Something for Everyone
Guadalajara is a vibrant city with lots for families to do. If you like history, you'll find plenty of fine museums balanced with great activities for kids.
Things to Do
Begin your exploration of Guadalajara in the Centro Histórico, a thirty-block area of restored buildings downtown. Dominating this area is the Catedral Metropolitana, with its Sagrario, begun in 1558 and finished in 1616. It shows a remarkable mingling of different styles, including Gothic, Tuscan, Moorish, and Corinthian. When an earthquake toppled the twin towers early in the twentieth century, Manuel Gómez Ibarra rebuilt them as Byzantine, yet another style. The cathedral houses many art treasures donated by King Fernando VII of Spain in appreciation of the financial support the city gave Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. Paintings attributed to Cristóbal de Villalpando, Miguel Cabrera, and Bartolomé Murillo hang in its eleven different chapels. Though all are ornate, the Capilla Nuestra Señora de las Rosas (Chapel of Our Lady of the Roses), housing the statue of the same name given by King Carlos V, is magnificent. You can get a superb view of the city by climbing to the top of the one of the bell towers.
Take the free two-hour guided tour of the Centro Histórico on Saturdays at 10:15 A.M. to get a quick orientation to the downtown sights.
The central feature of Guadalajara is a magnificent group of four squares — Plaza de Armas, Plaza Guadalajara, Plaza Liberación, and the Rotunda de los Jaliscienses Illustres — arranged in the shape of a cross, with the city's colonial public buildings set around them. The Palacio del Gobierno looks out on the Plaza de Armas, the finest of the four, with its wrought-iron bandstand, a gift from the French Government in 1910. Step into its patio on a weekday to see the magnificent mural of Father Hidalgo proclaiming the abolition of slavery painted by José Clemente Orozco, a native of the state of Jalisco, from 1936 to 1939. He completed another mural of the heroes of the three great Mexican wars ten years later.
Behind the cathedral stretches the Palacio de Justica (Jalisco Supreme Court) and Palacio Legislativo (Legislative Hall), both overlooking the Plaza Liberación. Next to them stands the city's first cathedral, Iglesia de Santa María de Gracia.
Beautiful old Indian laurel trees fill the Plaza Guadalajara in front of the cathedral. And to one side stands the Rotunda de los Jaliscienses Illustres, a circular monument of seventeen columns containing the remains of celebrated Jaliscans. Three blocks over stands the Templo de Santa Mónica, with its baroque façade, twisted Salamonic columns, and its rich and intricately carved ornamentation of corn cobs, grapes, angels, double eagles — all symbols of religious orders. On the way, visit Casa Museo Lopez Portillo, the nineteenth-century home of a wealthy
Listen to the city band for an hour on Tuesday and the state band on Thursday and Sunday evenings at 6:30 P.M. in the Plaza de Armas. Go early to get a seat.
Behind the Teatro Degollado (Degollado Theater) stretches the 650-foot Plaza Tapatía, a five-block pedestrian mall filled with shops, cafés, department stores, and museums, highlighted with contemporary outdoor sculptures. Here you'll discover the pulse of contemporary Guadalajara. At the plaza's far end stands the Intituto Cultural Cabañas, which has 1,244 rooms and two chapels.
One of Guadalajara's best-loved landmarks, the old Cabañas Orphanage, a Neoclassical building built by Manuel Tolsá in 1803, has no fewer than twenty-three flower-filled patios connected by tiled corridors covering six acres. It served as an orphanage until the 1970s, then became the Intituto Cultural Cabañas, a cultural institute with galleries, a fine arts school, performing arts center, and a museum. Inside its vaulted hall you'll see yet another mural by Orozco, called
Because of its many educational and arts institutions, Guadalajara has many fine museums. The following are the principal ones:
• Casa José Clemente Orozco (Museum Workshop of José Clemente Orozco): Orozco is Guadalajara's most renowned artist. Almost 100 of his paintings are on display here in the workshop where many of them were painted. (Open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 A.M. to 7 P.M.)
• Museo de Arqueológia del Occidente de Mexico (Archaeological Museum of Western Mexico): Located in front of Parque Agua Azul, it displays ancient artifacts from the states of Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit. (Open daily, 10 A.M. to 6:30 P.M.)
• Museo de Artes Populares (Jalisco Museum of Popular Art): Display of contemporary handicrafts and good exhibition of paintings on the second floor. All articles are for sale. (Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., Sundays, 10 A.M. to 3 P.M.; 33-3614-3897.)
• Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum): Housed in a former seventeenth-century Capuchin convent, this museum tells the history of the city from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. (Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M., Sundays, 10:00 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.; 33-3658-2531.)
• Museo Regional de Guadalajara (Guadalajara Regional Museum): This lovely museum is housed in the former seminary of San José, dating from 1700. Fourteen galleries around the colonial patio display archaeological and paleontological artifacts. (Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9:00 A.M. to 5:45 P.M.)
