Hello, friends! I’m reviving this blog on account of our first international trip as a family of four!
Now that Theo is in elementary school and our trips are bound by his school schedule, we thought Mexico City would fit the bill for a week-long break over Thanksgiving. We wanted a quick (and direct) flight given it was our first international trip with the baby. Plus, tacos. And…perhaps a smidge of wanting to prove to ourselves that we can still go on adventures, even with a 5-year-old and 7-month-old in tow? Yes, some of that, too.
I thought I’d include some highlights with a special nod to friends who have been asking about what it’s like there with kids. On to the fun stuff:
We stayed in a colorful Airbnb in the hip, tree-lined neighborhood of Condesa. (That’s our house pictured in the top photo.) We loved walking around and checking out the architecture and lively sidewalk cafes. It reminded me a little of a tropical version of Berlin– another massive, spread-out city made up of many distinct neighborhoods, a high walkability factor, and not as dense-feeling as the population count would have you believe. Condesa was downright peaceful and relaxed. Of course, Mexico City is not all sunshine and roses–social inequalities run deep and rich and poor areas are segregated from each other in every way imaginable. We only managed to see a tiny sliver of the city in the time we were there so our view is obviously limited…which means at some point, we’ll have to go back!
Dance of the Flyers
The first real day we had we headed to Saks, a bustling restaurant in nearby Polanco where neighborhood families go for Sunday brunch. We then headed to Chapultepec Park, the biggest park in Mexico City (twice the size of Central Park). We happened upon the danza de los voladores (weekends in front of the National Museum of Anthropology) a ceremony with deep spiritual and ritual significance that dates back centuries. Performers shimmy up a 100-foot pole, suspended by their ankles, and whirl around as they slowly descend to the ground. Theo could only watch by covering his eyes and peeking through his fingers. The show was free but we tipped and bought a souvenir.
Playgrounds Indoors and Out
I have a soft spot for restaurants that cater to people with children that aren’t reminiscent of Chuck E. Cheese’s. This seems to be more of a thing in Europe, and I guess it’s a thing in Mexico, too. One afternoon we headed to the nearby neighborhood of Roma to Parcela, a fun restaurant with great cocktails that had a huge playground in view of the tables. Theo ran around, the baby ate some sand, and we were able to take a (momentary) breather. As with any trip with kids, we try and hit up a playground or park at least once a day to. Those without kids might think this is boring as hell, but it’s a nice way to experience a more local vibe (Theo usually finds kids to play with) and it’s also necessary to get some energy out, especially when you’re asking them to see sites and sit in restaurants. Our favorites were Parque España and Parque Mexico, both in Condesa.
Best Seafood at Contramar
Contramar! I had read about this place for years. This seafood institution in Roma is best known for its tuna tostadas, ceviches, and a variety of coastal cuisine. We lucked out on a last-minute reservation and, while I was initially hesitant to go with little ones, the waiters were beyond accommodating. Rafe and I enjoyed it immensely, Dylan discovered fresh tortillas and Theo was pleased with the array of desserts they brought out. And I couldn’t believe how reasonable it was. The dollar goes far in Mexico (although coming from San Francisco, everything anywhere else is a bargain!)
I had done some research ahead of time to find a reputable babysitting service so we could venture out a few evenings after our kids’ early bedtime. The babysitter we were assigned happened to have been a former au pair in Berkeley and she was really great with the kids. On the first night she came, we decided to go to a lucha libre show. This was actually my idea. I was curious and thought it’d be interesting and entertaining and…it was. But as a first-time spectator with little contextual understanding, it also appeared to be fairly racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. We went as a group led by a journalist/lucha libre expert and it was interesting to hear first-hand how it’s truly part of Mexico’s cultural fabric. And I do have to say the sheer physicality of the performers was indeed impressive, but I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend this activity or ever do it again!
Frida Kalo and Coyoacán
On Wednesday, we went to Coyoacán, one of the first populated areas of Mexico City that has been beautifully preserved, full of cobblestone streets and plazas. This was the farthest we ventured on our trip (see: two small children, one of whom cries in the car and one of whom gets carsick) but it was only a 30-40 minute Uber ride away. (While the subway system is vast and efficient, with the baby we found Uber to be the best way to get around. They were plentiful, cheap, and all the drivers we encountered were friendly and patient with our car seat.)
We were in Coyoacán mainly to see the Frida Kahlo Museum. Also referred to as La Casa Azul, the museum is her childhood home (and where she lived with some dude Diego Rivera) and there are exhibitions of her art as well as her personal belongings and a lush courtyard garden. Tip: buy your tickets ahead of time at least a week in advance and get there early –yes, there’s even a line for those with tickets. On the plus side, they don’t allow too many people in at once, so you can walk around without it feeling too crowded. I’m really glad we made it here–the magic is palpable. For lunch, we headed towards nearby Plaza Hidalgo and ate a million tacos at this wonderful taco spot. Man we ate so many tacos on this trip, and never tired of them. There were tons of good-looking restaurants all around the plaza — if only we had more time to check them out!
National Museum of Anthropology
Thursday we headed to Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) inside Chapultepec Park. The museum is divided into multiple exhibit halls with each focused on a different region of Mexico and its native cultures. The bottom floors are dedicated to archeology and the top floors to living cultures. We barely scratched the surface during our 3-hour visit. Theo was surprisingly engaged with the exhibits. He was especially impressed by the reconstructed Mayan temples and learning more about his Mayan ancestry. We had lunch at the museum restaurant, a convenient place to refuel that had some interesting regional Mexican options on offer.
Mole and Mezcal
For Thanksgiving, we ditched the kids and went out on the town. I know, I know. But Dylan is, well, a baby, and Theo didn’t care as he was psyched to stay with the babysitter and make a piñata with her. Our first stop was to sample some mezcal at a cozy little bar called La Clandestina. Who knew there were so many varieties of mezcal? After we taste-tested a few varieties, we walked a few blocks to Azul Condesa on recommendation from our Airbnb host. It was an untraditional Thanksgiving, that’s for sure. No turkey but we had an amazing meal–Rafe had the best mole of his life, and I had a wonderful sopa de tortilla. All around, it’s a fantastic menu of well-executed Mexican standards and lesser-known indigenous specialties. And no kids with us meant we actually got to enjoy the food!
On our last day in the city we laid low as we had 2-am wakeup time the next day. We ended our trip on a sweet note at El Morro Churro. The churros come out still hot and they give you a rich chocolate sauce for dipping. Tip: let the kids run off their churro energy at nearby Parque Mexico.
In retrospect, we crammed in a lot in the span of a week, especially considering all the naptimes and playground stops we took. Traveling with two young kids is no joke, but Mexico City was a great family-friendly choice and I can’t wait to go back someday.