Where can you find some of the some of the best museums, amazing parks, gorgeous fountains, playgrounds, culture, history, arts, architecture, amazing restaurants, classy boutiques, mezcal, street vendors, street food, and some of the best churros ever? Mexico City. That is right Mexico City.
When my husband suggested Mexico for a trip, I thought just like you are thinking, Mexico City… Will we be safe? Is this the place we want to take our children? So I understand exactly what you are thinking but take all your misconceptions and toss them out of the window. My family which consist of two small children; one with special needs were very safe and enjoyed every aspect of Mexico City. Let me tell you why…
Mexico City has a huge network of public transportation Metro, Metrobús, taxis, and Ubers. All very cheap to utilize and easy to maneuver. Many hotels will also provide transportation to tourist attractions or have their own tourist taxi. Mexico City has a gigantic population so public transportation can be crowded at times. There is a special section on the Metro for women and children. Some of Logan’s autism triggers are crowds and loud noises. Due to the metro and buses being crowded at times, I thought they potentially could be too much for my little sidekick so I opted for Ubers. I personally really enjoyed using the Ubers, a ride was available within minutes, they took us directly to our next destination, I was able to manage both kids safely, and I was able to speak to the drivers about their favorite places they like to visit and get a locals viewpoint. With such a dense population driving can be pretty interesting like four cars in two lanes. I just didn’t feel that I would comfortably be able to drive aggressively enough to get around with a rental car. With the public transportation system, taxis, and access to Uber you can easily get around to anywhere you want to in the City without spending a fortune. Uber has an easy to use app and a car shows up within minutes. Click here for a referral code and get five dollars off your first ride. Essentially a free ride to any destination and back in Mexico City. Plus if you use our referral code we get free rides. It’s a win/win for all. At the time of our visit, 1 American dollar was equivalent to 18 Mexican Pesos. Mexico City is a bargain. However, just because things were cheaper didn’t mean they lacked in quality or experience.
Distrito Federal or the D.F. was renamed to Ciudad de Mexico or CDMX in 2016. As you travel around you will see the big black and pink CDMX signs in areas promoting the new name. These are popular tourist photo opportunities and selfie spots. While it is referred to as the CDMX, many locals still call this area the D.F just so you know what area locals are talking about. This area is the center or heart of Mexico City. There is much to see in this area. We spent two days exploring this area.
We first started off with a tour bus. We used Touri Bus, These buses are easily located all over the City. I know they are cheesy but I truly enjoy them. The kids enjoy sitting on the top of the double-decker looking around, I like hearing the history, and my husband likes to get a feel for the layout of the city. I have also noticed places that seem unique or fun and add them to our list to check out. There are several different routes included in your purchase., so a two-day pass would be beneficial and an easy way to get around to sites. We only did one route. The bus will take you through many areas of the city and is a hop on and off style. When you enter into La Condesa, watch out for low branches and wires. The warning is in Spanish, so if you are unfamiliar with the language, you will quickly notice everyone around you taking cover, leaving you guessing for what is up ahead. I also suggest bringing a hat and sunscreen if you sit on the open top level. The overcast is present but sunburn can still happen. Don’t forget your earphones, each seat has an area when you can plug into and hear the tour in several different languages in you do not understand Spanish. I do not recommend sitting on top if you are unable to completely control your kids. My husband and I take the one kid each approach. I usually end up with Logan because I am quicker to identify if a trigger is occurring and am more aware of what around might affect Logan’s senses. The upper deck is quite enjoyable but there is an only a small rail and kids are able to stick their hands out and grab onto limbs and or low electrical wires rather quickly if you aren’t paying attention. This doesn’t mean the top deck is off limits, we road the route for several hours without any issues.