For the Kids
Take the kids to Guadalajara's beautiful Parque Agua Azul, with its acres of trees and grass, flower gardens, carnival rides, and swimming pool — all within the city limits. There's even a butterfly house where your children can experience the beauty of these creatures up close. Afterward, attend a musical or dance performance in the park's amphitheater. Museo Infantil (Children's Museum), also known as the Museo Globo del Niño (Sphere of the Child Museum) features interactive exhibits on prehistoric animals, geography, and space, plus all kinds of toys (open daily 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., 33-3669-1381). Or take your kids on a ride around the grounds on the rubber-tired mini-train. The park is open daily from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M.; admission is $1 for adults, half price for kids.
JUST FOR PARENTS
If you love orchids, you must visit the orchid house in Parque Agua Azul.
Parque Natural Huentitán lies just seven miles northeast of the city. This huge park includes the Zoológico Guadalajara. With more than 1,500 animals and over 230 species, this zoo will delight your little ones. They can even feed and pet animals in the Zoológico del Niños (Children's Zoo). Admission is $4 for adults, $2.50 for kids. (Open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.; 33-3674-1827.)
The park also has the Planetario Guadalajara (Guadalajara Planetarium) with hourly shows from 10:30 A.M. (333-674-4106) and the Centro de Ciencia y Tecnología (Science and Technology Center), plus Selva Mágica (Magic Jungle), an amusement park with seal, dolphin, and bird shows at 2, 4, and 6 P.M. (33-3674-0318). Take along your swimsuits and a picnic lunch, or buy some goodies at the park, and go to nearby Barranca de Huentitan, which is connected to Barranca de Oblatos, an enormous 2,000-foot-deep gorge filled with lush tropical vegetation and hot springs. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children. (Open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., 33-3674-4488).
You'll find an American-style water park, Tobolandia, on the outskirts of the village of Ajijic on Lake Chapala. The usual water slides and rides will keep your kids happy while you enjoy the fresh air. Admission is $5 for adults, half price for kids (33-3766-2120).
RAINY DAY FUN
Duck in out of the rain for an hour or so of ice skating at Iceland Pista de Hielo. Lessons are available, skates included. If you don't want to skate, have a
Visit Tequila and Lake Chapala
Endless fields of blue agave lead the way to the town of Tequila, thirty-five miles from Guadalajara. The picturesque town shares its name with the drink that's yet another Guadalajara innovation. Several distilleries — among them Cuervo, Herradura, and Orendain — produce over 20 million gallons of tequila per year and offer tours and tastings.
JUST FOR PARENTS
Tequila is the national drink of Mexico. Discovered more than 200 years ago, it's distilled from the piñas, or core, of the agave plant and comes in four types, ranging in age from three to five years, costing a few dollars to over $100 a bottle. One plant produces five bottles.
A great way to get to Tequila is by train. The Tequila Express makes a two-hour trip to Tequila on weekends at 10:30 A.M. from the Estación de Ferrocarriles de Guadalajara (Guadalajara train station). The nine-hour tour includes a stop at the seventeenth-century Hacienda San José Refugio, home of Tequila Herradura (
Another worthwhile side trip from Guadalajara is to Laguna de Chapala (Lake Chapala), thirty miles from Guadalajara. Chapala, which in Nahuatl means “splashing waves,” mostly lies in the state of Jalisco, although a portion of it lies in the state of Michoacán. Today, the northwest shore hosts the largest colony of resident
If you don't have time to go to Tequila, you can take a tour of the Sauza bottling plant in Guadalajara at 10 A.M. on weekdays (33-3615-6990).
Ajijic, the lake's most picturesque village, has a small artists' colony and thermal hot springs. While wandering its narrow streets, you can peek into weaving workshops where townspeople produce handwoven fabrics and embroidery. Life moves slowly here, so slow down and enjoy it.
Bullfights and Charreadas
Many consider Guadalajara to be the inland golf capital of Mexico. The consistently fine weather allows play most of the year. Its five public courses are seldom crowded on weekdays. To play at a private club, you'll need to show your U.S. club membership card. Here are a few of your options:
• Guadalajara Country Club: Though private, this, the oldest course, allows limited public use and is a favorite of beginners and advanced players (33-3817-2858).
• Club de Golf Altas: The tree-lined fairways of this Joe Finger eighteen-hole course offer respite from the sun (33-3689-2620).
• Las Cañadas: This twenty-seven-hole beauty nine miles north of the city spreads out in a valley surrounded by mountains (33-3685-0285).
• Club de Golf Santa Anita: This eighteen-hole course surrounded by luxury homes is four miles south of the city (33-3686-4123).
• Club de Golf El Palomar: This fine eighteen-hole course is located in the hills overlooking Guadalajara (33-3684-4434).
If you want to get in a game or two of tennis, you'll find excellent facilities in and around Guadalajara. Most of the major hotels have courts, and there's the Club Deportivo de Guadalajara (33-3625-8881) and Club de Tenis Royal (33-3647-5348), but you'll find the best facilities at the El Tapatío Hotel & Resort in Tlaquepaque, which offers ten lighted clay courts (33-3837-2929,