Tijuana is vast, nonetheless there are a few ‘must-dos, must-sees’ that top the list.
Many arrive in Northern Baja just for a day-trip…and just to cruise this eight-block strip, fondly known as La Revo, lined with myriad shopping arcades, bars and restaurants—some absolutely outstanding. It’s like a mini-Carnaval, with shop-tenders hawking their wares, steaming taco carts, and opportunities for embarrassing souvenir photos (some gringos call him ‘Tommy’ for no particular reason, but there is a zebra-striped donkey upon which tourists can sit while wearing gigantic sombreros…hmmm). But, amongst the bright sarapes and garish ceramics, there are also authentic treasures, and some real deals can be found.
Centro Cultural (CECUT)
CECUT is easy to find, fronted by the big geodesic Omnimax Theater and right on the Avenue of the Heroes (Pasea Paseo [JPW1] de los Héroes). The center’s Museo de las Californias offers a good overview of Baja’s history, geography, flora and fauna. There are always tremendous art exhibitions there, a great gift shop and the Omnimax shows films on a rotating schedule, some in English. For more information, visit www.cecut.gob.mx.
L.A. Cetto Winery
If you can’t get down to the wine country (about 2 hours south of Tijuana), visit this vinicola, a winery and bottling plant right in town (Cañon Johnson 2108, in Tijuana call 664-685-3031). Cetto sometimes can arrange for transportation from the border or from your hotel. The building has been lovingly restored, and tours are led by bilingual tour guides. Wine tastings are offered, and there is a gift shop that even provides chocolate wine truffles.
Hipódromo de Agua Caliente
Relive Tijuana’s legendary race-track and gambling history with a visit to Caliente casino, the largest in Mexico, where you can have fun betting on live horse-racing, ball games and a variety of other sports. For more information, visit www.caliente.com.
Tijuana (TJ) Brewery
Cerveza, beer, is one of Mexico’s most popular exportsimports[JPW2] . But if your taste doesn’t run to the ‘big bottle beers’, try one of Baja’s newest micros where hand-crafted brews (with a Czech flare) reign suprema — TJ Brewery (www.tjbeer.com). Among the most popular choices are a dark morena, a pale ale güera and a lighter bronca.
Mercado El Popo
Sights, sounds and scents abound here at Mercado (market) El Popo on Ave. Constitución in the downtown area. Bring your camera because this is a blast of color, with tables of fresh cheeses, dulces (sweets), cooking utensils, herbs, canles[JPW3] , cords and bins of dried chilies, bundled cinnamon sticks and sugar cane, miel (honey) and fruits galore.
Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture)
Built in 1929, the Casa de la Cultura de Tijuana presents lectures, art exhibitions, film festivals and concerts. The architecturally impressive center is located about a mile west of Ave. Revolución and is perched on a hillside. If you take the stairway (instead of entering from below), you’ll get a great view of the city.
Including [JPW4] and around the Avenue of the Heroes (Avenida Paseo de los Heroes) is the area called Zona Rio, River Zone. The avenue is, in many ways, the main artery at the heart of much to do in Tijuana. The street, itself, is a main drag, studded with large traffic circles (glorietas), and marked by huge sculptures of esteemed historical figures, one of which is Abraham Lincoln. The zone is home to some of the finest restaurants in Mexico, coffee houses (try Sospesso and Sanborns), galleries, as well as a huge shopping complex and Cinépolis movie theater (which shows films in Spanish and English).
‘Baja-Med’ & Fine Dining
Baja-Med: A culinary movement that fuses Asian, Medierranean and, most important, indigenous Mexican ingredients and techniques. And it all began here in Baja with a small cadre of brilliant culinarians who are achieving a gastronomic revolution. Integral to the Baja-Med concept of dining are native components – Mexico’s world-class wines, artisan cheeses, local seafood including lobster and abalone, and more. And, in the hands of each chef, Baja-Med takes on new flavors. Two places to experience Baja-Med in Tijuana are La Querencia and Mision 19, but remember, there are always new ones —the revolution is growing!
Palacio de la Culture (Palace of Culture)
Just off of Avenida Constitución, this large gallery space is set within the old municipal palace. It is well worth a visit, in particular to view the works of Mexican artist Raúl Anguiano (1915-2006), one of the last of the ‘Mexican School of Painting’ artists.
Hotel César & The Cesar Salad
In 1940, a group of pilots arrived late one night at Hotel César located on La Revo (Avenida Revolución). They wanted dinner but were told the kitchen was already closed; there was nothing left but lettuce. They requested a simple salad, which was made by Chef Livo Santini. The pilots loved it and the creation became known as the “Pilot Salad” until César Cardini, owner of the hotel, declared himself as the salad’s creator. Today, Cesar Salad is served in restaurants throughout the world—there is even an annual Cesar Salad festival in Tijuana. But for purists, the original recipe can still be had at the Hotel César.