25 Top Festivals in Mexico: Food, Music and Culture

It’s no secret that Mexico loves a good fiesta. If you’ve ever been there, I’m sure you already know. Any excuse to get together with family and friends, eat delicious food, crank up the music, and light fireworks is welcome here. 

There’s basically a festival in Mexico every week of the year. The country has several official holidays, celebrating its independence, constitution, and heroes. On these days, employees are entitled to paid time off work and schools are closed.

In addition, there are many civic holidays in Mexico. These include holidays celebrating the flag, the army, and important moments in history. One such Mexican festival is Cinco de Mayo, which it turns out is actually not just a day to eat nachos and drink margaritas. More on that later…

festivals in mexico

That’s not all, though. There are plenty of traditional festivals in Mexico, such as Day of the Dead and Guelaguetza. And let’s not forget the countless film, music, art, and food festivals that happen throughout the year. There’s always something going on in Mexico!

Having spent the better portion of the last three years calling the country home, I’ve experienced many Mexican festivals. From Carnival in Mazatlan and the Mariachi Festival in Guadalajara to Day of the Dead in Mexico City, I’ve enjoyed them all. 

The vibrant culture with all its festivals is just one of the many reasons why I love living here. There’s a Mexican festival every month, so no matter when you visit Mexico, you’ll be able to enjoy some sort of celebration. 

Here’s a list of the 25 best festivals in Mexico you won’t want to miss. Vamos!

1. New Year’s Eve

The party goes all night! Whether you’re on the beach in Cancun or in the capital, it’s a really fun night to celebrate in Mexico. Expect a lot of fireworks no matter where you are in the country. Some of the top places to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Mexico include Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Monterrey, and Guadalajara.

New Year’s Day is a national holiday, so many businesses close down. Most tourist attractions stay open, or you could just sit at a bar and nurse that NYE hangover with some tequila!

new year's eve fireworks mexico

2. Three Kings Day

January 6th marks Three Kings Day, the 12th day after Christmas that commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to Jesus. Fun fact — Mexican children receive their presents from the Three Kings on Christmas day and not from Santa Claus!

In the lead-up to this holiday, you’ll find special markets in Mexico selling children’s gifts. People also get together to eat Rosca de Reyes, a sweet bread topped with dried fruits. Hidden inside is a figure of baby Jesus, and whoever finds it must host a party for the upcoming Candlemas Day.

3. Candlemas

Remember what I said about the person who finds the figurine of baby Jesus on Three Kings Day? That lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) person needs to host a party on February 2nd for Candlemas. 

Known as Día de la Candelaría, this religious holiday is a festive time. People dress up figures of the Christ Child and take them to the church to be blessed. Then they head to the aforementioned party to pig out on tamales with friends and family.

4. Carnival

A complete 180 from Candlemas, are the Carnival celebrations. While they may not be as famous as those in Rio or New Orleans, Carnival in Mexico is still a huge party.

The best places to celebrate Carnival in Mexico are Mazatlan and Veracruz. I attended the festivities in Mazatlan a few years ago and had an amazing time going to the parades and watching the concerts on the Malecon. Witnessing Carnival is one of the best things to do in Mexico.

Check out this highlight video to see what it’s like celebrating Carnival in Mazatlan.

5. San Pancho Music Festival

The small beach town of San Pancho (also known as San Francisco) hosts a music festival the last weekend of February. What started out as a grassroots festival in someone’s backyard has grown to be one of the top musical events in the region.

The party goes on for three days with a variety of musical acts as well as food, drink, and arts & crafts vendors. It’s fun for the whole family and is one of the top things to do in San Pancho in February. Click here to learn more.

6. Festival del Centro Historico

Like the city itself, this festival in the capital is absolutely huge. It lasts for a few weeks across 50+ venues featuring concerts, art exhibits, opera, food stalls, and much more.

Most of the action goes on in Mexico City’s historic centre, and proceeds go towards the restoration and preservation of the area’s architecture and art. 

