Unlike Halloween, Día de los Muertos–Mexico's famous holiday honoring the dead–is celebrated over three days and includes colorful altars and offerings of sweet bread. This year it runs from Thursday, October 31 until Saturday, November 2. To sample the holiday's fun traditions, head on over to East Harlem, home to one of the city's most vibrant Mexican communities, and stop by for some special food and art.
1. Enjoy pan de muerto from East Harlem's Mexican bakeries
• Don Paco Lopez Panaderia, 2129 Third Ave between E 116th and E 117th Sts
• Ely Mar Grocery, 129 E 110th St between Park and Lexington Aves
Pan de muerto–literally, bread of the dead–is a sweet loaf that's eaten only during Día de los Muertos. Decorated to resemble bones, the orange-infused treat is nevertheless more cute than scary. While tradition calls for leaving the bread on an altar dedicated to the dearly departed, it's also meant to be enjoyed–with a cafecito, of course. Stop by Don Paco Lopez or Ely Mar Grocery–two of East Harlem's best Mexican bakeries–to get your very own.
La Chula Taqueria, 137 E 116th St and Lexington Ave
This weekend is the perfect time to branch out from La Chula's classic Mexican tacos and sample its special Día de los Muertos menu. Choose from two tacos–the calabaza (pumpkin) and birria (braised meat)–plus a tamal made with candied pumpkin and served with cajeta (goat's milk caramel sauce) ice cream from Harlem's own Sugar Hill Creamery. Through November 3.
El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Ave between E 104th and E 105th Sts
Go directly to the museum's cafe–yes, there are margaritas–to admire "Flor de la Vida," this year's paper flower-covered Día de los Muertos altar by artist Cievel Xicohtencatl in collaboration with LSA Family Health Service. Before you leave, don't forget to pose with La Catrina in the lobby–this fancy lady's skeleton is a reminder that even the wealthy can't escape death.