On a family getaway to Mexico City, you can do things you never thought possible with children in tow, like get them excited about history and culture and even have a peaceful meal at a restaurant. After a few days there, you’ll wonder why it took you and the kids so long to visit — and you’ll be planning a return trip before the first one is over. Here are some locally-recommended outings the whole family will enjoy.
Discover ancient history
The city’s origins are evident in the bustling Centro Histórico, which was once the heart of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. Today, you can still see the ruins of the Templo Mayor just off the Zócalo, or main square. Héctor Buenrostro, one of the site’s historians, says the temple and adjacent museum are an ideal starting-off point to explore the area’s rich past.
“Xochimilco, interconnected canals south of the city, is a vestige of the waterway transportation system and agriculture used in ancient times. Today, visitors can rent colorful trajineras [boats] to take them around the chinampas,the floating gardens where the Mexica people grew crops.”
Also check out: Cuicuilco, Museo Nacional de Antropología, and Tlatelolco.
Eat at grown-up restaurants your kids will love
Enjoy a real-deal Mexican meal like you would’ve before you became parents — hit up one of the great eateries tricked out with jungle gyms or play areas. Take it from Lucía Benitez, mom of two, chef, and cofounder of the new kitchen and event space Sobremesa in Roma.
“Parcela, in Condesa, has a garden with a playground that’s within view of tables. We usually go for breakfast, when it’s less crowded,” she says. “My go-to is avocado toast, while my husband gets chilaquiles, and it’s banana pancakes for my kids.”
Also check out: El Bajío, Frëims, and San Ángel Inn.
Catch some live entertainment
Family vacations may mean sacrificing late-night concerts, but there are tons of daytime shows that’ll give kids a new appreciation for theater, dance, and music. Some neighborhoods, like historic Coyoacán, seem to boast a cultural center on every corner. Airbnb Experience host, filmmaker, and mom Susana Bernal Uribe grew up in the area and leads a local walking tour.
“In Coyoacán’s main square, clowns and musicians have been performing on weekends since I was a kid. It’s so amazing to see the tradition continue.”
— Susana Bernal Uribe, Airbnb Experience host
“Danza de los Voladores, outside of Museo Nacional de Antropología, is a Mesoamerican dance still performed today. Five men climb a pole almost 100 feet tall. One plays a drum and a flute while the others — with ropes tied around them — descend headfirst, arms spread like wings as the pole turns. ”
Also check out: Ballet Folklórico at Palacio de Bellas Artes, Coyoacán’s main square, and La Titería puppet show.
Get a serious sugar high
Mexican desserts may not get the hype that street corn does, but they deserve it. Chef Elena Reygadas, owner of Rosetta and Lardo, should know — she serves the best pan dulce in town. To satisfy her sweet tooth — and those of her daughters — she has a few favorites.
“Dulcería de Celaya near the Zócalo has been around since 1874,” she says. “The polvorones [a shortbread cookie] taste like my childhood.”
Also check out: La Gran Vía, Las Horchatas, and Tout Chocolat.
Visit a super-cool museum
Mexico City has one of the highest numbers of museums in the world. For Nelsa Farrugia, mom of an 18-month-old son, it’s the best part about the vibrant capital. As founder of Mexico Cultural Travel, she builds itineraries with insider access to local creatives.
“High-energy, curious kids will love Papalote Museo Del Niño, where they can explore interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and a huge IMAX theater,” she says. “There’s plenty for toddlers, plus science experiment workshops for bigger kids — I can’t wait for my son to be old enough for those.”
About the author: After more than a decade on staff at magazines such as Travel + Leisure and Martha Stewart Living, Brooke Porter Katz relocated with her family to Mexico City last year. Her work has recently appeared in WSJ. Magazine, Sunset, Bloomberg Pursuits, AFAR, Wine Enthusiast, and Surface, among others.