Mazatlán, Family Style!

285941_2345147912557_1365801431_32746097_1131240_o1.jpg

Kids love Mazatlán! There is so much to do that it is hard to choose. If you are hosting grandchildren over the holidays, are on holiday here with children, or if you live here and are looking for something new and exciting to do with the kids during school break, here is the list for you! Enjoy!

  • Aquarium: The aquarium in Mazatlán is a lot of fun. The most exciting thing at the aquarium is that with the new tiburonario scheduled to open this monthyou will be able to swim with the sharks! In addition to the indoor marine exhibits there are entertaining bird, sea lion and animal shows held on outdoor covered stages. Aquarium staff do most of the rescue of marine animals and birds here in town, so we all very much appreciate you supporting this venue. Tel 981-7815.
  • Baseball/Basketball Game: Los Venados, our local professional baseball team, runs October-February. Games often feel like a party with a baseball game going on in the background, but the stands are always full of fun-loving baseball fans ready to cheer at a moment’s notice. Seeing a game here is different from the U.S. or Canada – come check it out. Basketball fans will find that the Nauticos put on a good show.
  • Batting cages and driving range: Pacific Golf Center on Avenida de la Marina is a whole lot of fun for younger and older kids, as well as adults. They also have batting cages, a bar, and a full restaurant. Tel 180-0919.
  • Beach day: Boogie board, body surf, swim, fly a kite… You can get chair-side service and do all your souvenir and gift shopping with the vendors at a hotel beach. Enjoy some ceviche, fresh fruit or turnovers/empanadas from a strolling vendor, and maybe some live music from a passing band. You can dine on fresh, affordable seafood in a palapa/thatched hut on Playa Pinos. Make sand castles, pick up sea shells and sea glass, play soccer or football, volleyball or catch. You name it, you can’t go wrong with kids and a beach. Stone Island (it’s actually a peninsula) feels like going back in time to a simpler, more charming era. Pretend you’re shipwrecked, or that you own your own private piece of paradise. There are plenty of restaurants with lots of adult beverages; the beach is great for kids as the ocean is pretty calm. On Deer Island you can get a few things to eat or drink. You can get tours to either island that include banana boating, snorkeling or jet skiing; Stone Island tours often include horseback riding. If you go on your own, Stone Island has an affordable water ferry (about US$3 round trip per person). In the early morning, you can go down to Playa Norte and watch the swim club swimmers do their ocean swims. Many are grandmas and grandpas and boy can they swim! In November each year the club does a Travesía, during which swimmers swim out to Deer Island! You are most welcome to join them in the early mornings, starting about 6:00 am.
  • Bicycling: Biking along the malecón/oceanside promenade is gorgeous, easy and fun! From Valentino’s to the Pedro Infante Monument is about 4 miles one-way, it’s of course a very level ride, and safely out of the traffic. Baikas has two locations along the oceanside promenade, tel 110-0267. They also do Segway tours of Centro Histórico. Want something a little more adventurous, perhaps for the teenagers—something tougher, like mountain biking? Güero, Kelly, will take you on a tour, or take you around the mountain bike course he has set up. His shop, Kelly’s Bikes, is on Avenida de la Marina, tel 914-1187. He has bikes to loan out as well.
  • Boat ride or water sports: You can have one of the playeros take you and your family out for a cruise on a catamaran around the bay for very little cash. Cruise past Bird, Goat and Deer Islands, and view the city from the sea. There are also sailboats, or you can go out on a party boat and enjoy music, dinner or sunset, tel 918-2360. Or, rent a couple of kayaks on the beach in front of one of the hotels, and enjoy some terrific family time paddling in the bay. In the Golden Zone you can also go parasailing, ride jet skis or banana boats. Before I parasailed I never imagined I’d enjoy it as much as I did! It is amazingly fun and exciting! Book a trip on the beach in front of your hotel.
  • El Bosque/City Park: Located one block off the malecón, just south of Ave. Insurgentes, this park has a large pond with waterfowl, swing sets and climbing gyms, a small zoo, and a walking trail. There are play areas in small parks throughout the city, though I recommend you check their safety before letting your kids climb up and slide down.
  • Bowling, skee ball, video games, pool tables: Great for hot, humid days or during the rainy season. Inside the Gran Plaza, Recorcholis, tel 983-2127, also has an ice skating rink. Alboa Mazatlán in the Galerías shopping center, 688-0005, also has pool tables. They both also have video arcades.
  • Fishermen: Sitting near the pangas/boats at Playa Norte beach, watching the fishermen bring in their boats, unload and sell their fish, and the birds try to steal the entrails, can make for a very enjoyable morning for a family. There is excellent fishing in Mazatlán, and if your children enjoy it, you can fish from shore or rent a boat to take your family out deep-sea fishing.
  • Hiking, bird watching and picnicking: Climbing up the lighthouse is one of our very favorite family activities. The climb only takes about 20 minutes, and the view from the top is gorgeous! On the north side of town, Estero del Yugo is a gorgeous nature preserve with both a coastal lagoon (fresh water) and estuary (brackish water). Your family can walk or bike several trails. Nature walks and plant medicine tours are offered year-round. They are primarily in Spanish, but Sandra and staff speak English and will do their best to accommodate you. Just give them a call at 989-8700.
  • Horseback riding: There is nothing like a family horseback ride on the beach, or through a forest of palm trees on Stone Island, tel 941-9549. From Mr. Lionso’s in Cerritos you can take horses up into the mountains, tel 988-0425.
