Life’s a Fiesta — First Timer’s Getaway Guide to Mexico City

In mid-march, my husband and our friends from San Diego headed out for a long weekend to¬†Mexico City. Because nothing says, “Happy St Patty’s Day!” like a trip to Mexico, right? ūüėČ It was a first time visit for all four of us and we had all been prepped that we were going¬†to love this¬†sprawling city. But¬†I honestly, I didn’t expect to fall so head over heels!

We arrived via a direct flight from Tijuana (thank you, border city!) and stayed at the W in Polanco. ¬†Over the next few days, we packed in a ton of sights and activities — Anthropology Museum, Pyramids, Lucha Libre — and ate our way through the town — everything from Pujol to street tacos.¬†All in all, I was so thoroughly in love with the city, and can’t wait to come back in the summer or fall!

Check out my recommendations and insider tips below and be sure to add your favorite spots in the comments section. Viva la Mexico!

Mexico City: Bright, Bold and Beautiful! // March 2017

ADVENTUREAPPEAL’S
FIRST TIMER’s GETAWAY GUIDE TO MEXICO CITY:

‚ô¶ Know Before you go
‚ô¶ Savor
‚ô¶ Get Active
‚ô¶ View From Above
‚ô¶ Get Cultural
‚ô¶ Lodging
‚ô¶ How to Get There

 

 

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Be street smart. Mexico City upped their security measures drastically in the last couple of years, and you¬†can tell this by the police presence¬†and usage of cameras for surveillance. However, be smart about keeping an eye on your possessions and don’t wear anything too flashy.
  • Higher altitude and cloudless skies during dry season demand extra sunscreen and a hat. Bring yours or purchase at a pharmacy in the city.
  • Polanco, Condessa and Roma are hip neighborhoods and shorts and flip flops are not recommended.
  • Most museums are closed on Mondays, so that’s a great day to shop or head to the Teotihuac√°n Pyramids.
  • Cash is king. Restaurants, hotels and most stores take credit cards, but having small bills and coins on hand is essential for smooth transactions.
  • Reservations never hurt. Make yours online in advance for dinners out, or ask your hotel’s concierge to make them for you. The W was extremely helpful here for us!
Wandering Condessa’s streets after brunch // Mexico City, March 2017

GET ACTIVE

Climb a Pyramid

For your first trip to Mexico City, do not miss a half day trip to the Teotihuacán Pyramids. Located about 90 minutes from Mexico City, the Pyramids are a pre-Aztec UNESCO World Heritage site and offer both a killer glutes workout and a big dose of history.  The largest of the pyramids is the Pyramid of the Sun, and often times the line to the top wraps around the middle base.

A few steps down, a few thousand to go // Teotihuac√°n Pyramids, Mexico // March 2017
Climb a Pyramid: Bucket List *Check*
Catching our breath at the top of the Teotihuacan Pyramids, looking down at the Avenue of the Dead! // Mexico City, March 2017

Walk the Park

Mexico City has a plethora of parks and green spaces. The largest and most versatile is Chapultepec Park. ¬†There are endless paths, areas to go¬†rent paddle boats and a series of museums (see Get Cultured section). Vendors are stashed along the routes with provisions — fried tasty items, waters, ice cream and agua frescas.

Feeling small next to this great work outside the Modern Art Museum in Chapultepec Park

