High-altitude and high-energy, Mexico City has long been known for its cultural attractions, numerous museums (more than 100 in the city alone!) and thriving art scene. Its reputation as a family-friendly destination however, is more recent, thanks to expanded offerings aimed at introducing younger jet-setters to the country’s capital. And today, Mexico is one of the few countries that are actually admitting Americans who are starting to creep back into traveling again mid-pandemic.
The city is sprawling but surprisingly accessible thanks to two international airports, one of the largest subway systems in the world, and multiple bus lines. And if car seats are a concern, Uber is just a Wi-Fi connection away. The neighborhoods most popular with traveling families — including Roma, Condesa and Polanco — are walkable, and bike/scooter shares are also widely available.
English is spoken widely in Mexico City, especially at restaurants, hotels and attractions, etc. that cater to tourists. Still, it’s a great idea for you and your kids to learn some common Spanish words and phrases before you go. Here’s your first lesson: ¡Vámonos!
Where to stay
Ideally located on a quiet, tree-lined street in the heart of the city, The Red Tree House offers gourmet breakfasts daily (plus happy hour for moms nightly) and all the love you want from the on-site pup, a Labrador named Romeo.
The Four Seasons’ legendary luxuries win over parents while kids will clamor for the poolside ice-cream cart and bedtime milk and cookies. Pint-size bathrobes and other kid-size toiletries are also on hand.
It may seem silly to book a room at the St. Regis Mexico City and not sleep in the beautifully made beds, but kids won’t be able to resist the en-suite glamping experience. The hotel will swap a rollaway bed with a tent packed with blankets, activities and snacks. The St. Regis has made a ton of COVID-safe updates and is requiring masks in all indoor public areas.
Where to play
Step back in time at Teotihuacan, the enormous archaeological complex about an hour’s ride outside Mexico City. Climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, stroll the Avenue of the Dead and learn what happened to the ancient civilization from one of many excellent English-speaking guides available for hire either through your hotel or on-site.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city in the city’s largest green space, Bosque de Chapultepec. Spread across 1,700 acres is a zoo, botanical gardens, lakes, fountains, historic monuments, multiple museums, plus food and drink vendors.
Kids as young as seven can start to master authentic Mexican dishes at Casa Jacaranda, which boasts cooking classes that start at the local market and end at the lunch table. It has newly reopened for private, in-person experiences, so participants will get lots of individualized attention. Plus, they email you recipes at the end — so you can show off your newfound culinary skills back home.
Cruise along the canals of Xochimilco, the “Venice of Mexico” in brightly colored flat-bottomed boats as vendors sail by offering food, flowers and other souvenirs. Stops generally include a wildlife preserve, floating gardens and the creepy-AF La Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls). The waterways can get crowded on the weekends when locals are off work, though, so consider going on a weekday.
Where to Learn
If suggestions to spend a day at a museum are met with a less than enthusiastic response, start at MUCHO Museo de Chocolate. This small but oh-so-sweet spot is dedicated to the history and modern-day use of chocolate and cacao in Mexico culture and food.
The Museo de Arte Popular is anything but a stuffy and boring museum stereotype. Focused on Mexican folk art, it hosts an annual piñata competition and regularly holds art workshops for kids. Even on a day without a special event, the bright colors and fascinating stories will captivate.
No exhibit is off-limits to curious hands and minds at the Papalote Museo del Niño. It recently underwent a multi-year renovation and now boasts one of the largest IMAX screens in the country. While technically a children’s museum, it’s designed for big kids too; Thursday nights are adults-only. The Papalote has reopened with increased cleaning protocols, promising families “un espacio limpio y seguro” — a safe and clean space in which to play and learn.
Museo Nacional de Antropología is the biggest and arguably the best museum in the city. Exploring all the exhibits would take days so if time is limited, pick a couple exhibits to really delve into; the most popular focus on Maya culture and the former Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.
Where to Eat
Start the day off right with a quick breakfast or brunch at Ojo de Agua. Freshly squeezed local fruit juices, vegetarian options and lightened-up version of classic Mexican dishes fill the menu. Portions are generous so consider sharing if your little ones are light eaters.
Tacos are having more than a moment in the U.S. but they’ve long been a reliable staple in Mexico. El Califa is one of the big-name purveyors in town and for good reason: the menu is plentiful, plates come quickly and everything can be customized thanks to a variety of tableside salsas.
Please all palates and even the pickiest of eaters at hip Mercado Roma. The gourmet food hall has dozens of stalls offering everything from local specialties to international dishes to American comfort food (including, of course, good old pizza).
The line can get long outside Churreria El Moro but don’t be dissuaded; it moves quickly. Churros are made fresh, dusted with plain or cinnamon sugar and served alongside hot chocolate.
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