7. Guadalajara International Film Festival

Over in Mexico’s 2nd biggest city, you have the chance to attend an excellent film festival in March. It’s known as one of the most important festivals in the world for Spanish films.

8. Spring Equinox

One of the coolest things you can do in Mexico in March is head to Chichen Itza for the spring equinox. On this day, the light casts a shadow on the main temple that resembles a serpent. 

It’s not just a coincidence, as the temple is dedicated to Kukulkan — a feathered serpent god. It really is an amazing sight to behold and thousands of people come to see it in person. This is one of the most incredible festivals in Mexico, for both locals and tourists. 

festivals in mexico spring equinox

9. Beyond Wonderland Monterrey

Fans of electronic music will want to head to Mexico in April for the massive Beyond Wonderland festival in the city of Monterrey. This takes place at Fundidora Park with four different stages pumping out the tunes.

10. Cinco de Mayo

Contrary to popular gringo belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (we’ll get to that later). It’s also not a day meant for eating nachos and chugging margaritas. 

As a matter of fact, most of Mexico doesn’t celebrate the day at all! The state of Puebla does, however, as Cinco de Mayo commemorates a battle that happened in the city long ago. On this day in 1862, the Mexican army defeated French forces.

If you find yourself in Puebla on May 5th, you can enjoy parades, food, and music — celebrating Cinco de Mayo is definitely one of the best things to do in Puebla.

11. Restaurant Week

One of the best festivals in Mexico for foodies is Restaurant Week. Try to plan your trip to Puerto Vallarta for May and enjoy all of the tasty delights. Restaurant Week is one of the things to do in Puerto Vallarta that you won’t want to miss.

More than 60 top restaurants from the city participate each year while offering 3-course meals at reduced rates — around 50% off. Make it your mission to try as many different spots as you can during that week! 

restaurant week in puerto vallarta festival in mexico

12. Pride Festival

Puerto Vallarta is Mexico’s most LGBT-friendly destination, and each year in May, it hosts a colourful Pride festival. Expect parades, beach parties, fashion shows, and so much more. During this week, Puerto Vallarta’s nightlife is on a whole other level!

13. Día de los Locos

This festival in San Miguel de Allende just might be one of the most interesting in all of Mexico. Meaning “Day of the Crazy People”, residents don crazy costumes and parade through the streets while onlookers throw candy to them. It’s a wild scene and a whole lot of fun! If you find yourself in the city in May, don’t miss it.

14. Los Cabos Open of Surf

This surf and music festival in Los Cabos in June has a lot going on. In a destination that’s known for having year-round perfect waves, there’s obviously a surf competition, but you can also take in a concert on the beach, a local food fair, art walks, and fashion shows.

15. Guelaguetza Festival

If you’re interested in local culture, July may be the best time to visit Mexico just for this festival. The Guelaguetza Festival (try saying that one three times fast!) takes place in Oaxaca City over two weekends.

Representatives from nearby villages travel to Oaxaca City and perform traditional dances while showing off their beautiful, authentic clothing. This festival is a celebration of the indigenous communities that make up the State of Oaxaca (of which, there are 16).

It’s difficult to get tickets for the big show, but have a look at Ticketmaster Mexico to see if you can find some. If not, there are many free events that take place on the city streets. This is one of the best cultural festivals in Mexico.

Guelaguetza Dance Festival what to do in mexico

16. Whale Shark Festival

This festival takes place in July on Isla Mujeres, celebrating the beauty and culture of the island. As you might expect from the name, the main attraction are the numerous whale sharks that inhabit the waters here.

In addition to swimming with the majestic whale sharks, you can also enjoy some traditional dancing, feast on local food, and peruse handicrafts from local artisans. 

This is more than a festival, it’s a way to educate people on the importance of eco-friendly tourism, and the preservation and conservation of not only whale sharks, but the entire marine ecosystem. 

17. International Mariachi Festival

The state of Jalisco is known as the birthplace of mariachi music, and its capital city of Guadalajara hosts a big festival each August. There are gala performances in the beautiful theatre that you’ll need a ticket for. Be sure to buy them in advance as they go quickly.