SAVOR

  • Pujol —¬†What can I say? This changed mole for me forever and was my favorite meal of the trip! Pujol was credited for putting¬†Mexico City on the map for fine dining, is ranked on the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World and was showcased in Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. Pujol features modern Mexican cuisine via a tasting menu and has cool, hip space with a view of their garden. Reservations in advance are a must.¬†https://www.pujol.com.mx/en/
  • Rosetta — Mexican-Italian fusion for the perfect late lunch (this means 2:30p or after). Sip on some wine as you soak in the feeling of being in a European courtyard. We recommend ordering lots of the small plates to try everything.¬†http://www.rosetta.com.mx/restaurante-en/rosetta.html
  • Lalo! — Hip¬†breakfast / brunch / lunch spot in Condessa. They don’t take reservations, but you can put your name down and walk the cute streets nearby while you wait or order coffees and juice at their bar to pass the time. Our favorite was the green juice (cactus, celery and kiwi) and the huevos con chorizo.¬†http://eat-lalo.com/
  • Maison Belen — Charming Mexican-French fusion for breakfast / brunch. Sit outside and enjoy the people watching while snacking on their divine pastries.¬†https://www.instagram.com/maisonbelen/
  • The Comrade — Craft cocktails and bites¬†with outdoor and indoor seating.¬†The perfect pre-dinner spot while you’re in Polanco.¬†http://www.thecomrade.mx/carta.html
  • Street Tacos — a must! There are dozens of recommendations food blogs have here, but our favorite was just on a corner in Condessa. They were so friendly and even comped us our first taco.
  • Pulque — Trying this spirit is a bit of an adventure. White and¬†a little thick, this drink is made from fermented sap of the maguey agave plant, ¬†and spoils quickly (no shelf life, sorry!).
Pujol // Polanco, Mexico City, March 2017
Exact spot where the aged mole stole the show // Pujol in Polanco, Mexico City, March 2017
Snacking on these piping hot tortillas filled with juicy pork. Street Tacos are a must in Mexico City.

VIEW FROM ABOVE

There are two vantage points you cannot miss in Mexico City: the view from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacán  (see Get Active section) and the cityscape seen from Castillo de Chapultepec.

For Mexico City’s best cityscape, head to Castillo de Chapultepec // March 2017

LOGDING

The modern, hip W was¬†the perfect hotel for our trip, and I couldn’t recommend it more. The whole staff, and especially the concierge, were so friendly and the modern vibe had us always in a good mood. We also loved the view from our rooms — a glimpse into the nearby Polanco. ¬†Location is everything and the W is a stones throw from dozens of cafes, galleries and places to grab a drink in Polanco. It also is within walking distance of Chapultepec Park, where you can visit museums, take a paddle boat out or tour the Castle. Couldn’t recommend it more!¬†http://www.wmexicocity.com/

Recommend staying in Polanco, Condessa (where these beautiful row homes are) or Roma Neighborhoods // Mexico City, March 2017

GET CULTURAL

  • Museum of Anthropology:¬†This museum is gorgeous inside and out. It covers an incredible amount of Mexican history, with floors dedicated to the indigenous peoples, their culture and customs, and most notably the many pre-Hispanic and even pre-Mayan and Aztec¬†artifacts.¬†http://www.mna.inah.gob.mx/
Making it rain in Mexico City // Anthropology Museum, March 2017
Anthropology Museum, Mexico City // March 2017
  • Zocalo is the historic center where you can visit the Catedral, the Templo Mayor and see Diego Rivera mural of the presidential palace.
  • Casa Azul / The Museum of Frida Kahlo:¬†Lovers, artists and revolutionaries, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera certainly made their mark on history. ¬†Frida Kahlo’s house, Casa Azul and monument are must-see stops for your first time in Mexico City. ¬†Insider tip: buy your tickets (boletos in Spanish) online in advance (times begin every half hour) to avoid wasting time standing on line.¬†http://www.museofridakahlo.org.mx/
Casa Azul and the Frida Kahlo Museum // Mexico City, March 2017
  • The¬†Sanborns de los Azulejos, is a chain department store owned by Carlos Slim built in a historic building with beautiful architecture and old Mexican tile. Nice place to check out and grab a coffee¬†on the way to Palacio de Bellas Artes.
  • Placio de Bellas Artes: – Beautiful architecture with another Diego Rivera mural and other exhibits. ¬†Insider tip: on the 8th floor of the art-deco Sears (across the street from the Palacio de Bellas Artes) you’ll find a small caf√© with a balcony overlooking the Palacio and its lovely manicured gardens.¬†http://www.palacio.bellasartes.gob.mx/
  • Lucha Libre:¬†Masks, giant beers, crazy pumped crowds… what more could you ask for?! A night watching lucha libre at Arena Mexico is a must for any first timer to Mexico City. ¬†Root for the T√©cnicos (“good guys”) or the entertaining rudos (“bad guys”) and be prepared to be shocked, awed and in fits of laughter.
Lucha Libre at Arena Mexico // Mexico City, March 2017
Grab your mask and your fiercest scowl! I couldn’t stop cheering and laughing the whole night.
  • Mariachis:¬†Plaza Garibaldi is near the historic center and¬†has Mariachis out every night that can serenade you, for a fee. ¬†And who doesn’t love to be serenaded?!