The Zocalo which is the main city square was easy to explore on foot. A large open area surrounded by government buildings and Mexican history. This area is used for ceremonies, parades, and festivals. This area was a lot more busy than most areas we visited. Many tourist sites are referred to in direction from the Zocalo. In areas that are crowded like this, I can sense Logan’s anxiety rising. We have learned that he feels safer and secure if he has the opportunity to be carried. I utilize a preschool soft structured carrier for this and it works out very well. I can wear around my waist or toss it into a day pack until I need it; or Logan will go up on my husband’s shoulders. He still takes in the sites and experience but being held close gives him a extra security he needs to combat his anxiety.
CATEDRAL METROPOLITANA DE LA ASUNCIÓN DE LA SANTÍSIMA VIRGEN MARÍA
The Catedral Metropolitana is one of the oldest and biggest Cathedrals in Latin America. It is gothic style inspired by Spain. Built out of the stone from the Aztec Temples the Cathedral is stunning and full of history. There are 14 public chapels that are dedicated to different saints. The Cathedral has lavish sculptures, various organs, alters, and public mass. We were able to witness several baptisms as we visited. My kids loved pretending to be Beauty and the Beast in a castle and were impressed with all the gold alters. The alters and architecture were simply stunning, and definitely worth visiting. The front of the Cathedral has higher traffic flow, of to the side is a larger fenced in area with several monuments. I spent some time here before going in letting Logan run around, decompress, and burn some energy off.
Located next to the cathedral is Templo Mayor. This is the archeological find of the Aztec opposing Gods found in the last 40 years. The Aztecs believed this area to be the center of the universe. The Templo can be viewed from the sidewalk around the temple. While you can get some understanding of the temple, there is a museum the admission fee includes access to the temple and a museum, which provided Aztec history and shares the recent archaeological discoveries. There are some signs in English but most of the signs are in Spanish. It did help that I speak and am able to translate a large amount of Spanish. I did see many visitors that hired private guides to walk them through the temple. Templo Mayor, like many museums, is free on Sundays to local residents and students. Keep this in mind when planning your trip many museums tend to be busier on Sundays due to this discount.
El Mayor is a restaurant located above the bookstore Purroa which was worth looking around while waiting for the elevator. El Mayor serves, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The additionally have an area that features a bar with a different menu mostly lighter fare and bar foods. The most amazing thing about this restaurant is the open terrace and the view of the Templo Mayor, the Zocalo, and the Cathedral. The chile rellenos were simply delicious, prices were relatively decent for being in such a high tourist area. Service is slower compared to what we were used to in America, which can be an issue if your children are unable to sit for longer periods of time. We carry workbooks and tablets for occurrences like this. I suggest the bar side of the restaurant if you know your kiddo can’t sit. You are still able to walk over to see the view and get some decent food. But the view is worth the visit.
AZTEC CULTURE AND RITUALS
While exploring the cathedral and the temple there were many locals dressed in traditional ceremonial Aztec garb. Beautiful feather headdress, Aztec dance, rituals, all performed in the square. We were also able to see floral alters being prepared and prayer taking place. Both kids were mesmerized and we enjoyed watching for quite some time. Logan was overtaken at one point when one ritual included burning of sage. The smoke and smell were just a little too much for him, and he started waving his hands in his face shouting “that smells yucky “ “Ewwww, stinky,” After a quick chuckle I was able to locate an area the was quiet and empty. I was able to get him to decompress rather quickly. We have been working on blowing in our hands, counting to 10, deep breathing, and have found a Melissa and Doug paint color book, all these are what we use to relax when Logan gets overwhelmed. Are these breaks hard, time-consuming, frustrating, and come at the most inopportune times? Yes, but we work through it and overcome the challenges and they are an important part of our trips. We all work on identifying Logan’s his triggers with support and encouragement we all work through it. My ultimate goal is for Logan to be able to identify his own triggers himself until he is at that point, he has a pretty awesome support team.
