Mexico North America

Thanksgiving in Mexico: Beach Edition

From Mexico City, Chelsea and I headed to Playa del Carmen! We flew into Cancun and took the bus an hour south. It dropped us off right in the middle of Playa del Carmen’s main street.

Unsurprisingly, Playa del Carmen is significantly more touristy than Mexico City! Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum make up a significant amount of American travel to Mexico, and it was easy to see what draws people here. The beaches are stunning and there’s a lot of tourist infrastructure. Chelsea was coming off a significant amount of travel in the US and I was coming off moving across the country, so we appreciated the chill vibes and the spent a lot of time at the beach.

We also took the ferry out to Cozumel! It was a pretty short boat ride, and it had a charming town and some nice landscapes. We ended up walking quite a ways away to find some good lookout points that the map indicated, and it was a great day trip from Playa del Carmen.

But the main reason I wanted to come to the Yucatán Peninsula was to see my third world wonder! Chichén Itzá is an easy day trip from Playa del Carmen as well. We were not interested in renting a car and you theoretically can get there by bus, but it’s not convenient with the transfers, so I booked a tour.

All the tour companies had pretty similar itineraries, featuring cenote swims, Valladolid, and the site of Chichén Itzá itself. Ours started with the cenote. The cenotes themselves are super cool looking, and it was fun to go to one and have the chance to swim! The water was pretty cold but I got used to it after a few minutes. What I could have done without was the hard sell – this was one of those tours where they try to sell you things on the bus and give you a tour of the gift shop and all that. A lot of the places I go are not necessarily on the beaten path and so it was a bit surprising to have so many pushy salespeople everywhere we went.

After the cenote and a pretty decent buffet lunch, we headed to the pyramids! I’ve always been a little surprised to find Chichén Itzá on the world wonder list given the sheer number of amazing historical sites out there, but I was pretty impressed. I didn’t know about the sonic engineering they did, with the effects that made it sound like echos and bird calls, and it was very cool. We had a good amount of time to explore the whole area, which had more than just the main pyramid. Of the two Mexican pyramid sites I went to, I probably enjoyed Teotihuacán slightly more, but I would definitely recommend both sites if you’re in the right region to see them.

Our last stop of the day was Valladolid. I found it quite charming and wished we had more time there – I could have used a full half day, and it would have been fun to do breakfast or lunch there instead of at the cenote. As it was, we left as the sun was setting and it took us a very long time to get back to our hotel. It was a long day but worth it in my opinion.

Overall, I had a great time in Mexico. Good food, good drinks, and interesting museums and historical sites. I know it’s a huge country with a lot of incredible places to visit, and I would definitely be open to going back – I would probably prioritize Oaxaca and Puerto Vallarta on a next trip! It was getting a little embarrassing that I hadn’t been, and so I was glad to get the chance to go over Thanksgiving.

Mexico North America

Thanksgiving in Mexico: Museum Edition

I was at a party in Seattle with a few friends. We were drinking and playing party games, and we had just started playing Never Have I Ever. It had just gotten to my turn.

“Never have I ever… been to Mexico,” I said, expecting I could make a lot of people drink.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the level of shock in the room! For most Americans, Canada and Mexico are the first foreign countries they’ve ever been to, and so my friends were baffled how I had a country count into the 40s without having crossed over our southern border. We hatched a plan to go for Thanksgiving, and I am pleased to say that the trip actually made it out of the group chat!

We started in Mexico City. Part of why I’ve dragged my feet on Mexico is the perception of it as an American resort destination – so many people in the US go for all inclusives and private beaches, which is really not interesting to me when I travel. Mexico City, though, claims to have the most museums of any city in the world, and that’s more up my alley!

I arrived two-ish days before Chelsea and Angeli, so my first hotel was in the Zocalo area. It’s the historic center of the city, with pretty much all of the iconic buildings that you would use if you were going to do an establishing shot to show that you were in Mexico City. It was super busy and kind of chaotic almost every time I was there, so definitely a great introduction to the city! There are neighborhoods I ended up liking better, so I wouldn’t stay there again but I’m glad I did for the first couple days.

Once my friends arrived, we switched over to an Airbnb right by the Monument of the Revolution. I absolutely loved the view from our place! The plaza was having a festival one of the days but unfortunately it seemed to be a Christian rock concert, so we didn’t stick around.

The first priority was the Anthropology Museum, which is one of the most famous museums in Mexico City! It is a massive museum. We saw a very small fraction of what they had to offer, but there were so many interesting artifacts and I loved the way it was laid out. I would definitely go back.

The whole area around the museum was also great – it’s located in Chapultepec Park. You can rent a paddle boat or walk around for ages and admire all the statues. There are other museums, like a modern art museum with a great collection, and they even have a castle in the middle of the park! We walked up to it but didn’t end up going in because we didn’t feel like paying the admission.

One of my favorite things we did was the Frida Kahlo Museum! It’s located at a house that she had lived in, and features information about her life, recreations of the home when she lived there, and some of her clothing and artwork. She’s one of those figures that I’ve known who she is but very littlea bout her for a very long time. I found her story absolutely fascinating and really liked her art as well.

We also went to the Monument of the Revolution to check it out, especially since it was so close to where we were staying. You can go all the way up to the top in an elevator, which has great views of the city, as well as a little café. We got coffees and watched the sunset, and then we headed to the ground floor where there’s a museum about Mexican history. It didn’t have any English signage so I cobbled together my minimal Spanish along with a healthy dose of Wikipedia to learn more.

Obsessed with this futuristic library

A lot of the week was focused on eating great food and drinking margaritas on rooftops and wandering around the city! I had a lot of fun in Mexico City. I will say it was one of the more difficult places to navigate if you don’t speak Spanish, compared to many other places I’ve visited as a tourist where you can get by with less fluency in the native language. It was easy and pretty cheap to get around with Uber, even when my flight got in very late at night. There are certain precautions you should take in Mexico City, as with many major cities, but despite the fairly aggressive State Department warnings for Mexico, I felt quite safe throughout our time there.

We ended our time in Mexico City with a day trip out to Teotihuacán! It is definitely worth the trip out – it’s an amazing site, with so much history and a lot to see. We took an Uber out so that we could do it on our own time, which I was happy about. We went to one of the museum to see some of the murals and artifacts and made sure to get to all of the major pyramids. It’s unreal what these societies were able accomplish before modern technology. It was a bit challenging to get an Uber back to the city – I think we had a couple cancel on us before we finally found a driver who would come out there and get us, but we did make it back to the city.

The next day, Angeli headed back to the US and Chelsea and I continued on to our next destination in Mexico!