Halloween is cool, but Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) consists of much more than dressing up and eating candy. This traditional Mexican holiday, which commences each year October 31 and extends through November 2, is rooted in the belief that the souls of the departed are able to visit us during a period when the veil between worlds is thinnest. Some families observe the tradition by sharing a meal at their loved ones' graves. Many create an ofrenda (offering table) in their home, where they display family photos along with food and colorful flowers.
For those with a serious appetite for celebration, here's a rundown of the Miami area's best Día de los Muertos parties.
Día de los Muertos Festival in Little Havana
The holiday originated in Mexico, but you can't blame Miami’s Cuban community for getting in on the act. Head to Little Havana’s famed José Martí Park for the Día de los Muertos Festival, hosted by Urban Impact Lab. The event promises plenty of storytelling, along with food and music. There's no charge for admission, and all of the proceedings are family-friendly. 6 p.m. Friday, November 1, at José Martí Park, SW Fifth St., Miami; transform5th.com. Admission is free.
Día de los Muertos at the Broken Shaker
Don’t feel like setting up an ofrenda? No problem. Show up at the Broken Shaker with a photo or memento to add to the bar’s traditional Day of the Dead altar. In addition to a mariachi performance and tacos courtesy of chef Jimmy Lebron, Miami artist Nicole Salgar will paint faces. Never settle for an ordinary face-painting experience when a celebrated muralist can turn your mug into a work of art. 8 p.m. Friday, November 1, at Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami, 2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach; 305-531-2727; freehandhotels.com. Admission is free.
Skull & Bones at New World Center
Conductor Steve Hackman has been called “classical music’s own Dr. Frankenstein,” owing to his penchant for combining contrasting sounds — such as the music of Tchaikovsky with Drake, or Beethoven with Coldplay. For this Late Night at the New World Symphony event, aptly titled Skull & Bones, Hackman has prepared a program inspired by all things Halloween and Day of the Dead. The concert features DJ sets, video displays, and specially crafted drinks. Costumes are encouraged. When is the next time you’ll be able to attend the symphony dressed as a slutty nurse and have it deemed acceptable? 9 p.m. Friday, November 1, at New World Center, 500 17th St., Miami Beach; 305-680-5866; nws.edu. Tickets cost $45.
Day of the Dead Brouhaha at Las Rosas
Although this day is reserved for celebrating the life of past loved ones, it’s fitting to jam out to music from the past too. Headlining Las Rosas’ Day of the Dead Brouhaha will be the Ordinary Boys, South Florida’s only tribute band to the Smiths and Morrissey. The party will start later in the evening, but head to the bar early to frame your perfect selfie in front of the iconic neon flower. 10 p.m. Friday, November 1, at Las Rosas, 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; 786-780-2700; lasrosasbar.com. Admission is free.
Florida Day of the Dead Celebration in Huizenga Plaza
Fort Lauderdale takes Day of the Dead seriously — so seriously, in fact, the populace celebrates all day. Begin your Saturday in Huizenga Plaza for the tenth-annual Skeleton Processional at 2 p.m. From there, venture around Las Olas and hop among the eight stages. There will be dancing, there will be food, and, by God, there will be sugar skulls. 2 p.m. Saturday, November 2, in Huizenga Plaza, 32 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; dayofthedeadflorida.com. Admission is free.
Día de los Muertos at Yumbrella Food Hall
One key aspect of Día de los Muertos is the food. At the South Miami food hall Yumbrella, the eats and drinks will be plentiful and accompanied by a mariachi band (and some face painting). Also expect a special performance by the Ameyal Mexican Cultural Organization, a group dedicated to keeping Mexico’s culture and traditions alive. 3 p.m. Saturday, November 2, at Yumbrella Food Hall, 5701 Sunset Dr., Miami; 305-397-8499. Admission is free with RSVP via eventbrite.com.
Raise the Dead Music Festival at the City of Miami Cemetery
In case it needs to be clarified, Day of the Dead is not intended to actually raise the dead. But this party, held just outside the Miami City Cemetery, might raise your consciousness regarding sustainability. Visit the House of Death haunted house. Admire the stilt walkers and fire jugglers, and enjoy a musical lineup that includes Audiofly, Sabo, Gab Rhome, and Lovestruckk (Nico Stojan & Holmar). Other immersive experiences include artists creating paintings before your very eyes, yoga, and impromptu performances by roaming actors. 3 p.m. Saturday, November 2, at 1700 NE Second Ave., Miami; raisethedeadmiami.com. Tickets start at $29.
Coco in Concert at the Arsh and Día de los Muertos en la Plaza
The 2017 Disney film is perhaps one of the best representations of the Mexican holiday. Coco in Concert offers two screenings of the animated film, wherein the fab visuals are paired with a live orchestra that performs the soundtrack. Between screenings, the Arsht's plaza will offer activities where kids can learn to make a traditional Dia de los Muertos ofrenda and have their faces painted to look like a sugar skull. There's also a Coco-inspired costume contest, wherein your spawn might just win a family four-pack of tickets to an upcoming show at the Arsht Center. Screenings of Coco are scheduled for 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, November 2; Dia de los Muertos en la Plaza commences at 4 p.m. at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Admission to the plaza is free; tickets to the screenings cost $35 to $99.
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Día de los Muertos at the Sylvester
Midtown's newest bar will get into the ghoulish spirit. The Sylvester is set to host three back-to-back productions, beginning on Halloween and culminating on Day of the Dead. During the Día de los Muertos festivities Saturday night, expect a unique food and drink menu, face-painting, and DJ Organicks on the decks. 4 p.m. Saturday, November 2, at Sylvester Bar, 3456 N. Miami Ave, Miami; 305-814-4548; thesylvesterbar.com. Admission is free.