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The Border Report

Child's Play in TJ

By Derrik Chinnn

The Border Report

El Trompo children’s museum

El Trompo, an interactive children’s museum

Family time in Mexico means a fun, educational adventure that’s international and inexpensive. Plus, you’ll be home before bedtime

A morning at the museum: Start off at El Trompo, the city’s interactive science and technology museum that opened off Boulevard Insurgentes in 2009. It’s the size of an aircraft hangar and full of stuff to entertain kids of all ages, including a 3D cinema, a bubble-making station, a giant plasma globe, and bilingual signage everywhere you turn.

A walk in the park: Parque Morelos is within walking distance of the museum. In the largest of Tijuana’s public green spaces, spread over some 1,000 grassy acres, are a small zoo, botanical gardens, bike paths, a pool with waterslides, a lake with rental paddleboats, and plenty of playgrounds. Don’t miss the double-decker trampoline-slide, but they cap the height limit at about 4 feet.

Taco time: A mile or so back toward the San Ysidro border crossing, on the opposite side of Rio Tijuana, is the closest the town has come to birthing a restaurant of Disneyland proportions, right down to the font on its sign: Tacolandia. Life-size papier-mâché renditions of everyone from the Marvel crew to Popeye lurk about, and a two-story burlap slide, makeshift roller rink, trampoline, and giant billiard tables keep the kids entertained while the food—typical taqueria fare—is in the works, giving the ’rents a quiet moment to sneak in a beer.

An afternoon ride: Right next door is Tijuana’s pequeño nod to the Mall of America—just don’t call it pequeño. Mundo Divertido (aka Fun World) houses some 30 rides and attractions: multiple roller coasters, a swinging pirate ship, Ferris wheel, go-karts, laser tag, bumper boats, bowling alley, arcade, haunted house, a fiberglass safari, and a purple dinosaur mascot that bears a striking resemblance to Barney. It’s no Six Flags, but it’s so very Tijuana.

Off to market: Onward to Mercado Miguel Hidalgo, a collection of some 80 family-run shops that make up the city’s oldest open-air market, on Boulevard Sanchez Taboada in Zona Rio. Not only is it a piñata wonderland, with hordes of tissue-paper characters dangling from the ceiling, but the place also peddles exotic fruits. Be sure to try yaca (jackfruit), the world’s largest tree fruit, which packs three simultaneous flavors: pineapple, banana, and apple.

A sweet goodbye: Finish up at Tepoznieves, an ice cream parlor in the gastronomic district on Paseo de los Heroes that’s home to some 120 flavors of ice cream like pitahaya (dragon fruit), maracuya (passion fruit), guanabana (soursop), and tuna (prickly pear, not to be confused with atún).

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