AUTHENTIC MEXICAN TACOS
My husband had been dying to try authentic Mexican tacos for some time. We were told about a little taco stand Los Cocuyos that surely lived up to its reputation. The tacos were delish, though made of many body parts not commonly eaten in the United States such as eyes and brains. So be brave or don’t translate the menu. This stand is tiny, service is fast, and tacos are delish. The owner worked with my husband and offered suggestions as to which tacos where his favorite and what to order. The good thing about the open kitchen is you are able to look for hand hygiene, how the food is cooked and prepared. We ordered lunch for our family for less than five American dollars. Our kids were tired of walking after tacos so we checked out a small bar next to the taco stand. They had Mexican beer on tap and a jukebox that Logan loved picking out his own music and dancing too. The staff were kind and had lots of little chuckles at Logan’s dance moves. His signature move is a pointed finger in each hand and a booty shake.
THE PALACIO DE ARTES
Mexico has many amazing architectural buildings old and new, this one is my favorite. Simply breathtaking. It is gorgeous to simply look at the European architecture and the intricate details. The first floor has small little shops and marble flooring which Olivia loved twirling about on. The art museum is on the second floor, though best suited for older children so we didn’t venture up that way. The grounds are well kept and its great place to people watch. Across the street is the Sears towers, on the eighth floor there is a coffee shop nestled back near home furnishings. Cafe Don Porfirio has a beautiful balcony that is at eye level to the Basilica. I was able to snag some really awesome pictures, take in this beauty with delicious coffee, rest my feet, all while my kiddos nibbled on some delicious cake.
A skyscraper in the CDMX, Torre Latinoamericana, that is rumored to have amazing views. While waiting in line for tickets, Logan was hungry and wanted something to eat. We were told that there was a restaurant in the building that would still allow us to have the panoramic view and grab something to eat without paying for tickets. We were able to locate Miralto Restaurant and bar after getting on the second set of elevators going up. They had children’s chicken tenders and french fries which was the first time we were able to locate them in the city. As Logan gobbled up his favorite food, we enjoyed sipping on the house wine and enjoying the spectacular views. We were able to view out as far as the mountains and just by chance, a helicopter flew by right in front of our windows, which felt like it was close enough to touch. Both kids really enjoyed this unexpected experience.
EL MORO CHURROS
It doesn’t get much better than El Moro Churros. Fried crispy and smothered in cinnamon and sugar. Order the side of chocolate sauce and you can thank me later. There are also other locations throughout the City, these churros were so good that we tired them again in Roma. They have different types of churros as well as small churro sandwiches with ice cream nestled in between, you can also accompany your churros with coffee or tea. We visited at rush hour and the line was long but moved rather quickly. Their open counter allowed us to watch churros being made, fired, and packaged up for service. Watch out for the lower hanging signs, Logan was sitting on my husband’s shoulders to watch how the churros were made and he also made sure the hanging signs were secured properly by giving them a couple taps.
Easily one of Logan’s favorite places. We visited Coyoacan to check out the market and get dinner. The square was bustling with activities, couples snuggling, children playing, and couples dancing. The perfect place to let our kids run, dance, and kick a ball with some local kids. We had dinner at La Coyoacan, the food was amazing and we ordered the house special which was several different types of meat including chicken, chorizo, pork skins, onions, an interesting combination but paired with a classic margarita and it was simply amazing. Our kids loved the live Mariachi band, which played during dinner service. While there are some sounds that are overwhelming for Logan, hair dryers, flushing toilets, fireworks, loud bangs, music seems to speak to his soul. The mariachi band plays all around the restaurant so music is definitely present during dinner. Noise canceling headphones could be helpful or skip this place altogether if the music is a sensory issue for your family. Luckily Logan loved this place and I am glad we tried it out even in fear that it may not work out. It was so awesome to see Logan enjoying the band, his little face lit up you could simply see pure joy. Logan kept looking through his pockets to find more pesos to request more songs. This place placed the biggest and brightest smile on his face the whole trip. Authentic and kid-friendly from the staff to the french fries.
Roma is an area that is full of great restaurants, art galleries, little boutiques, bars, and cafes. We loved Mercado Roma, the epitome of hipster heaven. The first floor of this market is lots of independent restaurants to try different food from tamales to ice cream. There is a small covered patio. One the second floor is the Biergarten. We spent an hour or so here. The kids enjoyed the foosball table and we enjoyed the Mexican craft beer. Afterward, we walked over to Plaza de Janeiro in the center was a replica of the statue of David. The kids were able to locate a small climbing playground where they were able to play with several local kids for a while.
