Celebrate Día de los Muertos in Los Angeles

Traditional Day of the Dead ceremonies, virtual workshops and more

Dia de los Muertos altar at Noche de Ofrenda in Grand Park
Noche de Ofrenda at Grand Park | Photo: Grand Park, Facebook  

Dating back hundreds of years, Día de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead") is celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world. During the multi-day holiday, family and friends gather to honor and celebrate those who have passed away. Traditions include building ofrendas (private altars), enjoying the favorite dishes and drinks of the departed, and visiting graves with mementos of the deceased.

The spirit of Día de los Muertos resonates now more than ever. Many LA events will be virtual this year, including online celebrations hosted by Self Help Graphics, 24th Street Theatre, and Forest Lawn. Community altars and public art will be installed with social distancing in place.

From traditional ceremonies to virtual workshops, here are the best Día de los Muertos events in Los Angeles.

Dia de los Muertos altar at Noche de Ofrenda in Grand Park
Noche de Ofrenda at Grand Park | Photo: Grand Park, Facebook  

Grand Park’s Downtown Día de los Muertos (Oct. 24 - Nov. 4, 2020)

Now in its eighth year, Grand Park’s Downtown Día de los Muertos will take place from October 24 to November 4 with a mix of virtual events, digital ofrendas (altars) and audio storytelling; and socially distant public art installations in Grand Park and on The Music Center Plaza. Grand Park will again honor the cultural tradition of Día de los Muertos with free, family friendly programs with a focus on personal well-being and collective healing throughout the 12-day celebration.

Grand Park continues its long-standing artistic partnership with Self Help Graphics (SHG), which is curating 11 large-scale altar installations, including the annual Community Altar created by Maestra Ofelia Esparza.

While Grand Park and The Music Center Plaza are open to the public, all park- and plaza-goers who experience the art installations are strictly required to wear masks and maintain social distancing, including not clustering in groups.

 

COMMUNITY ALTARS & AUDIO TOURS (Oct. 24 – Nov. 4, 2020)
Guests can experience, hear and learn about the traditions of Día de los Muertos and stroll through 11 altars located throughout Grand Park, including the annual Community Altar created by Maestra Ofelia Esparza. A 2018 NEA National Heritage Fellow, Esparza and her family are instrumental in preserving and conserving Día de los Muertos in Los Angeles.

Curated by Self Help Graphics in collaboration with their Noche de Ofrenda programs, the 10 main large-scale altar installations are created by artists and community partners and represent the losses and causes of this past year. There will also be six kites “flying” in Grand Park’s Splash Pad representing migrant children who have died in ICE custody.

In keeping with health and safety requirements, the public is asked not to leave their own ofrendas on or touch the Community Altar this year. The altars will feature a 360-degree viewing opportunity to maximize social distancing.

To complement their altar viewing, attendees can listen to five-minute pre-recorded audio guides with insights by the artists. Park-goers can access the guides through Grand Park’s Mixcloud and YouTube channels.

 

PHOTO EXHIBITS & DIGITAL OFRENDAS (Oct. 24 – Nov. 4, 2020)
Papel picado made by artist Maricela Sosa will welcome guests to the Music Center Plaza, where they can view digital ofrendas and photo exhibits intertwined with personal health and wellness messages.

Crowdsourced through community outreach, photos of loved ones will be displayed as digital altars on the Plaza’s two large LED screens.

Two photo exhibits will be on view in the Plaza:

  • Curated by Dancing Diaspora Collective, Healing Sanctuaries documents the healing practices and personal sanctuaries of Black and Brown people.
  • Soul Survivors is curated by Khalid Jefferson and features photographers Nailah Howze, Damien Carter, and Andrew Quesada, whose work highlights perseverance in the Black community, empathy and collective healing.

There will be 360-degree viewing opportunities with two 8-foot double-sided walls and two 6-foot four-sided cubes. The exhibits will also serve as mental health awareness ofrendas, offering messages of hope and support coupled with suggested resources from the LA County Department of Mental Health.

The Music Center will provide Mixcloud audio guides with details and background on the public art installations and digital ofrendas.

 

BIKE OFRENDA WORKSHOP (Oct. 24, 2020)
Presented in partnership with Self Help Graphics, the family-friendly Bike Ofrenda Workshop is a free online workshop that will stream on Grand Park’s YouTube channel at 1pm on Saturday, October 24. Los Angeles-based artist Sandra de la Loza will guide viewers to convert their bike into a mobile ofrenda in the spirit of Día de los Muertos so they can ride around town and honor their ancestors.

