There are plenty of free activities for kids in Mérida. The city has been named the American Capital of Culture for the second time and it’s hardly surprising given than any given year will find it hosting 60 plus festivals. From Jazz to literature, this city really does have it all and the kids won’t be disappointed, not by the incredible free shows and not by life on a daily basis.
Although it may not seem obvious at first glance at either a guide book or the city itself, there really are lots of fun and free activities for kids. Once you’ve exhausted the willingness of your kids to explore incredible ruins, swim in cenotes and frolic on the beach and you just need some downtime in town, there really is stuff to do even without spending any money.
Let me enlighten you with this handy list of twelve free activities for kids in, and around, the city.
Parque Zoológico Bicentenario Animaya
Calle 60 866, Fracc. Ciudad Caucel. It is easiest reached by taxi/uber but there are local buses heading this way from the corner of Plaza de San Juan.
This is a safari zoo park. The animals have a decent amount of space to roam and humans get to watch them from above or by taking a small boat or safari truck through the animal enclosure.
Top Tip: Because the boat and truck are free, they are very popular so the queue for tickets can be long. Join the queue before doing anything else to ensure you don’t miss out.
There is also an observation tower, which gives good views over the park and surrounding area. There are no cafes on site but there are drink machines, water fountains and cooling stations. There is a convenience store opposite the entrance and a number of small stalls selling snacks and drinks just at the entrance. Don’t forget the picnic!
The park also has a large playground and a wonderful water park for small kids (probably up to 12yrs or so). Be warned: there isn’t much shade for parents while kids are frolicking in the water! It is generally open only on weekends and does stop working in ‘winter’ so be prepared!
(For more information check out my previous article here)
Parque Zoológico de Centenerio
Ave Itzaes x59.
This is a popular spot with local schools and families alike. The zoo itself is fairly dismal, despite having some really interesting animals.The reptile house is good. Apart from the zoo there is a little train that goes around the perimeter of the park and is good fun to ride. It costs 1 peso each. Buy the tickets at the zoo entrance. There is also a biggish playground with an aeroplane and a train for kids to play in. On site there are some fairground rides, some trampolines and a small cable car. These all cost but not very much. They aren’t always open. There are bathrooms on site and a few small snack bars. The restaurant in the train carriage is probably the only one worth eating at.
Cementerio General (cemetery)
Access is from Calle 81A x 90.
Open: 8am – 5pm.
This may not seem like an obvious place to take your children but I highly recommend it even for little ones as it’s fairly free of traffic (two roads do intersect but we never saw many cars there). Just do remember that fascinating as it is, to many locals, it is an important place that should be treated with respect.
Children will love being able to examine the different types of grave in the cemetery: from the enormous mausoleums to the tiny holes in the wall and particularly the brightly painted and wonderful tombs that make up the majority of the cemetery.
Parque de las Américas
Ave Colón x20 y 22, Calle 21, García Gineres.
This park is essentially four blocks worth of space, one of which is entirely dedicated to a children’s playground. It has loads of play equipment, grass and every day around 5pm two individuals come and set up a number of bouncy castles and trampolines that the kids can use for a minimal fee. In addition, little electric cars can be rented in the early evening for kids to play with. The other blocks include a monumental fountain and pond, an outdoor theatre (great for echoes!) that often houses events on Sundays, Mayan totem poles and a cultural centre. During the early evening, plenty of small food stalls appear around the park, selling corn and marquesitas, a local pancake-cone thing filled with deliciousness.
Calle 54, Prolongación Paseo de Montejo, x1B y40.
This park has two large areas full of climbing frames and other play equipment. The water play area looks as if it is no longer used. There are also some trampolines that kids can pay to use.
The Train Museum
Calle 43 #429.
Open: 10am- 2pm.
In truth, there isn’t much in this outdoor museum, but that’s partly what makes it so fun. Kids love to run around this ‘train graveyard’, exploring the old trains. Just watch out for holes in the floors!
Ice cream Hunting
OK, so this one isn’t strictly free but you’re in Mérida and it’s likely to be hot so I can’t imagine you won’t be offering kids ice-creams. Lucky for you, I wrote an entire blog (find it here) about eating ice creams in Mérida! Quick answer is: Pola (Calle 55, just down from Santa Lucia), Dulceria y Sorbeteria (Plaza Grande and Paseo de Montejo) or any of the delicious little places selling paletas (flavoured ice lollies on sticks). Kids will be thrilled to get to try the many different flavours of ice lolly on offer. There will always be dairy free options.
Note that because no one drinks the tap water, all ice lollies and watered drinks are made with bottled water without exception. If you’re worried, just ask.
Chasing pigeons on any of the plazas down town
You can while away many an hour sitting on a bench in the shade while your kids chase pigeons. Top recommendation is the do this on the Plaza Grande, enjoy an ice cream while the kids run around and you take in the sights and sounds of Mérida at work. Photograph the kids on the giant Mérida sign before walking to Plaza Santa Lucia to let them climb on the giant white chairs, run some more and maybe even check out the chocolate shop in the far corner (hidden behind the stage).
Sunday Cinema at Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida
There are two or three showings of free films for kids most Sundays. Check before you go as it isn’t down town. The cinema is big but it is still worth getting there early as so many people show up. There is a small cafe selling typical cinema treats.
If this isn’t open when you’re in town, the Cinemex cinema on Santa Ana costs 25 pesos on Wedesdays. Showings usually only in Spanish.
Pok ta Pok
Every Friday at 8pm on the Plaza Grande there is a performance of the ancient Mayan sport of Pok ta Pok. Get there twenty minutes early to ensure a good view.
Mérida English Library
Calle 53 #524 x 66 y 68 .
They host a story time for little ones every Saturday, 10-11am. Good for meeting other families with young children. Check out their website for more information.
There are currently four bicirutas in Mérida. The city, not normally particularly bicycle friendly, closes off specific sections to cars to allow people to enjoy a bike ride. If you don’t have a bike you can rent one at the base of Paseo Montejo.
Saturday: Las Américas, Saturday Evening: Paseo Montejo, Sunday: Paseo Montejo and Animaya. Check out this website to find out exactly what’s going on as there are sometimes shows for kids alongside the bike fun.
If you found this article useful, why not check out a previous article all about finding Fun for Kids in Merida.
Enjoy this amazing city! I hope you find this useful and do sign up to follow me here at mexicocassie.com for more top tips and reviews of things to do in, and around, Mérida.