Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo Los Angeles with our guide to the best tacos, Mexican grub, cocktails, festivals and fiesta tunes.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Lavanda at Gracias Madre

Think Cinco de Mayo is like any other holiday? Think again—in this town, the fifth of May is a citywide celebration. From East LA to Santa Monica, families and singles alike join the all-day fiesta (and yes, we're aware that it's not Mexican Independence Day, and no, we don't usually need an excuse to order margaritas). Here's your guide to Cinco de Mayo events, things to do, where to eat and what to drink, and if you just can't handle the crowds at your favorite Mexican restaurants, might we suggest partying at an Irish pub instead? It can be just as fun and just as drunken, with fewer sombrero collisions. Salud!

What does Cinco de Mayo celebrate? An against-the-odds and victorious battle the Mexican army won over the French, who invaded the east coast of Mexico near Veracruz in 1861 and pushed toward Mexico City, the capitol. The battle took place on May 5, 1862 near the town of Puebla.

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How to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

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I'm Irish. My first legal drink was a pint of Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. I should be all about St. Patrick's Day, but on March 17, I stay as far away from LA's Irish pubs as possible. There's just something about drinking Guinness because you happen to be at a bar on a certain date that I really can't get behind. Don't even get me started on green beer. This isn't supposed to be a negative Norah (see what I did there?) post about Americanized holidays, because I love drinking holidays just about as much as anyone else—or at least, with a lukewarm "meh, I guess I'll go out if my friends are making plans." I just found out a good way to improve them by sort-of lifehacking them. Then I became the one making plans. Here's how it works. On St. Patrick's Day, I go out for Mexican food, Mexican beer and margaritas. On Cinco de Mayo—you guessed it—I'm at an Irish pub downing pints of Guinness with a plate of fish and chips or boxtys. It's not a particularly revolutionary idea, and I'm certainly not the only one observing this tradition, but the bar is never too crowded and the food is always delicious. So if you want to toast St. Patrick and a snake-free Ireland but you can't handle another bro in a "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" tank top, one who's drunkenly elbowing you with his drinking arm (Bud Light, of course) as you try to sip your toasty Guinness at the pub, maybe it's time to try tequila. Whatever you're celebrating today, slainte! And salud!

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