  • Las Labradas Petroglyphs: A 45 minute drive north of Mazatlán, over 600 ocean-side rock carvings in this national archeological zone. 667-996-8450
  • Movies: Movie theaters in Mazatlán are MUCH more affordable ventures than they are north of the border. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to see a subtitled (subtitulado) movie rather than one that’s dubbed (doblado). Some of the major movie theaters in town are  Cinépolis in the Gran Plaza, in Sendero Plaza or Santa RosaCinemex at Galerías Mazatlán advertises a “4D” viewing experience, while Cinemex El Toreo and Cinemex Mazatlán are both on Avenida Insurgentes in the main part of town; Cinemas Gaviotas is an older theater in the Golden Zone near Valentino’s.
  • Paint ball: For some weird reason, paint ball is called “Gotcha” in Mazatlecan Spanish. Gotcha Las Espuelas is located just outside of town, tel 124-3434. Gotcha Sport, tel 981-1151.
  • Port tour: Watch the workings of the port from the Mirador or the Old Observatory. Drive, walk or bike up Paseo del Centenario to either of these places, and you will be rewarded with incredible views of the city of Mazatlán and the workings of its port—second most important in Mexico. See the loading and unloading at the docks, the boats of the largest shrimping fleet in the Mexican Pacific, as well as the tuna fleet. You an also hire one of the panga-owners to take you on a cruise through the Parque Bonfil, to see all the shrimp and tuna boats up close and personal.
  • Sea Turtles laying their eggs or being released: Witness sea turtles laying eggs on the beach from June through November or later every year. It is an amazing process to watch, but please don’t bother the nesting Moms! You can read a blog post about the sea turtles. Groups can make arrangements via the Aquarium to do a private release of baby sea turtles, or you may call the Aquarium to see if there is a release scheduled while you are in town, tel 981-7815. Release season is August to December. On Stone Island (at Estrella del Mar) there is a sea turtle sanctuary, and the kids (and adults) may very much enjoy visiting it. Tel 01-800-727-4653. Also Santuario Verde Camacho north of town: 6691-18-0629.
  • Skating: Bring your skateboard, rip stick, BMX bike or inline skates, or just your eyes and good humor to watch the festivities. The main skate park is in the median on the boulevard that runs beside the City Park/Bosque de la Ciudad. You can in-line skate along the malecón—rent skates at Baikas locations—or ice skate in the Gran Plaza at Recorcholis, tel 983-2263.
  • Snorkeling: Playa Norte has a sheltered beach, just south of the swim club and the outdoor gym, which has pretty interesting snorkeling: lots of colorful fish and sea glass. Remember that the Pacific is not the Caribbean; water here is not nearly as clear. On Deer Island you can snorkel for octopus or scallops. The oyster divers are also a very friendly lot here, and they will be happy to have you pay them to dive with them—only recommended if your kids are expert swimmers, of course.
  • Spray fountain/waterpark: Right across the street from the Fisherman’s Monument, the spray fountain installation is a big hit with local and tourist kids alike!  If the kids want more slide action than the hotel pool or the spray fountain can provide, take them up to Mazagua, on the north end of town on the way to the Hotel Riu or Emerald Bay. Tel 988-0041.
  • Surfing: Many kids would love to learn how to surf! In Mazatlán here are two options: Javier’s Quicksilver Surf, 6691-20-9703,  or Aqua Sports Center, tell 913-0451.
  • Tide pools: One of the BEST activities ever, on the planet, for families with young children. Bring a book of tide pool life along with you, put on some water shoes, and take a walk when the tide is out along the beach south of Valentino’s. Starfish, crabs, tadpoles, sea urchins… Gotta love it!
  • Volleyball on the beach: Play or watch local and national championships at Barras al Mar in the Golden Zone, 6699-13-0748.
  • Whale, dolphin and sea lion watching: One of our favorite activities! DEFINITELY do this if you are traveling here! Contact Oscar or Saúl at Onca Explorations, tel 913-4050. Nothing like having a marine biologist, who knows these whales intimately, cataloging and tracking their movements, teach you about them. You can almost touch these gorgeous creatures, and the sound of their breathing will blow you away! Read another blog post about this, one of our absolute favorite things to do here. Also swim with dolphins in the wild.
  • Zip linesHuana Coa is located in La Noria, close to the Los Osuna mezcal distillery. It is a whole lot of fun! They use double-cables for added safety, and state-of-the-art equipment. Tel 990-1100. Veraneando has twelve zip lines, including one where two people can ride/race in parallel. They also offer a river tour, hot springs, sweat lodge (temazcal) and ATVs. Tel 988-0425. If you haven’t zip lined, we HIGHLY recommend it.
In addition to the above year-round activities, there are also terrific seasonal events that you should try not to miss. These include:
  • Carnaval/Mardis Gras (a very family-oriented five days before Ash Wednesday—in 2016 February 4-9)
  • Easter Week processions
  • MotoWeek, a huge gathering of motorcycles from around the continent. Includes concerts, an expo and a huge parade (early April each year)
  • Independence Day, especially “El Grito” the night before in the main Plaza downtown (September 15)
  • Day of the Dead, altars and callejoneada parade (November 1 and 2)
  • Revolution Day (November 20)
  • ExpoCar, usually held in December, this is a car show and, I guess, drag racing event. Exhibitions, concerts, and lots of burning rubber.
  • Look for signs for special events such as Monster Truck shows, Lucha Libre, circuses (one going on somewhere in town at least once/month), carnavals/fairs (5-7 every year), NBA exhibition games, etc….
  • There are cultural events such as bullfighting (held occasionally) and cock fighting (held all the time at various venues). Look for signs around town or ask around when you here if you are interested.
  • Finally, there are often child-friendly shows put on around town, frequently for free. Consult the CULTURA Mazatlán calendar.

