Nation’s Largest Day of the Dead Celebration, in San Antonio, Returns with In-Person Events
SAN ANTONIO, TX (October 11, 2021) – No city in the United States embraces the colorful and cultural Día de Muertos like San Antonio. A variety of observances in all sectors of the city – some taking place for more than 40 years – brings locals and visitors together to celebrate life and the lives of loved ones who have passed.
Dating back to pre-Columbian times, Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican holiday when people celebrate their late loved ones. Participants create festive altars adorned with photographs, food and other gifts associated with the holiday such as marigolds, incense, and candles to honor those who have passed. It is said that on November 1 and 2, the distance between the living and the dead is at its closest point creating a special moment to share memories and send wishes to dearly depart family and friends.
“Now, more than ever, embracing life and remembering those who have gone on is especially poignant,” said Marc Anderson, President & CEO, Visit San Antonio. “Día de Muertos is an authentic celebration of life which has been part of San Antonio for generations and allows family and friends to tell the story of their loved ones through personal and creative expressions. We invite everyone to immerse themselves in that experience in San Antonio,” added Anderson.
From October through November 2021, San Antonio’s commemorations include the return of in-person events, with traditional altars, live music, Mexican cuisine and a river procession. Restaurants, cafes and cultural institutions across the city will showcase altars, customary décor and fresh-baked pan de muerto, a sweet bread that is a traditional offering.
San Antonio’s marquee Day of the Dead celebrations include:
- Día de los Muertos Festival at Hemisfair (October 23-24): The 9th annual event returns to downtown San Antonio for an expanded, in-person, outdoor gathering and touts the largest open altar exhibition and contest in the city. Recognized by National Geographic as one of America’s Top 7 Fall Festivals, Día de los Muertos Festival brings back its unique mix of community altars, live music, art vendors and workshops in a free, family-friendly, two-day event. Popularly known as Muertos Fest, this beloved San Antonio event anticipates attracting over 100,000 attendees, complemented with a national digital broadcast.
- Day of the Dead River San Antonio: Parade & Culinary Ofrenda (October 29-30): The River Walk and adjacent La Villita will overflow with Day of the Dead activities for the weekend.
- River Parade (October 29): features more than 20 floating decorated floats and entertainment barges with characters and music. The parade will broadcast live on San Antonio’s KSAT-TV and air in syndication in cities across the country in late October and throughout November – viewers are encouraged to check local listings for air dates and times.
- Culinary Ofrenda (October 30, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.): New for 2021 is a food festival in La Villita’s Juarez Plaza. Culinary Ofrenda will honor Dia de Muertos’ designation as a UNESCO Celebration of Humanity, in San Antonio, which holds a UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation and is home to Texas’ only UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ofrenda was the bountiful gift that indigenous communities would lay at the altar of friends and family that were no longer present in this world. In honor of this sacred tradition, multiple chefs and mixologists will gather to offer their bountiful harvest of talents as an “Ofrenda.” Featured mixologists hail from some of San Antonio’s culinary and nightlife hotspots: Tony’s Siesta, Biga on the Banks, Blue Box, The Esquire Tavern and Francis Bogside. This ticketed, all-inclusive food and beverage event will also showcase entertainment to include by Azul Barrientos. Tickets for the food festival are limited.
- Centro Cultural Aztlan (November 2-5): Centro Cultural Aztlan continues traditions in presenting its 44th Annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, Altares y Ofrendas. As part of its Cultural Expressions series, the exhibit will be both in person and virtual, illustrating the artistic, cultural and religious facets of popular traditions where death is seen as a natural part of life and this reality is approached with humor and a celebration of life. Photographs of loved ones grace altars as well as offerings of food, marigolds, incense, candles, and other traditional offerings. Gallery highlights include altars by local artists, and the annual “Callejon de los Muertos” artisan market on the breezeway featuring some of the most noted artists and makers in San Antonio. Artists include Hector Garza, Henry De Leon, Elizabeth Hernandez, Jennifer Negrete, and Don Nuñez. Centro Cultural Aztlan was recently selected by the United States Post Office as the launch location for a special edition stamp commemorating Day of the Dead. It was the first organization in San Antonio to celebrate this centuries-old tradition and has done so for more than 40 years.
