This Christmas time, we are taking a California tour and we'd be having a stop in San Diego. And after learning that we don't need a visa to enter Mexico, we are now looking into visiting the nearby cities to the US border.. anyone have an idea of what we can do or see around them?
We will be travelling as a family with kids so we just think of just doing some sight seeing and we probably just take a day tour.. or may take an overnight stay in one of those cities.
I would wait until you are in San Diego before making plans for Tijuana or Mexicali. You might have read about the war going on between drug cartels and the Mexican Gov't. Do a quick google search about drug killings and both border cities. You may want to reconsider crossing the border with family. There is literally a war going on for control of the drug trade and the unfortunately the border cities are the main war zone.
oh I have not heard of that yet.. thanks for the heads up.. I'll go google about it..
I saw some warning signs for US citizens on another website and I did not realize that it is that bad.. thanks again..
Okay, I sound like a broken record at only 5 posts so far but Pau, you might want to read this post I wrote on the cartel war last year. Not to sound too arrogant but I think anyone that's actually lived at some point in either Tijuana or Mexicali will agree with me on most points.
I should also note that Mexicali isn't even a red point in the current war, that's Juarez, Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo.. and Juarez is actually the only city where the violence has targeted innocents.. and none of them have been foreigners.
As for what to do in Tijuana and Mexicali with kids..
Tijuana isn't very children-friendly as it's majorly an industrial city, the city basically grew up as a stopover from those in other parts of Latin America trying to make it to the US and people crossing here just to get wasted and then leave. The atmosphere, especially by night, is very adult-like and during the day, the options are limited!, but here, I'll try my best and think as a kid for a moment:
1. Breakfast at La Casa del Mole.
Paseo de Los Heroes 1501, Zona Río.
Family restaurant specialised in mole but particularly outstanding in breakfasts of any kind, their über delicious freshly-made corn tortillas and their Mexican hot chocolate. The atmosphere is also what makes this place special, from the typically Mexican decoration, live traditional music (from mariachi to bolero) to the amount of kids and friendly waitstaff.
2. Tijuana-Tecate Weekend Train Ride.
García station between Díaz Ordáz & Simón Bolívar.
One of the most recent and exciting projects in the region. Long to explain but it's been decades since that train carries anything that's not oil and they finally reopened it this year with a project that takes you on a 1-hour trip from Tijuana to downtown Tecate (another bordertown, between Mexicali and Tijuana). The journey starts at 9 am in TJ, making a short stop at the tunnel of La Presa's dam and continues nonstop to Tecate. The dry/green contrasts of the landscape are quintessentially Baja and one of the interesting things about the journey is that just when it all starts to look pretty, the train suddenly enters one of the poorest, most indigenous and most isolated areas of the state.. I sound like such a downer/spoiler, but for such a brief journey, I think the ride accomplishes the purpose of showing the real Mexico exactly as it is, rich in nature and socially disastrous. After arriving in Tecate, you'll enjoy some 'taquiza' (taco extravaganza!) at Tecate's Plaza as well as local cheese dégustation, 1 hour of Mariachi/ misc. entertainment and on your way back, a stop at Tecate Brewery where you'll get to see the process behind one of Mexico's most popular beers (still fun for kids, no?). You should be back in TJ by 4 pm.
3. CECUT (Centro Cultural Tijuana)
Paseo de los Heroes & Javier Mina St
Tijuana's cultural center, home to Museo de Las Californias (history behind the California peninsula [later split as California, Baja California and Baja California Sur]), El Cubo, 3D museum, Imax with kids' documentaries (I used to love this as a kid!), exhibitions and outdoor activities kids can take part of (painting, sculpting.. it's really tons of fun and as a kid, and you get to hang out with kids of all different backgrounds so it's very enriching).
4. Mercado Hidalgo
Sanchez Taboada Blvd. (3 blocks away from Cecut)
Typical Mexican market, from indigenous candies, fresh fruits, traditional eateries to piñatas.. this market is a quick dive into the basics of Mexican culture.
5. Playas de Tijuana
Tijuana's beach, right next to the border. You can either take quiet walk or just sit there and do nothing lol.. the place itself is interesting and possibly memorable for anyone of any age as you're standing behind the bars that divide Latin America and the US. While you're there I STRONGLY recommend you two things (not on the same day, you gotta pick one or the other!): First, shrimps w/ cucumber inside a coconut.. one of the most delicious regional seafood dishes here and kids love it. Second, tostilocos!, irresistible snack for Mexican youth and children, trying it will give you a taste of what after school hours in Mexico consist of and you'll understand why our kids are so fat!, tostitos here are different than those sold in the US, they're green sauce-flavored and stronger.. tostilocos is basically opening up a tostitos chips bag, adding pickled pork stripes, cucumber & jicama cubes, Japanese peanuts and apple pulp candy stripes and dripping it all in lemon juice, clamato and pickled fruit sauce known as Chamoy. A snack bomb, yes, but you will not regret it.
6. Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
2nd st & Constitucion.
ONLY if you're in town on the 12th of December. Why? because it's the celebration of the alleged appearance of Virgin Mary in Tepeyac (southern Mexico). Now, I'm not a Catholic and I've never been there cause I admittedly dread all these celebrations but the 12th of December is a BIG date in Mexico, especially among indigenous, Southerners and very poor people, they do all sort of rituals around that religious figure and the celebration is just something interesting to witness, it's very family friendly. Just take precautions as that area is not the safest here and tends to get very crowded that day for obvious reasons.. place your wallet inside your pants, zero jewelry or fancy gadgets and grab your kids by the hand. You'll be fine if you do that.
7. Voladores de Papantla at Palacio Municipal.
Paseo Centenario, Zona Río.
Not sure of the time and days but the Papantla Flyers are quite the spectacle and they do it with or without a crowd at specific hours of the day. Definitely something you don't want to miss if you're stopping briefly in Mexico. Wiki info.
There's also the Cultural Strip.. but it's not finished yet, it's near the García Station and right now, among other things I'm not very informed about, it has a museum for children called El Trompo (I've never been there but it doesn't sound conceptually intriguing so I won't recommend it). The rest should be finished in a couple of years.
Hope that changes your mind a little and makes you want to stop by in December!.
I'll post some things to do in Mexicali tomorrow.. I was just there a few months ago and really liked the desert vibe of the place.
[ Edit: Edited on 20-Jul-2010, at 01:27 by LSucettes ]
wow.. thanks for all the information.. I'll take note of those...
hmm.. Dec 12th.. interesting.. but yeah it's hard to bring kids in festivals.. I can imagine how it may look like as Mexicans and Filipinos share almost the same culture in festivities... at least that's what i think.. :D