In the lists above I’ve only included things right here in town. There are also loads of things to do outside the city—small pueblos to visit, the petroglyphs at Las Labradas

We know those grandkids will be back soon! Please let us know what adventures you and your kids or grandkids enjoy, and we’ll add them in!

Fireworks Extraordinaire!

dsc_0285

FIREWORKS
By now if you read these pages you know I love fireworks. In Mazatlán we are blessed with displays most every weekend, sometimes almost every night. People launch fireworks at weddings, quinceaños, birthday and anniversary parties, restaurant grand openings… you name it. During Christmas and New Year’s we’ll see even more. I’m living in the right place! On Thanksgiving last week we enjoyed two wonderful, unexpected shows, and last Friday I counted five different fireworks shows that I could see just from our house. Since many of them take place over the ocean, it’s a site to behold.

Annually our two best city-wide shows are, of course, the Combate Naval and the Festival de la Luz ; click on either link in the highlighted text to see photos of previous editions of those events. If you love fireworks or photography like I do, you might also want to look at some pics I took over the summer while visiting relatives in southern Wisconsin: fireworks on Lake Michigan and another set on Lake Tichigan.

FESTIVAL DE LA LUZ
This year was the tenth anniversary of the Festival de la Luz, an annual show put on by the Tres Islas Hotel Association on the Saturday night between events of the Gran Maratón del Pacífico. To me it’s my favorite fireworks display of the year, because the whole bay of Mazatlán lights up, with around 50,000 people along the four kilometers of the malecón all getting a clear and joy-filled view. Combate Naval, held in conjunction with Carnavál, is a wonderful show, but the Olas Altas area gets so very crowded that viewing it takes lots of planning and effort. It’s not an event for the elderly, the differently abled, or the faint of heart, while Festival de la Luz is accessible to everyone. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow. Yes, I think Torre M’s marketing department needs to give me a call.😉

The hotel association built up our anticipation that the tenth anniversary show would be the best ever in Mazatlán, that there would be new sorts of fireworks that we’ve never seen, and that what might seem like an error would really be a surprise. There were 15 launch points set up around our bay, 10,000 fireworks to shoot, and the show was supposed to last 30 minutes. Needless to say, I was PSYCHED!

