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Tijuana: A Border Town Unmasked

by planetnomad on August 20, 2010

Too often, travelers skirt around certain places or avoid them altogether because of a constant stream of press indicating that a place lacks this or that, or is dangerous and devoid of any cultural richness.  This is often the case with Mexican border cities such as Tijuana.  For too long, this city of over two million has endured a reputation that leaves most travelers doubtful of ever uncovering any rich value beyond its perpetual image as a “party town”.  But, for those travelers opting to explore it further, a solid reward is revealed!

A quick, five-minute trip from the busiest border crossing in the world, and visitors can enjoy a full day in the Zona Río. This is a multi-block stretch that seems worlds-away from the hectic party district of the famous Avenida Revolución. Here, along the Paseo de los Héroes, numerous restaurants, museums and sculptural art can be found.  The area is anchored by a wonderful and uniquely shaped museum, the Centro Cultural Tijuana or “CECUT” for short.  This structure, known as “La Bola”, for its spherical shape and built in 1982, houses an IMAX theatre and El Museo de las Californias. This museum showcases an impressive account of Baja California’s history spanning a period from prehistoric times to the latter part of the twentieth century.

Centro Cultural Tijuana or “CECUT”

For a bit of shopping indulgence there are few options also located in the Zona Río district.  Just a block from the CECUT, is an upscale Centro Comercial named Plaza Rio that’s popular with tourists and locals.  Though there are numerous shops and restaurants located here, the mall is anchored by Sanborns, Sears and a Cinépolis.  If visitors seek more traditional Mexican wares they should head over to Mercado Hidalgo which lies two blocks west of Paseo de los Héroes on Avenida Francisco Mina.  This market has an assortment of cheap eateries, colorful fruits, vegetables, beans and spices.  It also has a wide selection of Mexican ceramics, lotería board games and plenty of trinkets to take back home.

Mercado Hidalgo

So, after a full day of shopping and with a taste for a diverse and international flavor of cuisine, the hidden hotspot known as Distrito Gastronómico (Tijuana’s Culinary district) is the place to visit.  It is conveniently located a few blocks south of the Zona Río along Paseo de los Héroes where monuments to Cuauhtémoc and Abraham Lincoln can be found.  Here, the dining options stretch for multiple blocks and offer everything from Greek and Italian to Japanese and French.  The options are unlimited!

Cuauhtémoc Monument

One last place to surely convince any visitor to Tijuana of its additional offerings and cultural sophistication is the winery, L.A.Cetto’s Wines, which features some of the best all-around samplings in the state of Baja.  It’s been a family-run business since the 1920’s and offers a tasting area, a gift shop and a guided tour of its cellars.

In the end, visitors willing to look beyond Tijuana’s unsavory image of the past will come away with a newfound appreciation for its diversity of attractions.


HELPFUL WEBSITES

www.tijuanaonline.org

www.cecut.gob.mx

www.borderparking.com/

www.mexicoach.com

www.plazariotijuana.com.mx/


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

The Real Tijuana August 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Thank you for your kind words. We founded our blog specifically to address the sort of tourism you mention here. We invite you all to stop by.

Jeremy B August 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm

A nice, in-depth view of Tijuana. You are right about its reputation. I have lived in California for over 9 years now and never had a desire to go. Quite honestly, I still don’t have much of a desire to go but it’s nice to see someone give this city exposure for some of its highlights rather than its reputation.

jamie August 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm

great to see some positive words about tijuana! pretty rare these days. i really love the shots too, especially the market one. keep up the good work on the blog, cheers, jamie from http://www.cloudpeopleadventures.com

planetnomad August 23, 2010 at 11:54 pm

@ : The Real Tijuana You are very welcome…it’s my pleasure to highlight a few things people may not know about your fine city. It’s extremely unfortunate that we hear a constant stream of negative press coming out daily not only about Tijuana, but other border cities as well. It damages a city’s reputation and can cripple the tourism which could lead to all kinds of other economic woes. Congrats to you for putting together a blog to stress the “good” that’s in abundance there. Keep up the great work! Thanks again for visiting!

planetnomad August 24, 2010 at 12:01 am

@ Jeremy B Thanks Jeremy for your comments…always a pleasure to hear your side my friend! Gosh, if you STILL don’t want to visit Tijuana after my piece, I’m not sure how to interpret that. Did I fail in conveying a positive feel to the city? Ha Ha, just kidding, but I would love to find out what your hesitation might be. It really is a place that delivers, as I’ve mentioned, so much more than the “party” element that’s often associated with it. Give it a try, besides, it’s not too far from your city! Nice seeing you here!

planetnomad August 24, 2010 at 12:09 am

@ Jamie What a pleasant surprise! Yep, you’re right on the mark with it being a rarity that anything positive is written about TJ. If only people would allow themselves to look beyond the “ever-present” negative headlines, they might just discover what a beautiful city Tijuana really is! Oh, and thanks for the comment on the market shot. That was taken at Mercado Hidalgo…cool place if you’re into markets as I am! Hope to see you guys around!

Jen Laceda October 1, 2010 at 11:41 am

A cousin of mine went to Tijuana and she totally raved about it! Somehow, I picture Tijuana as a border town, surrounded by a dusty desert…and guys wearing cowboy boots…hahaha. I watch too many movies. Glad to kno there is a culinary district, though.

planetnomad October 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comments Jen! Yep, so many people have a certain image of border towns and it tends to be media-driven, and of course, negatively most of the time. I, too, was surprised to find this whole other side to Tijuana that’s, sadly, not often mentioned. It’s worth checking out! Let us know about your trip if you ever make it there!

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