With family at the epicenter of life for most Mexicans, it isn’t surprising that a myriad of family activities awaits you in DF, whether you’re a visitor or a resident. Everywhere you turn you’ll see families laughing and talking. Children accompany their parents everywhere, sometimes even to the workplace.
There’s not nearly enough space in one article to describe the family ambiance the city provides, so here we’ll highlight the most popular and accessible outings. If you’re on a travel schedule, these will come in particularly handy.
As always, our first recommendation is to pick up a copy of Tiempo Libre, the weekly magazine published each Thursday, at any kiosk (11 pesos). An entire section, entitled NIÑOS, is devoted to children. There are activities and events galore, including times and locations.
Situated on 1.695 acres of land on Avenida de Reforma just west of the statue of Diana, Chapultepec is one of the largest and most diverse parks in the world. The park and its environs are closed on Mondays, but every other day of the week you’ll find all this in a single park:
–A ZOO that houses more than 1,400 animals of 240 species, including panda bears. Parents have warned us that you’ll require an entire day for this zoo, which was renovated in the 1990s to provide a bioclimatic atmosphere in the park. The zoo is open 900 am to 430 pm Tuesdays through Sundays, and it is free to all.
–A CASTLE Castillo de Chapultepec is a favorite haunt of my visitors. Take the trolley up the hill and find yourself in another world and time. The castle houses an excellent museum recounting the history of Mexico, the famous revolution mural painted by David Siqueiros (the mural takes up several walls in its own room on the first floor just before you enter the museum), gorgeous gardens where on weekends piano recitals take place, and a marvelous series of the rooms where Austrian Archduke Maximilian and his young wife from Belgium, Carlotta, spent a few short years ruling Mexico before his execution. Come here to relax and take in the 360-degree view of the city.
–The largest BOTANICAL GARDEN in Latin America.
–Top-notch MUSEUMS including the world-famous Museum of Anthropology, the Modern Art Museum, the newly renovated Rufino Tamayo Museum, and an interactive children’s museum (called Papalote).
–CULTURE at the Casa del Lago: theater, art expositions, dance, and music. Located at the foot of the castle, the Casa offers activities indoors and out.
–AN AMUSEMENT PARK, called La Feria, complete with roller coasters and other rides.
–TRAILS for jogging, biking, skateboarding, and running.
–RESTAURANTS, especially nice for reunions and parties.
–A LAKE with paddle boats to rent.
–AN AUDITORIUM (Auditorio Nacional) that seats 10,000 and presents events as diverse as Metropolitan Opera transmissions and pop and classical concerts to modern and classical dance.
KidZania is a complete contemporary city for children, a unique and fun educational learning experience for kids. Located in the southern part of DF, straight down Insurgentes street, it’s a full day’s experience where children create their own world and learn responsibility. There are more than 150 activities for kids, from driving a car to learning to be an actor, running a business, training dogs, making sushi, doing bank transactions, repairing telephone lines, conducting a police investigation, flying an airplane, or participating in sports.
Here is how KidZania describes its mission: KidZania Cuicuilco focuses on five key aspects of urban development: Roads, Environment, Health, Community and Citizenship. For example, Cuicuilco KidZania offers an authentic driving experience for children. Here children learn to manage responsibly, get their license, and drive through the streets of the city in a fleet of 250 electric cars made to scale of children. This fleet includes minivans, SUVs, ambulances, police vehicles, and urban buses. This is just one of the many learning activities that help children understand their future roles and possibilities in the community.
KidZania is located at Insurgentes 3500 in Tlalpan, which is easy to access. Just drive down straight south on Insurgentes (the longest street in the city) or take the Metrobus. Phone is 5424 9500. Best to call or check the website for hours as they are subject to change. There is another KidZania now in Santa Fe, just west of DF.
Pyramids of Teotihuacan
What kid doesn’t want to climb a pyramid? Here everyone (except those afraid of heights) can climb the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon. The name Teotihuacan is translated as “birthplace of the gods,” and it was the largest city in the pre-Colombian Americas. There are organized tours, including one on the Turibus, that will take you to the site, provide a tour, and bring you back. Or you can simply take a bus on your own from Mexico Norte bus station out to the site. Another option is to hire a taxi driver to drive, wait for you, and bring you back to the city. Travel time is about an hour from central DF.
Mide (Interactive Museum of Economics)
The Interactive Museum of Economics is the first museum in the world dedicated exclusively to economics. The museum was opened in 2006 with the express purpose of providing hands-on exhibits meant to be fun and engaging for students and young people. There are more than 50 interactive exhibits on three floors. Visit a simulated market, see how money is printed, design your own currency, and observe governmental functions such as banking and regulation. There is also a grand coin collection in the museum, with the most valuable colonial era coins from Latin America.
Other Museums and Places of Interest
–Museum of Popular Art is full of Mexican folk art. Located close to the Alemeda and Bellas Artes, be sure to stop by this lovely building displaying the artisans of Mexico.
–Bicycling on Paseo de la Reforma: Sundays from 8 am to 2 pm. Bikes for rent. Skateboards and runners welcome also. This major avenue is closed to traffic except bicycles from Juarez through Chapultepec Park.
–Ballet Folklorico de México: Don’t miss this spectacular dance group, started by Amalia Hernandez 60 years ago. Performances take place every Wednesday at 8:30 pm and Sundays at 9:30 am and 8:30 pm.
Where to Eat
Restaurante Arroyo is located south in the city Insurgentes Sur 4003, at the Metrobus stop Fuentes Brotantes. This very large authentic Mexican restaurant contains multiple rooms, each with nostalgic Mexican paraphernalia and photos and music galore. The food is great, and it’s the perfect place for large parties as well as small family gatherings. Specialties include the juicy, tender carnitas, mole, and chiles en nogada (in season August through September). On the weekend there’s a breakfast buffet to die for. A special treat: the small bullring in the summer months offers a sampling of young matadors-to-be at 1:00 pm Saturdays, following a noon mass.
Café Tacuba. This festive place for the entire family, located on Tacuba 28 in Centro Historico, is housed in a 17th-century house filled with murals and paintings. It also has a fascinating history involving nuns and an insane asylum(!). The menu is diverse enough to accommodate all ages and tastes. If you’re a coffee drinker, don’t miss the Tacuba coffee, made with hot milk and coffee poured together in a glass. The tamales and tostadas arrive in generous portions and are always fresh and delicious. There are pipians, moles, and adobos. Try to dine around 3 pm or later, when musicians will appear to serenade you with their mandolins.
Feel free to contact me at carolina_reedy(at)yahoo.com for more information about the city.