Where to celebrate Day of the Dead 2017 in Austin

John Ruiz waits for the start of the Dia De Los Muertos parade at the Viva La Vida Festival in downtown Austin in 2016.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

When Mayor Steve Adler announces a citywide Día de los Muertos celebration later this month, it’ll signal a momentous step forward for many community leaders who for years have been working toward boosting the visibility of Austin Day of the Dead events.

Austin Día de los Muertos, a two-week extravaganza from Oct. 21-Nov. 4, will highlight existing annual events with new ones under one marketing campaign.

“We’re excited about bringing awareness of Latino culture to a wider audience,” says Lesly Reynaga, executive director of Austin Day of the Dead. Reynaga says Adler will serve as the honorary chair of an Austin Día de los Muertos committee that’ll explore ways to continue building momentum for the festivities.

Some of Austin’s beloved Day of the Dead events, honoring the dearly departed, include the Mexic-Arte Museum’s Viva la Vida Festival and Parade, which is the city’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead festival. Its grand procession begins at noon on Oct. 28 and ends at the festival on East Fourth Street. Festival-goers can expect hands-on art activities, artist demos, traditional Mexican food, local artist and retail booths, live music, and a low-rider exhibit. In honor of the 110th anniversary of Frida Kahlo, this year’s festival will be dedicated to the Mexican artist.

RELATED: Check out more cultural art happenings

Ellen Duvall dressed as Janis Joplin at the Dia De Los Muertos parade at the Viva La Vida Festival in 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Fans of the holiday should also check out the annual Día de los Muertos festival at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on Oct. 21, which will feature live music and entertainment as well as family art activities. Leading up to the festival, the cultural center will host sugar skull workshops on Oct. 7, 14, and 21.

New to Austin this year will be the Mariachi USA festival on Nov. 4 at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas featuring elite mariachi groups such as the Grammy-nominated Mariachi Los Arrieros and the all-female group Mariachi Las Alteñas. The show will feature Día de los Muertos music and fans will be treated to a stage that’ll be transformed into a giant Day of the Dead altar. Doors open at 3 p.m.

The Easterseals Central Texas will hold its fifth annual Día De Los Muertos Festival at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater on Nov. 4. This year’s lineup includes local funk masters Grupo Fantasma as well as party instigators Bombasta, all-sister band Tiarra Girls, James Keith and the Moondogs and DJ King Louie of Peligrosa. The festival will help the nonprofit launch its inaugural Disability Awareness Day.

Tickets, which cost $30, can be purchased at austindiadelosmuertos.com. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Easterseals Central Texas, which focuses on supporting children and adults with disabilities as well as their families and caregivers.

Find out about the various citywide celebrations from concerts to fireworks displays at austindayofthedead.com.

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Where to celebrate Day of the Dead in Austin

Festive items are sold at the 32nd annual Viva La Vida Festival celebrating Dia de los Muertos, The Day Of The Dead, on Saturday, October 31, 2015. Erika Rich/Special to American-Statesman
Festive items were sold at the 32nd annual Viva La Vida Festival celebrating Day of the Dead in 2015. 
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Day of the Dead isn’t a spooky holiday. It celebrates the life of loved ones who we still miss with offerings, altars, food and music. In Austin, the Day of the Dead spirit strengthens each year with bigger festivals and celebrations honoring the dearly departed.

Although the holiday is celebrated from Nov. 1-2, the festivities in Austin start early. Here’s a look at some of the city’s biggest Day of the Dead celebrations.

The Día de los Muertos Festival, presented by the Easter Seals of Central Texas, is quickly becoming a festival to watch. Since its launch in 2013, it’s been consistently boosting its musical offerings, bringing high-caliber Latin acts including the late Tejano legend Emilio Navaira as well as Venezuelan rockers and Latin Grammy winners La Vida Bohème. On Oct. 15, trailblazing Latin music mashers Ozomatli headlines the festival at Fiesta Gardens.

The family-friendly fest includes a crafts and activities area for children, and fest-goers can bring lawn chairs and blankets. General admission tickets cost $30; VIP costs $150. Children younger than 6 party for free. Proceeds benefit the Easter Seals of Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for people with disabilities. Check out more details at austindiadelosmuertos.com.

Isabella Vail, 5, looks at the art at the 31st annual Viva la Vida Festival in downtown Austin on Saturday October 18, 2014. The Viva la Vida Festival is Austin's largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration.  The event had a parade, Latino entertainment and food, art activities and community altars.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
 The Viva la Vida Festival is Austin’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead event, the Viva la Vida festival, expands this year with more event venues including the Frost Bank Tower Plaza for art activities and Brazos Hall for a member’s cocktail lounge, food trucks, lowriders, performances, face painting and more.

After more than 30 years, Viva la Vida knows how to throw a party. The sprawling downtown celebration on Oct. 29 from noon-8 p.m. includes a lively procession with a keep it weird attitude. Don’t be surprised to see everything from portable altars to samba dancers en route.

Mojigangas, props made of paper mache, are  marched through the 32nd annual Viva La Vida Festival & Parade celebrating Dia de los Muertos, The Day Of The Dead, Saturday, October 31, 2015.
Mojigangas, props made of paper mache, are part of the Viva La Vida festival parade. 

The procession begins at noon at Fifth Street between Interstate 35 and Waller Street and ends at the festival location at Fourth Street and Congress Avenue, where live music, vendors and costume contests will await. Visit mexic-artemuseumevents.org for more details.

Continue celebrating on Oct. 29 from 1-6 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center with food, live music, children’s activities, artisans and dancing. The free event also includes a classic car and bike show. For updates, visit austintexas.gov/esbmacc.