I would move to La Condesa in a heartbeat. This is the area we stayed in and I fell in love with it. There are several small hotels in the area as well as a hostel, but we prefer staying in apartments using Air bnb There are several high quality apartments and house available in the area available for rent. Staying in apartments gives us the ability to do our own laundry, cook our own meals, and completely dive into the Mexican culture at a fraction of the price. We also get to interact with a host who provides us with insights and must sees from a local’s view point. Click here for a $40 dollar credit on your first stay. In addition if you book through Air bnb we get a $20 dollar credit on our next stay. Air bnb’s are located throughout the world and we have had great experiences from every stay.
La Condesa is safe, hip and trendy, filled with lots of great quality restaurants, shops, cafes, bars, art, parks, playgrounds, public gyms, and clubs. This area is very accepting of all lifestyles and one of the most dog-friendly areas I have ever experienced.
This area has many, many, many restaurants that cater to dietary restrictions. So bring on the casein free, soy free, dairy free, gluten free, and vegan diets. There will be something delicious to eat in this area.
The were many cafes that we loved including Cafe’ Ojo de Agua. They have great smoothies, coffee, freshly squeezed juices, acai bowls, sandwiches and twist on Mexican classics like chilaquiles. We had breakfast here twice. It was nice to be able to sit on the street, watch the local vendors, local traffic, and watch the fountain over coffee.
Parque España and Parque México, are both large parks with large fenced in playground areas. The park being fenced in was a huge plus when you have to worry about your little one running off or trying to elope. We had pushed Logan to do a lot when visiting Ciudad de México as well as Chapultepec Park, these playgrounds were the perfect place to grab a coffee, pastry, and let him decompress. This gave him a place where he wasn’t asked questions, had very little expectations, no demands, and very few transitions. We spent most of our mornings and evenings exploring and enjoying these playgrounds, balancing the demands of the day Logan had encountered. The amazing thing about Mexico City is the relaxed pace, no one seemed rushed, while some areas are busy the hustle and bustle feeling is gone. You will be greeted on the street by everyone you encounter in La Condesa, so learn the greetings of the day, a little Spanish can go a long way.
Our last night in Condesa we had an amazing dinner at Cercano Comedor. During an incident on the playground, Logan was injured and the owner and staff assisted us with getting Logan to the local Children’s Hospital and calming this wild momma down. No worries he is fine, one day when his communication skills are better maybe I won’t freak out as quickly. While going back to say thank you and show our appreciated for all the help they provided us with, we decided to dine in and what a great surprise. The food was fresh, rich, perfectly cooked, and unforgettable. By far one of the best meals we had in Mexico City. The staff was the kindest and most caring group of people I have experience working together in one room at a time. It was pretty inspiring. If I owned a restaurant this is the place I would want to own, kindness, great quality food, great wine, understanding for kids, and staff that enjoys working together.
You can’t walk the streets of Mexico City without being enticed by Street Food. Seriously, every corner someone is hollering about what they got cooking in their pots or on their bikes. Even late at night, you can hear the recordings saying ricos, deliciosos y calientitos tamales oaxaqueños. Any area of Mexico City has street food, most of our morning breakfast was purchased from the street from less than five American dollars for breakfast.
We loved the tamales, flautas, pastries, juice, and street coffee. After a couple days, Logan was able to step outside his comfort zone and try street foods. I couldn’t be more proud of him. When looking to buy street food we look for the lines. A long line most of the time means good food. Also a place we can see the food being cooked or served in front of us. This way we can see how food is handled and if we need to try somewhere else. We try to eat what and when the locals eat to ensure the food is cooked properly. Mexico City has comdia, a large meal between 2 and 4 pm. We also checked out Markets for fresh and local produce.
