Mexico City makes a fun playground for parents and children

In my travels to Mexico’s capital, I’ve ticked off several must-see destinations on my list: the soaring Teotihuacán pyramids, the stunning Zócalo and the ancient Aztec canals.

Yet every time my family visits the city — and the entirety of Mexico, for that matter — I never fail to notice the children.

Children are the stars around which revolves the Mexican family, something I found out last fall, when we brought our daughter to Mexico for the first time.

In Mexico, children dine with their parents in the fanciest of restaurants, unlike in some parts of the world. And it seems as if the city’s parks would cease to exist if there weren’t children swarming playgrounds or spilling across sidewalks to chase down a pineapple paleta from a street vendor.


Visiting Mexico City with the kids

Gustavo Anguiano Arzaluz, 9, flies a kite during a windy day at Zocalo square in Mexico City.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

All of this makes Mexico City an ideal destination for parents with younger and older kids. Here are some suggestions for the younger crowd:

Papalote Museo del Niño

Papalote is Spanish for “kite.” Like most children’s museums, this one operates on the “please do touch” principle.


It’s not the most technically advanced museum, but the exhibits are attractive to just about any kid. One section with a construction theme aims to educate kids about infrastructure. It invites visitors to arrange tiles of Astroturf to “landscape” a yard, and I couldn’t resist picking up pieces of plastic pipe to plumb a mock-up kitchen and bathroom.

Other exhibits are similarly hands-on, such as using magnets to manipulate a tub filled with iron filings. With the help of a docent, younger, lighter children can lie on a bed of nails in one corner of the museum. Though my daughter was far too young to take part, I enjoyed watching as several kids jockeyed to be next on the pointy Posturepedic.

Visiting Mexico City with the kids

Carlos Esquerre watches his daughter, Helena, 3, play on a slide in Mexico City’s Parque Espana.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Displaying a particular Latin whimsy, there’s even a 7-foot monster that ravenously eats the nightmares that children put to paper at a nearby desk.

After exploring the museum, families can settle down at the in-house Imax theater, which offers educational films.

The museum is open seven days a week. Some docents speak English. Admission about $5.50 per person, with an additional charge for the Imax film.

Info: 268 Avenida Constituyentes, Colonia Daniel Garza, 2a Sección de Bosque de Chapultepec; (Spanish only)

Zoológico de Chapultepec


Mexico City’s best-known zoo has a menagerie large and diverse enough to entertain and educate children and their parents.

The zoo makes up one section of the nearly 1,700-acre Bosque de Chapultepec (literal translation: Grasshopper Forest, named for the swarms of locusts that once lived there), Mexico City’s answer to Central Park.

It’s just off the enormous Paseo de la Reforma, and easy to reach by bus, taxi or subway. The zoo has pandas, a hippo pond that must be smelled to be believed, and creatures from Mexico and Central America, such as the teporingo, which doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be a rabbit or a woodchuck.

A sizable snake exhibit is certain to enthrall young minds. For a less scaly alternative, a large-scale terrarium hosts exotic butterflies.

Info: Calle Chivatito and Paseo de la Reforma, Bosque de Chapultepec, Admission is free but there’s a charge of about $2 per person for the snake and butterfly exhibits.

Visiting Mexico City with the kids

Andres Lopez plays with his son, Ernesto Lopez, 7, at the playground in Mexico City’s Parque Espana.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Parque México and Parque España

La Condesa, a neighborhood popular with tourists and residents, is home to two of Mexico City’s most popular parks.


Parque México, the larger of the two, is in the center of oval-shaped Avenida Amsterdam, once the site of a track for horse racing. The park offers numerous walking paths, each bordered by soaring trees that shade visitors from the harsh Mexican sun.

Parkgoers will frequently find concerts underway in the handsomely crafted Art Deco theater at the heart of the park. Cafes and restaurants, most of which offer sidewalk seating, line the periphery of the park for a leisurely lunch or a quick coffee break.

Parque España, a smaller version of its neighbor, has a half-acre playground with plenty of swings and slides. It’s a great place to wear down the kids’ batteries after having been cooped up in a hotel room.

Info: Parque México is at Avenida México and Avenida Sonora, Cuauhtémoc, Colonia Hipódromo; Parque España is a few blocks away at Avenida Oaxaca/Nuevo León and Avenida Sonora.

3 tips for parents heading to Mexico City with kids in tow

Visiting Mexico City with the kids

Mariana Garcia Vgalde, 15, watches the sun set into the horizon on the observation deck of Torre Latinoamericana in Mexico City.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Although Mexico City is kid-friendly, there are some important points to know before visiting with children:

— Parents should take their children’s car seat with them. Car seats are practically nonexistent in Mexico City. For many drivers in the capital, red lights are merely suggestions, and stop signs are ignored altogether.

Installing a car seat may annoy the cab driver, but it can be a drive of more than an hour from the airport to some sections of the city, so better safe than sorry.

The car seat is considered extra luggage, but airlines generally don’t charge baggage fees for them.

— Visitors who plan to do a lot of walking should ditch the standard stroller for a jogging stroller or just wear the kid in a baby carrier.

Anyone who complains about the state of Los Angeles’ sidewalks may reconsider at the sight of Mexico City’s shattered, uplifted, even missing walkways. The large, inflated wheels of a jogging stroller facilitate tackling the city’s craggy sidewalks.

— Mexico City is full of American expats. Facebook groups such as Mexico City Moms ( and other online resources can be useful in finding a babysitter or locating specialty baby formulas.

Many online groups are members-only, so start the research well before your trip.


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