Help me not miss the unmissible
March 13, 2011 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Mexico City, Puebla and surrounding areas this week with some friends. I'll have a car for part of the trip. There are tons of great general tips and recs in old askme questions. What I'm interested in are the more ephemeral activites - any good shows, sporting events, other events, tours I need to book in advance, etc., coming up while I'm going to be there? (travel details inside).

We get in on Wednesday, March 16 midday and will spend March 16-March 19 (Saturday) in Puebla and Tlaxcala and that general area and will have a car. March 20 (Sunday)-March 23 (Wednesday) we'll be in Mexico City and will not have a car.

Are there any great shows, concerts, etc. you'd recommend for those dates? I love smaller offbeat concerts, bands at bars, unique sporting events (we're doing Lucha Libre on Tuesday night in Mexico City I think), fun tours, etc. If there's a great bar/tavern with live music, that's great too. I realize this may be a bit too one-off to get a great response, but I figured it's worth a shot.

Separately, if there are good english-language event publications for Mexico City and/or the Puebla area you know of, I'd greatly appreciate you pointing me in the right direction. Thanks!
posted by slide to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No specific recs on events, but I would only advise that you be very careful, as the highways are still a little dicey. If cops try to pull you over, please confirm that they are actually cops before you stop, especially if you have US plates. I realize I'm off-topic here and I apologize in advance, but even my parents (about as Mexican as they come) are opting for a plane to Monterrey for my cousin's daughter's quinceniera, and my aunt and uncle haven't made the trip up for the same reason.
posted by Gilbert at 8:27 PM on March 13, 2011

I usually advise visitors to Mexico to avoid getting a car, because for me it's a huge relief to not have to drive everywhere, since there is reasonably priced, high quality, frequent public transport available. But anyway. If I was going to where you're going, I would go hang out in the Zocalo and environs in Mexico city for most of a day. Maybe visit a museum if I had time. Then in Puebla, don't miss the mole restaurants, a local specialty. There is usually so much happening on the weekends in terms of small musical shows and weekend festival/market type events that I just walk around the Mexican city I'm in and find them as I go. That way I'm not disappointed by making plans to see something and going to the trouble of getting there, which, if you're new to a Mexican area, can be unpredictable in terms of travel time.

Tlaxcala is a nice clean little city in the hills with lots of great bars and restaurants. Puebla is bigger, with more traffic, and with a more industrial/residential feel to it. Lots of history there, much of it not so favorable to gringos. The area around Tlaxcala/Puebla features at least one really awesome looking live volcano, the name slips my mind right now. Very scenic. Mexico City is vast, and, believe me, just by casually moving around the central area, you will see much and have plenty to do. Lucha libre might be fun, but I get the feeling a lot of the ritual would go right over my head. I go to Mexico mostly for the radically different urban atmosphere which is available to any casual stroller, and also especially the cuisine, which to my taste, is some of the best in the world.

Have a good trip!
posted by telstar at 9:17 PM on March 13, 2011

Puebla has a ton of great restaurants and I've heard most of the Mexican cooks who work in the US either started in Puebla or go to it after working in the US. Anthony Bourdain has mentioned it a few times and I can personally attest to it. I went without knowing and was just hoping I'd get to try good Mexican food and all I found was fantastic international restaurants. It was so omnipresent I actually had to ask our friends, from UDLAP ("oohd lap" - check website for events) if we could eat some Mexican food for once (best taco I've ever had).

You might also consider the Great Pyramid in Cholula. We only had time to hike up to the top but there are tunnels and outlying buildings you can explore as well. By volume it's the biggest pyramid in the world. There's also some churches in Cholula that can be seen, but I think the myth of there being 365 churches (one for each day) is driven in part because there seems to be a fireworks show put on by the churches every single night. They aren't long but if you can figure out a schedule it could be nice.

BTW - driving was a nightmare best left to the locals. On top of that, the toll booths have federal troops (green fatigues) with M16s and we saw a few carjackings and beatings (this was 10 years ago though). While we're on the topic the blue fatigues are the local police, the drug division carries Uzis, and don't be surprised if you see the federal troops with them. Scared the crap out of us one night (mistaken identity of someone nearby apparently), but the violence doesn't seem to focus on tourists at all, FYI. Also, arrange transportation by asking the official personnel at the airport/hotel/etc. for a taxi and what not. There's a lot of shady gray market stuff around that industry apparently.
posted by jwells at 7:15 AM on March 14, 2011

In Puebla, visit Cuexcomate, the smallest volcano in the world.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:35 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all for the tips! Fantastic trip overall, saw the smallest volcano, went to cholula, saw a lot of live music - including an enormous variety of mariachi bands in plaza garibaldi in mexico city. With regard to the safety element, I know that you can't draw any inferences from a single experience, but I felt perfectly safe both driving around very rural areas of the country (up near the paso de cortes, on a dirt road between tlaxcala and teotuican (sp?), etc.) and walking around all of the cities (with the possible exception of some of the streets near plaza garibaldi in mexico city late at night). It was great to have a car; really opened up the country, though I'm sure it would have been a great trip without as well.
posted by slide at 10:32 PM on March 23, 2011

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