Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday celebrated widely both within Mexico and in other countries by people with Mexican heritage. At the end of October and beginning of November, San Francisco will celebrate with multiple events, processions, and activities to honor this special holiday.
The multi-day holiday usually takes place on November 1-2 as a way to honor friends and family members who have passed away. Families generally create a home altar bearing pictures and favorite foods of the departed, along with calaveras (decorative sculptures of the human skull) and bright golden Aztec marigold flowers. Some popular holiday foods include candy sugar skulls and a traditional sweet bread called pan de muerto.
San Francisco’s celebrations range from the annual Festival of Altars to a lively performance by SF Symphony. Read on for all of the details.
1. Festival of Altars in Potrero Del Sol Park
Nov. 2, 2023
Marigold Project will host the 31st annual Festival of Altars and Ritual Circle in SF’s Potrero Del Sol Park on November 2nd. Guests can build their own personal altars or come and observe the community altars on display, and are recommended to bring flowers, 8-inch glass prayer candles, and other mementos to honor their loved ones. The Ritual Circle ceremony will happen from 5-6pm.
2. 42nd Annual Day of the Dead Ritual Procession / 42o Anual Procesión Ritual Día de los Muertos
Nov. 2, 2023
SF’s Mission District will host a Day of the Dead ritual procession at 6pm on November 2 produced by El Colectivo del Rescate Cultural. It will begin at 22nd and Bryant Streets, running through Bryant, 24th, Mission, and then 22nd Street before ending back where it began. The procession follows the vision of El Colectivo del Rescate Cultural founder Juan Pablo Gutierrez, who passed away in 2021.
The Marigold Project leads the Exploratorium’s Thursday After Dark event with an evening of ceremony, ritual, and dance. They will host a Poet’s Murmuration in which 100 poets will read their work in tandem in a profound and memorable ceremony. Guests are invited to connect with each other throughout the museum’s exhibition spaces in this day of harmony and balance.
Oct. 27 and Nov. 2, 2023
Mission Street SF presents a Día de los Muertos artisanal tour in the Mission in which guests will create their own keepsake calavera, tour the murals on 22nd Street, and visit Peruvian artisanal goods shop Qosqo Maky.
5. Muerto City
Oct. 28, 2023
Cocina Nicaborriqua and Monarch Gardens host a free Día de los Muertos cultural event at their outdoor event venue in District Six. Enjoy a day of delicious food, kids’ activities, art, music, facepainting, jewelry, and so much more from 3-10pm.
6. Día de los Muertos with Sunset Mercantile
Nov. 1, 2023
Sunset Mercantile presents the third annual Día de los Muertos celebration in the Outer Sunset this November 1 at 37th and Ortega. Everyone is invited to set up an ofrenda (sign up ahead of time), so if you want to join the setup make sure you arrive early around 5pm. The evening will include folklorico dancing at 7pm and 8pm as well as delicious food, face painting, music, sugar skull painting, papel picado, and traditional artisanal goods for sale.
7. NightLife: Día de los Muertos at the California Academy of Sciences
Nov. 2, 2023
NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences is one of our favorite ongoing museum events. Every Thursday the Academy comes to life for a 21+ crowd with live DJs and music, outdoor bars, and ambience lighting. Their Day of the Dead-themed event will take place on Thursday, Nov. 2 with a focus on honoring departed souls and reuniting the living and the dead.
8. Día de los Muertos with SF Symphony
Nov. 4, 2023
SF Symphony celebrates this vibrant holiday with a lively concert courtesy of conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, vocalist Edna Vázquez, and performers from Casa Círculo Cultural. The program includes both traditional music and contemporary works including selections from La Noche de los Mayas by Silvestre Revueltas, Bonecos de Olinda by Clarice Assad, and Mosaico Mexicano by Arturo Rodriguez.