Our Day and a Half Trip to Mexico City
As our 3 year old Toddler continues to grow, we want to continue to expose him to more international trips, to familiarize him with traveling. As Whitney and I already planned to eventually travel to Mexico together, we felt it was a short enough trip from Orlando to take him and ease him into world travel. All in all, the city did not disappoint and we had a blast. The only regret was not staying longer!
Getting from the Airport to our Hotel was easy and straightforward, but required some haggling. When we arrived, we walked over to the authorized taxi stands. There were 6 stands lined up side by side. The first stand quoted a price of 475 pesos ($25) for a 40 minute drive to the hotel. Since we love to bargain we informed her that was too much to pay, she then lowered it to 320 pesos ($16). We then took that information and went down the line of authorized taxis quoting the previous lowest price and telling them to do better. At the last booth, we were able to get them down to 152 pesos ($8).
Once in the city, the real inexpensive way to get around was Uber. We were able to drive around to different locations for on average, about $3 a trip.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do! Isn’t that the adage? Or in this case, when in Mexico. Well, the first thing we did after we dropped our bags off in the hotel room was find something to eat! Of course while in Mexico you have to try TACOS! We chose a restaurant called El Huequito based off of reviews from our hotel staff. The restaurant was only a 7 min walk from our hotel.
Once inside, it was a small but clean restaurant. The staff was very friendly and the menu was packed with a lot of local flavors. They handed us a menu in Spanish but, upon request, we were given one in English. Whitney ordered the steak fajitas, I ordered the chicken and chorizo tacos. For our toddler, we ordered chicken nuggets and french fries (they have a kid friendly menu with a lot of options). For drinks, we ordered a bottle of water, a glass of Horchata and a margarita. Everything tasted good and fresh. We enjoyed the flavors and the ambiance. The meal all together came up to 499 pesos ($20). Not too bad for a family meal with drinks included!
For convenience, for lunch we tried the restaurant directly downstairs form our hotel, Garabatos. We expected to pay more, but was also told the food and bakery was pretty good there. Whitney ordered the steak Tacos with cheese, fresh made pico de gallo and grilled nopales (cactus leaves). I ordered fried fish tacos with avocado and coleslaw and pico de gallo. For Caleb, we ordered him curly fries and a home made vanilla bean milk shake. For our drinks, we ordered a matcha green tea frappuccino and a chilled horchata. For an appetizer, we decided to try esquites ( grilled corn with mayonnaise, cheese, chili pepper and lime juice). For dessert, I decided to try the tiramisu. The food came out prompt and the customer service was great. The meal came up to 950 pesos ($50), which was a lot in comparison to how much we could have paid in local places.
To satisfy Caleb and Whitney's sweet tooth, we decided to head over to Pasteleria Madrid. It was a pastry shop literally across the street from our hotel. Inside was varying types of fresh made baked pastries and cakes in all different varieties, a section for hot food and a café serving hot and cold drinks. Whitney picked a grande size sugar croissant for herself, while Caleb picked a grande sized sugar doughnut (Think he fell asleep that night?). Both items came up to 20 pesos ($1). For the quality and size of the items, we were surprised we did not pay triple or quadruple that price. All in all, it is a spot that should be on everyone’s list, when visiting Mexico City!
For souvenirs, we typically stick to our main items, something different for the house, country magnets for our collection and a starbucks coffee mug for our world collection. As for Starbucks, there was no shortage in locations to choose from. For our magnets and souvenirs, we were able to find Mercado De Artesanias La Cuidadela. This market was vibrant with a lot of colors and cool trinkets. We were able to purchase a cool colorful ceramic sombrero for our magnet collection. We were able to pick up 3 magnets for 54 pesos ($3) and a T-shirt for Caleb, for 80 pesos ($4). Pretty affordable in our opinion. If upon your visit, you have more time and determination, it should not be hard to negotiate lower prices.
The sights in Mexico City was plentiful and lively. Everywhere we looked was Spanish influenced architecture, and festive vibrant colors. There was no shortage of history either. The City had enough sites to keep the whole family engaged and excited.
Zocalo was a 5 minute walk from our Hotel and boasted big open courtyard area. The spanish style architecture was beautiful and historic. The square was packed with people when we arrived and had a fun and inviting vibe. We reached the location too late to see the enormous Mexican flag that flies in the middle of the open square. The flag was being taken down upon our arrival.
