Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos at Disneyland and Walt Disney World!
We all look forward to October 31st every year. It’s the one day that kids (and adults too!) can abandon their identities and take on a whole new persona via crazy costumes, wild wigs, and menacing makeup on Halloween. While us folks stateside get our sweet spooks on October 31, our friends below our southern border break out the skull decorations a day later. On November 1 and 2, Mexico celebrates Dia de Los Muertos, and you can learn all about the holiday- on the actual holiday- at Disney Park on both coasts!
Strangely, I have celebrated this holiday since I learned about it in my sophomore year of high school’s Spanish class. When I learned that the Mexicans take food, candles, and all kinds of gifts to the cemetery to celebrate their deceased loved ones, I thought that the best way to remember a beloved family member or friend, so much so that I brought my entire extended family to our local cemetery to eat pizza at the gravesites of those who have passed on.
I like to believe that Mexicans would definitely have eaten pizza and Krispy Kreme donuts had they been invited when the holiday was first celebrated, but for a real taste of the traditional holiday, here is what you can find in the Parks:
Contrary to my usual approach, let’s start on the west coast, at the place that Walt himself built! Disneyland Resort is getting in on the Dia de Los Muertos action by leveraging Disney/Pixar’s most tear-jerking flick of the decade: Coco! If you’re visiting the Resort before November 4, here are all of the offerings you can experience!
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you’re familiar with the set-up and themeing of Zócalo Park; the Big Thunder-adjacent area that is always jam packed with guests. During the Dia De Los Muertos celebration, Zócalo Park will host a colorful and elaborate art display that pays homage to both the holiday and the deceased it looks to honor. According to the Disney Parks Blog“This immersive setting features beautiful marigolds and papel picado throughout the installation, along with a traditional ofrenda, calaveras (sugar skulls), an iconic figure of La Catrina and delicious food at the nearby Rancho del Zócalo.”
Of course, no Disney Parks celebration would be complete without food, and both Parks are getting in on the tasty action! Both Rancho del Zócalo (Disneyland) and Paradise Gardens Grill (California Adventure) will serve up their usual mouth-watering Mexican fare. With items ranging from chicken and rice to sirloin tacos, everyone will find something to satisfy their Dia De Los Muertos appetites!
Disney California Adventure
The usually quiet and relaxing Paradise Gardens will transform into Plaza de Familia, as inspired by Coco, and will be the focal point of this year’s celebrations. This limited-time makeover of Paradise Gardens will offer families the rare chance to remember their loved ones in a way only Disney can provide. As announced on the Disney Parks Blog, an interactive Memory Wall will be the place to share memories and stories before heading out to the nearby Mexican Árbol de la Vida (Mexican tree of life) photo opportunity. Other offerings at this location include mask-making and the interactive ‘The Art of Coco’ art exhibit!
Walt Disney World
Dia de Los Muertos’ sole focus is on celebrating the deceased, and sticking with longstanding traditions. The Mexico Pavilion in Epcot is doing just that, with a little Disney twist thrown in! Similar to the Californian counterpart, Coco is celebrated in a BIG way inside the pyramid. Start your celebration with the “Remember Me” display that gorgeously utilizes characters and themes from Coco in conjunction with traditional pieces from Mexican Dias de Los Muertos past.
Now that your heart is about to burst with emotional glee, it’s time to head deeper into the pyramid where Dia de Los Muertos has taken over! Until November 2, Mexican artists will be on hand in the Pavilion to live-carve and hand-paint Oaxacan wood carvings. Each of the pieces of wood used for the carvings was harvested in the Oaxacan Valley in Southern Mexico, and the artists chosen to display their fantastic craftsmanship are all of Mexican descent.
A look around the Pavilion will meet you with traditional street carts selling goods and small memorabilia pieces. These are here year-round, but if you visit now, you’ll find that the merchandise has been given a total Dia de Los Muertos overhaul! From miniature window boxes depicting celebratory stories of life to gorgeous traditional dolls all the way to the recognizable, brightly colored hand-painted skulls that have defined the holiday in America, you can begin and end your shopping right here!
If all of that shopping has made your tummy rumble, you needn’t walk more than 20 steps from the pyramid to find La Cantina de San Angel. I’m not just saying this because of the holiday, but the Cantina really is my go-to quick service stop in World Showcase.
Sharing a kitchen with La Hacienda de San Angel is probably a good explanation as to why the food is always so darn fresh and authentic! Combine that with large portions, reasonable prices, and one of the best seating area with views World Showcase you’ll find! Definitely make this a stop on your tour! So, we want to know if you’ll be visiting either coast during the holiday, and what you plan to do to celebrate! Leave us a comment and let us know.
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