PHOTOGRAPHING FIREWORKS
To take good fireworks photos, I’ve learned that a key is to scout a location ahead of time. Having a good foreground (e.g., beach, boats, people, scenery or reflections in water) gives perspective. I feel you need to choose whether to shoot the fireworks close-up or far away, as doing both requires too many changes in settings, and the shows don’t allow you the luxury of time. I suppose there are those who use two cameras, with two different settings, but I’m not that multi-dexterous. I’ve also learned that you can not guarantee good shots as there are so many variables out of the photographer’s control: the wind (never know which way the smoke will blow), the clarity of the air (Mazatlán’s salty air clouds photos taken at a distance), the quality of the fireworks show itself, and, of course, luck—if you happen to catch that one incredible launch or not.

The location from which I took photos last year wouldn’t work this year: it was now right under one of the launch sites, and I decided that the light from the fireworks would be too bright, and at unpredictable distances, for my shots. There was also much more ambient light there as well this year. Greg helped me find a new location where we could get the panoramic views we wanted. It took some negotiation, but we got permission to shoot from there, and a friend and I set out early that evening to set up.

cohetes ready

Photo from 2015 set up

2016 FESTIVAL
Well, instead of the advertised 30 minutes, the show this year lasted about 18 minutes. We didn’t have the flyboarders, not that I missed them, and I sure didn’t see anything so new and different that we haven’t seen here before, so I’m not sure what the surprise was. There was quite a wind blowing out the shapes of the fireworks very quickly. Thus, the show didn’t quite meet the 10th anniversary hype; that happens. My disappointment, however, was the apparent lack of coordination between the launch locations. What’s so great about Festival de la Luz is that you’ve got so many launches around the bay choreographed into a mesmerizing overall “WOW!” factor.

While I went out to take photos, Greg stayed home to watch the fireworks from a closer venue. He said there was only one man working the display in front of our house (one of the 15 launch locations), and it seemed the wind kept blowing out his torch. You may have seen the fireworks on the beach; they are hand-positioned and hand-lit. Nothing much seems computerized. The pyrotechnicians at different spots seem to have radios to coordinate their actions.

In 2015, you might recall, we had perfect fireworks conditions: a hurricane on the weekend of the marathon had cleared the air and the night was perfectly still, making it ideal for photography.  That same hurricane took out at least one of our fireworks launch locations, but fortunately the rest were saved. This year we had very salty air, lots of humidity, and combined with the wind far from ideal conditions. Below I’ll post some photos from 2015 and from 2016, to give you a feel of the difference. Click to view them larger and see which year is which. Let me know what you think.

I contacted José Manguart at Tres Islas to ask him about my perceptions, but so far I haven’t heard back from him. If I do, I will update this post with his comments. I’m not sure, therefore, if all went as planned, or if there were snafus. Either way, it was still a spectacular show, easily accessible, and free for so many thousands of people! Any disappointment is only because we are incredibly spoiled!

We are so blessed! I thank the Tres Islas Hotel Association for doing this for us every year. The Noroeste said there was 100% hotel occupancy over marathon weekend, and I know lots of friends were able to rent out rooms as well. It’s so encouraging to see Mazatlán hosting events that promote health and fitness, and also bring economic boom. Do let me know what you thought of the show, and the photos. Thank you!

Baby Sea Turtles

dsc_0012You know the sea turtles come to Mazatlán’s beaches to lay their eggs. It’s one of the joys of living here, observing these beautiful creatures coming to shore, then losing their last ounce of energy to return to the sea.

Sadly yet fortunately, most of the turtle eggs are rescued by the aquarium staff or the other turtle sanctuaries in town. Once they hatch, they are released into the wild, in hopes they’ll procreate and come back to our shores once again. It is estimated that only one in 1000 hatchlings will reach adulthood. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

During the Gran Maratón del Pacífico each year is a huge public release of baby sea turtles. It was not my first choice for photographing, since there are so many smaller, more private releases that might give better photo ops, or so I thought. But, my friend wanted to go, so I joined in. It was, indeed, a huge mess of people. And, it was so joyous to watch the faces of the kids as they released the baby turtles.

The mother turtles are often about a meter long. The babies look so very similar to their mothers, and it’s hard to tell the size in the photos, but they are maybe three inches long. The sunset colors in the sky sure improved the photogeneity of the event.

If you haven’t joined one of the turtle releases, you owe it to yourself to do so. And it is a definite must for the grandkids or family who visit during the holidays!