HOW TO GET THERE (& BACK!)

Mexico City and it’s airports are massive. From San Diego, we crossed the border via CBX and took the tunnel directly to the Tijuana Airport. From there, we passed through security and headed to our gates.¬†Then, it was a quick 3 hour flight and we touched down in Mexico City. Check out my full guide for crossing¬†here.

Everyday feels like a celebration! // San Francisco Puebla, Mexico City Trip, March 2017
Charming streets of the San Francisco Puebla // Mexico City Trip, March 2017

We have so much left to explore in Mexico City — restaurants, neighborhoods and museums — and can’t wait to get back soon! Be sure to comment below with your favorite not to miss adventures in Mexico City!

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Whale of a good time

This week I caught the tail end (pun intended!) of gray whale season in San Diego by hopping on one of Flagship San Diego’s whale watching tours.

Ready to board and see some whales! // Flagship Whale Watching Tour, March 2017
Taking off from Broadway Pier // San Diego, California, March 2017

Flagship has a fleet of ships for whale watching and offers weekday and weekend tours. A naturalist and handful of volunteers from the Birch Aquarium are on board to answer any questions and provide lots of fun facts on the San Diego Bay itself, wildlife that exists there and even had samples of baleen from the whales to pass around.

On our tour, we pulled out of the dock, we toured the San Diego Bay and then headed out to open waters for prime dolphin and whale watching. It was a pretty neat view of the city, with views of the downtown skyline, Coronado and Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma.

Soaking in the view of America’s Finest City // San Diego, California, March 2017

Once we left the Bay, there were tons of playful dolphins escorting us to deeper waters to find the whales.  This is called bow riding and essentially the dolphins are catching a ride as the waves from the boat push them forward.

Take us to the whales! Loved having our dolphin escort while whale watching // March 2017
Naturalists from Birch Aquarium help you spot the whales, dolphins, seals and other wildlife on the tour // San Diego, March 2017

Next we went searching for gray whales! Gray whales migrate annually from the Baja Peninsula to Arctic waters. There are 3 lagoons they hang out in Baja to breed and mate, and scientists estimate that there are 22-23,000 individuals comprising the eastern Pacific gray whale population.

Although gray whales are¬†45 ft in length fully grown, they can be hard to spot! We were very lucky to see two gray whales, lots of¬†blow hole spotting, a few¬†fins and one playful whale sticking it’s¬†head out of the water.¬†Our naturalist explained that usually this occurs when whales want to get a better view of their surroundings. I see you, gray whale! ūüėČ

Blues on blues // Flagship Whale Watching Tour, San Diego, March 2017

Here are some insider tips for the best experience:

WHALE WATCHING TOURS IN SAN DIEGO: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Each whale watching trip is different. Try to schedule yours during peak season for the most opportunities to view the whales.
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon —¬†you can see blowholes from 1 mile or more away!
  • Grab a seat on the sides of the boat or in the front for the best views.
  • Whales are hard to photograph from afar. So don’t get down, just focus on the experience!
  • There is a snack bar on board or you can bring on coffee, drinks and lunch (at the dock, the Green Rose Cart has coffee, smoothies and breakfast breads).
  • It’s breezy and can be quite sunny so wear layers, sunscreen, a hat.
  • To help with seasickness, keep ginger chews and menthol throat lozenges on hand and take Dramamine¬ģ 1 hr before leaving¬†the dock (disclaimer: always check with a doctor first).
  • Don’t stress, there’s easy parking¬†next to the dock at the USS Midway, $10 for 12 hours.
  • Flagship takes your picture at the beginning and you can purchase the glossy photos later for $10 –¬†$20.

