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An Alternative Spooky Celebration in Mazatlan, Mexico

By October 7, 2013 October 4th, 2017 8 Comments

Kids start Halloween countdowns weeks in advance and start dreaming about how they’ll dole out their candy stash in the summer. But families who love adventure can plan on celebrating Halloween away from home—just as spooky and possibly more fun in a new place.

woman celebrating Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead in Mexico

Day of the Dead in Mexico

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is Mexico’s version of this eerie holiday, however they celebrate for different reasons. In Mexican culture, throughout the country, relatives who have passed on are greatly honored. This is demonstrated by constructing small altars annually with little offerings and trinkets for those who have left this world. Families even hang out in graveyards to ‘visit’ their loved ones and have picnics, or they leave an empty seat at their table at home when they have a meal during the holiday for the deceased ancestor. After a ‘mourning’ period, parades, shows and costumes appear throughout the towns to almost mock death and remember those who have moved on.


On the Western coast, the city of Mazatlan in the Sinaloa region throws one of the best Dia de los Muertos parties. Kids of all ages run through the crowds in anticipation of seeing skeletons, animals and brightly colored decorations. Have little ones look in particular for “La Catrina”, the woman in a long, flowing black dress.

skeleton at Day of the Dead in Mazaltan, Mexico

The main parade takes place in the downtown historic district at night on November 1st. People line the streets, so show up early for a good spot. You’ll hear the drums before you see the parade—Mazatlan locals love their “banda” music. There’s a heavy German influence in this region, so the tunes are a mash of Marachi-type rhythms and German big band songs. It’s very fast, danceable and really gets everyone on their feet in celebration.

Ways for traveling kids to enjoy the celebration

Watch kids carefully when you see a ‘burro’ pass by with a cart though—they have beer kegs on the back and people scramble with their cups to get a free pour. Staying on the sidewalk though is perfectly safe through all this hubbub. Some floats and groups will offer candy and sweets to small kids too. Or, save their teeth for the sugar skulls—which can be nibbled on or brought home as a keepsake. They are basically sugar cubes molded into a skull shape, often dies with bright colors and collected by young people with a sweet tooth. Costumes are encouraged by young and old—so children can bring their favorite from home, or purchase one in a Mazatlan store to look authentic. Many of the costumes are similar, but things like devils, witches, and other classic characters are usually the norm. You might see a Mexican wrestling mask or two as well.

man and woman celebrating Dia de los Murtos in Mazaltan, Mexico

Right by the parade route are plenty of places to grab a bite, but make reservations if possible because the festivities make eateries extra busy. Pedro y Lola is ideal for tapas and classic Mexican cuisine, with plenty of tortillas and small bites for children. Eating outside after the main parade is exciting and provides easy access for more walking afterwards through the stalls of wares and Dia de los Muertos souvenirs. Look for funky wooden bracelets, “La Catrina” booklets covered in glitter, or postcards with dancing skeletons the kids can send home to their friends.

Search for altars in shops, museums and any real local place that’s family run—kids can check out the differences and maybe practice a few Spanish words to comment on the displays. It’s simple to return back to your accommodations as well—the golf cart taxis are plentiful and cheap! Grab one back to your beach bungalow or resort to get a good night’s sleep before another day of sun and sand.


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Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Twitter @Crooked_Flight

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Joanne Lam says:

    Those photos are really incredible and kind of creepy all at the same time. A halloween parade sounds amazing though, I think I’d pick to participate/watch a parade then trick or treating! Can’t remember the last time I went trick or treating.

  • bree stegman says:

    love day of the dead religiously

  • Wendy R. says:

    I’ve always wanted to go! My mom has been and said it was really neat. Love your pics.

  • Amy says:

    This looks like so much fun. Such a beautiful, colorful celebration. I’d really love to go to Mexico for Day of the Dead someday. I have a friend who’s been a couple of times, and his photos turn me green with envy.

  • Future Dream Getaway: Cancun, Mexico - Pure Wander says:

    […] left who hasn’t explored the east coast of Mexico. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be in Mazatlan for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on the west coast. Ever since that trip I’ve dreamed of returning to the […]

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