Visiting with kids while navigating a new city with strollers, diaper bags, gummy snacks and coloring books might not be your idea of a vacation.
Most parents would admit that traveling with kids demands a lot of sacrifice. But it’s your vacation that’s at stake, and we don’t think you should have to choose between yourself and your kids. So we’ve provided a guide about how to travel to Buenos Aires with kids in a way that will entertain the chicos (kids)…without sacrificing the fun of the padres (parents).
Scavenger Hunting in Recoleta
Recoleta is a french-inspired neighborhood of Buenos Aires that is home to many historical sights, art museums, city cultural events and most famously, Recoleta Cemetery. A maze of graves, tombs, and nostalgia, it is a mausoleum-style cemetery, set in Plaza Francia. With it’s angelic spires and cobweb-covered tombs, it’s easy to get lost in its 14 acres of winding alleys. But let’s be honest; your child’s dream vacation probably doesn’t involve strolling through the dwellings of the dead.
An easy way to make it a win-win is by sending your kids on a scavenger hunt in the Recoleta Cemetery. (A bit morbid, but you are visiting a cemetery.) As a family you can search for the top five most impressive mausoleums, using the map at the entrance. Bonus points for the super ambitious parent: you can bring along paper and crayons and have your kids rub along the engravings of the tombstones to keep track of the ones they’ve found.
The top tombs to track down are: Evita Peron, Dorrego-Ortiz Basualdo, Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, General Tomas Guido.
Once your spook-ometer has reached its limit at the cemetery, pass by the enormous Gomero tree situated in the center of the plaza. Look at its long sprawling roots, and dream of tree-climbing, Swiss Robinson days. To finish off the outing, grab a midday merienda at Pani, a shabby, chic restaurant located at the Recoleta Mall just two blocks away. It’s perfect for an afternoon snack to hold the family over until dinner.
Perk for the padres: Visiting a world famous cemetery while combating your child’s boredom
Fun for the chicos : An educated, spooktastic search for the dead
Getting Lost in the Parks of Palermo
Palermo is the trending, hipster-inhabited neighborhood of Buenos Aires, full of graffitied buildings, foodie-dreams come true, and nightlife hot spots. However, it is also home to some of the most lindo (prettiest) green spaces in Buenos Aires.
The Botanical Gardens
The Carlos Thay Botanical Garden is a garden and nature lover’s paradise. With the overhanging of draping banana trees, fiddle leaf fig trees, ferns, flowers…it is a botanical heaven. The little ones can easily be entertained with the tried and true game of Hide and Seek. Walk through the greenhouses together, explore the butterfly garden, and try to see if you can find the Argentine essential – yerba mate – in its plant form.
Bosques de Palermo
If plants don’t intrigue you, visit the other park situated in Palermo, Bosques de Palermo, for a Central Park-like experience. Here you’ll find less readers and dreamers, and more of the socialites and athletic types. On a normal day bicyclists, roller bladers, yogis, mate-drinkers, choripan (sausage sandwich) vendors, and the like are on the move. Bosques de Palermo is bustling with activity and perfect for the outdoorsy, activity-loving family.
You can rent out colorful biciscafos (paddle boats) to paddle around the lake area. Stroll through the rose gardens in the Rosedal and send your kids on a search for their favorite rose, or pack for a picnic lunch by the lake while your kids feed leftovers to the geese. If you enjoy educational fun, join fellow star-gazers at the Planetarium.
Don’t leave the Bosques de Palermo without visiting Naná, a restaurant located beneath the train bridge in the Rosedal. You’ll feel the vibrations of the train passing above every so often. Naná is a chic, but kid-friendly space with industrial brick walls and calligraphy chalkboard menus. It boasts a comprehensive menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner options, delicious baked goods (trust me – go for the carrot cake), coffee, and spirited beverages. Get there before noon if you want breakfast, and rest assured that they provide high chairs if needed.
