Seven Reasons Your Family Will Love San Antonio’s New Day of the Dead Festival and Parade

San Antonio has an exciting new distinction to boast! In its inaugural year, a new Day of the Dead San Antonio 2019 celebration is putting down roots here, and the buzz that this event is generating is positively supernatural!

The river parade features custom-made barges that will light the river with the spirit of the Day of the Dead.

This family-friendly weekend kicks off with a unique river parade along the San Antonio River Walk, leading into a three-day-long festival that celebrates life while honoring those who have passed before us. The Day of the Dead event is sure to become a tradition in your family and will put San Antonio on the map as the country’s premier place to celebrate Día de los Muertos. You simply do not want to miss it, and here are seven reasons why:

1. One word: Coco.

If you have fans of the Disney’s Coco, in your home, then imagine the delight that your family will experience as they see the movie come to life right before their eyes! With La Villita serving as the picturesque and historic backdrop for this Day of the Dead festival, your family is sure to make memories that will last a lifetime.

One of the barges that will delight everyone during the Catrinas on the River Parade. The butterflies’ wings move and light up at night!

2. The Catrinas on the River Parade

“Catrinas” are those elegantly dressed skeletons who have come to symbolize Día de los Muertos all over the world, and on the evening of Friday, November 1, they’ll be on full display during the first-ever illuminated Catrinas on the River Parade along the San Antonio River. Kids and adults alike will marvel at the custom-crafted trajineras, barges that pay homage to the flat bottom gondolas used in the eclectic borough of Xochimilco, located near Mexico City. Simply put, the San Antonio River Walk has never seen a parade like this, and you don’t want to miss it. There are spots along the River Walk to experience the parade for free or official seats available for sale benefiting the Rey Feo Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarships to local children.

3. Celebrating Life 5K Race

Running or walking a charity 5K is a great way to get out of the house during our glorious fall weather and lead your children by example as you test the limits of your physical fitness while also giving back to our community. The Celebrating Life 5K is unique in that it celebrates life while guiding race participants on a race through Mission Park Funeral Chapels & Cemeteries South on the morning of Saturday, November 2. At only $20 per person, the race is also a bargain and includes a 1K race for kids!

4. The Festival

The three-day Day of the Dead San Antonio 2019 Festival kicks off on Friday, November 1 at La Villita. A feast of sights and sounds, you’ll find live music around every corner, including mariachis and the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio, and have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the custom calaveras (those brightly colored skulls so often seen as symbols of the holiday), decorated by local artists, that will be on display throughout the event.

Pan de muerto from La Panaderia will be featured at the Day of the Dead San Antonio Festival and children will be able to decorate sugar skulls in the children’s area. Photo by Karissa Rangel.

At the special area dedicated to kids (aptly called Catrinas Kids), there will be activities for the children, such as piñata-making, sugar skull crafts, and much more. Everyone is sure to enjoy the puppet show from Cosina 20, a performance group from Mexico who has entertained at celebration days around the world.

Amazing local food vendors will be on hand offering a selection of Mexican cuisine that will tempt the taste buds of all, including La Panadería (who will be baking pan de muerto in an onsite oven—the smell in La Villita will be amazing!), as well as a Spirits Bar to keep the parents happy.

Catrina Frida Kahlo will be on display at the Briscoe Western Art Museum through Nov. 8. Photo credit Jonathan Alonzol

5. The Art

La Villita will be transported into an illuminated, colorful (did we mention magical?) world of Day of the Dead. Many of the more than 15 local artists have decorated calaveras for this event, so be on the lookout for your favorite local artist’s work. Your family will be delighted by the colorful displays and artistic touches around every corner of La Villita.

Another amazing display: don’t miss the Almas Creativas exhibit at the Briscoe Western Art Museum, just across the river from La Villita. A special pop-up exhibit for the Day of the Dead, the exhibition features the intricate craftsmanship and talents of the Huichol people, descendants of the Aztec who live in the mountains of the Mexican states of Jalisco and Nayarit. The pieces in the collection were handcrafted by Huichol artisans, with each piece featuring more than two million beads. The exhibition is on display from October 28–November 8, so don’t miss it.

Catrina Selena will be on display downtown through Nov. 3. Photo credit Iris Gonzalez.

6. Selena

Like everyone else, we’re huge fans of “La Reina,” Selena. A special altar featuring a Catrina homage to Selena will reign over San Antonio’s Day of the Dead celebrations at the corner of S. Alamo and Market Streets. The altar will be featured in downtown San Antonio through November 3 to allow fans to celebrate and remember the icon. Handcrafted by the same Huichol artisans who created the pieces on display at the Briscoe, the Catrina stands more than 10 feet tall and is adorned with more than two million beads. And by the way, another reason to visit the Briscoe’s pop-up: it features a Catrina Frida Kahlo!

7. Tickets Are Free!

While this is a ticketed event, tickets are FREE, so there’s no reason not to load up the family and make the Day of the Dead San Antonio 2019 Festival and Catrinas on the River Parade your new tradition. Simply go to and get your FREE tickets. To make it easy to get downtown and enjoy everything, Lyft is offering a discount code for the festival. On Saturday, November 2, VIA is also offering a Park and Ride service for the Day of the Dead Festival from Crossroads Park & Ride to Market at Alamo. The service is available from Crossroads Park & Ride from noon to 11:00 P.M. for just $5 round-trip, with discounts for students, seniors, and active-duty military.

The Children’s Ballet of San Antonio will perform a special dance at the festival’s kick-off ceremony at the Arneson and will perform in La Villita during the festival itself.

The Catrinas on the River Parade, the festival itself, and the Celebrating Life 5K all benefit charities serving youth in San Antonio, including the Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation, Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of TeletonUSA (CRIT), the Ecumenical Center, and The Battered Women’s and Children’s Shelter. Other nonprofit partners include Eva’s Heroes, the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, the Briscoe Western Art Museum, and the Witte Museum.

The Day of the Dead San Antonio 2019 Festival takes place Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2, 6:00–11:00 P.M., and from noon–6:00 P.M. on Sunday, November 3. Go to for more information and to secure your FREE tickets.

For the latest updates, follow Day of the Dead San Antonio on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Jenny is a 40-something, married mother of two (Anna, 2007 and Jack, 2009), who migrated to the Hill Country after doing a 14 year stint in Houston. When Jenny isn’t walking her slightly neurotic (and completely beloved) rescued Weimaraner, she enjoys writing, making to-do lists, and folding laundry (and sarcasm). Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, and completed graduate coursework in Guidance and Counseling. She is a freelance writer who writes a weekly pet column for a Houston newspaper, and is a contributor at Dog Friendly San Antonio, New Braunfels Monthly and San Antonio Woman, as well as assorted other publications. You can also find her on Instagram (introvertsguidetosobriety). Favorite Restaurant: Bohanan's Favorite Landmark: The Alamo (duh) Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Wurstfest (not technically SAT, but closer to Jenny's stomping grounds).