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Year Round Cancun Cultural Opportunities

Jun 26, 2008
Despite Cancuns popular image as a Mecca of beautiful beaches and late night partying, this Mexican resort paradise offers a surprising amount of cultural activities for the more sophisticated traveler.

From museums and fine arts to history and top notch ethnic dining, Cancun might surprise you with its wide range of activities appealing to those looking for a little more than sunburn and tequila induced hangovers.

The city of Cancun is decked out in bright colors and vibrant music emanating from street corners and parks, a festive cultural motif that sets the stage for the other Cancun that is sometimes overlooked.

Start your cultural exploration of Cancun in El Centro, the citys thriving downtown where most of the locals and expats live, providing a glimpse of Mexican urban lifestyle.

Filled with excellent restaurants, shopping, and local crafts, you will find great prices and the best Mexican food in Cancun. Mercado Veintiocho (Market 28) is a huge crafts market filled with vendors hawking many of the same wares you will find in the Hotel Zone, but at half the price. More bargains can be found along Avenida Tulum, El Centros main drag, and Avenida Yaxchilan, which also has a number of good restaurants and nightlife.

If sidewalk cafes and smaller restaurants are you are thing, check out Avenida Nader. Also near Avenida Tulum, Parque de Palapas is an action packed park popular with locals offering music, food, and a giant thatched-roof stage.

The Museo de Antropologia e Historia, or National Institute of Anthropology and History, located on the ground floor of the Cancun Convention Center, features artifacts and displays chronicling centuries of Mexican culture.

The museum examines Mayan culture with a collection of items dating back as much as 1,500 years. Museo INAH also has an impressive amount of Mayan cultural and archeological relics, including jewelry, masks, skulls, and a hieroglyphic staircase from the 6th Century.

Also at the Convention Center, the internationally renowned Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Mexico-Aztlan performs traditional dances set to Mexican music. For one price, you can take in the show while enjoying dinner and an open bar. Afterwards, folkloric bands perform nightly in the central courtyard of the nearby Party Center.

More locally seasoned dinner and dancing can be found at El Mexicano Restaurant Folkloric Ballet & Mariachis, located in the Costa Blanca shopping center. Starting at 7 p.m. and running until 11 p.m., every performance features live mariachi music, dancing, and folkloric ballet. Enjoy the show while feasting on large, colorful plates of enticingly fresh and authentic Mexican dishes.

If you are traveling with the kids, check out Casa de la Cultura, or the House of Culture. Located on Isla Mujeres, eight miles offshore from mainland Cancun, this performing arts center was once a refuge for U.S. citizens during the U.S. Mexican War of 1847. Today, it hosts childrens activities, music, art, and dance classes. Plus, there is a playground in front when you need a little fresh air.

To experience one of Mexicos oldest traditions, head to Plaza del Toros in downtown Cancun for the thrills and spills of bullfighting. Every Wednesday afternoon, man and beast face off in a battle of wits, cunning, and endurance. Matches are preceded by horseback riders, ropers, and dancers decked out in elaborate costumes.

Mexico is well known for its festivals, and Cancun is no exception. Celebrations are held throughout the year, especially during holidays, including:
New Years Day on January 1st. Constitution Day on February 5th. Benito Juarez (19th-century Mexican president regarded as the countrys greatest and most beloved leader) birthday on March 21st.

Holy Week Celebrations, including Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Labor Day on May 1st. Cinco de Mayo (The Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla in 1862) on May 5th. Mothers day on May 10th. Mexican Independence Day on September 16th.

Dia de la Raza (the day of the race, marking the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492) on October 12th. Presidents State of the Nation Address on October 12th. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, where Mexicans honor those that have passed away) on November 2nd and 3rd. Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution on November 20th. Christmas week celebrations from December 25th to January 2nd.
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