The whole family will be able to do an easy hands-on project together from the comfort and safety of home. Viewers are invited to be creative with materials they have at home to make paper calacas (skulls), decorate their wheels with handmade spokes, and create altars for handlebars or a cargo rack. The workshop’s suggested supply list will be available at the Grand Park website.

 

NOCHE DE OFRENDA (Nov. 1, 2020)
For the first time, the traditional Noche de Ofrenda ceremony honoring the dead will be a virtual program of reflection and remembrance. Produced by Self Help Graphics with live performances curated by The Paramount, the 47th Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration will stream on SHG's YouTube channel at 4pm on Sunday, November 1.

 

For more information about Grand Park Downtown Día de los Muertos, visit grandparkla.org and music center.org.

"Guadalupe Rodriguez, Autorretrato en el Panteón, 2003" serigraph by Sandy Rodriguez
"Guadalupe Rodriguez, Autorretrato en el Panteón, 2003" by Sandy Rodriguez | Photo: Self Help Graphics & Art

Ofrendas 2020 (Oct. 13 - Nov. 27, 2020)

Presented by Self Help Graphics & Art, this year’s Día de los Muertos exhibition, Ofrendas 2020 brings together a visionary group of Los Angeles artists spanning generations, perspectives, disciplines, and connections. The virtual exhibition is curated by SHG's Commemorative Print Artist, Sandy Rodriguez. "Guadalupe Rodriguez, Autorretrato en el Panteón, 2003" is an homage to her mother, the artist Guadalupe Rodriguez. For this limited edition serigraph, Rodriguez recreated a self-portrait painted by her mother in 2003.

The virtual exhibition is now live on the Self Help Graphics website.

Día de los Muertos virtual workshops hosted by Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore
Día de los Muertos virtual workshops | Photo: Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore, Facebook  

Tía Chucha's Virtual Workshops (Oct. 20-29, 2020)

Located in Sylmar, Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore specializes in books on Xicanx/Latinx history and literature, indigenous knowledge, bilingual children’s books, contemporary and social commentary issues, as well as Spanish-language, queer/LGBTQIA, art, poetry, and more.

Tía Chucha's is hosting several Día de los Muertos virtual workshops, including making papel picado and wearable flower crowns (Oct. 20), baking pan de muerto (Oct. 22), a step by step tutorial for doing your own calavera makeup (Oct. 27), and decorating sugar skulls (Oct. 29).

The free workshops start at 6pm and will stream live on the Tía Chucha's website, Facebook and YouTube.

Posada's Unknown Calaveras (Oct. 22, 2020)

On Thursday, October 22, the Los Angeles Public Library presents Posada's Unknown Calaveras, a bilingual online presentation by Dr. Gloria Arjona, who will show us the little-known side of José Guadalupe Posada, creator of iconic Día de los Muertos imagery. During the session, Dr. Arjona will look back at Posada's humorous rhymes and illustrations commenting on then-contemporary—but eerily relevant—persons and issues, including politicians, pandemics, and racism.

The presentation will stream live at 4pm on the LAPL's YouTube and Facebook channels.

Día de los Muertos & Linares Studio hosted by Fowler Museum
Día de los Muertos & Linares Studio | Photo: Fowler Museum, Facebook  

Fowler Museum Presents Día de los Muertos & Linares Studio (Oct. 23, 2020)

Get into the spirit of Día de los Muertos by joining the Fowler Museum for an online conversation with Self Help Graphics & Art’s teaching artist William Acedo and the Coronado Family, and hear their perspectives on calacas by Felipe Linares in the Fowler’s collection. Norma and Edgar Coronado learned the craft of making calacas cartonerías (papier-mâché skeletons) from William Acedo through Self-Help’s community art workshops and became master craftsmen themselves.

RSVP for this one-hour Zoom session at the Fowler Museum website.

Mundo Maya Foundation presents El “Hanal Pixán” Dia de Muertos de los Mayas
El “Hanal Pixán” Dia de Muertos de los Mayas | Photo: Dept. of Cultural Affairs

El “Hanal Pixán” Dia de Muertos de los Mayas (Oct. 25, 2020)

On Sunday, October 25, the Mundo Maya Foundation presents a virtual journey where guests share how various Maya communities observe and celebrate Dia de Muertos. Hanal Pixan in Maya Yucatec means “food for the souls” - a day where the departed loved ones come back.

