Whether you’ve just moved to San Diego, are thinking about it, or are a long-time local, you’re perfectly situated for several family-friendly day trips to Mexico, with the border less than 20 miles south.
Tijuana is just a half-hour’s drive from San Diego, attracting many day-trippers and weekend visitors from the U.S. who enjoy its shows, artisan markets, festivals, and food, in fact, it’s also been called a trend-setter when it comes to culinary arts.
While you may have heard all about its wild side, especially along Avenida Revolucion, the city’s most famous street for partying and bar-hopping, it offers lots of family-friendly things to do. This roadway is also where you’ll find plenty of Zonkeys, a donkey painted with stripes made to look like a zebra, a tradition that started decades ago to make the animals stand out in black-and-white photographs. The tradition continues and is considered part of the local culture. For just a dollar or two, visitors can wear a sombrero while sitting on a Zonkey and have their picture taken, capturing the essence of a day trip in Tijuana.
Head to the historic plaza, Tijuana’s oldest square, Plaza Santa Cecilia and you can enjoy the lively open-market with mariachi music, all sorts of eateries and unique shops with everything from silver jewelry and clothing to pinatas and hammocks. It makes for some great people watching and you might just catch a performance of a Mexican Hat Dance accompanied by string instruments or a mariachi band which tells a story about courtship and usually ends with a loud, “ole!”
Ensenada is also an easy day or weekend trip from San Diego, a little less than a 2-hour drive south along the coast. It’s a highly walkable town with a lovely Malecon, a wide path along the oceanfront and lots of places to dine, including a great local seafood market popular for its fish tacos. There are lots of stalls for browsing or purchasing souvenirs as well, particularly at the far end of the Malecon when walking from the cruise terminal and Avenida Lopez Mateos. At the Museo de Historia de Ensenada (Ensenada History Museum) near the cruise terminal, you can learn about the area’s history from the time Baja California was formed through today, with a focus on the indigenous people.
An hour southeast of San Diego, the small border town of Tecate is a fun place for families to visit. In 2012, it was added to the federal government’s list of Pueblos Magicos (Magic Town), places that are notable for their historical significance and natural beauty. You’ll discover a strong sense of community with lots of friendly people and streets lined with handcrafted souvenir shops, ice cream parlors selling delectable homemade ice cream, bakeries, seafood markets, and taco stands, while the colorful town square sits in the middle. There are park benches and tables scattered among trees, flowers and fresh herbs, a perfect spot to enjoy your morning coffee or a picnic in the afternoon.
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