Día de los Muertos is one of the loveliest holidays, when Mexicans around the world build altars to honor the dead and leave them ofrendas (offerings) of food and candy to sustain them on their post-mortem journey. Not intended to be spooky or scary or ridden with ghosts and vampires, El Día de los Muertos is a day to celebrate the spirits of loved ones. Those traditions are strong in Colorado, and Día de los Muertos festivities are thick along the Front Range, as October segues into November. Keep reading for nine celebrations around town, in chronological order.
Día de los Muertos at the Dairy
Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut Street
Thursday, November 2, 5 to 8 p.m.
In collaboration with El Centro Amistad, a Boulder County nonprofit serving the Latino community, the Dairy puts on a more sophisticated but still family-friendly bash, and pairs it with a beautiful art exhibit that openly celebrates the true meaning of el Día de los Muertos and other Latino spiritual traditions. The evening tips off with Aztec dancers, free food, face painting, altar viewing and live performances in the Dairy lobby, as well as an opportunity for guests to browse the exhibit, Spiritual Dimensions, before adjourning to the Gordon Gamm Theater for a Latin American music concert. Then it’s back to the lobby for a Catrina costume contest, so be sure to wear your best set of bones, ladies.
Day of the Dead Show
Pirate: Contemporary Art
7130 West 16th Avenue, Lakewood
Friday, November 3, 5 to 10 p.m.
For decades, Pirate: Contemporary Art’s annual Day of the Dead Show was the co-op’s most graceful interface with what was once a largely Latino neighborhood. Residents would join in with the artists to built altars to the beloved dead inside the Navajo Street gallery and march side-by-side in a candle-lit processional to the nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe church. Fast-forward to the present, when Pirate has come ashore at a new location in Lakewood, and you’ll be happy to learn that the gallery members are bringing tradition with them. Pirate goes on with the show, with much of the old festivities still intact: There will still be community altars, Aztec dancers, piñata parties for kids and adults, and even a procession — now taking off for a festive jaunt through the 40 West Arts District.
First Friday Día de los Muertos
Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Drive
Friday, November 3, 5 to 9 p.m.
The Museo de las Americas jumps into the Day of the Dead fray by living it up on what’s also First Friday in the Art District on Santa Fe. Catch the Museo’s current exhibit, Las (H)adas, a tribute to the region’s Chicana artists, then mix up your art stroll with such Day of the Dead mainstays as tasty pan de muerto, face-painted calacas do-overs, sugar-skull decorating, spins by DJ @Pazmap, Grupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca and brews from the Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project. Admission is free, but there are $5 fees for skull-decorating and face painting; make your cash back with free Intrepid vouchers: The brewery is doing it up for El Día de los Muertos for First Friday, too — just around the corner from the Museo.
Fifth Annual Catrina Ball and Second Annual Gigantes Procession
Dickens Opera House, 300 Main Street, Longmont
Friday, November 3, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Your best bet for Day of the Dead spectacle on the Front Range is up the road in Longmont, where the Firehouse Art Center throws a fiesta in St. Stephens Plaza, replete with altar tours and a larger-than-life procession of giant papier-mâché puppets, musicians and a parade of celebratory human calacas with noisemakers, all marching to the Dickens Opera House for the Catrina Ball. There, partiers will be served free food and regaled by Aztec and folkloric dancers and a Radio Olé DJ as they dance the night away.
Día de los Muertos Tour at Cheesman Park
Cheesman Park Pavilion, Eighth Avenue and Franklin Street
Friday, November 3, 6 to 8 p.m.
$15 cash, per person
Tours are limited to thirty people; RSVP required: text or call 979-316-5828 for a reservation
Most Denverites know at least a little about Cheesman Park’s past as a cemetery. But for the whole story — with a Día de Los Muertos flair — Magpie Paranormal has crafted a haunted-history tour that blends Cheesman’s boneyard story with an ofrendas ceremony honoring the dead. Día de los Muertos costumes and makeup are encouraged — and bring a photo of a deceased loved one to leave on the altar.
Día de los Muertos, Westwood
Westwood Food Cooperative, 3738 Morrison Road
Saturday, November 4, 5 to 10 p.m.
Drive the stretch of Morrison Road in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood, and you’re bound to find a Día de Los Muertos celebration. True to the traditions of the observance, for which families honor and welcome the souls of their ancestors with more joy than sorrow, Westwood’s annual Día de Los Muertos community art and altar show does it by the book, by welcoming families for an evening of Aztec dancers, face painting, Mexican hot chocolate and pan de muerto.
Día de los Muertos Festival
Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street
Saturday, November 4, noon to 8 p.m.
The Denver Botanic Gardens naturally transitions with the seasons. That’s just the name of the game when it comes to gardening. And the DBG’s seasonal events follow suit, hence the Día de los Muertos Festival. There’s something for everyone at the one-day blast, beginning and ending with La Calavera Catrina, a spectacular outdoor exhibit of large-scale skeleton sculptures by artist Ricardo Soltero. Bring the family and look at the art; then enjoy Day of Dead crafts, a community altar project, lucha libre wrestling matches, calavera costume contests and live performances. Conveniently, entrance to the gardens is free for this event.
Day of the Dead Family Celebration
Longmont Museum and Cultural Center
400 Quail Road, Longmont
Saturday, November 4, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Longmont is a hotbed of Day of the Dead celebrations and lore, beginning with the Longmont Museum’s annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, a fine display that showcases work by celebrated Colorado artists, community altars and cultural traditions that run deep in Longmont. Families are invited to enjoy live music and dancing, sugar skull decorating, traditional food, community altars, paper-flower making, face painting and all the usual observances of the holiday. Come in costume!
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Día de Los Muertos Carnival
Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center
721 Santa Fe Drive
Saturday, November 4, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
$5 to $7 (kids ages two and under free)
As a stalwart of Denver’s Chicano community, Su Teatro has plenty to offer in the way of Día de Los Muertos pastimes. Bring the family for food, altars, live music, carnival games and a live performance by the Teatro VolARTE youth theater group. The reasonable admission price will help send those kids to Scotland to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Looking for more to do? Visit the Westword calendar.