On May 5, 1862, Mexico celebrated a history-making victory over France in the Battle of Puebla. This win was a source of great pride for Mexico— and for those of Mexican descent around the world. It’s believed that Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated in America just one year later in 1863, and today, it’s become one of the most popular holidays in the US. From parades and reenactments to fresh churros and tandem skydiving, check out our list of the best things to do on Cinco de Mayo and the 10 best places to celebrate in.
The first (and most obvious) place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is in Puebla, Mexico, where the battle first took place. In Puebla, you can experience a reenactment of the Battle of Puebla, followed by a wild street party with food and music. If you have kids, you’re in luck: Puebla is one of the most family-friendly Cinco de Mayo celebrations around. Hit the parade with extravagant floats and then follow the mariachi band that marches through town. And as if street tacos, mariachi bands, and parades weren’t enough, Puebla added their International Mole Festival to the Cinco de Mayo line-up in 2012.
Welcome to Celebrate Culture: Denver’s fun and upbeat Cinco de Mayo festival. While attending the full weekend of festivities in the city’s Civic Center Park, you’ll find vendors selling everything from authentic street food to beautiful handcrafted goods and Mexican folk art. Similar to the celebrations in Puebla, Denver’s Cinco de Mayo is great for families and kids: there’s a children’s carnival with crafts and activities, rides, and even a small petting zoo. Keep an eye (or ear) out for the two entertainment venues set up with live bands playing mariachi, salsa, cumbia, and other popular Latin music genres—and def don’t forget your dancing shoes! If you only have time for one or two activities, we recommend that you hit the Green Chili Bowl Cookoff, featuring local restaurants, and the famous Denver Chihuahua races.
Los Angeles, California
Each year on May 5th, Los Angeles hosts Fiesta Broadway: the largest Cinco de Mayo festival in the world. From sun up to sun down, expect to dance to mariachi bands, eat authentic street food, and thrill-seek on crazy carnival rides. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture behind the holiday, head to the Museum of Latin American Art or the traditional Mexican Marketplace on Olvera Street: the “birthplace of Los Angeles.”
Saint Paul, Minnesota
We’re not sure about you, but we never would have guessed that St. Paul, Minnesota holds one of the best Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the US. Each year, the festival kicks off with a 5k race through the the city’s West Side. Bring out the whole family to celebrate, and don’t forget to hit the streets filled with authentic food and handcrafted goods. And definitely check out the jalapeno eating contest — enter if you dare!
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio’s Cinco de Mayo celebration fills up the historic Market Square with delicious foods and music that will keep you moving all weekend long. Luckily, for those of us that aren’t able to travel to San Antonio for the celebration, the public market at El Mercado is open year round where you can purchase beautiful pottery, artwork, leather goods, and more. As part of the Cinco de Mayo festivities, you can check out Traders Village— just a little outside of San Antonio proper—where there is free live music, carnival rides, and amazing Mexican and Tex-Mex food.
We all know that Chicago goes all out for St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s no surprise that the entire city comes together for Cinco de Mayo, too. Start with the parade from Little Village that leads to the festivities at Douglas Park with local marching bands, mariachi bands, and beautifully decorated parade floats. Then head to some of the local restaurants for food and drink specials, like a spicy Mexican chocolate cupcake at Sugar Bliss Bakery, or City Winery Riverwalk for drink specials and river views. Grab your partner and let the music take you away with a dance party and salsa lesson at Duet Dance Studios. Now that you’re a salsa dancing pro, it’s time to head out on the water for a proper Cinco de Mayo party cruise on Lake Michigan.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Celebrations look a little different in Albuquerque for this year’s Cinco de Mayo, but there are still super fun ways to celebrate! Take a trip to the National Hispanic Cultural Center or the South Broadway Cultural Center to learn about Mexican heritage in New Mexico and experience live dance and entertainment. The beginning of May kicks off historic Old Town’s “Summertime in Old Town” concert series. This year, you can also take part virtually in the 36th Annual Run for the Zoo. They have race options from one mile all the way up to full marathon if you’re feeling ambitious. For a completely different way to celebrate, get tickets to the Albuquerque Isotopes opening game on May 6th.
San Diego, California
Buckle up for another full weekend of festivities at Fiesta Old Town Festival in San Diego! In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Old Town San Diego is completely transformed into a vibrant Mexican marketplace. The bright colors of the vendors and decorations would be enough to draw you in, but you’ll certainly want to stay for the mouth-watering fresh tamales and made-from-scratch tortillas.
Cinco de Mayo in Vancouver is one celebration you don’t want to miss. Every year, on or around the 5th of May, Canadians kick off their celebrations with music, dancing, boat cruises, and… skydiving?? The skydiving boogie, as they call it, is filled with fun, high-flying (and falling) revelers in the sky. If you’re not a skydiving pro, don’t worry, you can still make reservations to take a course or do a tandem jump with a trained professional— and we highly recommend it as one of the best date ideas in Vancouver.
If jumping out of a perfectly good airplane isn’t your jam, you can still celebrate with great food, music, and entertainment. Join in on the festivities on the water with the Cinco de Mayo Pub Night Cruise or a Cinco de Mayo Latin Cruise. You should also take a trip to the Trout Lake Park and Community Center for some family-friendly Cinco de Mayo festivities. There’s a beach area and a path around the lake at the community center where you can walk off some of those street tacos.
Last, but certainly not least, is Cinco de Mayo in Brisbane, Australia. On an everyday trip to Brisbane, you should visit Riverlife for an awesome adventure tours, but on Cinco de Mayo, things get wild and the the area lights up with colors and music of a Mexican fiesta! Grab your sombreros and get moving to the local mariachi band that will be playing all weekend, along with shows from professional salsa dancers. Of course, the festivities will include food and drink specials, churros, Mexican donuts, face painting, and a too-hot-to-handle chili eating contest.