returns to earth to bring new life. Both the day and the already-sold-out night program will feature altar and costume contests for cash prizes and will play host to art exhibitions, folklorico dancers, and a children’s plaza with a plant decorating activity by Latinx With Plants. But, of course, it wouldn’t be Dia De Los Muertos without stellar live music performances. From Banda Las Angelinas, the all-female banda group performing during the day, to Latinx indie darlings, Mon Laferte, Y La Bamba, Little Jesus, and Marinero, as part of the evening celebration. The evening will also feature a stellar taco lineup curated by L.A. Taco, featuring Tacos Don Cuco, Pablitos Tacos, Coni Seafood, and Carnitas El Artista. Proceeds from each ticket will be donated to indigenous rights organization Cielo.

SPARC Presents Dia De Los Muertos

SPARC, Venice
Saturday, October 30
Now in its 19th year, SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) will lead a Dia de Los Muertos celebration that begins at 5:30 pm, with an invocation ritual led by Professor Ramirez-Oropeza in Nahuatl, Spanish, and English to invite spirits to join the celebration, followed by a brief Q&A. Candy Angel will lead a workshop, local vendors will be selling their wares, and guests are invited to bring a photograph of a loved one for the community altar.The center will stay open late for a timed-entry talk with Martha Ramirez-Oropeza on the significance of the Dia de los Muertos ritual. The Durón Gallery will be open for browsing, featuring work from artist and SPARC co-founder Judith F. Baca and hot chocolate and Oaxacan treats will help keep attendees full and warm all night. Visit the check-in table upon entry to receive a color-coded wristband and entry time.

Downey Dia De Los Muertos Arts Festival

Downey Theatre
Saturday, October 30
The city of Downey, located in the beating heart of Southeast LA, will host its Dia de los Muertos art festival after a two-year hiatus. Taking place across two stages from 11 am to 8 pm, the event will feature Latin jazz, rock en Espanol, ballet folklorico, and Aztec dance performances, plus a trunk altar show, shopping, food trucks, arts and crafts, a children’s art exhibit, and more. Guests are invited to contribute to the community altar and a beer and wine garden will be available for adults.

6th Annual Dia De Los Muertos Celebration

Pine Ave between 4th Street and 6th Street, Long Beach
Saturday, October 30
This free, all-ages celebration in downtown Long Beach is back for its sixth annual event after taking a hiatus last year. Things will get underway at 2 pm with a performance by DJ Las Chicas Tristes, who will also be performing at 3:45 pm and in between sets. Catch Mariachi Angelitas at 3 pm, the Jenni Rivera Tribute Band at 5 pm, and a Selena tribute by Como La Flor Band at 6:30 pm. A screening of the Disney movie Coco is scheduled for 7 pm, and make sure you stay afterwards for a headline performance by Poncho Sanchez and his Latin jazz band. The celebration will end with a performance by Aztec Dancers at 9:15 pm. Food and drinks will be available, and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test are required for entry.

Dia de los Muertos Family Festival Canoga Park
Dia de los Muertos Family Festival Canoga Park
Dia de los Muertos Family Festival Canoga Park

Main Street Canoga Park’s 21st Annual Dia de Los Muertos Festival

Sherman Way between Topanga Canyon Blvd and Canoga Ave, Canoga Park
Monday, November 1
For those looking to celebrate in the SFV, head over to Sherman Way between Topanga Canyon Blvd and Canoga Ave from 10 am–5 pm to take part in this family-friendly celebration that includes live music, a classic car show, and more. Folklorico and Aztec dancers will be on site, in addition to sugar skulls and ofrenda workshops and other arts and crafts for the whole family.

Nativo Presents Dia De Los Muertos

Nativo, Highland Park
Tuesday, November 2
This recently opened eatery and bar that represents modern Guadalajara cuisine on Highland Park’s York Blvd will be hosting its first-ever Dia de los Muertos celebration with live music by neo-romantico trio Tres Souls and DJ Boo from Sonido del Valle, face painting, and a paint and sip led by Noelle Reyes of Mi Vida boutique. A menu with traditional foods such as pan de muerto and tamales will be on offer along with tequila and mezcal flights. Copal incense and marigold flowers will also be available for and attendees are invited to contribute to an altar. Two ticket types are available: $40 includes access to the event, a tequila or mezcal flight, special performances, and pan de muerto, while a $65 ticket grants access to the event, a guided sip and paint experience with a special Mi Vida tote to take home, tequila or mezcal flight, special performances, and pan de muerto.

Terraza Cha Cha Chá
Terraza Cha Cha Chá
Terraza Cha Cha Chá

LA Cha Cha Cha: Día de los Muertos Celebration

Cha Cha Cha, Arts District
Tuesday, November 2
This stylish restaurant expanded from Mexico City to a bustling section of the Downtown Arts District, boasting one of the largest, plant-filled rooftops in the area. Stop by between 5–10 pm on November 2, for a lowkey Dia de los Muertos celebration, with guests invited to bring candles or photos of loved ones to display on a special altar. The modern Mexican menu will be available all night, so order up some tacos and cocktails to toast your ancestors in style. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.

Chrisol X Elyzr: Dia De Los Muertos Celebration Presented by Milagro Tequila

The Resident, DTLA
Tuesday, November 2
Two of LA’s most prized local musicians are coming together for an evening of absolute magic, with Chrisol and Elyzr both performing their newly released EPs. The evening will feature an altar installation, a catered taco menu, and of course, plenty of drinks. Afterward, the pair will come together to play a party set to help guests keep grooving throughout the night.

Chuntikis’ Dia de los Muertos Cocktail Pop-Up

The Hawk and Roxanne’s Bar, Long Beach
Monday, November 1; Friday, November 5; Saturday, November 6
Roving pop-up tiki maestro, Chuntikis continues to showcase its talents with not one but two Dia de los Muertos pop-ups at local Long Beach bars. If you’re anywhere near the LBC, head over to get a taste of Chuntikis’ Dia de Los Tikis drink made with small-batch Mexican spiced rum, mezcal joven espadin, and Tepache sherbert-the perfect drink to honor the past. Chunkitis will be at The Hawk on Monday, November 1, and Roxanne’s Bar on November 5-6.

Dia de los Muertos: A Celebration of Life and Death

Uptown Provisions, Whittier
Wednesday, November 3
If you find yourself in the quaint area of Uptown Whittier, make sure to stop by newly opened neighborhood hot spot/deli counter Uptown Provisions between 4–8 pm for a festive evening featuring sourdough fermented birria pizza and other limited edition pies from pizza pop-up Speak Cheezy. Wash your pizza down with a complimentary bubbly prebiotic soda from Mayawell. The evening celebration will also feature free face painting for adults and children, a special ofrenda, other treats, and live music.

Viva la Vida Santa Ana
Viva la Vida Santa Ana
Viva la Vida Santa Ana

Viva La Vida Santa Ana

Downtown Santa Ana
Saturday, November 6
One of Orange County’s most prominent Dia de los Muertos celebrations is now in its seventh year, located in the heart of Santa Ana’s historic downtown area. Organized by the Santa Ana-based nonprofit Viva La Vida which seeks to highlight the area’s vibrant Latino communities and cultures, the event will run from noon to 10 pm and include space for community members to create their own altars, along with a dusk appearance from the satirical La Catrina character who will come and light the first candle to kick off the festivities. There will also be plenty of live music, food and craft vendors, and more.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Gab Chabran is a contributor for Thrillist.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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