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Jumping ahead to bring you some close-to-real-time coverage of my favorite holidays, since apparently some people don’t like reading about Christmas in July.

When I was messing around with my fall calendar, trying to figure out when to be where, one date stuck out to me as important: October 31st. As one of my favorite annual explosions of creativity, I wanted to spend Halloween somewhere special. I settled on Los Angeles.

Once the tickets were booked, I started researching for the best ways to celebrate. The famous West Hollywood Halloween party would fall on the actual holiday of Monday, October 31st, which left the weekend wide-open for alternative ideas. As I’m sure you can imagine, in a city like Los Angeles, I had plenty of options!

When I stumbled across the celebration at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, just a ten minute drive from my dad’s place in Koreatown, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Dia de Los Muertos Los Angeles

And yet I actually almost did miss it. My first few days back in Los Angeles were spent more or less in hibernation and to-do list mode: sleeping off my Hawaii jetlag, procuring my Thai visa, crafting costumes, and catching up on work. So by the time Friday night rolled around, I was pretty ready to let loose and enjoy the weekend I’d rechristened “El Fin De Semana de Los Muertos.”

And let loose I did at the cocktail tasting at , where my badass friend Amy is one of the bartenders. The two hour tasting menu changes every two months or so, and the current theme is “childhood science experiments,” hence our stylish lab goggles. I went with my friend , a fellow blogger who I met in Bangkok last year at TBEX and immediately clicked with. She went from one City of Angels to another, and I couldn’t be happier to have another friend in my West Coast HQ. We were seated with two other cute girls who we loved chatting with and getting to know. It was perfect.

I went into The Walker Inn literally knowing nothing other than the fact that my friend Amy works there and was surprised and was so delighted by the whole experience — and I don’t want to ruin the surprises so you can feel the same way. If you are heading anywhere in Los Angeles anytime soon, just trust me. Make this a top priority. Reservations are tough to get so snap one up early — it’s one of the coolest things I’ve done in the city!

The Walker Inn Los Angeles

However, I paid for it dearly. I woke up on Saturday with one of the worst hangovers I’ve had all year, which I attribute to the wine I consumed when Amanda and I stuck around until well after closing. I had planned to hit up Hollywood Forever around mid-afternoon, but when finally peeled myself out of bed I was thinking more like maybe 2017 would be a more realistic goal.

I tried to find strength in donuts.

California Donuts Los Angeles

California Donuts Los Angeles

I’ve been wanting to check out for a few different trips now, and Halloween weekend was the perfect excuse to finally indulge in their fancifully decorated creations. This retro bakery is walking distance from my dad’s place — though like true Angelenos we drove — and we were not disappointed by the festive results.

California Donuts Los Angeles

California Donuts Los Angeles

California Donuts Los Angeles

Around 3pm — you know, the time I’d planned to actually arrive at Hollywood Forever Cemetary — Amanda and I exchanged guilty texts and decided to rally.

She headed over and we quickly abandoned all hope of digging deep into our artistic souls and creating beautiful face paint masterpieces and instead pretty much copied my previous Dia Del Los Muertos look with a half-hearted change in color scheme. Our barely-clinging-to-life moods at least matched the theme of the night!

Dia De Los Muertos Los Angeles

The sun set right as we were finishing the last touches of our face paint, dashing my hopes of arriving in time to get daylight photographs. But alas, my disappointment was quickly replaced with excitement as we approached the cemetery and were suddenly surrounded by face-painted revelers as we inched towards the entrance in traffic.

As we made our way through the gates, I felt I’d left Los Angeles entirely.

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead in English, is not Halloween — it just happens to be around the same time, and also involve dressing up. The holiday originated in Mexico, though it is now celebrated throughout Latin America — and beyond. Los Angeles, with its large Latin American population, was the perfect place to get a primer. As I’d learn throughout the night and the through the reading I was inspired to do later, Dia de los Muertos is a that celebrates the lives of those who have passed — but who return to the community for one special night per year for a post-mortem party with their loved ones. Personally, coming from a culture that fears and dreads death, I found the concept of embracing and accepting it as part of the natural cycle of life to be refreshing and beautiful.

We spent our first few hours at Hollywood Forever wandering the gorgeously manicured grounds, soaking in the ninety or so detailed altars. While some were created in honor of the creator’s friends or family members, others were tributes to groups that have made tragic headlines — victims of police brutality, animals that have died in cosmetics testing labs, the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting, undocumented workers who have died without access to health care, and the victims of the San Bernadino shootings were just a few that moved me to tears.

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

As we were staring reverently at one altar in particular, I felt a tap on my shoulder and someone asking me if I spoke Spanish. “Un poquito,” I replied apologetically, thinking I was about to be asked for directions.

“Bien,” was the reply, as the lights of a news camera suddenly blinded me and a beautiful woman shoved a microphone in my face and asked me about my night and my understanding of Dia de los Muertos. I did my best, and then later laughed imagining myself as the punchline on a Late Show-esque compilation of silly gringos struggling with Spanish.

