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  • Writer's pictureKimberly M.

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Guadalajara, Mexico

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

One of the best things about living in Mexico is the low cost of cross-country transportation. Whether it’s by bus or by plane, it’s not uncommon to find round-trip bus fares to other parts of the country for less than $25, or round-trip plane tickets for $100-$150 or less. So when the opportunity arose for my son and I to hop on a round-trip luxury charter bus for a long weekend in Guadalajara for $80 total, best believe that I jumped on it. Here’s how we spent each of our days:

Day One: Road Tripping and Exploring Tlaquepaque

The colorful "Tlaquepaque" sign in the center of the town greets its visitors.

The moment I told others that we’d be road-tripping to Guadalajara, the first thing that many suggested was visiting the small town of Tlaquepaque. Luckily for us, the Airbnb we had booked was in right in the heart of Tlaquepaque, and just a short walk from the main town square, El Parián.

Upon arriving, I immediately felt the Mexican culture: families enjoying the outdoors together, food stands everywhere, mariachis, live music and dancing on the streets, and tents selling handmade items. Children were out in abundance, partaking in dance contests, learning to make pottery, or simply enjoying the small “juguetes” and cotton candy provided by one of the many vendors. A variety of restaurants and shops lined the streets, giving visitors a unique dining and shopping experience.

No different from everywhere else in Mexico, I had my choice of taco stands, many of which sold delicacies for the most adventurous palettes, including “tacos de Tripa”, “tacos de cabeza”, and even “tacos de sesos”. I personally chose to stay far away from each-- if you look them up, you'll see why!

Children learn to make pottery in the town square.

Tlaquepaque was a charming town, populated by friendly people, delicious food, and many simple ways to spend the day and evening. While it is considered a touristy location, it appears to have been more touristy from a Mexican perspective-- we certainly were the only non-Mexicans there from as far as I could see.

As soon as the sun set, the difference could be felt in the air, reminding me of a crisp fall day in my hometown of Virginia. It was the first time that we had to use our jackets and sweatshirts since our move to Mexico, and we were thankful to have had them.

Day Two: A Mini Road-Trip to Chapala

Road signs welcome us to Chápala as we arrive.

Less than an hour away from Guadalajara, Chápala is home to the largest lake in Mexico: Lago de Chápala. It is also home to many expats from the U.S., undoubtedly due to its perfect climate, waterfront atmosphere, beautiful scenery and modern homes.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon during the second day of our weekend trip, we took another mini-road trip down to Chápala, which was packed with Mexican families from near and far. We were lucky to have found a parking spot near the lake.

The first thing I noticed was the number of vendors selling everything we could possibly want from cantaritos to food to ice cream, to clothing. There were carnival rides and playground equipment for children. Behind it all was the large and grandiose Lake Chápala, which stretched across the entire horizon.

The beautiful Lake Chápala.

All around were people on boats and swimming in the lake. Families posed for the many photo opportunities next to various statues and signs. The lake and the nearby streets were lined with different choices of restaurants and delicious foods for those who needed to take a break to refuel.

After a few hours at the lake, there was no question as to why expats had chosen the area to retire and/or settle down. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Day Three: The Guadalajara Zoo

Stopping for a photo at the entrance of the Guadalajara zoo.

Another one of the recommended “must visits” I had been encouraged to visit during our trip was the Guadalajara zoo. With nothing previously planned for the third and final day of our trip, there was no better time to go.

After having breakfast that morning, we hopped in an Uber for the 20-30 minute drive from Tlaquepaque through downtown Guadalajara and to the zoo. It wasn’t the most scenic drive, but we were able to see just how busy Guadalajara was as a city.

The zoo wasn’t very crowded when we arrived and we were able to walk right up to the ticket window. We were presented with a variety of packaged and a la carte options for purchase, each granting us access to different areas and exhibits in the park. For about $20 USD, we were able to get one of the best ticket packages, granting us access to everything but the Sky Zoo, which my son was too young to ride anyway.

Getting giraffe kisses during the safari ride at the Guadalajara zoo.

The zoo did not disappoint. As soon as we walked in, I noticed that right next door was the entrance to an amusement park. The zoo was also very large, and most animals were out in their natural habitats as opposed to behind cages. In Monkey Land, small monkeys walked and jumped around in the open sometimes right next to us. In the bird habitat, we walked through where they lived as opposed to having to look at them from behind a glass wall. We also had the pleasure of seeing penguins, a polar bear, a beautiful aquarium complete with some of the most unique fish, and kangaroos, which was the first time either of us had seen one in person!

The best part of all was the safari ride, which took us on a ride past several safari animals, including giraffes that approached us to eat food directly from our hands (talk about an amazing experience)! For those who couldn’t or didn’t want to walk, there was the option of taking the Sky Zoo sky lift or the train over and through the zoo.

There was much to see in the zoo, and although we didn’t see everything, we covered most of it. It was definitely a place that I would not mind visiting again next time that we are in Guadalajara. I highly recommend it to anyone who visits the area, no matter what their age.

Day Four: Back to Puerto Vallarta

The following morning, we boarded the bus to head back to Puerto Vallarta. Due to road construction combined with the timing of our trip, it took us a little longer to make it back, but we made it back safely and had a comfortable ride back the whole way.

Families explore the various food carts and stands in El Parián.

Our short trip to Guadalajara certainly made its place into my heart and certainly and at one point had me debating whether to pack up and move there from Puerto Vallarta. For the moment, we will mremain in Puerto Vallarta, but next year may be different. Only time and another visit or three will tell.


Follow our journey! Keep up on our travels to and through Mexico at Just Me and J in Mexico. If you're a single mother looking currently living in or planning to move to Mexico, be sure to join Single Moms in Mexico for support, tips on living in Mexico as a single mother, and to plan meet-ups with other moms!

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