Day of the Dead commemorations throughout San Antonio don’t end there. Some of the must-see experiences include:
- SeaWorld San Antonio (September 17-October 31): SeaWorld swings into the fall season with spooky fun for the entire family with Spooktacular during the day and terrifying thrills by night with Howl-O-Scream. New for 2021 is a Día de los Muertos themed realm. Available during both daytime and night hours, this cultural experience celebrates a tradition close to the hearts of all in the South Texas region.
- San Antonio Zoo (September 18 – October 31): As part of its over-the-top Zoo Boo, Day of the Dead elements include large blow-up sugar skulls, papel picado and a La Villita-inspired entertainment stage. Specially themed food offerings, merchandise and more will be engaging and entertaining for all ages in this fun, non-scary seasonal event.
- Día de los Muertos Night Run (October 23): Pacing into its 11th anniversary, the 5K Run/Walk for the Arts will take place at McAllister Park and include a costume contest for best Día de Muertos outfit and more surprises. Runners are invited to bring a friend, dress up, and stay for the revelry.
- Six Flags Fiesta Texas (weekends and select days now through October 31): As part of a robust Fright Fest 2021, the family theme park debuts a new special Day of the Dead-themed show. Mariachi Los Soberanos performs to celebrate the unique and upbeat tradition of this festive musical genre.
- Día de Los Muertos Week at The Good Kind (October 25-31): A hyper-local, organic and inclusive series of events highlight Day of the Dead traditions at The Good Kind restaurant in Southtown. The robust line up for the week includes artists, vendor markets, DJs, poetry performances, bands, and more. Food and drink vendors will augment the already tasty offerings at The Good Kind. Visitors and locals of all ages can enjoy many activities from live painting, poetry slams, trivia, brunch bingo and more while MC’s keep the energy high through the week. A large community altar with ofrendas will be the centerpiece and two others will feature artists creating on site.
- San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (October 29): In conjunction with the Eastside Fifth Friday, SAAACAM hosts a tour of historic City Cemetery #3. Four different tour times are offered that evening as visitors and locals alike are invited to learn more about San Antonio’s buried African American history.
- Día de los Muertos at Pearl (October 30 – November 7): Pearl continues its annual tradition of celebrating with a community altar created by local artists and sisters, Manola and Maria Ramirez. The sisters are part of the all-female collaborative space Lavaca Studios. The altar is dedicated to the San Antonio community and all their loved ones who have passed away. The artists will use ethereal elements in the space like cempasúchil (marigolds), papel picado and strands of tinsel to give visitors the feeling that they are walking into a place of worship. The focal point will be a tinsel heart as the centerpiece of the altar. Visitors can participate by lighting a digital candle for their loved ones who have passed.
- San Antonio Botanical Garden:
- Cocktail Scavenger Hunt: Day of the Dead (October 31): Botanical Garden Chef Katrina Flores presents this year’s event with a tribute to Frida Kahlo’s life. Visitors will venture into the Botanical Garden to find edible gems that will be incorporated in this botanical menu then back to the kitchen to enjoy a Day of the Dead-inspired tasting menu: pozole rojo, chicken mole tamales, pan de muerto, calabaza en tacha and blood orange marigold margarita.
- Frida Kahlo Oasis: Día de los Muertos Closing Celebration (November 1-2): During the final days of the Frida Kahlo Oasis exhibition, the Botanical Garden will honor the life and death of the artist through the annual and traditional Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration. Visit Frida Kahlo Oasis and Kahlo’s ofrenda with special extended hours. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.
- Foodie Cinema: Coco (November 1): Come celebrate Día de los Muertos with foodie cinema featuring Coco, a vibrant tale of family, fun and adventure paired with traditional delicious treats. While guests enjoy the film, Chef Katrina Flores, San Antonio Botanical Garden, and Chef Joseph T. Martinez, Tributary, will serve pork tamales, candied pumpkin, mole negro and pan dulce with champurrado, as well as blood orange marigold margaritas.
- San Antonio Museum of Art (November 7): The Museum will present a “Touch-Free Family Day” where Museum goers can celebrate Día de Muertos. Participants can pick up an art kit with everything needed to decorate a traditional sugar skull and craft tissue paper cempasuchil. Then explore the Latin American galleries with a self-paced scavenger hunt and take a self-guided family tour of the galleries in Spanish or English, with a link to a virtual storytime. Art kits are first come, first served.
This is an ideal time to experience one of San Antonio’s most vibrant traditions. To learn more, explore visitsanantonio.com/dia-de-los-muertos. Additional events, information, and media images available at media.visitsanantonio.com