By Christine Krzyszton
My travel companion and I were tired of paying top dollar to go out on New Year’s Eve so we thought we had a great idea: Bypass the usual spots (Vegas, or the local top restaurant) and consider someplace new. Perhaps a city that has inexpensive lodging, is easy to get to, has a vibrant culture and the dollar is strong.
Months prior to the holiday we started searching and found a great airfare deal to Mexico City and, much to our surprise, a central hotel we could secure with hotel points, making it an even better deal. We were excited!
We arrived to find our hotel in the perfect location, just like we planned. The weather was beautiful, so on New Year’s Eve we purchased a two-day pass for the hop-on-hop-off bus and secured our transportation for the next two days for less than $20 each. We spent hours over the two-day period traveling from place to place, making it an affordable choice for getting around the huge city.
Our hotel was located only a few blocks from the heart of Mexico City, EL Zocalo. (“Zocalo” is the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic city.) We were quite proud of ourselves for selecting such a perfect location. In the afternoon the square was full of locals with their families enjoying the markets and local foods cooked alfresco in the city center. A skating rink was constructed, an annual attraction, and families were enjoying the festivities leading up to the big New Year’s celebration.
Or so we thought.
Wandering back to our hotel after a day of touring the city, we anticipated an exciting evening of fun in El Zocalo. And how convenient — only walking distance from the hotel. Ready for a night on the town, we left our hotel room around 9 p.m. Imagine our surprise when we exited our hotel and found all of the businesses closed! This included all bars/restaurants and retail businesses.
The family barbeques were still going strong. however, and there were police around so we proceeded to ask
them where we could possibly find a place to celebrate. After several consultations with each other, they escorted us to a Seven Eleven several blocks away. Confused by the situation, but happy to have even meager libations, we purchased a couple canned vodka drinks and went back to the hotel for drinks and crackers on the roof.
We pleaded with the hotel staff to find us an open restaurant, but after several calls on our behalf none were to be found. This is when we discovered our blatant error. It seems that New Year’s Eve in Mexico City, and perhaps all over Mexico, is an at-home family celebration and not Party Night like in the U.S. Hence the easily attained, cheap hotel rooms in the center of the city and the huge family barbeques nearby. So the only options in town were private events that we had no access to, or the gigantic family barbeque.
Back in EL Zocalo we went foraging for food. The selections were varied. We found grilled chicken’s feet, crickets, fried plantains, baked yams with your choice of toppings, cotton candy, churros, and other local
special holiday treats. At midnight the bells in the historic chapels were rung and our New Year’s Eve in Mexico City was just fine.
Fortunately New Year’s Eve day was one big celebration and we found more than our share of opportunities to celebrate. We were just a day off.
Mexico City is a great city with a lot of depth. There are great discoveries around every corner and more to see than a weekend visit can possibly do justice. Just don’t go there anticipating a city-wide party on New Year’s Eve!