We drove to Guadalajara from our home in Central Mexico. It served as our day 1 stopping point between our town and Puerto Vallarta. My husband’s coworker is from there, offered to show us around, and take us to Michin Aquarium (Acuario Michin). It was an offer we were unwilling to refuse! We booked the hotel he recommended, which was in the centro. Finding it took an hour and involved getting stopped by the police…
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It happened while looking for our hotel
We drove around and around and then drove around some more. We knew we’d find the hotel eventually. But the road we needed to be on was closed.
Donde esta el baño?
“I have to go to the bathroom,” my four year old daughter announced. I wasn’t surprised to hear this. We’d been in the car for a few hours.
“Turn right,” I said. “Maybe we can get on a different road that goes by the hotel.”
“Is this a one-way street?” My husband asked.
“It isn’t labeled,” I said (for your information, one way streets don’t have big signs announcing they are one way. You have to watch for the details). And yes, it was a one way street. With a dead end. As my husband tried to turn around, four motorcycles carrying four police officers pulled up next to us.
Our Spanish is still poor, so we were only able to say that our nina needed to use the bathroom. The officers directed us to the closest parking garage, which had a bathroom. It was surprisingly clean and had a toilet seat (be aware that even if you pay for a bathroom, it may not be that great).
The bathroom was decent, but the machine where you pay for parking took 10 pesos without acknowledging it. I was annoyed about losing the money. At least it finally accepted and counter the coins I put into the slot so we could leave!
Driving in Circles in the Centro
The centro (downtown) of most cities is a busy and challenging place to drive. Guadalajara’s centro currently wins as the most difficult we have experienced. Rojelio, my husband’s coworker, finally sent us the google map coordinates so that we could find the parking garage. Thank goodness for Rojelio!
Without him, we’d still be looking for our hotel.
Rojelio and his children met us at the pedestrian exit for the hotel’s parking garage and led us across the street and square to our hotel. We wouldn’t have found that without him, either. But the hotel was perfect for a short stay and priced well, for being in the center of everything! We got our room with a view, dropped off our stuff, and headed out with Rojelio and his children for some adventures in Guadalajara!
Riding on the Subway
Guadalajara is a huge city! We hopped on the subway and rode it for one stop to a hub, where the tracks cross. From there, we grabbed a different train for a few more stops and then walked several blocks to the Michin Aquarium (Acuario). It turns out that Michin Acuario is new (it opened around March, 2017).
It is also fairly expensive at 200 pesos per adult and 120 pesos for children up to age 12 (around $35 USD at the time of this writing for two adults and two children).
Michin Aquarium Adventures!
However, it is a neat place which my children enjoyed. We wandered through, following the path along the floor, and enjoying all the various exhibits. They have snakes, spiders, seahorses, fish, eels, coral, stingrays, birds, and more.
As you walk through, the path leads outside. There is a food court and also several outdoor tanks. The first tank has snails, starfish, and other assorted sea critters. Then you step down to a large otter exhibit.
As we followed the trail, we were surprised with an area that was a bit more open and there was a large iguana sunning itself, while its keeper stood by watching. In the corner, you could have your photo taken with a large, albino snake. I’m still working on getting over my fear of snakes, so I didn’t do this. Maybe next time. Or the time after.
Or probably never.
There are also alligators outside. After you pass them, you head into an aviary where you can purchase seed to feed the many birds housed there. However, the birds freaked out a little and were not interested in eating. So, we went back into the building (where the path led us). And they saved the two best things for last: the stingray pool and the giant aquarium and tunnel (just like the Shark Bridge is the last thing you do at the Newport Aquarium). When we were there, divers were inside cleaning it.
The Need For Food
After our time at Michin Aquarium, we hopped back on the PACKED subway to head back to the Centro. I was starving and thirsty. We had stopped to eat lunch, but I wasn’t able to find any gluten free options, other than some potato chips. We walked and explored the centro, instead of going straight to get food.
And then walked some more. I packed some gluten free protein bars, but I’d left them in the car. Oops.
We saw some beautiful buildings in Guadalajara. My favorite was this incredible theatre and if I could’ve gotten inside, I’d have been in heaven. It’s a really beautiful city! They have artwork you can sit on, which is fun. Puerto Vallarta had a similar installation of the artistic chairs, but I saw it first in Guadalajara.
In the squares around these art installations and historic buildings, there are many people selling their wares (and a ton of fidget spinners). Except I needed food and drink so much that I couldn’t really focus on much else that evening. We finally went to eat and I practically inhaled my water when the waiter brought it to us.
After eating, my life was better, but it was a little too late for us to go on a bus tour of the city. Of course, we had a bit of an insider’s perspective which helped us do a lot more than we otherwise would have during our short visit.
Would I visit Guadalajara again?
A resounding yes! We barely scratched the surface of things to see and do there. We had time in the morning to walk around the centro again before leaving to continue on to Puerto Vallarta and we were able to pop into this building that I don’t know quite how to describe. It’s like a permanent market or flea market and there might be everything you could possibly need for sale inside.
Similar shops are set up outside. I tried to buy a few things, but they were really expensive. So, I don’t have a mug or keychain that says Guadalajara, but I do have a lot of pictures, awesome memories, and tentative plans to visit again.
Where we stayed: you pay for a bathroom Our room was around $85 for one night in the historic centro. The room is basic, small, and clean.
Where we ate: Charlie and Chav’s. This was in the centro, so if you stumble upon it while traveling with kids, ask to sit upstairs near the children’s play area.
Transportation: We drove to Gaudelajara and used public transportation once we arrived, which is much easier. We took the subway and it is 7 pesos per person (at the time of this writing), under 6 years were free. Public transit is easier than driving.
Have you been to Guadalajara? Did you see Michin Aquarium?