From tigers to train rides, playgrounds to paddle boats, Mérida’s Centennial Park (located at the corner of Calle 59 and Avenida Itzaes) is an outstanding family-friendly experience for those traveling on a budget. And that is saying something for a city like Mérida, which is known for its wealth of free cultural events and recreational activities for families with children.
Centennial Park really has it all. It is best known for the zoo located within (free admission), with a variety of birds, monkeys, reptiles, and large cats, but to Grandma Tildy’s relief, no elephants. We tend to avoid zoos, but the chance to observe some of the Yucatan’s native animals close up was too tempting an opportunity to pass up. The zoo, though, is only a small part of what Centennial Park has to offer. The rest of the park is made up of a large playground, picnic areas, several ponds where families can rent boats, a bike path, and plenty of vendors and equipment to rent (such as bikes). The biggest attraction (after the animals) is the popular train that runs around the whole park. The line at the “train station” can get pretty long, but it is a great opportunity to relax and take in all the park’s sights.
Fives’ Facts about Centennial Park
* The park opened in 1910 as a place for the public to enjoy trees native to the region.
* The train started running in 1962.
* The Century Tree (Arbol del Centenario) was planted in 1910 and still thrives to this day (despite being blown over in a hurricane).
* The park hours are 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Tuesday through Sunday.
* The park is closed on Mondays and on some holidays.
The rains here in San Cristóbal de las Casas have been off and on, but we have made the most of the dry spells to get outside and explore the city. We had heard about a large playground at the western edge of the city and decided to walk across town to check it out. The Parque de Convivencia Infantil (located on the Pereferico Norte Poniente, 1 block south of the Pemex Station) did not disappoint; while the puddles were plentiful, the great collection of slides and climbing structures made us at least feel all warm and sunny.
The playground equipment is not the only draw.
The sun finally made an appearance at the end of our visit!
Recycling is hard to come by in San Cristobal, so bring your bottles and tetrapacks if you visit.
Tips for Your Visit:
* The Park is closed on Mondays, and opens at 10:00 all other days. The opening time is definitely not set in stone (it didn’t open until 11:15 the day we visited), so you may have to wait a little for the gate to open.
* While we did walk to the playground from our apartment, it was a long and exhaust-filled walk. We gladly shelled out the 30 pesos for the cab home and would use the cab both ways the next time we visit.
* The entrance cost, for both adults and children, is 2 pesos per person.
Located within the Las Vegas city limits, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area feels worlds away from the rest of town. In reality, it is only 17 miles west of The Strip, but it is hard to imagine it shares the same address. Who would have thought you could see scenic natural vistas, a desert oasis, rugged canyons, and countless opportunities for rock climbing without actually leaving the city?
The stunning red rocks that give the area its name.
Five Ball exploring a dry stream bed.
The Younger Fives making the climb to Lost Creek, an oasis where trees thrive in the dry Mojave desert.
A pictograph from the original inhabitants of the area, the Pauite.
Looking at all the natural beauty can even give pause to our high-energy High Five.
Staying in Las Vegas for over two weeks now, we have steered clear of The Strip. Until today, that is. With Nana Five joining us for a visit, we thought it was finally time to make the trip downtown and see a different side of Vegas. We did some research on free, family-friendly activities on The Strip, and three of the most appealing ones are housed at Bellagio. For our first trip downtown, then, we decided to take things slowly and focus our exploration here.
Our first stop was the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. The display changes five times a year, and our visit came just a day before the current spring display is transformed into a summer theme. Impressive is definitely an understatement. The amount of flowers on display is truly mind-boggling, and the wonderful aroma is a refreshing change from the stale smell of cigarette smoke found in most places around The Strip. The overall attention to detail kept us all marveling at every sculpture and scene we came across, from caterpillars and ladybugs to a painting made entirely of live plants and flowers.
When we left the Conservatory to watch the show at the outdoor Fountains of Bellagio, we thought we had seen the best that Bellagio has to offer. We were wrong. The shows happen every half-hour and are quite the sight to see. Each one is a choreographed display of water and music, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that each show is different. The height and power of the fountains is pretty amazing, and at times it sounded more like fireworks than water.
We ended our excursion with a visit to the world’s largest chocolate fountain back inside. Unfortunately, thick glass prevented us from sampling any of the flowing chocolate, but our taste buds made some pretty realistic guesses at what the three types would taste like. While The Strip is best known as a playground for adults, the fountains and flowers at Bellagio convinced us that this part of Vegas can also be an amazing experience for all members of the family. Entranced by these wonderful examples of imagination given form, we were content to let our minds fill in what the rest of Bellagio and The Strip would be like.
Our experience in Las Vegas so far hasn’t been the most typical one. Far from the glitz of the Strip, we have been spending our time pairing down on clothing, cookware, and camping gear in preparation to live without a car in the coming weeks. In between our walks to the grocery store and combing second-hand stores to find a few final items for our suitcases, there has been one constant: playgrounds.
While we can’t vouch for all of Las Vegas, we have found two pretty impressive (and free) playgrounds in North Las Vegas at Centennial and Aliante Parks. From modern, to old-school, to pre-historic, these playgrounds have it all, and we have been having a blast as a family chasing, sliding, and climbing. Here’s a glimpse at our own version of “letting it ride:”