Mexico’s colorfully chaotic capital is one of the world’s biggest metropolises, home to more than 20 million people. At first glance, it can appear an overwhelming destination to navigate with children in tow. But the reality is, however, that this big, brash city is also exciting and dynamic with lots to see and do.
For starters, there are museums galore (over 150 at last count) exploring everything from Mexico’s history to antique toys, there are pyramids and temples, charming colonial neighborhoods and modern skyscrapers plus bustling markets, leafy parks and much, much more.
So where to start? Check out these four family-friendly activities, plus one great place to eat and one great place to stay while visiting Mexico City with kids.
Activity 1: See the City Sights on the Double-Decker Turibus
Mexico city is big! Get your bearings on the top deck of the Turibus, a double-decker tour bus that runs loops of the capital’s central neighborhoods daily from 9am until 9pm. You can hop on and off wherever you like but the best place to begin is outside the Auditorio Nacional, the National Auditorium. From here you’ll journey through the heart of Mexico City including Chapultepec Park, the art deco colonias (neighborhoods) of Condesa and Roma, upmarket Polanco and the Centro Historico and the Zocalo – the historical heart of Mexico City.
Buses are supposed to run every 30 minutes but be prepared to wait, Mexico City’s traffic does not allow for a punctual service! The Turibus runs a number of routes but the Circuito Turistico is the best one. Website: www.turibus.com.mx
Tip! Avoid the Turibus on weekends if possible. The historical centre gets really busy and trying to jump on a return bus after sightseeing around the Zocalo is nigh on impossible.
Activity 2: Be Inspired at Frida Kahlo’s Childhood Home
Artist Frida Kahlo is considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists and her childhood home is now one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. La Casa Azul (the Blue House) is located in the charming southern neighborhood of Coyoacan, home to cobbled streets and brightly painted houses.
Much of the home remains as it was in the 1950s with ten rooms positioned over two floors, including the original kitchen and Kahlos’ studio. On display on the ground floor are works by Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera as well as other prominent artists. My kids found Kahlo’s bedroom particularly fascinating; a mirror faces down from her bed canopy so that she could paint her many self-portraits. You can read more about Frida Kahlo’s life and see photos of La Casa Azul in my feature Discovering Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul. Website: www.museofridakahlo.org.mx
Tip! Plan your visit for when the museum opens, as it gets very busy. Weekdays are better than weekends.
Activity 3: FloatAlong the Colourful Canals at Xochimilco
Once upon a time the Valley of Mexico, where modern-day Mexico City sits, was a vast lake system connected by canals and waterways. Today, very little remains of this ancient network of causeways and channels although you can get a glimpse of what the area once looked like in the neighborhood of Xochimilco.
Located in the south, Xochimilco is famous for its ancient waterways and floating along the rivers on a brightly colored trajinera (a Mexican-type gondola) is a very popular weekend pastime. Bring a picnic, hire a boat and spend the day cruising along the canals. Read more about Xochimilco in my article at: http://globetotting.com/the-colourful-ancient-canals-of-xochimilco-mexico-city-mexico/ and see the official site at Website: www.xochimilco.df.gob.mx/turismo.html.
Tip! The canals get crowded at the weekend but this is also when they are at their liveliest!
Activity 4: Blow Giant Bubbles at Papalote, the Children’s Museum
One of my kids’ favorite places to visit in Mexico City is Papalote, Museo de Ninos, the children’s museum. This innovative, hands-on museum is truly fantastic with over 288 interactive exhibitions designed for children to both learn and have fun. Climb up an enormous man-made tree and then slide down from the top, step inside a gigantic bubble, put on a lab coat and set to work in the science lab or simply play on one of the playgrounds outside.
There are activities for children of all ages, with some areas reserved for older kids and some for younger. The Digital Dome shows a film about the universe and the IMAX theatre has films that change every few months. Website: www.papalote.org.mx
1 Great Place to Stay: The Red Tree House
Located in the charming colonia (neighborhood) of Condesa, the Red Tree House is a great option for families. This convivial B&B offers great family accommodation, including an apartment suitable for four people, and a tasty daily breakfast. However, it’s the location that really makes this a great option if traveling with children.
Mexico City can be too much at times, but Condesa is a laidback area filled with Art Deco houses, great restaurants, friendly cafes, small boutiques and two very good parks – both with playgrounds! This neighborhood is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and wonderful base from which to explore the capital. Website: www.theredtreehouse.com
1 Great Place to Eat: Contramar
Contramar is the place to go for fresh seafood cooked the Mexican way. This popular restaurant is open for lunch only (Sunday – Thursday 12.30pm – 6.30pm, Friday and Saturday 12.30pm – 8pm) and is always packed. It’s nothing fancy but the food is simply incredible. Dishes you simply have to try include the tostadas de atun (fresh tuna tostadas), tacos de pescado al pastor (fish tacos ‘al pastor’) and the whole grilled fish, half roasted in a red chile paste and the other in fresh green parsley. My kids love the sopes (a thick tortilla topped with beans, cream and any number of fillings) and the homemade fish fingers. Website: www.contramar.com.mx