Perks for the padres: Relaxing in the parks of Palermo and eating out at a cool spot in the Rosedal
Fun for the chicos : A whole day of playing outside
Horsing Around in Buenos Aires
To all the “nay-sayers” who think horse-racing’s not for kids, think again. Horses hold great significance in Argentine culture. Long before Porteños ruled the city, the gauchos, skilled and migratory horseman, had the run of the land. Still today they remain as an important part of Argentine culture, and a symbol of it’s rich history. So what could be more fitting than paying your respects? If you are visiting Buenos Aires during the appropriate seasons, it is essential to spend a day at a polo game or at the horse races.
A Polo Game
For a Porteño-style Kentucky Derby, throw on your floppy hat, and catch a game of polo in the late spring (Nov-Dec). Your kids will be enchanted by the speed and agility of the horses. Watching them sprint from one side of the field to the other, while you will be drawn into the fast and skilled game of polo. Arrive early to buy tickets at the most well-known polo field, Campo de Polo, located in Palermo. You’ll have the option of buying cheaper tickets for one side of the field, or joining the rich and famous on the other side with pricier, numbered seats. Both sides will provide you with a great view of the game. Before grabbing a seat, you’ll find food trucks like Le Pain Quotidien that provide an array of options for snacks and drinks. Then sit back and enjoy! Argentine Polo is one of the most renowned homes of polo in the world, so it would be a memorable outing for the entire family.
If visiting off season consider checking out a polo estancia where you can try the sport of kings yourself! Beginning riders and kids welcome.
The Horse Races
Grab your pesos and head to the horse tracks to spend a day at the races. The two best tracks to visit are the Hipodromo de Palermo, if you’re downtown, and the Hipodromo de San Isidro, if you’re in the northern part of the city. You’ll be dazzled by the architectural entrance of the race tracks in the Hipodromo de Palermo. Head inside, place your bet and maybe grab a cerveza before you find your seat. Once again, your kids will love the energy and adrenaline of watching the horses sprint past them, while mom and dad will love the opportunity to earn a few extra pesos.
Perk for the padres: Watching a world-renowned sport and striking it rich at the races
Fun for the chicos : A whole day of horsing around
Treasure Hunting with Kids in San Telmo
San Telmo is a neighborhood known for its antiques, quaint cafes, traditional parrillas, and old city feel. The cobblestone streets have a rustic charm, and the findings of the stands and antique shops seem to hold small pieces of Buenos Aires history. Although your kids might not appreciate it’s charm right off the bat, you can provide easy incentives to keep them interested.
At the indoor Mercado de San Telmo, you’ll find restaurants, cafes and stands laden with fresh produce, postcards, vinyl records and many other treasures. To avoid tired and cranky kids as you peruse, allow them to each choose one item to buy as a souvenir (perhaps with a price limit). Encourage them to choose something that reminds them of their trip to Buenos Aires.
Another fun, simple way to bring the market to life, is by challenging them to practice saying the Spanish names of the food items as you walk through the fruit and vegetable stands. You might need the practice as well!
The best day to visit San Telmo is Sunday, when you can visit the Mercado (open all week) as well as the Feria de San Telmo (9 AM to 6 PM). Live music, tango dancing, and artisanal products line the streets of San Telmo (concentrated on Defensa street) for blocks, so you will not be in want for entertainment.
Grab some Grub
While you’re in San Telmo, make time for the restaurant loved by foodies and vegans alike, Hierbabuena. You’ll love the organic food selection, fresh GF and non-GF breads, coffee choices, and your kids will especially love the abundant amount of fresh juice and lemonade concoctions. It’s like a full bar for 12 and under.
Perk for the padres: Good, wholesome food and antique fun in a historic neighborhood
Fun for the chicos : Souvenirs, new Spanish words, and upstaging the juice game
Traveling with kids can be stressful and exhausting. But whether you’re in Recoleta, Palermo or San Telmo, there is a way to experience the rich history, culture, and food of Buenos Aires, without sacrificing your vacation to the smallest, fussiest members of your family. So for those of you who are Buenos Aires-bound, travel smart, travel creatively and travel in a manner that will keep both the chicos…and the padres smiling.