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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.


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