For the past few years, I’ve made it an autumn tradition to visit the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Marigolds, sweet breads, sugar skulls…The beauty of this day honoring those who are no longer with us is decidedly macabre yet joyous. In a culturally diverse city like Los Angeles with a large Latino population, this is a beautiful way to learn about another culture with a festive gathering appropriate for all ages.
Families craft elaborate altars to celebrate the lives of their relatives (and even pets and pop culture icons) and the public is invited to walk down rows of the historic (and possibly haunted) Hollywood Forever and admire their displays. Amidst the gravestones surrounding a peaceful man-made lake (look for the swans!), you’ll also have the chance to purchase authentic items from Mexico and beyond, from handpainted skulls to flower crowns, from vendors. If you find yourself thirsty or hungry, there are aguas frescas, tacos, and other food options available (oh and churros!).
This year, the theme was The Tree of Life, so many altars incorporated trees of all kinds in their displays. Upon entering, there was an elaborate tribute to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.
To learn more about the history of Dia de Los Muertos and its origins, People.com has a pretty comprehensive article here.
Tips for attending the LA Day of the Dead celebration at Hollywood Forever:
-Sign up for the LADayoftheDead.com newsletter and like their Facebook page to be notified of when their early bird tickets go on sale (this year it was late August)- these are $10 compared to the $20 fee later on.
-Visit in the afternoon (I suggest around 3-4 p.m.) when it is less crowded and stay until after the sun sets for awesome views and photo opportunities of the altars illuminated in the darkness. At night it will get super packed, so you may want to leave around dinnertime.
-Parking: I have a free secret spot I hesitate on sharing! I’ve been successfully finding parking on Melrose Avenue near Paramount Studios- the side entrance of the cemetery will be open for ticketholders on Van Ness Avenue so it’s a short walk. Most overlook this area as they travel along Santa Monica Blvd, so you’re bound to find more parking spots traveling east on Melrose- as always check the signs.
Photo credits: Adrienne Marie/wordsdreamwanderlust.com