Bosque de Chapultepec
My husband is a Marine so we couldn’t pass up the Halls of Montezuma or Castillo de Chapultepec in Chapultepec Park. There are security and a bag check at the first gate and no food is allowed. There is a pretty lengthy and uphill walk to get to the second gate where tickets are purchased. At the second gate, there is no more water allowed so drink it on your workout up. For less than six American dollars our family was able to free range explore this beautiful castle. I should have known once the whining starting when walking up the hill that the visit was going to be rough for my kids. There wasn’t many signs or directions on which way to start your tour through the castle. We were to a couple different entrances and just couldn’t find the right spot. As my husband went to look for another entrance Logan found a cannon and decided to check it out. He was already close to max point so I was relieved that he was taking interest in something, he began climbing on the cannon and making “boom, boom” noises, I saw a little smirk come across his face and as quickly as the last boom went out an employee came over and told us were not able to touch the cannons.. Eekk… Max point and now I have to move Logan from a high preferred object to a non preferred in public. My autism parents know exactly what this fear is. If you aren’t an autistic parent this means a hell of a tantrum is about to ensue. The kind where everyone is looking at you as your child is screaming and yelling uncontrollably, so much that you don’t even know what words are coming out of his mouth, you are frantically trying everything to calm him, and people just still keep looking at you, your face is getting red and your cheeks are hot and flushed. Yup, so the castle was a meltdown for us and it takes awhile for us to come out of a meltdown. The castle has a beautiful garden with benches and I moved Logan over to this area. I sang some songs to him held him and rocked him. After a while, I was able to get some composure back for us and use some first and then language to get through the castle. He agreed to go up until he was calm enough to explore. Once calmed him and Liv enjoyed walking down the elaborate staircase, practicing being a prince and princess, and exploring the marble halls. The castle is simply breathtaking. Gorgeous stained glass, marble staircases, beautiful views of the city. My husband enjoyed looking at his Marine Corps history, and for me, it was nice to actually see what the Halls of Montezuma are in the Marine Corps hymn.
Bosque de Chapultepec is a huge beautiful park. It has a large lake where you can go for a boat ride, take the kids to check out the zoo, and go for walk. You are also able to visit many museums, including well known Museum of Anthropology, The Children’s museum, and the Monumento a los Ninos. This was also an area to let Logan decompress and burn some energy. There is an area lined with several vendors and markets. Many vendors were hollering what they were selling and often times over top of each other. Some vendors will walk right up to your child showing them toys, candy, and Mexican treats. I was surprised though when you say no they generally backed off. This became too much for Logan and he wanted to get away as fast as possible and started to run ahead, my husband was with Logan at this time and easily kept up with him. Generally, when we travel we utilize strollers for safety measures. We did not use a stroller while in Mexico City, we barely saw any strollers out and about and the sidewalks are not very even. To be honest, I didn’t even see a place to purchase a stroller. Some areas have been damaged from tree roots and or previous earthquakes, including some sidewalks and walkways.
Mexico City is really a great place to go as a family to relax, enjoy good food, wind down, see arts, be up close and expose yourself to accent ruins. There is so much more in Mexico City to see. We barely touched the tip of the iceberg. I really wanted to check out Teotihuacan, the Temple of the Sun. This was on my list explore but after our experience at the Castillo de Chapultepec, I felt that it just might be too much for the kids to take the hour long ride out to the ruins and explore in the heat. So I plan on adding it to my list when we return to Mexico City. I also wanted to check out The Children’s Museum as well as but was primarily Spanish speaking and Logan needed a day to just decompress at the playground. When traveling with our kids we have to know our limitations and while we encourage them to explore and take in a new culture, we realize they can quickly become overwhelmed. We make of list of the things we want to see, want to taste, want to do, and try to check them off. Sometimes we can get through them all and sometimes we can’t and that is ok. The experience and the time together are really what matters most. So while not every day was sunshine and rainbows, there was a lot that our family learned on this trip and the time together was everything and more. Mexico City was more than I could ever imagine and I look forward to going back again with my little family.