Ofrenda (altar) at Olvera Street during the annual Día de los Muertos Festival
Ofrenda (altar) at Olvera Street during the annual Día de los Muertos Festival | Photo: @j714lopez, Instagram

Día de los Muertos Festival at Olvera Street (Oct. 26 - Nov. 2, 2020)

Located at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Olvera Street is one of LA's most popular tourist destinations, home to a colorful marketplace, restaurants and some of the city's oldest landmarks.

The annual Día de los Muertos Festival will be scaled down this year - in-person events like the Novenario Procession, live entertainment and face painters will not be taking place. Community altars ("las ofrendas") will be on display in the Plaza from October 26 to November 2. There will also be a virtual event, details TBA.

Girls in calavera makeup at the Self Help Graphics Día de los Muertos Celebration
Día de los Muertos Celebration | Photo: Self Help Graphics & Art

Día de los Muertos Face Painting Tutorial (Oct. 27, 2020)

On Tuesday, October 27, the teaching artists at Self Help Graphics & Art will present a live face painting tutorial so you can learn how to do calavera (skull) makeup, one of the best known Día de los Muertos traditions.

For this virtual class you will need:

  • Water-activated or oil-based face paint
  • Brushes
  • Sponges
  • Glitter
  • Craft jewels
  • Water

The free tutorial starts at 1pm on the SHG YouTube channel. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Colorful Papel Picado banners hanging outside
Papel Picado | Photo: Dept. of Cultural Affairs

Papel Picado Workshop (Oct. 29, 2020)

In this virtual workshop presented by the LA Public Library, Self Help Graphics and Barrio Mobile Studio Artists will teach you how to create Papel Picado - colorful paper banners that are displayed as part of traditional Día de Los Muertos crafts to honor the dead. You will need colored tissue paper, a Papel Picado template, a stapler, twine or string, and a glue stick.

This workshop will stream live at 4pm on the LAPL's YouTube and Facebook channels.

La Danza de la Muerte Placita Olvera presented by Teatro del Barrio Los Angeles
La Danza de la Muerte Placita Olvera | Photo: Teatro del Barrio Los Angeles, Facebook  

La Danza de la Muerte Placita Olvera (Oct. 31 - Nov. 3, 2020)

Teatro del Barrio Los Angeles presents a virtual version of its signature event, La Danza de la Muerte Placita Olvera. Follow the journey of the souls from the moment of death to the Mictlan, the ancient mystical place of rest in pre-Columbian Mexico. Music, dance, and stories to connect with our ancestors and celebrate life.

La Catrina sculptures by Ricardo Soltero
La Catrina sculptures by Ricardo Soltero | Photo: Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.

La Catrina at Santa Monica Pier & Third Street Promenade (Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, 2020)

In honor of Día de los Muertos, Los Angeles-based artist Ricardo Soltero will be installing his iconic La Catrina sculptures at nine locations throughout the Third Street Promenade and four locations on the Santa Monica Pier. Soltero’s sculptures of La Catrina range up to 14 feet in height and will be viewable from Saturday, October 31 to Monday, November 2.

La Catrina was first born out of Mexican social satire and has become a well-known figure in celebration of the holiday. Each art piece will be properly spaced out to ensure there is enough room to view them safely.

Self Help Graphics 47th Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration (Nov. 1, 2020)

Self Help Graphics & Art presents its 47th Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration, which will be held virtually for the first time on Sunday, November 1. The Día de los Muertos Celebration will be co-hosted by musician and scholar, Martha Gonzalez, author of Chican@ Artivistas; and singer, actor and activist, Annie Gonzalez who recently guest-starred on Gentefied (Netflix) and Vida (Starz).

Curated by The Paramount, live performers include Ceci Bastida, Tropa Magica, and Katzù Oso. The celebration will feature artists and community partners such as Maestra Ofelia Esparza and Grand Park for Noche de Ofrenda; and sights and sounds from SHG’s cultural center and neighborhood to viewers' homes.

The Día de los Muertos Celebration will start streaming at 4pm on SHG’s YouTube channel.