Peer Pressure

15267703_10210798921186234_466070210640050474_n.jpgWhen you move to a new place, what makes it become home? I had the good fortune of moving to Mazatlán with my two main men, and having compadres who live here that we’ve known for decades. Plus, I’d been in love with our port city for decades myself, as had Greg, so calling it home was pretty easy.

However, the key when you make a new place home is creating community, and that takes friends. Like-minded friends, differently-opinioned friends, intelligent and fun-loving friends, friends who enjoy some of the same pastimes as you. And, I believe, the older we get, the more selective about those friends we get.

Thus, I am very grateful on this Thanksgiving Day weekend for the good friends in our lives. And, I am enormously grateful as well for the “peer pressure” of living on the malecón. I’ve written before how the malecón is the world’s largest gymnasium. In the nine years we’ve lived here, Kilometro Zero, the Bosque de la Ciudad, and the malecón, have been converted into one great race, marathon and triathlon event after another. Greg and I can’t help but be susceptible to the contagion.

Tomorrow morning Greg will run the 21km in the Gran Maratón del Pacífico. I am so proud of him, recovering from his broken leg and nerve damage from two years ago. This year, as last year, I ran the 5km. The big news for me this year was two-fold: FIVE of my local girlfriends did the 5km with me! Better yet, they  brought their families! Second, despite the fact that I have a horrible head cold, and didn’t sleep well at all last night due to my coughing, I made a personal pace record this morning.

I’m slow, there is no doubt. But, hey, it’s my personal best for the 5km, despite the head cold and lack of sleep, and I’m happy about that! It was tempting at 6:30 this morning not to get up. It was tempting on the way back around the Bosque to quit, to say it wasn’t meant to be, as I couldn’t breathe. It was tempting at the 3km mark to join the 3km people. My lungs hurt, my nose was running, I kept coughing… But, I didn’t quit. I persevered. Me, who hasn’t run since being state champion in the 100 and 500 yard dash in junior high school, has started running again at 55. Woot woot. I still prefer swimming and zumba, but it’s nice to be able to run. At least a 5k.

We move to a new place in the hopes of creating a healthy and fulfilling life. I am grateful for the peer pressure I feel in this city of athletes, grateful that Mazatlán has become just such a city, and that we live in the middle of the athletic zone. I am grateful that Greg has led the way, running for so long and enjoying it so much that he eventually motivated me to start. My cousin Mary helped with that motivation, too. And, I am very grateful that I have a group of middle aged “Bellas Mazatlecas” girlfriends whose smiles light up rooms and who are healthy and motivated enough to join me in the “marathon”!

15202782_10210798212288512_5766215204083962544_n

God bless friends who love life!

Good luck tomorrow, Don Goyo! You’ll do great! Viva Mazatlán! Uno meta más cumplida mis Bellas!

Silent Auction Sat, Dec. 10th

pollosposter2016Are you excited for the Desayuno de los Pollos? Do you have your tickets? Proceeds from the breakfast every year go to feed the needy at Christmas, and the past few years, with your help, we’ve fed and clothed nearly 3000 families. 2016 is our 27th year. The breakfast is on Saturday, December 10th, from 8:30 at the API cruise ship dock.

The full breakfast includes a raffle of major prizes—always including a few artesanally drafted wrought iron tables—a raffle of dozens of smaller prizes, a holiday bazaar of handcrafted items, and a terrific silent auction.

The silent auction tends to have loads of good items to buy, helping you and helping our cause: meals, stays at hotels, pieces of art, gift certificates, decorator items for the home… Click here to see some of the items we have had in past years.

This year we will have several wrought iron pieces, thanks to master craftsman Jorge Medina from Quince Letras. We also give many thanks to fiber artist May Woodford, who made an incredibly gorgeous white designer throw for us. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Please help us help others by donating your time or talent, or an item or two in your home that are lovely yet no longer to your liking. Perhaps you have a favorite restaurant or store that you could ask to donate an item for the silent auction? You can download a gift certificate form here, then just let me know and I’ll pick it up.

The bazaar is also going to rock this year. Many thanks to Karen Devine, who hand sewed a bunch of gorgeous bags that will be for sale in the bazaar. You can see some of her colorful work below. Thank you, Karen!

Karen Devine bags.jpg

May Woodford also made eleven afghans that she has asked us to hand out on December 24th to help those in need stay warm this winter. Yes, when you live in a cardboard box, the wind whipping through makes even the tropics feel freezing.

img_5240

Thanks for joining us and helping out! Invite your local and international neighbors and friends! If you can’t attend on the 10th, please donate or participate in some other way. Thank you!