MEXICO CITY -- Mexico offers a wealth of options for families,
including archaeological sites, theme parks and, of course,
The following is an overview of family-friendly destinations and
There's so much to do and see in Mexico City, travel agents who
advise families not to push to see too many of the same things in
any one day will be providing a real service.
Advise families to allow time to do nothing but "hang out" or
picnic in Chapultepec Park.
On Sundays, in particular, they can check out the park's vendors
for their local crafts, handiworks and snacks. Or take a train up
to Chapultepec Castle, the city zoo (don't miss the pandas) and the
Museum of Anthropology.
Here are some other Mexico City attractions:
• Zocalo Centro Historico is the heart of the city and a Unesco
World Heritage Site. Families interested in the history, culture
and politics of "old" Mexico City will want to start here. To give
an idea of its size, the zocalo is the third-largest public square
after Tiananmen Square in Beijing and Red Square in Moscow.
• The Palacio Nacional on the east side of the zocalo provides a
vivid lesson in Mexican history through the medium of art. Diego
Rivera's murals depicting Mexico's history cover 4,850 square feet
and took 20 years to paint.
• The markets of Mexico are an attraction unto themselves. The
country's biggest, the Mercado Merced, east of the zocalo on Circun
Valacion, sprawls for blocks.
• The upscale section of Zona Rosa can be mesmerizing for teens,
with designer boutiques, restaurants and nightlife.
• Mexico's interactive, educational Papalote Museo del Nino is
perfect for kids age 14 and under. Highlights include a climbing
treehouse and the wheelchair obstacle course set up to help
children learn about disabilities.
• Six Flags Mexico, on the Web at www.six-flags.com.mx, opened in 2000 after a major
renovation of an older park. It features 52 rides and two roller
coasters. Batman the Ride is the signature attraction. It's the
only suspended looping coaster in the country.
About a five-hour drive from Mexico City, Oaxaca offers a rich,
culturally diverse experience, enlivened by Zapotec and
Mexican/Mixtec arts. It's a good destination for families with
curiosity and interest in the designs and arts of other
• The Cathedral and Iglesia Domingo de Guzman may be a bit
stuffy for kids. More family-friendly is the Rufino Tamayo
Prehispanic Art Museum, a "home" built around a spacious, informal
courtyard housing exceptional pre-Columbian and early Mexican
ceramics and folk art, including a mask collection.
• The small village of Teotitlan del Valle is an hour or so away
by inexpensive taxi. (Note: Usually the taxi drivers recommended by
the hotel speak enough English to serve as basic guides.) In "Teo"
the big attractions are the artisans working their looms, weaving
colored carpets of bright wool.
• A hike up the Pyramids of Monte Alban can be tiring (and hot)
but worthwhile, providing dramatic views of Oaxaca Valley.
All of Isla Cozumel, Mexico's Caribbean retreat on the Web at www.islacozumel.com.mx, is a family attraction,
especially Chankanaab National Park.
• A pocket-size main town along the ocean, San Miguel, features
a small museum with cooking demonstrations and a replica of a Mayan
village that should interest kids.
• Chankanaab, 10 minutes south of San Miguel, is a wildlife
preserve, a botanical garden and a natural aquarium set alongside a
tranquil bay with outlying reefs. The gardens feature replicas of
Mayan sculptures and village huts. The beach has facilities with
lockers and showers. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $10 per person. The Dolphin Discovery program, a
30-minute swim with dolphins, is held within the park.
• The 10-acre Mayan ruins in nearby San Gervasio have been
restored by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and
History. Once inside, you can wander through four districts, dating
from 300 to 1500. Tours are led by a Mayan guide.
The Riviera Maya stretches for about 75 miles along the
coastline of the Yucatan peninsula. It has a wide range of family
activities, including kayaking, mountain biking, scuba diving and
• An hour south of Cancun is Xcaret Nature Park, a
well-designed, 150-acre water park featuring a botanical lagoon,
gardens, an aviary, a butterfly zone, marine-life exhibits and
another chance to swim with the dolphins. Families also can enjoy
an unusual water sport here: floating through the "underground
rivers" of limestone caves, the same waterways historically used by
the Mayans to escape their enemies. Participants wear inner tubes
and water wings. The caves are punctuated by many openings, letting
light shine through.
• Akumal (Riviera Maya's north end) is in the heart of the
archaeological remnants of the Mayan civilization. The ruins of
Tulum, Coba and Xcaret are 15 minutes away, and the famous cities
of Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Palenque make easy day trips.
In the Baja, Lindblad Expeditions runs a whale-watching trip
that is popular with families. This weeklong journey through the
Mexican Galapagos, according to one family, was "the best time we
ever had as a family. Anywhere." For information, call Lindblad at
(800) 397-3348 or visit www.expeditions.com.
Tip: Agents might advise parents planning a vacation in Mexico
to check out www.elbalero.gob.mx/index_kids.html. This site
is a colorful introduction to the country, well-designed and fun to