Looking for a vacation that will immerse your family in Mexican culture? Book a flight to Guadalajara where they can listen to authentic mariachi music, explore cathedrals and historic buildings, shop for handmade crafts and more.
Guadalajara has a walkable, kid-friendly downtown. Start at the Governor’s Palace (Palacio de Gobierno), famous for the Jose Clemente Orozco mural of Father Miguel Hidalgo, and tour the grounds, including the state’s former legislative chambers. Then, cut through Plaza de Armas with its iron wrought bandstand to Guadalajara Cathedral. You can stroll through the cathedral admiring its artwork every day but Sunday when mass is held hourly.
From there, continue north to the rotunda surrounded by statues of the celebrated men and women of Jalisco or walk east past Plaza de la Liberación and Teatro Degollado to the Instituto Cultural Cabañas. Inside, you’ll find more Orozco murals, including his infamous mural, “Man of Fire.”
Of course, you can skip the historic buildings and murals entirely and just let the kids run through the plazas or shop for souvenirs from the vendors who line the streets.
Located in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-pa-keh) is known for its restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. Plan to spend the better part of a day strolling from shop to shop, pausing to view items offered by outdoor vendors or watch musicians and dancers perform. When you need a break, stop for lunch at Casa Luna, Casa Fuerte or any of the restaurants on the street.
When it comes to souvenirs, Tlaquepaque artisans make exceptional tiles, pottery and blown glass, but you’ll also find jewelry, leather goods and tequila. Kids can search for their own inexpensive keepsakes, including sombreros and toys, in the shops here.
You’ll want to go out of your way to listen to mariachi music while in Guadalajara. Unlike the mariachi bands that perform in Mexican restaurants in the United States, these bands can feature 13-15 musicians playing guitars, violins, trumpets and even harps. And, since Jalisco is the birthplace of mariachi music, the bands here are about as authentic as you can get.
Mariachi bands play free concerts every Thursday evening at Plaza de la Liberación, the plaza just east of Guadalajara Cathedral. Or, you can listen to mariachis in Tlaquepaque’s restaurants.
If you’re traveling with an animal lover, make a point to visit Zoologico Guadalajara. Located north of the city in the Parque Natural Huentitán, the zoo has more than 20,000 animals and enough attractions to keep the kids busy much of the day. With that in mind, buy the full pass, which includes the train ride and overhead SkyZoo ride (height restrictions).
The downtown Guadalajara aquarium, Acuario Michin, is another option. Although on the smaller side, it has exhibits inside and out with signs in English. Bring extra pesos so you can feed the tilapia, stingrays and birds.
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