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Get into the spirit of Day of the Dead festivities with Katrina makeup. Then join the parade! Get into the spirit of Day of the Dead festivities with Katrina makeup. Then join the parade! Photo by Pixabay
2022 Jun

Top 10 Family Activities in San Miguel de Allende

Check out the best things to do with your family in San Miguel.

Taking a trip to Mexico with kids might conjure up sunny beaches, lots of pool time, and tropical music, but why not share an authentic Mexican experience with your kids instead? I know just the place. Head for Mexico’s heartland, where the real Mexico is waiting in the city of San Miguel de Allende. You’ll find plenty of activities for your kids (and you!) to enjoy. What’s more, since you aren’t in a resort zone, hotel prices, eating out, and activities will be much more affordable.

Best of all, you and your kids will discover a vibrant culture and learn more about our friendly neighbors to the south. Here are my 10 top things to do with kids in San Miguel de Allende.

Go for a Swim at Xoté Parque Acuatic

Visit La Gruta for a Serene Soak in Thermal Waters
Thermal-fed pool
Take the plunge into one of San Miguel’s thermal-fed pools. La Gruta offers a serene setting, perfect for relaxing. Photo by Peggy Sijswerda

San Miguel has a variety of aquatic parks that are perfect for family fun. One of our favorites is Xoté Parque Acuatic, which has multiple pools and plenty of thrilling slides for kids who love the excitement of splashing into water after an exciting descent. At Xoté, you can bring a picnic and grill meats on the grills they provide—or dine in the open-air restaurant. Another lovely venue for relaxing and swimming is La Gruta, which also has multiple pools including an underground grotto. At La Gruta no outside food or drinks are allowed, but servers will bring authentic Mexican food right to you. I recommend the enchiladas verde with pollo (chicken) or queso (cheese). Both water parks pipe warm water from underground, so even if there’s a morning chill in the air, you’ll love soaking in the inviting water.

Learn about Pre-Hispanic History at Cañada de la Virgen

Take a Tour with Archaeologist Albert Coffee
Cañada de la Virgen
Explore pre-Hispanic history at Cañada de la Virgen, where you’ll walk in the footsteps of the Otomi people. Photo by Peggy Sijswerda

Near San Miguel is an archaeological site that was once inhabited by pre-Hispanic people known as Otomi. In Cañada de la Virgen, you can explore ancient pyramids, ruins, burial grounds—all in a remote setting that makes you feel miles (and millennia) away from cell phones and Starbucks, as if you’ve entered a time warp. We’ve visited the site twice with local archaeologist Albert Coffee. He tells stories about the Otomi and their achievements in science, agriculture, and astronomy. Due to the rugged terrain and steep climbs, this tour is best suited for children ages 12 and up.

Enjoy a Thrilling Trail Ride at Rancho Xotolar

Or Enjoy a More Sedate Horseback Ride at The Ranch
Trail rides in the mountains
Peggy and Peter enjoy amazing scenery on a trail ride in the mountains with Rancho Xotolar.

If your child enjoys horseback riding, she will love the opportunities to ride around San Miguel de Allende. Depending on her experience, you can take an easy trail ride through the countryside or go on a trail ride through the gorgeous canyons just on the edge of town. For the latter, I recommend Rancho Xotolar. Their half-day ride will take you through beautiful scenery and includes some trotting and cantering. If an easy walk is more your child’s speed, arrange a trail ride with The Ranch at San Miguel. Both ranches have gentle horses and promise your family a memorable adventure on horseback!

Explore Mexican Mask Culture

Visit The San Miguel Mask Museum
San Miguel Mask Museum
The San Miguel Mask Museum is a treasure trove of Mexican ceremonial dance masks. Photo by Peggy Sijswerda

No, I’m not talking about those kinds of masks. In the Centro, you can visit the San Miguel Mask Museum and view an amazing collection of 500 ceremonial masks. They are used as part of elaborate costumes people wear for dancing in ceremonies and range from scary faces to images of saints. You’ll also see animal-themed masks and skeleton masks. Each tour is personalized, and the owner, Bill LeVasseur, welcomes families wishing to learn about Mexico’s rich mask traditions. Be prepared for an eye-opening experience!

View a San Miguel Parade in the Centro

Join in a Day of the Dead Katrina & Diego Parade
In San Miguel de Allende, giant puppets called mojigangas stroll the streets and join parades. Photo by Peter Sijswerda

No matter what the season, locals are always planning a parade or procession throughout the Centro. The parades coincide with holidays, religious feast days, or patriotic celebrations. Sometimes you’ll see local tribes dancing through the street wearing leather outfits and feathered headdresses, beating drums, and chanting. Or you might witness a religious procession, especially around Easter, where congregants carry holy icons. One of my favorite times of the year to watch parades is the beginning of November when you’ll see townspeople parading in celebration of the Day of the Dead. Don’t be surprised to see faces painted as skeletons and macabre costumes. It’s all in good fun, and bystanders can even join the parades!