Have you been whale watching in¬†San Diego before? I’d love to hear about your experience and any suggestions you have below!

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Chill and Chilly Trip to Banff

Long weekend trips with friends are some of my favorite! This past weekend my husband and I joined our friends in Banff for a little ski, snowshoe and relaxation.

Each day had a rhythm:¬†get caffeinated, get active, apr√©s ski and end¬†with¬†a big group dinner. This format¬†worked so well for a big group, where¬†there were different interest areas and schedules.¬†Our group loved skiing at Sunshine and Lake Louise (don’t miss Boomerang!), snowshoeing (my favorite!) and seeing all the frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon. Below you’ll also find our¬†favorite bites and sips of the trip.

Grab your mitts! // Banff, Canada, February 2017

All in all I was so thoroughly in love with the trip, and can’t wait to come back in the summer or fall! Check out my recommendations and¬†insider tips below, and add your favorite spots in the comments section below.

ADVENTUREAPPEAL’S
BANFF WINTER GETWAY GUIDE:

‚ô¶ Know Before you go
‚ô¶ Savor
‚ô¶ Get Active
‚ô¶ View From Above
‚ô¶ Shopping
‚ô¶ Other Hot Spots
‚ô¶ Lodging
‚ô¶ How to Get There

 

 

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Explore 3 day ski packages to save money and time buying lift tickets.
  • Activities where there aren’t a lot of operators (like dog sledding) fill up quickly, so be sure to book in advance.
  • Temperatures in Banff are no joke. Bring lots of layers and glove liners so that you can operate your phone and camera without¬†exposing your digits to negative digit temps.
  • If you have a big group, consider booking reservations 3-6 weeks¬†in advance. The restaurants tend to be smaller and if you hate waiting in line this advice will be key.
  • Standing room in bars doesn’t really exist, as establishments are required to have a seat for every person.
  • Don’t forget your swim suit! Most hotels have indoor and outdoor swimming facilities and there are a few fancy spas you may want to check out too.
  • In the winter, renting a car isn’t necessary or smart if you aren’t used to icy conditions. Opt for using the Airporter,¬†Banff bus routes, shuttles to the ski lifts¬†and private taxis / cars. If your hotel is in town,¬†there are plenty of walkable options for shopping, dinner and drinks.
  • Weekends (especially Saturdays) are busiest, so¬†try to tack on a couple of weekdays to¬†your stay if you can.

GET ACTIVE

There are tons of options¬†to stay active while on your winter vacation to Banff, the most obvious choices being¬†skiing and snowboarding. Other favorites from our group were snowshoeing, taking hikes and signing up for¬†group workout classes at the Fairmont (drop in fees are available for classes if you’re staying elsewhere in town).

Johnston Canyon Ice Walk 

We loved strapping on spikes¬†/ crampons and traversing along the¬†Johnston Canyon with Discovery Banff’s guided half-day adventure.

Ready for all of the frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon // Banff National Park, Canada, February 2017

Through this Ice Walk Hike we got up close an personal with multiple frozen waterfalls, noshed on hot cocoa and cookies and watched the adventurous ice climbers (an activity for next time!).

Our group had the best tour guide, Saul, and we clocked in 3.6 miles along a railed pathway leading to the Upper and Lower Falls. These massive structures look like moments frozen in time. Pun intended!

Frozen Waterfalls at Johnston Canyon // Banff National Park, February 2017
Hot Cocoa Cheers! // Banff, Canada February 2017

Snowshoeing at the Continental Divide

About 45 minutes from Banff, we spent the morning snowshoeing through the trees at Kootenay Park.

