From the largest Día de los Muertos event north of the border in L.A. to a wild parade in Tucson, these festivities capture the soul of the Mexican holiday

Christine Ryan  – August 31, 2015 | Updated October 29, 2019

Day of the Dead celebrations have been popular for a long time. Who can resist the colorful makeup, theatrical performances, and overall vibrancy of this Mexican holiday? But these days, event organizers and participants are looking beyond the surface and tapping into the day’s cultural roots. This isn’t just a Mexican Halloween—and people get that now.

Instead of street parties that just involve face painting, tacos, and all-night imbibing, more and more, Día de los Muertos events are stacked with segments like Aztec ritual dancing, community-made ofrendas (traditional altars to honor the deceased), live music from the Motherland, pageantry filled parades, and sugar skull decorating. L.A., for one, makes the connection between the celebration and the dearly departed honorees abundantly clear by hosting a festival in a cemetery. And, though we’re lucky to have one of the biggest Day of the Dead celebrations outside of Mexico in that Hollywood Forever Cemetery event, the festivities don’t stop there. From Arizona to Washington, these gatherings honor the best of Day of the Dead.