A first glance at a map of Mérida might suggest a city without too many green spaces, but let me assure you that there are, in fact, plenty of opportunities to get outside and feel a bit free without ever leaving the city.
November is generally a good month for outdoor exploration in Mérida. The rains are pretty much over and as long as you remember hats, sunscreen, and water, you’ll be just fine outside. If you feel like taking it slow then just one of these options below could fill an entire day but if you’re keen to see as much of Mérida as possible in a short time, you could fit three areas of the city into one day.
In order to make the most of a “nature day” in the city, best get up early and enjoy breakfast in your hotel before heading to Parque Poniente while it’s still cool. Kids can skip across streams, climb on rocks and generally run free. There is also a playground and a small swimming pool on site (generally open weekends in the summer).
Once you’re done here, why not head to nearby Animaya (it’s too far to walk despite looking close on the map, trust me) to take a stroll through the Jardín de las Epífitas, a small, tropical botanical garden. While there, of course, you could also take a ride on the safari boat or truck, too. Here you’ll see nature although it won’t be native-type nature; instead, you’ll find zebras, giraffes, and antelopes hanging out together. Kids can also enjoy the two playgrounds and splash park on-site (all free).
There is a snack area in the Animaya complex, making it a perfect place to grab a bite to eat before taking in your third nature spot of the day, although you may prefer to head out of Animaya to the local restaurants across the road: Los Huaraches, “Doña Mary,” or El Bicentenario.
On the east side of the city, Acuaparque is a large, artificially constructed park, but this should not detract from the fact that it’s a great spot for relaxing and getting away from city noise. Here you can enjoy a stroll along the streams, climb on rocks, and watch the wildlife. We saw herons, birds of prey, and plenty of fish, all without managing to be quiet for even one second (because, well, kids…)! And yes, children are extremely welcome here. There’s a swimming area (summer weekends only) and a playground, and plenty of space to run and play. There isn’t really anywhere to buy snacks or drinks here, so come prepared.
After a long day of running free in Merida’s nature spots, return to town and collapse just about anywhere for a good meal; perhaps at Cafeteria Impala at the bottom of Paseo de Montejo – a great location if you’re not too shattered and are hoping to catch Saturday’s Noche Mexicana at the Remate of the same avenue, or any of the many other great evening events put on in town by the Ayuntamiento de Mérida.
Editorial by Cassie Pearse
Photography by Cassie Pearse and Andrea Mier y Terán for use in Yucatán Today
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