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

I remarked to Amanda many times that I couldn’t stop thinking of Burning Man. The alters reminded me of the heart-wrenching and beautiful notes left behind in The Temple, while the elaborate costumes left me reminiscing about the wild acts of self-expression on The Playa.

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Eventually we found a spot in the grass to relax and take in some of the performances and music taking place on the half a dozen stages dotted throughout the event. We gorged ourselves on taquitos, churros, agua fresca, horchata, and as many other deliciousΒ  Mexican treats as we could get our hands on. Meanwhile, festival vendors and talented face painters tended to the masses.

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia de los Muertos was, truly, a celebration of so many things I cherish in life. And — due to our delicate states — there was so much more we didn’t even experience! The doors are open from noon to midnight with a procession starting at 2pm and music on the stages firing up around 3pm. Next time, I vow to get there around 1:30 to take it all in. While the atmosphere at night was magical I think we missed out by not getting to admire the altars in the daytime, as well. And we simply didn’t have the energy to wait in line to see the Cathedral Art Exhibit inside the Cathedral Mausoleum, a wait I’m sure would have been much shorter had we arrived earlier. Moral of the story? You’re going to pay $20 to get in, you might as well make the most of your money and arrive as early as you can.

Other tips? Buy your tickets online ahead of time to skip at least one line. Come hungry and bring small bills for snacks — some booths accept credit cards but lines are long and you’ll speed things up by paying with exact change in cash. Take an Uber or Lyft rather than attempting to park. Definitely get in the spirit by dressing up — almost no one was not in costume, although levels of wow-dom obviously varied. Get your face painted onsite if need be. Prices ranged from $25-40. And once you’re looking fresh, get in line for the free photobooth!

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

While I was disappointed by our late start at my half-hearted costuming, I’m so glad we went. The night really summed up everything that has slowly won me over to Los Angeles — diversity in culture, an atmosphere of creativity, and a flair for the unique. I learned so much about this special holiday and fell in love with this event which I hope to attend over and over again.

And it was just the beginning of the weekend’s festivities. Need more? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Dia de los Doggies.

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Dia De Los Muertos Hollywood Forever Los Angeles

Happy Dia de los Muertos, amigos!

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38 Comments...
  • janice stringer
    November 12 2016

    Excellent post Meihoukai…
    This is one celebration I would like to experience.
    I saw you (and heard you) in the youtube video for TUI today also. It was cool to hear you talking!!
    πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      November 12 2016

      Ha, isn’t it funny how your own voice recorded never sounds right? Still sounds so off to me!

  • Gemma
    November 12 2016

    Happy hallowe’en and Dia de los Muertos. This looks like fuuuun. I lap up anything and everything costume related. Well done and avoiding temptation of just sitting by the pool!
    Gemma recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 12 2016

      One thing I was shocked to learn is that even LA gets a little cold for pool weather! I always thought it was hot and beachy year-round, and was shocked to see people bundled up in scarves and hats when I was there πŸ˜›

      • Gemma
        November 12 2016

        I thought the same about Orlando! Nope, pretty chilly in January. At least I didn’t have to sweat buckets on the rides!
        Gemma recently posted..

  • Chris
    November 13 2016

    Okay, so as the seasoned traveller that you are, the thing that stuck in my mind most about this post.

    You got jet-lag from a flight from Hawaii!

    What!? How is that even possible!

    Aren’t we talking a 5-6 hour flight? LOL

    P.S. Feliz Dia de los Muertos! πŸ˜‰
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2016

      It’s a three hour time difference. My body sticks pretty stubbornly to a very routine sleep schedule — I don’t use alarms to wake up or sleep aids to go to sleep — and so I spent my first few nights in LA wired until 3am and then sleeping in all morning and being cranky all day because I slept in. It takes me a few days to adjust. So, that’s how it’s possible.

  • Amy
    November 13 2016

    Love the costumes, pictures and face paint, but the dog costume tops it all! Looks like an awesome festival. I always meant to go to one of these celebrations when I lived in London but never got around to it. One day!
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2016

      I would never have guessed they had them in London — very cool! I never heard of any when I was living in New York but I’m sure there must be…

  • Justine
    November 13 2016

    I was going to comment on how unbelievably cool this event looks, but then I got totally distracted by the images of Tucker in a costume! What can I say, I will never get enough of seeing animals dressed up. I cannot wait to read your next post πŸ™‚
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2016

      Ha ha, I had a feeling that might happen πŸ™‚ But how could I let a California post pass me by without a little bit of Tucker in it?

  • Dominique
    November 13 2016

    Wow, just wow! I like how everyone went through the effort to dress up! It looks like a fun event to attend, I would love to visit these festivities in Latin America. One day… one day… πŸ™‚
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2016

      Yes, I’d love to celebrate in Mexico someday! Or anywhere in Latin America, really!

