As parents research the best things to do in Mexico with kids it is easy to forget that this marvelous country has more than just beaches. Mexico is indeed famous for its dramatic stretches of coast. However, the most important cities and historic places are located in the interior of the country.
The experience of visiting a city where people vacation is oftentimes different from visiting a city where people choose to live. Mexico has a strong sense of family values and children are celebrated. Between folklore and imagination, childhood in Mexico is magical.
I have lived in Guadalajara since 2009. Even though both of my kids were born in Mexico, we travel back and forth to the United States often. Looking for fun activities for kids is how we spend every weekend and every vacation.
Overview Of The Best Things to do in Guadalajara with kids
Guadalajara is the third largest metropolitan area in Mexico and there is no shortage of magical experiences for kids and the families they bring along. The capital of the state of Jalisco is a major tourist destination for Mexican families. Many families like Guadalajara so much that they end up staying or sending their kids to college here.
While still considered an off-the-beaten-path destination for international travelers, families should consider Guadalajara when looking to relocate or vacation. It is a large metropolitan area with many unique neighborhoods that make it feel a lot smaller than it actually is. The health care system is exceptional in case of an emergency. There are schools, summer camps, and daycare facilities representing diverse educational philosophies. Many restaurants cater to families and include supervised kid’s play areas.
Most importantly, families are welcome. It is often times easier to break into the social scene as a parent because of all the activities and support groups for the kids.
Explore Downtown Guadalajara
Downtown Guadalajara has nearly five centuries of stories to tell. The historic core has been continually remodeled to accommodate pedestrian traffic and decorated with public art. There are street performers, carriage rides, museums, a carousel, and plenty of space to run around.
The first thing that most visitors do when arriving in Guadalajara is explore the historic downtown. Take the carriage ride to see the most important buildings and get the lay of the land. Many locals who have spent their entire lives in Guadalajara still enjoy strolling the plazas of this lovely city.
Just a note on safety. Downtown Guadalajara is perfectly safe during the day but isn’t a place where families want to be walking around late at night. Out of an abundance of caution, stick to areas where there are a lot of people out on the streets after dark.
Visit the Parks
Kids love parks and Guadalajara has both big regional parks and small neighborhood parks. There are skate parks, dog parks, mountain biking parks, butterfly gardens, and more playgrounds than you could possibly visit on your first few trips. Bosque Los Colomos, Parque de las Niñas y los Niños (Zapopan), and Parque Metropolitano are three of the largest and most enjoyable parks for kids.
Additionally, many of the malls have built impressive playgrounds. La Perla, The Landmark, Plaza Andares, Punto Sur, and Galerias Sur have built attractions specifically for kids that go way beyond just playgrounds.
Guadalajara has a number of professional sports teams. The Chivas soccer stadium was selected as one of the host venues for the upcoming 2026 World Cup tournament. Club Deportivo Guadalajara, AKA Chivas, is one of the top teams in Mexico with a family-friendly atmosphere to the games.
There are now two professional baseball teams playing at different times throughout the year. The Charros de Jalisco play in the Liga del Pacifico in the winter. The winner of the Pacific League goes on to represent Mexico in the Caribbean Series against Venezuela, Colombia, The Dominican Republic, and other powerhouses of Latin American baseball. The Mariachis de Guadalajara play in the summertime Liga Mexicana de Beisbol.
The Charros Stadium was inaugurated during the 2012 Panamerican Games in Guadalajara and is an intimate place to watch a game. It is smaller than the stadiums in the MLB so the seats are closer to the action. There is even a restaurant near the right field line with an incredible view of the whole park. Baseball is surprisingly popular in Guadalajara.
Professional Formula 1 pilot and hometown hero Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez got his start racing go-carts in Guadalajara. He built a respectable go-cart track called Kartódromo Checo Pérez that teenagers will love. Kids under 16 are not allowed to drive but there are double cars where they can ride with an adult as long as they are one meter tall.
Volta Racing is another go-cart course with an indoor/outdoor track and more space for kids. They have a racing academy for kids who are at least 1.45 meters tall or are at least 14 years old. They even have a mini track for little kids.
One of the cool things about Guadalajara is the culture of athleticism. There are clubs for just about any sport the kids are interested in. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Mexico but Guadalajara is a big city and has club basketball, cycling, jujitsu, volleyball, and even golf. Kids can find a community of like-minded individuals who share their love of sports.
