So, what do you do with kids in Oaxaca City? We recently took two girls, our daughter Beija and her friend Pacifica, on a jam-packed two-week trip to Oaxaca. Here are the girls’ “best of” for the first quarter of our trip: Oaxaca City. I like to mix kid things into museums and churches and culinary exploration that are my favorite things. Oaxaca City with kids is the perfect vacation destination.
1. Swing Through the Zócalo
Stroll around the zócalo, or La Plaza de la Constitución, all day and still get new experiences. We made the zócalo a daily touch-point, wandering through to see what was happening on our way to and from other activities. It is the heart of the city, circled with sidewalk cafes, churches, and every kind of activity. There are men selling huge balloons next to women ladling out refreshing drinks in rainbow colors. There are merchants selling painted animals and roasted peanuts right alongside semi-permanent protesters. Everyone will find some people-watching goodness here.
2. Have a Food Market Picnic
Mercado Juarez (the food market) is a treasure trove of color and culinary goodness. Just west and south of the zócalo, it features every kind of food from tortillas to peppers to chocolate to roasted grasshoppers. We strolled through with the idea of creating a picnic. Our rule was one purchase per seller. We collected roasted peanuts from a wonderful man who encouraged us to smell each of his peppers.
Peanuts got added to a bag of chocolate and a bucket of mole paste to make at home from a woman who let us sample all the many options. The old women selling tortillas explained to the girls how to make them, but noted with a grin that the tweens seemed unlikely to take on the tortilla-making task at home. We found a roll of quesillo (think world’s largest ball of string) for our picnic basket. Finally, we looked around the edges of the market for fruit.
The girls chose some things they hadn’t tried before-the prickly rambutan and tiny finger bananas. We took everything to the zócalo and ate our five-dollar lunch like kings. We topped off the feast with a cookie from a wandering cookie seller.
3. Give the Kids a Budget for Souvenirs
It is hard to avoid art in Oaxaca City and kids, especially the preteen kind that we traveled with this time, love to buy stuff. Art items aren’t too expensive and the shopping had the added bonus of getting them to speak a little Spanish. Two of our favorite art collectives were MARO (Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca) and the one pictured below, La Casa de las Artesanías de Oaxaca. The girls purchased colorful, whimsical painted animal carvings of cats, birds, a giraffe, a large heart, and two other animals I can’t quite remember. They were compelling! Beija really wanted to get a spiny hedgehog, but we couldn’t figure out how to get it home without destroying it.
4. Downtime Drinks
We like our afternoon sweets. It was fun to stop into a coffee shop for a congelacraneos (brain freezer) or fruit licuado (smoothie) when the sun got too hot. The cucumber lime drink at Café Brujula was our favorite after taste testing several spots. Jay also put his stamp of approval on the espresso.
After siesta time the sun moves toward the horizon, cooling the streets. A pedestrian area, the Alcala, fills with people having their evening “walk around” or (and I don’t know if this is good Spanish, it is just what I call it) “pasear” – to walk around. I’ve seen this walk around activity happen in many hot places. It is the social event before a late dinner. We all had fun watching families and friends gather to lean against the wall at Santo Domingo, listen to a busker, buy roasted corn on a stick, roller skate, or just slowly meander down the street. It was relaxing for all of us after our busy day and the strength of the sun at mid-day.
There are so many more things to do in Oaxaca City with kids, but these are the kid-focused standouts. Check out our Oaxaca reading list for kids and adults. Watch for more posts sharing the excellence of a Oaxacan adventure with kids!