By: Steven Lindsey | From: Thrillist

Long before Coco, one of the most visually beautiful and emotionally powerful animated Disney-Pixar flicks, Texans were already familiar with Día de Muertos. This age-old tradition traces back to the Aztecs. It’s an event celebrated throughout the world, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to participate than San Antonio, which stages Día de Muertos events bigger and better than any city in Texas—and, likely, in the entire US.

Also known as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, the holiday allows families and friends to devote some time and creativity to honor their dearly departed loved ones with ofrendas (altars). From simple to elaborate, ofrendas are often adorned with vibrant orange marigolds, photos of family, and beloved foods, including tamales and pan de muerto. Día de Muertos truly honors lives, well-lived.

This year, San Antonio kicks off its celebrations on October 27 with official events running through November 8. The Day of the Dead River San Antonio Parade is a festive display of pageantry. Many businesses along the route offer special packages and seating options, including The Day of the Dead River Experience hosted by The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio. Events at nearby La Villita keep the holiday going all weekend long.

Also taking place the weekend before Día de Muertos, the 11th Annual Día de los Muertos at Hemisfair features a variety of outdoor activities, live music, food and art vendors.

On November 1, commemorate Día de Muertos at Esperanza Peace & Justice Center’s Rinconcito de Esperanza. The festivities center on a community ofrenda, but also include a procession that anyone can participate in—and dress for in costume—as well as live music, readings of literary ofrendas to remember the dead, and Calavera poems that poke fun at the living and their untimely encounters with death.

Then November 2–8, Centro Cultural Aztlan presents its 46th Annual Altares y Ofrendas, one of the city’s longest-standing Día de los Muertos celebrations complete with gallery tours and elaborate and heartfelt altars designed by local artists.

More Things to Do in San Antonio:

Start at the cocktail lounge then work your way through Hopscotch, a 20,000-square-foot art installation that drops you in the center of the action via 14 different interactive pieces. Also on the art front, visitors should pop into The San Antonio Museum of Art, a downtown labyrinth complete with vast rooms filled wall-to-wall with ancient and contemporary pieces, or check out the McNay Art Museum, which has Dreamland | Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas running through mid-January 2024.

It might seem like one of the most glaringly obvious suggestions, but the River Walk lives up to its reputation as the literal number one tourist attraction in all of Texas. Nearby, San Antonio’s Latin heritage is on full blast at Market Square. Its staple feature, El Mercado, includes a long list of Southwestern and Mexican vendors and artisans whose goods range from luchador masks to traditional pottery to handmade jewelry. In the market’s center is a stage where mariachis, bands, and Folklorico dancers often perform, filling the space with Latin music and festive spirit.

Where to Stay in San Antonio:

Unless you’re of the camping-in-a-tent persuasion or prefer asking friends to sleep on their sofas, you’re going to need a comfortable place to put your feet up after a long day of exploration. The highest concentration of hotels can be found on the River Walk or very nearby. If you’re looking for something on the quieter, less-commercial side, Hotel Emma at the Historic Pearl District comes with a hefty per-night price tag, but it’s an exquisite experience. Also on the quieter side of the river, Thompson San Antonio-Riverwalk makes for another great option.

As for the more bustling section of the River Walk, you can’t go wrong with any of these popular favorites we can recommend from first-hand experience: Canopy by Hilton San Antonio RiverwalkOmni La Mansion del RioMokara Hotel & SpaHotel Valencia.

Where to Eat and Drink in San Antonio:

Start the day at one of three local locations of La Panadería for its signature Almond Tequila Croissant. Flaky and tender with an almost custard-like center, it’s the only respectable way to toss back a shot of tequila before noon. A trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery, a renowned Mexican restaurant with an 80-plus-year legacy.

An abundance of restaurant options at the Pearl lets you tour the world one bite at a time. Favorites include Best Quality Daughter for Asian fusion, Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery for oysters and fried chicken, and award-winning Cured for a little bit of New Orleans.

You also can’t go wrong with a trip to the Southtown Historic District. The neighborhood is a perennially hot district, especially with more recent additions like Sukeban and Little Em’s Oyster Bar. For the drinking set, established watering holes like Bar America and The Friendly Spot thrive among trendy newcomers such as Halcyon for coffee and craft cocktails, and Bar Loretta.

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