If Guadalajara wasn’t on your radar before, it certainly should be now after hosting Tianguis Turistico back in April. The capital of the state of Jalisco, also known as Mexico’s Second City, is often considered Mexico’s most quintessential destination. Jalisco is the birthplace of tequila, mariachi and charreria, the official national sport of Mexico, and Guadalajara is at the heart of it all.

Guadalajara is likened to the Silicon Valley of Latin America and has usually been primarily a business destination for North Americans. Often, these travelers experience the city for business then return with their families as leisure travelers.

A first-timer’s visit to Guadalajara will most likely center around tequila. Perhaps the best way to learn the history of the spirit is by taking a ride on the Jose Cuervo Express. The train departs from Guadalajara station and includes a professional tasting guided by a master of tequila, followed by a tour of the Jose Cuervo La Rojena distillery upon arrival in Tequila. Guests are then given about two hours of free time to explore the town of Tequila, from its 18th century church to its cobblestone streets and picturesque central square. Following a traditional performance, guests board a private bus and are taken back to Guadalajara train station.

The sport of charreria is a true representation of Mexican culture and tradition. Similar in some aspects to an American rodeo, the sport includes equestrian competitions in which horse riding, roping and cattle handling. But the sport also incorporates another core Mexican cultural experience: mariachi music. The traditional music at a charreada is performed by mariachis, who dress themselves in traditional charro garb — colorful outfits, large sombreros and bowties — that add to the pageantry of the event.

Each September Guadalajara plays host to the International Mariachi and Charreria Festival bringing the best marriachis and charros from around the world.

No visit to Guadalajara is complete without some serious souvenir shopping, and the best place to do it is in Tlaquepaque. This colonial neighborhood near the city center is one of the best places in Mexico to score authentic handicrafts. Several streets are pedestrian-only, making for an easy and welcoming shopping experience. After a full day of shopping, wander around El Parian, a main plaza lined with restaurants and bars.

“A first-time visitor to Guadalajara must go to Tlaquepaque,” said Gustavo Staufert Buclon, promotion director at the Guadalajara CVB. “It is where all the handicrafts are made and is one of the three most important places in Mexico for handicrafts. Visitors can sit with the craftsmen and perform the crafts with them, so you can make your own craft and bring it home with you.”

Where to stay: Business hotels are easy to come by in Guadalajara, from two Fiesta Americanas to Holiday Inn to Marriott. But Guadalajara is also home to gorgeous boutique hotels and haciendas, as well.

Recently Grupo Habita opened Casa Fayette (www.casafayette.com) last year in the city’s trendy Lafayette neighborhood. The 37-room hotel is a former home built in the 20th century that is now attached to a high-rise and includes a patio, lobby, bar, restaurant, pool and terrace.

In a similar vein, consider Hotel Demetria (www.hoteldemetria.com), a boutique hotel where modern meets that typical “reclaimed” style that has become ubiquitous at hipster hangouts. Glass and steel mesh nicely with faded wood and Mexican handicrafts.

Getting there: “We have increased our connectivity from the U.S., so now there are 25 direct flights,” says Buclon. These direct flights are from major cities in the U.S. like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Washington, Chicago and New York.

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