Mérida is an amazing city, full of fun for kids if only you know where to find it. Lucky for you, I do and I have done the hard work for you.
After four months of total immersion in Mexican life, my kids are barely Londoners anymore. The only two places we really see any vestiges of London in them is in their love of bland food (they’ll eats sweets laced with chilli but vehemently object to it anywhere else) and in their need for amazing playgrounds. Actually, come to think of it, maybe it isn’t them who has an eternal quest for good playgrounds, but their dad and me, well, maybe just me. I am completely obsessed with trying to find the best playgrounds for them. There are playgrounds in most plazas, which means that you’re never more than a few blocks from some sort of play area: we have four within fifteen minutes of our house, and two of them are mere minutes walk away. But, to my adult eye, they’re pretty rubbish. The one we frequent most days, before school or pre-supper (too damned hot in the middle of the day), has two swings, a slide and the most dangerous see-saw you can imagine. It’s pretty much brand new (went in just before christmas) but it’s still the same crappy painted metal stuff as almost every other playground in town.
My quest has been somewhat fruitful. We have discovered some fun options and there are still things on my list that we haven’t yet visited. Here’s what we’ve found thus far:
There are two zoo-parks in town. I’ve written about them previously on my blog here. The quick low-down is that Parque Animaya out by Caucel (a fifteen minute drive from town) is amazing and free. The animals roam around a large open space and visitors watch them from atop an incredible tower, from a jeep tour, a catamaran tour or on foot. There’s a good play area, an amazing water play area (at the weekends and not always in ‘winter’), cooling stations and good general facilities (except there’s no cafe but there are water fountains and drinks machines). The zoo in town is not as modern. The animals are in small, miserable, looking cages and we feel depressed whenever we see them. It’s also free and there is a good playground there too. There are also trampolines, fairground rides and a small train.
Parque de las Americas is probably the best playground we’ve found to date. The park itself takes up four cuadras (blocks). One block houses an enormous fountain thing that my two year old daughter has conned her way in to on more than one occasion. It isn’t meant for paddling but little kids can often be found dangling their legs in, and in my kid’s case, escaping and running off laughing before sitting down in it fully clothed. One block has an open air stage with an incredible acoustic, one has a collection of statues with the names of American countries in a Mayan-esq style and the last block is a playground. The play equipment itself isn’t special except that there’s lots of it. There’s also space to ride scooters (and they possibly hire them out at certain times although I can’t say what those are as it seems pretty ad hoc to me). What makes it special is that every evening from 5pm there are two individuals who have bouncy castle businesses there. Each brings out two castles of various designs, usually one for bigger kids and one for the smaller ones, and a trampoline, that you can use. It costs 50 pesos for unlimited use. Amazing. There are also lots of small food stalls all around but we’ve never tried them as we tend to take a supper picnic with us when we go.
Cool de Sac is a recent discovery. It’s a restaurant in the north of town that doesn’t just have an indoor soft play for kids, oh no, it has everything your kids could wish for: climbing wall, computer games, foosball, small cinema room, dress up, face painting, a kitchen play area, a lego area and an area for babies. It’s amazing. The food isn’t the best but it’s ok, and quite frankly, who cares if you’re able to pretty much ignore your kids safely the entire time you’re there? There are staff on hand to bring you your crying two year old should things go wrong. Ahem.
Other restaurants have play areas too: McDonald’s Burger King, Los Henequenes, VIPS. Personally, I think VIPs is the best quality food of all these but that’s not saying too much, quite frankly. We haven’t yet tried out La Parroquia in the north of the city but it’s on our list to visit pretty soon. I have been reliably informed the food is good here. Parilla restaurant is reported to have a bouncy castle at the weekend.
Malls are also, sadly, a source of entertainment.
Gran Plaza has Xtreme Jumping – a room full of trampolines for everyone. It’s amazing and has an area for teeny ones too.
City Center has a good outdoor play area (not visited yet).
AltaBrisa has a bowling alley and a games area that includes a soft play section for kids/rides for older kids. We walked around it but didn’t actually do anything here as we’d just been bowling.
But before you do anything else, I recommend an ice cream!
Whilst in Mérida, I also recommend a day trip to a cenote, some are perfectly safe for kids. If you want to know more then definitely read the article I wrote for Almost Fearless magazine to see if they’re for your family or not: Majestic Cenotes Children Can Enjoy
If you’re considering a trip to Mexico are you going to be passing through the incredible Mexico City?