World ? Caribbean & Central America ? Mexico

Mexico: Frommer's Favorite Experiences

Passing Time in the Plazas & Parks: Town plazas are the perfect settings for watching everyday life unfold. Alive with people, these open spaces are no modern product of urban planners, but are rooted in the traditional Mexican view of society. Several plazas are standouts: Veracruz's famous zɃcalo features nearly nonstop music and tropical gaiety. One look tells you how important Oaxaca's zɃcalo is to the local citizenry; the plaza is remarkably beautiful, grand, and intimate all at once. Mexico City's Alameda has a dark, dramatic history -- heretics were burned at the stake here during the colonial period -- but today it's a people's park where lovers sit, cotton-candy vendors spin their treats, and the sound of organ grinders drifts over the changing crowd.

Sunbathing in Puerto Vallarta: Spectacularly wide Banderas Bay offers 42km (26 miles) of beaches. Some, like Playa Los Muertos -- the popular public beach in town -- abound with palapa restaurants, beach volleyball, and parasailing. The beaches of Punta Mita, the exclusive development north of Vallarta, are of the white-sand variety, with crystalline waters and coral reefs just offshore. Others around the bay nestle in coves, accessible only by boat. Puerto Vallarta is the only place where authentic colonial ambience mixes with true resort amenities.

Listening to Mɐsica Popular: Nothing reveals the soul of a people like music, and Mexico boasts many kinds in many different settings. You can find brassy, belt-it-out mariachi music in the famous Plaza de Garibaldi in Mexico City, under the arches of El Pariȥn in Tlaquepaque, and in other parts of Guadalajara. Or perhaps you want to hear romantic boleros about love's betrayal sung to the strumming of a Spanish guitar, or what Mexicans call mɐsica tropical and related cumbias, mambos, and cha-cha-chas.

Watching Regional Folk Dancing: Whether it's the Ballet FolklɃrico in Mexico City or the Ballet FolclɃrico in Guadalajara, the almost-nightly park performances in Mȳrida, or celebrations countrywide, these performances are diverse and colorful expressions of Mexican traditions.

Looking up and Seeing Fireworks: Mexicans have such a passion for fireworks and such a cavalier attitude toward them that it's a good thing the buildings are stone and cement, or the whole country would have burned down long ago. Many local traditions surround fireworks, and every festival includes a display.

Strolling El MalecɃn: Wherever there's a seafront road, you'll find el malecɃn bordering it. This is generally a wide sidewalk for strolling, complete with vendors selling pinwheels and cotton candy. In some places, it has supplanted the plaza as a centerpiece of town life.

Surfing Zicatela Beach in Puerto Escondido: This world-class break is a lure for surfers from around the globe. It challenges the best in the sport each September and October, when the waves peak and the annual surf competitions take place.

Visiting a Regional Fair: Almost every city and town has its regional fair (feria regional). These fairs showcase the best products of the region -- tequila or fruit liquors, livestock, intricately carved silver, or clay handicrafts. One of the most notable regional fairs is La Feria del Caballo in Texcoco, which takes place in late March or early April.

Taking a Trip to Teotihuacȥn: So close to Mexico City, yet centuries away. You can feel the majesty of the past in a stroll down the pyramid-lined Avenue of the Dead, from the Pyramid of the Sun to the Pyramid of the Moon. Imagine what a fabulous place this must have been when the walls were stuccoed and painted brilliant colors.

Scuba Diving in Cozumel & along the Yucatȥn's Caribbean Coast: The coral reefs off the island, Mexico's premier diving destination, are among the top five dive spots in the world. The Yucatȥn's coastal reef is part of the second-largest reef system in the world and affords excellent diving. Especially beautiful is the Chinchorro Reef, 32km (20 miles) offshore from Majahual or Xcalak. You can also dive in the clear, cool water of the many caverns and cenotes (sinkholes, or natural wells) that dot the interior.

Visiting Museo Frida Kahlo: While perhaps not a world-class collection of works by Mexico's first couple of art, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, this museum does contain a strong sampling of their works, plus their fascinating private collection. With rooms arranged as they were when the couple lived here, in the Mexico City suburb of Coyoacȥn, it also allows visitors to peek into the lives of these creative masters. This is also where much of the 2002 film Frida was shot.

Hiking & Horseback Riding in the Copper Canyon: Miles and miles of beautiful, remote, challenging canyon lands are paradise for the serious hiker or rider. The canyons known collectively as the Copper Canyon is larger than the Grand Canyon; it incorporates high waterfalls, vertical canyon walls, mountain forests in the canyon-rim country, and semiarid desert inside the canyons.

Shopping for Silver in Taxco: Mexico's silver capital, Taxco, has hundreds of stores featuring fine jewelry and decorative objects.

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