Curious as to how vibrant China town would be, we made a stop along our way back to the hotel. There were a lot of local street vendors and stores full of a variety of items to purchase such as clothes, souvenirs, and etc. We went to a street vendor based off of recommendations from the hotel staff that made elotes. Elotes is Mexican grilled corn, topped with butter, mayo, chili powder and lime juice. Once we arrived, we noticed the mayo container was wide open in the hot sun and looked as if it was sitting out for a while. In order to save our stomachs and avoid sickness, we passed on the experience and opted to wait for another opportunity to try it.
Upon arrival at the pyramids, we chose to start our journey on the piramide del sol (Sun pyramid) side. We opted to forego a tour guide because we were able to google the history ahead of time as well as we wanted to go at our own pace (a must with toddlers). We didn’t see a lot of toddlers going up the steps since they are very steep, but, our son went up every single step with no complaints! He was a trooper. He thoroughly enjoyed going up to the top and looking at the beautiful view. (We had a lot of people comment “if he can do it, we surely can!”) We spent about 2 hrs there and was able to explore the whole archaeological compound and make it over to the piramide del luna (Moon pyramid) as well. To get to the location, we took a dedicated driver, coordinated through our Hotel for slightly less than $100 USD roundtrip.
Note: There are cheaper guides and tour buses that would allow you to get to the site for cheaper, if you prefer. We opted to take a dedicated driver instead of the guided tour bus, for convenience purposes. We wanted to be able to ride comfortably, allow Caleb to spread out, nap along the way and also go at our own pace and not be at the mercy of the driving company.
Toddler Travel Tip: We always make it a point to teach our son something about the culture of the location we are exploring. In the case of Mexico, in addition to eating the food, he was able to learn a few words in Spanish.
While in Mexico City, we arrived on vacation at the right time. During the days we were there, a Lucha Libre match was traveling in town to the local arena. We were able to snag some tickets the day of, for the whole family. Tickets for all three of us came up to $13 total. Not bad! The Match was fun, loud and exciting. All of the wrestlers put on a good show and kept us entertained throughout the whole event. Caleb enjoyed the wrestling match and also began cheering the wrestlers on as they fought. Who knew he liked wrestling?!!
Travel Tip: As for arrival, it would be beneficial to purchase your tickets before hand on ticket master, if the Lucha Libre happens to be in town during your stay. It is a very popular event, so getting tickets the day of was cheap but chaotic, due to the long lines. Getting them before would allow you to head straight into the arena.
Los Colores De Frida
We were also able to catch the Los colores de Frida festival that was hosted at Zocalo. The festival boasted larger than life exhibits and displays, such as a HUGE exhibit of Frida laying down in bed with her eyes open, huge artistic calavera sculptures and many more. The event was pretty colorful and interactive, and was able to keep our toddler entertained and active for a while.
Travel Tip: Whenever you are visiting any international country, ensure to look at upcoming events that may be taking place, while you are present. You may find yourself enjoying a once n a lifetime festival.
Our family chose to stay in the Hampton Inn hotel, right next to Zócalo ( the famous square of central Mexico City) . We used our points to book the hotel for free, at 40,000 points (20,000 points per night). The hotel was situated in the heart of the city, with only a 5 minute walk to Zocalo, various eateries and a short Uber ride to other main attractions. Once we arrived, the check in process was speedy. The room itself was comfortable but a little outdated and small. You really don't notice how much the size of a room is important until you have a toddler with energy (how do you play hide and seek with only a bathroom to hide in?). Disregarding the size of the room, the hotel was still a great choice. The location of hotel was great, reviews on the customer service were spot on, and the low amount of points required to stay there was icing on the cake.
Upon arrival, the pool was closed for maintenance, but, we were only in town for 2 days, so not a major issue. The complimentary breakfast was hearty, with many options to choose form, such as eggs, steamed vegetables, waffles, sausages, fresh fruit, yogurts, and pastries. This was great for our son who is a picky eater. He was able to make his own waffle and also eat his ketchup with eggs!
What would we have done differently
1. Upon arrival, we would have simply taken an Uber to our hotel. We initially did not, due to not knowing if the city was safe to travel by unofficial means.
2. Spend more than a day and a half. We really enjoyed ourselves and felt, although we saw a lot, 3 days may have been more appropriate for Mexico City.
3. Try the street Elotes for a more authentic feel of Mexcio City's street food scene.
4. Pay for the hop on and hop off double decker bus, in order to see all of the top destinations in the city in one day.