  • Cate
    November 13 2016

    This looks like an amazing event! (And great face paint!) I myself am not a huge fan of Halloween because I’m a big scaredy cat, but I’ve always been interested and appreciative of dia de los Muertes, and would totally hit up this event. Hope your having a great holiday season!
    Cate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2016

      I’m a scaredy cat too! No blood on any of my costumes, thank you very much!

  • Ray
    November 13 2016

    I was impressed by the photos you did capture, but it now makes me wonder what you missed during the daylight hours. Do you think after this experience that you might want to celebrate it in Oaxaca, Mexico?
    Ray recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2016

      Absolutely! I think it would be an amazing experience. One question I’m curious about… do they also celebrate Halloween?

    • Ray
      November 14 2016

      LOL! Now that’s a question that’s been “haunting” mankind for years. πŸ˜‰
      Ray recently posted..

  • Julia Nix
    November 13 2016

    I LOVE TUCKER, nuff said.

  • Thuc
    November 13 2016

    I LOVE your makeup! There are some Day of the Dead parties in Sydney but I’ve never made it to one. Maybe I need to make it a must-do for 2017 ?

    Oops my previous comment went in under my business name!!
    Thuc recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2016

      Thanks Thuc! Absolutely add it to your must-do list πŸ™‚

  • Leah
    November 13 2016

    I did absolutely nothing for Halloween this year, but if I’d had a choice between regular old festivities and Dia de los Muertos, I’d have gone Mexicano tambiΓ©n. The face paint looks great, I love the blue!
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 14 2016

      Thanks girl! I’m such a perfectionist I was disappointed with it but if you take into account how close to death we felt, it was a pretty good effort ha ha!

  • Eva Casey
    November 14 2016

    OMG DONUTS. Also, I always love reading about your Halloween adventures, even though it gives me major FOMO (what is it called after you’ve already missed out, though?) Halloween has always been the holiday that I hype up the most, and then get let down. Any plans I try to make just never happen! I guess my friends just aren’t as into dressing up and eating candy as I am πŸ˜›
    Eva Casey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 14 2016

      Ha, FOMO in retrospect?! Yeah, my New York friends have definitely lost the Halloween bug over the years, which was also part of what made me want to be in Los Angeles!

  • Chadwick
    November 14 2016

    Looks amazing! But will you still be able to celebrate Mexican traditions when the Wall is built?

    • Meihoukai
      November 14 2016

      There won’t be a wall πŸ™‚

      • Chadwick
        November 15 2016

        I know that, you know that, everybody knows that. And yet, I’m not convinced that just because something is stupid, impractical and will cause more harm than good, we won’t do it anyway. This is 2016. All bets are off.

        But enough comment on politics and humanity. This is a travel blog and I see there’s weird stuff about dogs in fancy dress to read. If we’re going to have crazy, that’s my kind of crazy!

        • Meihoukai
          November 18 2016

          Ha, well hey, politics and humanity comments are always welcome here πŸ™‚ I know it’s kind of hard to talk about anything else right now.

  • Julia Kitlinski-Hong
    November 15 2016

    Such a unique event! I would love to experience Dia De Los Muertos in such an iconic cemetery. Definitely going on my bucket list. LA has definitely grown on me and has so much culture and good food (hello donuts!).
    Julia Kitlinski-Hong recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 18 2016

      It’s grown on me too. At first I just couldn’t see past the traffic and the sprawl, but it has really won me over with sunshine, funky food and bars, and quirky events like this!

  • becky hutner
    November 15 2016

    I had so so many opportunities to go to this and never did. Why!! I love the sentiment AND the aesthetics. And the location…I’ve done everything at Hollywood Forever from a magical XX concert, a Russell Brand show and numerous screenings in the summer months where everyone brings blankets and picnics and there’s a DJ on before. (the latter has gotten crazy busy though so my tips for this are arrive stupid early and with plenty of booze so you don’t get bored in line!)

    • Meihoukai
      November 18 2016

      Yes I am definitely hooked on the venue now! Can’t wait to return there for another event someday, most likely one of the movie screenings. I’ll be sure to pack plenty of provisions!

  • Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate
    November 17 2016

    Your makeup is ON POINT. P.S. I love how you wouldn’t get a bite mark or wound at Universal yet you’ll fully dress yourself up to look like a dead person πŸ˜‰
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 18 2016

      Ha… you will notice I couldn’t even do the hatches across my lips though! Basically the least dead dead person ever, lol πŸ˜€

  • Looks like fun! My grandmother was born in Mexico, but sadly didn’t bring this tradition with her. I only learned the full details from a guide in Mexico City this year and then just happened to find out about Chicago’s festival the night before. It was really cool, especially the Day of the Dead bread…yum!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 25 2016

      How cool that Chicago has a version! I’d love to check it out someday with my family there!