Let’s do this! // Snowshoeing with the gals in Canada, February 2017

Snowshoeing is the BEST way to stay warm! It was -10 C, and we all shed¬†layers as we shuffled through the powder along the Continental Divide. A couple of tips for new snowshoers: take small steps and try to stay on top of the snow; don’t worry if you fall, it’s fun making snow angels; and lastly stretch afterwards as you’ll be using stability muscles you might not normally workout.

All smiles amongst the snow covered trees // Snowshoeing in Canada, February 2017
Pacific vs Atlantic // The Continental Divide, Canada, February 2017

SAVOR

  • The Bison Restaurant and Terrace // Upscale feel without being¬†pretentious. Our group rated this the best Bison burger in town and we paired it with Caymus’ sister wine the Conundrum Red. My husband loved the escargot bone marrow appetizer too.
  • Rundle Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs // Seats are first come first serve, so be sure to snag a spot by the windows. Luckily, there are a few rooms and you can either stay for drinks (coffee, tea, cocktails, etc) or a meal.
  • Park Distillery // This establishment is just 2 years old, and makes all of their spirits using glacier water. Try a custom cocktail (they also have mocktails), a spirit sampler tray or just go¬†for the food and distillery tour.
  • Whitebark Cafe // My favorite spot for morning almond milk lattes, cheddar chive bacon scones and homemade granola bars.
  • Wild Flour Bakery¬†// Indulge on super sized breakfast sandwiches with homemade focaccia bread and add peanut butter to the yogurt parfait for a little extra protein and the most PBJ-tastic experience.
Lattes and lovely starts to the day // Whitebark Cafe, Banff, February 2017

VIEW FROM ABOVE

Everywhere you turn in Banff is another gorgeous mountain view. Besides at the top of the slopes, some of the best places to take in the views are via the Banff Gondola and the view from the Fairmont Banff Springs, specifically outside the Rundle Lounge.

Perspective is a beautiful thing // Fairmont Banff Springs, February 2017

LOGDING

We loved taking over the suites at¬†the new Moose Hotel!¬†Everything at the hotel was new and clean, and the heated pools, hot tubs and fire pit all had great views of the mountains. Insider Tip: the pictures on the Moose Hotel’s¬†website don’t do this property justice!

Waking up in winter wonderland //Moose Hotel, Banff, Canada February 2017

Looking for a family friendly hotel? Opt for the Fairmont Banff Springs, where there are lots of options for kids and adults alike, several restaurants on property, and a collegiate / historic feel. Plus, the views are pretty phenomenal!

Classy, classic and all about the viewpoints // Fairmont Banff Springs, February 2017

SHOPPING

  • Don’t live in Canada? Hit up Roots for soft sweats, sweaters, scarfs and ¬†Canada branded merch. I loved their current collaboration with Pendelton.
  • Like any good ski town, Banff has endless options of ski stores if you forget anything.
  • Park Distillery has the best gift shop!¬†Plus everything looks better after a spirit sampler.
Let’s get one of everything! // Park Distillery in Banff, Canada, February 2017

HOW TO GET THERE (& BACK!)

Banff is located in Alberta, Canada, and easily accessed via a 90 minute shuttle from the Calgary airport. Reserve your spot on the Airporter because of its new buses, friendly staff and complementary water.

Our group landed¬†in shifts¬†so we all met at the Yakima Social Kitchen + Bar (Marriott’s downstairs lounge restaurant) for bites and craft cocktails while we waited for the shuttle van. ¬†It sounds odd, but this airport terminal gem is not to be missed.

OTHER HOT SPOTS

Banff really has endless activities: dog sledding, sleigh rides, hot springs, ice skating on Lake Louise, cross country skiing and more!

I hope you enjoy every second of your trip and be sure to comment below with your favorite not to miss wintertime adventures in Banff!

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