If you can’t snag a ticket in time, never fear — there are lots of free events in the city’s many plazas and malls. When I went, I even saw a Japanese band called Mariachi Samurai! This is one of the best music festivals in Mexico.

when to visit mexico for mariachi festival

18. Chamber Music Festival

If you’re more interested in classical music, you’ll want to head to San Miguel de Allende for this excellent festival. Award-winning musicians from all over the world come here to perform over a few weeks in August.

19. Independence Day

Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16th. In the lead-up to the holiday, towns and cities all over the country are decked out in the colours of the flag as the patriotic spirit takes over.

Speaking of the colours of the flag, be sure to try the most popular dish for this holiday — chiles en nogada. It’s a green pepper topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, representing all 3 colours of the flag (green, white and red). 

20. Fiestas de Octubre

The city of Guadalajara enjoys a fiesta so much that they have one for the entire month of October! You can expect lots of mariachi and tequila in the state that they come from.

Of course, there’s also plenty of delicious Mexican food on offer as well as lots of interesting cultural programs. Get there at the beginning of the month to see the big parade that kicks things off.

21. Cervantino Festival

Guanajuato is one of the most picturesque places to visit in all of Mexico. The city hosts a 2-week long festival in October featuring music, films, master classes, and much, much more.  

22. Day of the Dead

Known as Día de Muertos in Spanish, this traditional holiday is celebrated all across Mexico. Families build elaborate ofrendas (altars) to honour the deceased and welcome them home. 

While you might assume that a festival called Day of the Dead can be a bit morose, that’s far from the case. It’s a very colourful and festive time in Mexico.

If you can, time your visit for October 31st – November 2nd and enjoy this celebration in Mexico. Oaxaca City and Mexico City are two good places to enjoy the festival. 

seeing the day of the dead is one of the top things to do in oaxaca

23. Revolution Day

On the 3rd Monday in November, Mexico celebrates its Revolution Day. This commemorates the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and is a day full of parades, speeches, and other patriotic events.

24. Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe

December 12th is a very important holiday in Mexico. This day honours the patroness of the country — the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is said that she appeared to a young man named Juan Diego in Mexico City back in 1531. 

The most famous celebrations take place at the basilica that bears her name in the capital city. People flock from all over the country here, many of them crawling on their hands and knees for miles to arrive at the basilica. 

25. Christmas

Christmas is a big deal in Mexico, and the entire month of December is full of festivities. One of the more Mexican traditions is to attend a posada. These take place during the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve, as people reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn.

While it’s definitely a family holiday, there’s a lot going on for visitors as well. You can see Christmas processions and other public celebrations, and many restaurants and hotels host big dinners for the holiday.

Ready for Mexican Festivals?

Mexico is famous for a lot of things — tacos, mariachi, tequila, Lucha libre…and festivals! 

As you can see, Mexico has a festival for just about everything. Whether you’re into food, music, or soaking up the local culture, there’s a Mexican festival for you.

I highly recommend traveling to Mexico for one of the country’s many festivals if you get the chance. It’s always an eye-opening experience celebrating with the locals, and Mexico knows how to have a good time!

Have you ever been to a Mexican festival? We’d love to hear more about it! Leave a comment below.

Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

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Written by

Sasha Savinov

Sasha is a regular contributor to Goats On The Road where he shares his advice as a full-time traveler and digital nomad. In particular, Sasha is an expert in travelling the United States, Mexico and Thailand. He's also an online English teacher and a video producer. In fact, he studied video production at Michigan State University. He and his wife Rachel share their adventures on their website, Grateful Gnomads.

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3 thoughts on “25 Top Festivals in Mexico: Food, Music and Culture”

  1. Thank you for sharing the beautiful celebrations and festivals in Mexico. My favorites are The Guelaguetza and The Day of the Dead.
    Love witnessing the colorful festivals in different parts of the country, excellent post!

  2. You missed THE festival to end all festivals, Feria de San Marcos. It is Mexico’s official international fair in Aguascalientes and lasts nearly a month long in the spring!

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