On Sunday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., over 30 km of main streets in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area (Guadalajara, Zapopan, and Tlaquepaque) are closed to vehicle traffic.
Lots of families come out to walk, ride bikes, run, skate, and just generally enjoy the park-like setting. Many of the parks along the route have classes and games for kids. Some of the dance classes have huge turnouts with dancers of all ages learning choreography and having a great time.
The best amusement parks are seasonal. Calaverlandia and Navidalia are Day of the Dead and Christmas-themed amusement parks that are only set up for the season and are very well done.
The Guadalajara Zoo is one of the finest zoos in Latin America. It is small when compared to the San Diego Zoo but they take really good care of the animals and teach local kids about conservation. The Guadalajara Zoo is very affordable and a favorite with kids of all ages.
The Michin Aquarium is small but focuses on the aquatic ecosystem found in Mexico. It is so popular that families from neighboring states bring their kids specifically to see the aquarium. The axolotls, otters, and bat rays are three of the most popular exhibits. The backside of the aquarium has a petting zoo where kids can the birds, goats, and turtles.
The Trompo Mágico Children’s Interactive Science Museum is temporarily closed while it is being rebuilt. The old museum was incredible but the governor of Jalisco wants to make this the most important children’s museum in Latin America. They are investing over 700 million pesos and plan to reopen for Día del Niño (April 30th) 2024.
Children’s Theater in Guadalajara
The Auditorio Charles Chaplin has a packed calendar of shows designed just for kids. The characters perform on and off the stage coming down into the seating area to engage with the kids.
Little kids are given cushions so that they sit a little bit taller in the theater chairs.
The price of everything from tickets to popcorn and candy at the snack bar is very affordable.
This was one of my favorite things to do in Guadalajara with kids. My little one’s eyes lit up when he heard the music that he already recognized and saw the characters hit the stage. The look on his face made my week.
Cinema Live is an outdoor movie series that is organized in parks all over the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region. There are both kid’s movies and PG-13 movies scheduled on different days.
Bring a blanket and some chairs. We brought popcorn from home but there is a concession stand selling Mexican snacks.
Restaurants With Kid’s Play Area
The selection of nice restaurants with kid’s play areas is something that parents will love. There are both casual and high-end options. Many of the kid’s play areas are supervised by an adult.
- Campomar (Andares) Nayarit-style seafood
- Sonora Grill Providencia – Mexican steakhouse
- El Fogon del Pibe – Argentine steak restaurant
- La Tequila – High-end Mexican food
- Río Viejo – High-end Mexican food
- El Almacen del Bife – Argentine steakhouse
- Mr Pampas – Brazilian BBQ
- Save – Mexican seafood
- El Abajeño Tlaquepaque – Traditional Jalisco food
- La Estancia Menuderia – Traditional Mexican food
- La Antigua – Breakfast
- La Casa de Tata – Breakfast
- Los Otates – Breakfast
- Karne Garibaldi – Traditional Guadalajara food
- El Rey de las Crepas – Crepes and more
Day Trips From Guadalajara
Within just a couple of hours of Guadalajara are a number of attractions that kids will adore.
Bosque de la Primavera is a forest that is considered to be the lungs of Guadalajara. There are many hikes, picnic areas, campsites, and hot springs. The forest is so big that there are multiple entrances. Mountain bikers usually access the park by way of Avenida Mariano Otero while hikers and families access via Avenida Vallarta.
The Tequila Valley has some of the most cultural things to do in Mexico. The Guachimontones Pyramids are the most important archeological site in the region. Both kids and adults will enjoy the hike up to see the circular-shaped ceremonial centers.
Just a few minutes down the road from the Guachimontones are two historic hacienda boutique hotels. Hacienda Labor de Rivera and Hacienda del Carmen are time capsules that will transport kids to another world. They are absolutely beautiful properties where guests can enjoy lunch or stay the night. Both hotels have tours and activities for the whole family.
The Tequila Valley is full of hikes, waterfalls, and swimming holes.
Final Thoughts On Guadalajara With Kids
Guadalajara is an often overlooked destination for families. Whether you are looking to travel or relocate, kids are going to enjoy all of the activities designed specifically for them. Many of the best activities are deeply rooted in the history and culture of Mexico.
Schools and summer camps are a great way for parents to meet other people who share their educational philosophies.
Mexico is a country that cherishes childhood. Many parents may be surprised by the production value that goes into a child’s attraction. For the kids, it is magical.
Keep Guadalajara on your radar.