Dia de Los Muertos in Los Angeles

dia de los muertes dancer los angeles

I’ve been wanting to attend a Day of the Dead Festival for ages, and now that we live in California we are close to a huge one– Dia de Los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that celebrates and honors the lives of loved ones who have died.  Elaborate altars (ofrendas) are erected to aid in the spiritual journey of the departed.  The kids had watched the movie The Book of Life countless times, especially Flynn, and were excited for weeks.

day of the dead hollywood forever

day of the dead masks

day of the dead catrinas

Dia de los Muertes Catrina

The festival takes place in Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Blvd, within site of the hollywood sign.  We had to park 15 minutes away, but when we made it to the entrance we were greeted by a feast for the eyes.  Amazing decorations, whirling feathered Aztec dancers, and crowds of people in colorful costumes with calavera, or decorative skull makeup.


Aztec dancer day of the dead

day of the dead aztec dancer

day of the dead la

dia de los muertes skeletons

Near the entrance were face painting booths.  The kids all got their’s done at a booth set up for little ones and I opted for the professional quality airbrush stand.  It took about a half an hour and was amazing!  I was so impressed with their work and because it was airbrush it didn’t smear for the whole day.  They also had many different arts and crafts for the children to work on.

day of the dead los angeles

dia de los muertes makeup

day of the dead arts and crafts

We followed the path around the cemetery and spent some time admiring the colorful and elaborate altars that people had created for their departed loved ones.  Skeletons, old photos, marigolds, food offerings were all present at most of the altars, and family members took great pains to add details that represent their personalities and interests.  There were over 200 in total.  Because it was Hollywood, some were for the more well known residents of the cemetery, like Shel Silverstein and Johnny Ramone.  Some were over the top and exotic, and some were smaller and modest…but all of the altars were touching and beautiful in their own ways.

day of the dead colorful altar

altars hollywood forever

day of the dead altarsday of the dead hollywooddia de los muertes skeleton dog

We took a break for some bean and cheese papusas and margaritas (mango juice for the little ones) and sat on a big lawn people watching and listening to the excellent live music.  Afterwards, more altars and a stand where people could stop draw and write messages to the departed with inky black paint on a long canvas.  After a stroll through the main cemetery, we checked out the chapel and all of the elaborate paintings within.  Just as the sun dipped down and dusk settled, the crowd and the energy picked up and it was time for us to leave.  If we had been child-free, I’m sure the night would have been a really fun time to dance and party with the crazy crowds, but since we were with the kids we left at the perfect time!  Heading out, I looked at their paint smudged, tired happy faces and vowed we would be back next year:)

day of the dead wishes

Day of the dead with kids

day of the dead hollywood copy






  • Sue @NoFixedAbodeForSue - Great photos, so colorful. I wondered if the kids would be a little spooked by it all (having never been to one myself) but they seemed to love it and their face painting was adorable.ReplyCancel

  • Prianka | Map Halves - Amazing how something can look both really adorable and absolutely terrifying at the same time! Great pics, it is such a beautiful and colour event!ReplyCancel

  • Brenda - Wow. Gorgeous photos and colors. The altars, in particular, were amazing. Loved the dog skeleton.ReplyCancel

  • Christian - Beautiful pictures.

    Just check the title as it should say “Muertos” and not “muertes”

    Best regards and keep them coming.ReplyCancel

    • admin - Thank you Christian! I really should proofread better before I hit “publish”!!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - I love your photos. It looks like a lot of fun! The colours are fantastic.ReplyCancel

  • Heather Cole - I’d love to experience this, whether in Mexico or elsewhere, such a colourful celebration of what to many of us in the wider world still see as a bit of a taboo subject. Anything with facepainting gets my vote!ReplyCancel

  • dannielle | While I'm Young and Skinny - I didn’t realise that LA went so crazy for this! Loving the colours and costumes, you’ve captured the day brilliantly. I’ve never been to one of these celebrations before.ReplyCancel

  • Ynah.CA - Love going to festivals – love the colors and the happy tone to it. You really have great pictures, what camera are you using?ReplyCancel

    • admin - Thank you! I use a Canon 5D MkIII with L lenses:)ReplyCancel

  • Anne Klien ( MeAnne) - This us definitely a festival I wanted to see… such a vibrant and colourful. I love all the photosReplyCancel

  • Natasha - Wow! Absolutely beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing I’ve loved seeing the increase in coverage over dia de los muertes around the worldReplyCancel

  • Sarah - What a beautiful festival! I just saw the new 007 movie last night and the opening scene is a Dia De Los Muertos festival in Mexico City. It looked beautiful! I wonder if it’s close to what they really do in Mexico. Great picture with the Hollywood sign!ReplyCancel

  • Natasha - These photos are absolutely stunning. All the colors are so rich and vibrant!ReplyCancel

  • Maria - What amazing colours! It’s so bright and beautiful to see, lovely photographs 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Grietje from TravelGretl - Wohohoow! Those big masks! Beautiful and scary 😀ReplyCancel

  • Nic from Roaming Renegades - This is so much fun!! You captured the life of the party right here…mind the pun! looks like a great place to celebrate if you can’t get to Mexico itself!ReplyCancel

  • Shailender Kumar - Loved the photos here!!ReplyCancel

  • Marjorie - I first heard about this festival in an animated movie (forgot the title). In the Philippines, we also have “Araw ng mga Patay” (day of the dead), which we celebrate on Nov 2. The difference though, we don’t have a festival for it, we just go to the cemetery to visit our dearly departed. It would be interesting to see all those painted faces in Dia De Los Muertes though. I’d love to experience this festival someday.ReplyCancel

  • Erica - Awesome shots you got! I love everyone’s cooperation with such festivities!ReplyCancel

  • christine - I am dyingggg to go to this!! Just saw Spectre as well which made me want to go even more as it is the opening scene 😛ReplyCancel

  • evan kristine - This is beautiful, creepy and absolutely interesting all at once!ReplyCancel

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