Día de los Muertos Live Stream at Hollywood Forever
Día de los Muertos Live Stream at Hollywood Forever | Photo: @hwdforever, Instagram

Día de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever (Nov. 1, 2020)

Hollywood Forever is renowned as the final resting place of hundreds of legendary Hollywood stars and iconic musicians. Each year, the landmark cemetery hosts the largest Día de los Muertos celebration outside of Mexico, featuring more than 100 altars, live music and traditional performances.

For its 21st annual edition, LA Day of the Dead is going virtual with a Live Stream starting at noon on Sunday, November 1. Hosted by Fernanda Kelly, the online broadcast features performances by Los Lobos, Buyepongo, and Tropa Magica. View the stream at stream.ladayofthedead.com.

Día de los Muertos: A Virtual Celebration presented by Forest Lawn
Día de los Muertos: A Virtual Celebration | Photo: Forest Lawn, Facebook  

Forest Lawn Presents Día de los Muertos: A Virtual Celebration (Nov. 1, 2020)

Forest Lawn will continue its tradition of bringing authentic Día de los Muertos celebrations to the community with this year’s virtual event. On Sunday, November 1, Forest Lawn will transform viewers’ homes into majestic spaces for remembrance with marigolds, La Catrina sculptures, live performances, bilingual prayer and spoken word, a brightly colored ofrenda (altar), and more.

Highlights include:

  • Performances by Ballet Folklorico Internacional, Mariachi Juvenil Herencia Mexicana, and the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.
  • Bilingual religious ceremony led by Father Mario Juarez from Christ Cathedral with Mariachi Juvenil Herencia Mexicana.
  • Live and larger-than-life La Catrina sculptures.

Forest Lawn’s virtual Día de los Muertos celebration marks the second appearance of six-foot-tall La Catrina sculptures - artisanal creations crafted by Forest Lawn’s floral designers and inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. Each La Catrina sculpture has her own personality, with distinct costumes and accessories inspired by the early 20th century, the time period when Catrinas were first popularized by artists José Guadalupe Posada and Diego Rivera. In addition to the sculptures, there will be two live Catrinas.

The Día de los Muertos celebration will stream live from noon to 2pm on Forest Lawn’s Facebook page, and will be archived for viewing following the event.

Disney/Pixar's "Coco"
Coco (2017) | Photo: Disney/Pixar

"Coco" at Electric Dusk Drive-In (Nov. 1, 2020)

Electric Dusk Drive-In screens movies at the former location of the historic Sears in Glendale. Curated by Secret Movie Club, the Halloween-O-Thon series concludes with the Academy Award-winning Coco (2017).

Directed by Lee Unkrich, Coco tells the story of 12-year-old Miguel, who is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead, where he seeks the help of his deceased musician great-great-grandfather to return him to his family among the living and to reverse his family's ban on music. Secret Movie Club founder Craig Hammill calls Coco "a wonderful Pixar movie that combines a rousing adventure with themes of family, aging, acceptance, forgiveness, and death."

Early Bird pricing through October 31 is $23 (includes car fee and first person ticket). Day-of pricing is $28. Add-on tickets are $8 per person. Pre-packaged popcorn, snacks, beverages and candy are available for purchase. Tickets and pre-order concessions are on sale at Eventbrite.

Día de los Muertos Family Celebration hosted by LA Public Library
Día de los Muertos Family Celebration | Photo: LAPL

Día de los Muertos Family Celebration (Nov. 2, 2020)

Hosted by Los Angeles Public Library, the Día de los Muertos Family Celebration features songs, stories, and crafts in Spanish and English. This virtual Day of the Dead event will stream live from 5pm to 6:30pm on the LAPL's YouTube and Facebook channels.

14th Annual Día de los Muertos Festival presented by 24th Street Theatre
14th Annual Día de los Muertos Festival | Photo: 24th Street Theatre, Facebook  

24th Street Theatre Día de los Muertos Festival (Nov. 2, 2020)

Now in its 14th year, the annual Día de los Muertos Festival presented by 24th Street Theatre is going virtual for the first time. The online celebration will include opportunities for the community to celebrate loved ones who have passed away, music and dance performances, and special guests from Mexico, along with friends in neighborhoods across Los Angeles.

Taking place from 6pm to 7:30pm on Monday, November 2, the festival will stream live on 24th Street Theatre's Facebook and YouTube channels.