Go on a Serene Kayak Tour at La Presa

Learn about Nature with Amigos de la Presa
Kayaking on La Presa
Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a peaceful paddle on La Presa. Join a guided tour with Amigos de la Presa. Photo by Peter Sijswerda

Enjoy a serene outing on Ignacio Allende Reservoir, better known as La Presa, a lake that stretches about 8 kilometers, and is used for fishing and agriculture. A group called Amigos de la Presa offers kayaking trips on the lake as a way of raising awareness about conservation and nature. Recently, water hyacinth infestation has become a problem, and the group is also raising money to fight this invasive species. Paddling with them is an excellent way to teach your kids about the environment and support a worthy cause.

Shop for Produce and More at San Miguel’s Tuesday Market

Visit the Tourist Market in the Centro for Tin Stars & More
Gift racks
Shop for gifts in San Miguel’s tourist market, where souvenirs of every type are available. Photo by Peggy Sijswerda

Your kids will love the excitement of San Miguel’s Tuesday market on the Querétaro highway. It’s a lively scene of merchants selling everything from cowboy hats and boots to fresh produce and tasty tacos. We love to pick up fresh produce there (papayas, mangos, and pineapple), but you can also find fresh eggs, meat, fish, and much more. In fact, don’t be surprised to see live chickens and baby lambs for sale. In the Centro is a fabulous tourist market where you can shop for beautiful handmade items to bring home as souvenirs. We love the tin stars that come in a variety of sizes. Add a light bulb, hang from your ceiling, and colorful beams will add a festive vibe to any room.

Hungry for Authentic Mexican Tacos?

Sample San Miguel’s Wide Variety of Restaurants
Try tasty tacos with different kinds of meat. Don’t forget the hot sauce! Photo by Pixabay

Eating in a foreign country is always an adventure, and San Miguel is no exception. You’ll find over 500 restaurants in and around town ranging from taco stands to fine dining. Authentic Mexican food is a bit different from the Tex Mex food you get here in the U.S. Tacos are usually served in soft corn tortillas and can be filled with everything from cacti leaves (nopales) to hibiscus flowers. Meat lovers can choose from pork, beef, chorizo, even fried pork skin (chicharron). Tamales are also widely available and can include cheese, chicken, or pork. Another favorite is the molcajete, a dish prepared in a stone mortar that usually features a variety of meats and seafood swimming in a cheese sauce, which you scoop up with tortillas. Your kids will love it.

Take a Nature Break at El Charco del Ingenio

Play in the Playground at Park Juarez
Palm Trees
Kids always need a nature break and a chance to run, play, and enjoy fresh air and the sound of palm tree fronds swishing in the breeze. Photo by Pixabay

The city of San Miguel de Allende has a variety of parks for your kids to enjoy. In Park Juarez, kids can swing, climb, and slide at a lovely playground nestled in the trees. You might even see matadors-in-training at the park, practicing their moves with fancy pink capes. The El Charco del Ingenio, San Miguel’s beautiful botanical garden, is a treasure trove of cacti, palm trees, and flowering plants with short hiking trails perfect for kids. There’s also a newly renovated visitor’s center and cafeteria. Don’t forget your binoculars since birdwatching in the garden is a great pastime.

Admire Mexican Toys at the Museo La Esquina

Learn about Mexican Cluture & More
Museo La Esquina
Visit the Museo La Esquina and admire vintage toys and folk art. Photo by Peggy Sijswerda

Don’t miss the Museo La Esquina, or Popular Toy Museum, in San Miguel de Allende’s Centro. It’s a colorful cornucopia of 3500+ Mexican toys from past and present, many of which are works of art. You’ll see dolls, animals, vehicles, miniature carnivals, wrestlers, and more, each piece celebrating Mexico’s cultural diversity and creativity. Since it’s a museum, however, the policy is “Don’t Touch,” so prepare your children to admire the toys without handling them. After exploring the museum, stop in the gift shop for a toy or two to take home.

If You Go

• Fly into Querétaro or Leon. American Airlines offers flights to both airports. Then you can catch a bus to SMA with www.bajigo.com. You don’t need a car because taxis are affordable and readily available.

• Consider staying in an Airbnb as there are many lovely apartments and homes available to rent which are perfect for families. For a luxury vacation, stay at Rosewood San Miguel, which offers kids’ activities and has a fabulous pool.

Enjoy more of Peggy’s adventures at www.tidewaterfamily.com/travel.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and publisher of Tidewater Family Plus magazine. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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