We love finding places in Mexico that aren’t obvious tourist destinations. For us, it feels like we’ve been let in on a secret that others have yet to discover. We recently spent a week and a half in exploring the city of Guadalajara, Mexico. I’m honestly quite surprised that this city has fallen under the tourist radar. There are so many Guadalajara things to do in the city!
Perhaps it was because we stayed in a mainly residential area of the city, but we rarely saw tourists while we were there. Instead, we spent our time in places that were mostly frequented by locals, which suited us just fine. During our stay, we really didn’t have a hard time imagining ourselves living in this city long term
Why you want to visit Guadalajara
The city of Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico. Located in the state of Jalisco, it’s a hub for food, music, and tequila. The city is surprisingly walkable, which you’ll find when you visit Guadalajara. Sidewalks line many of the streets. There’s also a fairly extensive transit system, which can take you around the city. If you’re not comfortable using public transportation, you can always rely on Uber or taxis, which are abundant throughout the city. We loved how easy it was to get to all the places to visit in Guadalajara.
Anyone who plans to visit Guadalajara will enjoy the lively food scene that the city has to offer. We ate at some fantastic restaurants while we were there. And as the city is also the birthplace of Mariachi, traditional Mexican music groups composed of guitars, accordions, and horns, you’ll also most likely be treated to some good music while you’re there.
When you visit Guadalajara, be sure to come in the winter or spring (November to May). This is the dry season for the region. The months of June to October are the wet season. While the temperature may be cooler during that time than the dry season, you’ll have to deal with the humidity. Additionally, the rains can put a damper on your sight-seeing plans.
Our favorite Guadalajara things to do
We really enjoyed our time in the city, and exploring all the Guadalajara things to do for families. There are so many places to visit in Guadalajara, that it’s hard to pick just a few. But here are our favorite for things to do when you and your family visit Guadalajara.
Ride bikes at Parque Metropolitano
A popular activity for local families is to rent bikes at Parque Metropolitano. Located in the Zapopan neighborhood, Parque Metropolitano is an expansive park, with plenty of trails for biking and running. We spent an afternoon at Parque Metropolitano, riding bikes around the park. You can rent the bikes by the hour for about 80 pesos per person. They have kids’ bikes with or without training wheels. You can also rent quadricycles.
Visit the Mercado Libertad
We love spending time at local markets whenever we can. If you’re planning to visit Guadalajara, be sure to check out the Mercado Libertad. It’s an enormous three story market, selling food, clothes, jewelry, household goods, and artisan goods. Official known as Mercado San Juan de Dios, this market is located just east of centro. We enjoyed walking around and seeing all the things for sale at the market. Since the city has a strong rodeo culture, we saw many specialty made saddles for sale at the market, which were quite beautiful to look at.
Walk (or ride) along Ignacio Vallarta and Chapultepec
One of our favorite Guadalajara things to do during our time in the city was to walk along Avenida Ignacio Vallarta and Avenida Chapultepec. Every Sunday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, these two streets close down for cars, and are open for pedestrians and bikers. Local come to take advantage of the open streets, and ride their bikes or jog along the open avenues. We loved walking these streets and seeing the community come out and enjoy a Sunday morning together. But even on other days of the week, Ignacio Vallarta and Chapultepec are still fun to visit, as there are many shops and restaurants along those streets.
Visit the Zoologico Guadalajara
One of the best places to visit in Guadalajara for families is the Guadalajara Zoo, also known as Zoologico Guadalajara. We were very impressed by the zoo, and think it rivals that of Singapore Zoo and San Diego Zoo. We loved all the unique animal exhibits. And there are so many fun ways to see the animals, including a mini-safari experience and by riding a sky tram!
Listen to Mariachi music
Since the city is the birthplace of Mariachi music, there are many places to listen to this type of music. We enjoyed going to Casa Bariachi, where we were serenaded by a Mariachi band while we ate. It was quite a musical treat! While you visit Guadalajara, be sure to check out its many music stores. As a music-loving family, we loved checking out the music stores while we were there. And we even bought a ukelele to take along on our travels!
Take a Sunday brunch
Guadalajara’s food culture is thriving! We were surprised at all the great restaurants that you can find in the city. Another one of our favorite Guadalajara things to do was to take a Sunday brunch at one of the many restaurants in the city. Due to Guadalajara’s strong tech industry, as well as its thriving commercial industry, the city has a relatively large middle class. This means many of the locals have the disposable income to enjoy going out to eat on a fairly regular basis. Our favorite brunch place was Cafe P’al Real. We loved the creative presentation of their food, and the cosy ambience of the restaurant.
Sample pre-Hispanic dishes
Another favorite restaurant of ours in the city is one called Los Amores de Frida. Our server there, Paco, liked to refer to it as three restuarants in one, serving French cuisine, traditional Mexican cuisine, and pre-Hispanic cuisine. If you do go to this restaurant when you visit Guadalajara, be sure to sample at least one of the pre-Hispanic dishes.
I was particularly fond of the gusano de maguey (the maguey worm). These worms are actually caterpillars, and are often found on the leaves of agave plants. The maguey worms are roasted with oil, and served with onions and cilantro. They have somewhat of a nutty flavor, and are pretty tasty, in my opinion.
Finding your own places to visit in Guadalajara
When you visit Guadalajara with your family, be sure to take some time to find your own places to visit in Guadalajara. Since our trip was a relatively short one, we only did a fraction of the activities we wanted to do. There are so many other Guadalajara things to do for families that we missed out on. We would have loved to visit some of the churches (including Guadalajara Cathedral and Templo Expiatoria del Santismo Sacramento), walked through Centro more, or visited Bosque Los Colomos (another one of Guadalajara’s city park).
But even though we did get through all of our Guadalajara things to do list, we did manage to check many of the items off our list. For us, really, the best part of the city was being able to spend time together. Whether we were riding bikes together at the park, or listening to Mariachi music, we enjoyed the time spent exploring this part of Mexico as a family.
Have you visited Guadalajara? Share your favorite Guadalajara things to do in the comments.
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