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Steve asks (edited for clarity): I have a 30 layover in Mexico City with kids 12 and 14. Would you recommend us going straight to Teotihuacan with a rental car or should we spend all the time in Mexico City to see those sites?
Let me start with the no-brainer: I would not under any circumstance recommend renting a car in a developing country on a layover. Layovers by definition mean you must be on a plane by X time. ANY accident, even one caused by a chicken, could result in a lengthy investigation. On a two week trip you have a bit more flexibility if the unfortunate happens.
This post is NOT intended to be a comprehensive guide to Mexico City. Instead it’s a quick snapshot of the advice I’d give a friend. It’s also not particularly “budget” as you’re valuing time over money. For more Mexico City tips check out this piece I wrote for Traveling Mom.
Mexico City Layover With Kids Tips
- If you have 8 hours or less arriving before 3PM or so, hire a car to take you to Teotihuacan as the hours are 10AM-6PM. I had a good (paid with my own $$) experience with Royal Cars. You could easily do a tour of the pyramids round trip and have a meal before your flight.
- If you have 8 hours or less arriving after 3PM, head towards the Zocalo. Keep mindful of rush hour, which is especially horrendous on viernes quincena, or the Friday after the 1st and 15th. Enjoy the scenes around the Zocalo, the Cathedral and a stroll down Avenida 5 de Mayo. Be sure to admire the lobby at the Gran Nacional Hotel as the entire ceiling is made of Tiffany glass.
- If you have all day or would rather head into Mexico City in the morning, the Museum of Archaeology is world class and opens at 9AM. You can tackle the Museum in two hours but easily can also spend take half a day. Don’t miss the outside gardens as they help kids put history into context. Outside of the museum indigenous dancers perform 60 feet up in the air. It’s not to be missed. If have have time before 9AM, take a stroll around the Zocalo then head over.
- Feeling more urban explorer than history buff? Head down to Coyocan to explore the market. Off the main square in Coyocan there’s a tourist market but about three blocks north you’ll find the real action- produce, meat, and life going about its chaotic rhythm. Tostadas Coyocan are famous for a reason, but we actually preferred the bebidas– drinks in more flavors than you can count. Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul is also in Coyocan, but the lines are often long so I wouldn’t visit Coyocan only to see it.
- Hungry? Try Sanborn’s, the “House of Tiles”, which is a triple threat: gorgeously historic premises, good food, and reasonable prices. An alternative plan for dinner is 103 year strong Cafe Tacuba. The decor is what I’d call “Scooby Doo and the Haunted Bodega” and Mariachi stroll about weekends.
- Finally, If your Layover involves a Monday all of the advice above needs to be modified. The Museum of Archaeology, Chapultepec Park (including the Castillo) and Museo Templo Mayor (among others) are closed on Monday.
As I said, I’ve left out a ton for good reason, but I’m curious; What would you recommend for a Mexico City Layover with kids? Please share your tips in the comments.
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