Sunday, June 23, 2024

Consider Mexico City for your next family vacation

Mexico City might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a family-friendly travel destination. Beaches, cruises and Disneyland are probably higher up on your list. But Mexico City isn’t just for foodies, hipsters and history buffs.

With its abundance of kid-friendly museums, parks and other attractions, it’s also a fantastic place for families. It has become our family’s go-to vacation destination, especially in the spring when school is out for the Mexican holidays of Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Easter (Pascua — this year from April 3–14). It’s the perfect time to visit when it isn’t as crowded and the jacaranda trees are blooming. 

If you decide to visit Mexico City this spring or anytime, here are some recommendations for where to stay and what to do that the whole family will enjoy.

Where to stay

Mexico City is a massive place, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed deciding where to make your home base. For families, I recommend skipping the big hotels in the city center and staying at a smaller hotel or rental apartment within walking distance of one of the city’s beautiful neighborhood parks, such as Parque Mexico and Parque España in the Condesa neighborhood or Parque Lincoln and Parque América in Polanco.

Staying close to a park gives the kids a place to play any time of day. Most have large playgrounds, skating areas, extensive walking and biking paths, gardens, duck ponds and other unique features like the audioramas (spaces for quiet reflection or reading) in Parque México and Parque España and the aviary at Parque Lincoln. All have ice cream shops, bakeries and cafes nearby — perfect for an after-playtime treat. 

Angel of Independence in Mexico City
Most Sundays of the year, the capital’s Reforma Avenue — a feast for the senses that’s easy on the pocket and has some of Mexico’s most famous landmarks — is closed to traffic between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., perfect for strolling sightseeing.

Active Adventures

If your family likes to be outside and active, there are several great options right in or just outside the city center.

  • Bosque Chapultepec is a massive park complex in the middle of the city, twice the size of New York’s Central Park. The park has nearly everything a kid could want, including playgrounds, bike paths, a house of mirrors, ziplines, a carousel, a lake with rental boats, a zoo, oodles of food carts and stands selling any treat imaginable, plus a museum just for kids — El Papalote. Recently opened is the Centro de Cultura Ambiental (Center for Environmental Culture), a vast exhibition space and gardens that are free to explore. You could spend all day (or several days) at the Bosque and not see everything.
  • If you happen to be the city on a Sunday, I recommend getting the family down to Avenida Reforma when the street is closed to car traffic from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except on the last Sunday of the month and during December) and join the throngs of folks walking, biking, strolling and skating down the avenue. It’s a pedestrian party that passes by several architectural gems such as el Ángel de la Independencia, Mexico’s iconic monument, which is great to see when there are no cars to contend with.
  • About a 1.5-hour drive north of the city center is the pre-Hispanic architectural complex of Teotihuacán. Here, you can explore what was once one of the most populous and influential cities in Mesoamerica, and marvel at the size of the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. You can also get a birds-eye view of the site on one of the hot-air balloon rides available.
Museo Jumex in Mexico City
Despite being a museum of contemporary art, the Museo Jumex has lots of quirky, kid-friendly exhibits.

Art & Culture

If you are looking to expose your kids to the arts, here are some must-do experiences:

  • The Ballet Folklórico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez is a world-renowned dance company that performs traditional dances from all over Mexico. If you catch their show at either the Palacio de Belles Artes or Castillo de Chapultepec, you will be treated not only to a stunning performance but also experience it in some breathtaking surroundings. We’ve seen the performance in both locations, and our daughter and her friends were simply mesmerized.
  • You might not think a trip to a modern art museum would be something a kid would enjoy, but the exhibits at the Museo Jumex are out-of-this-world extraordinary and engaging, even for youngsters. Another modern art museum to check out is the Museo del Futuro (MUFO) a funky art “experience” featuring unique exhibits which use light and sound to vibrate your whole body, as well as an immersive digital art hall with flowing and vibrant shapes and patterns.
  • If you visit this spring, don’t miss “Disney’s Aladdin,” starring Mexican leading man Rodney Ingram, who appeared on the production on Broadway. Even if you don’t understand Spanish, you will appreciate the fantastic music, dancing, costumes and sets, and your kids will thank you a million times over for taking them. Performances run through April 16, 2023.
boat rides at Xochimilco, Mexico City
The boat rides at Xochimilco include food offerings and live mariachi bands that can play on your vessel. The outing was a hit with these discerning travelers.

Kids’ Top Picks

Of course, the best recommendations come from kids themselves. Here are some of our daughter’s and her friends’ favorite attractions and treats in Mexico City.

  • Kidzania is hands-down their favorite attraction. It’s a mini indoor city created just for kids, where they basically have total autonomy to explore and do “jobs” like firefighter, police officer, scientist, engineer, chef and more, and make “money” they can spend on toys and treats. The whole thing is, of course, sponsored by corporations, but it’s really well done. Parents have their own hangout area, and the kids wear bracelets that transmit their location so that you can keep track of their whereabouts while you sit back and chill. 
  • Your kids will love a day out on the colorful boats of Xochimilco — a historic canal system that was the city’s main mode of transport in pre-Hispanic times. You can hire a boat for about 600 pesos per hour and cruise the canals and enjoy a song from one of the floating mariachi bands or lunch from a boat-based taquería. It’s a bit of a party scene on the weekends, so it’s best to go during the week to avoid the crowds and booze-cruisers. 
  • As for where to find the best treats, our kids’ favorites include El Moro for churros and hot chocolate, Bendita Paleta and Gelato for ice cream, Pasteleria Suiza for cakes and chocolates, and daring their dad to eat scorpions at the Mercado San Juan!

Debbie Slobe is a writer and communications strategist based in Chacala, Nayarit. She blogs at Mexpatmama.com and is a senior program director at Resource Media. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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