Day of the Dead in Philadelphia means drink specials, traditional dinners, family-friendly events and even some free treats from bars, restaurants and museums across the region. (Photos clockwise from top left courtesy Distrito, La Calaca Feliz, El Rey, Distrito)
Celebrate Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, this week and weekend at any one of a number of museums, bars and restaurants hosting themed events to spread the spirit.
Indulge in traditional meals (did we see brain on the menu?), create masterpieces at craft workshops, enjoy drink specials at numerous bars and learn about the significance of the historic holiday. The fiesta welcomes a number of seasoned professionals to the City of Brotherly Love for hands-on workshops and lectures regarding the subject — even receive tips from an acclaimed Mexican artist about how to create conventional Day of the Dead crafts.
Officially, Day of the Dead begins on Thursday, October 31 with All Hallows’ Eve and runs through Sunday, November 2 when it ends with All Souls’ Day, but lucky for us, tons of Philadelphia’s establishments are expanding the party with events all throughout the week.
The holiday honors friends and family members who have passed away with the creation of private, festive altars, the use of sugar skulls and the deceased’s favorite food and drinks. The Day of the Dead holiday largely takes place in Mexico, but also spans to other countries.
Our top picks for Day of the Dead celebrations, below.
• Day of the Dead Celebration at the Penn Museum: Saturday, November 2, 1-4 p.m. From 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 2, the Penn Museum takes off its hat to the Mexican fiesta with bunches of family-friendly programming like storytelling, crafts, dance performances, demonstrations and more. Try your hand at mask-making and sugar skull-making and listen. The festivities also encompass a Mexican Day of the Dead altar dedication to Jose Guadalupe Posada, the creator of La Calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, an image that is now synonymous with the Day of the Dead holiday. Day of the Dead events are included in the price of general admission.
• The Mütter Museum’s Annual Day of the Dead Festival: Saturday, November 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The utterly unique Mütter Museum presents a full day of Day of the Dead debauchery. Explore the museum, sample traditional food and drinks and decorate sugar skulls. Also, at 2 p.m. hear Linda J. Lee, the co-curator of the Grimms’ Anatomy exhibit at the Mütter Museum and local professor, speak on the topic of Raising the Dead in Fairy Tales. Day of the Dead events are included in the price of general admission.
• Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens: November 2-3, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Join renowned Mexican artist Joel Garcia in a two-day workshop at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Create a Day of the Dead paper maché figurine with tips from the seasoned artist. Tickets are $100 for members and $120 for non-members. Call 215-733-0390 to reserve your spot.
• Dia de los Muertos at the Fleisher Art Memorial: Through Saturday, November 2. Day of the Dead at the Fleisher Art Memorial means demonstrations, crafts, food, drinks, performances and more all week long. Through, Saturday, November 2, visit the visual art school for tons of free events. Click here for the week’s full listing. The events end with a bang on November 2 at 9th and Ellsworth streets. Visit the area for crafts, performances and an altar dedication.
• El Rey: Through Sunday, November 3. El Rey celebrates Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, with some seriously spooky menu additions. Brain, tongue, heart, oh my! That’s right, indulge in creepy meals like tongue tacos, brain ravioli with chipotle salsa, grasshopper soup and heart skewers with black garlic aioli. Additional items also fill the holiday menu. All items served call upon the traditions of Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico for inspiration. The complete menu is available here. Also be sure to check out El Rey’s super cool Day of the Dead altar.
• Distrito: Friday, November 1-Sunday, November 3. Iron Chef Jose Garces invites diners and revelers out for a full weekend of Day of the Dead festivities at his resident modern Mexican joint, Distrito. On Friday night, the eatery’s recurring DJ series gets a Day of the Dead spin complete with drink specials, prizes and live music from 9 p.m. to close. On Saturday, November 2, from 5 p.m. to close indulge in classic Day of the Dead plates and carefully crafted cocktails, and on Sunday, November 3, the celebrations end with a bang with a “you made it out alive brunch” from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. — sample $5 Bloody Mary’s and sangria and $10 kegs and eggs.
More celebrations, below.
• Cantina Feliz: Through Sunday, November 3. Cantina Feliz, the Fort Washington haunt serves up a four-course Day of the Dead dinner through Sunday, November 3. For $28 indulge in four decadent courses of red chili duck tamales, short rib sopes, grilled lamb chops and pumpkin ice cream. An optional local beer pairing is available for an additional $12 per person.
• La Calaca Feliz: Thursday, October 31. This one’s a little bit of Day of the Dead and a little bit of Halloween. La Calaca Feliz presents a Fright Night Fiesta on All Hallows’ Eve complete with traditional bites, margaritas, red and white sangria, beer and even a Day of the Dead face painter. The festivities start at 10 p.m. and at midnight, the party moves to Lemon Hill for some outdoor fun. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
• Verdad Restaurant & Tequila Bar: Friday, November 1-Saturday, November 2. Free alert! In the spirit of Day of the Dead, Bryn Mawr’s Verdad Restaurant & Tequila Bar dishes out one free margarita per thirsty patron on Friday, November 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. and one free order of tacos per table on Saturday, November 2 from 5 to 11 p.m.
• Union Taco: Thursday, October 31. Take up the opportunity to visit the brand-new Union Taco on Girard Avenue as it offers Day of the Dead diners one free 6-inch taco each from noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday, October 31. Lunch plans, check.
• Underground Arts: Friday, November 1, 10 p.m. Callowhill’s Underground Arts presents an evening of music, art and culture in celebration of the historic day. Spend your first Friday grooving to Mexican tunes, checking out artwork and learning about Philadelphia’s Mexican community. Attendees are encouraged to add a picture of a deceased love one to an on-site altar at Underground Arts. Admission is $7 per person.