Family Daytripping Near Mexico City: Bioparque Estrella
By Erin Nolan
After a long week of work and shuttling our children all over the city for school and extracurricular activities, my husband and I tend to stay close to home on the weekends, usually in vegetative positions on the couch. We’ve been living in Mexico City for five years, and it has occurred to me that we are not taking advantage of the resources around us like we used to when we were carefree newlyweds. But that has started to change as our children are getting older (they are four and three currently) and easier to travel with. In honor of the beginning of the new year, we recently decided to turn over a new leaf and make an effort to get out of the city for a day trip with our daughters. The destination: Bioparque Estrella.
The ride out was pleasant: blue skies, rolling hills, fresh air. Our girls enjoyed seeing the countryside and seeing who could spot more horses on the way.
Upon arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean, well-paved and well-maintained park, complete with snack stands, a nice playground and ample shade. Our first activity was the safari ride. On board a large open-air bus, we drove approximately four kilometers and were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and see a lot of animals, including American bison, giraffes, zebras, camels, llamas, antelopes, a family of hippos, an emu with an attitude, and many more. Having never been to a safari park, I was awed by the majesty of these animals at such close range. After all, it’s not every day I see a full-grown giraffe twelve inches from my face. The views of the clear skies, surrounding mountains and the native vegetation from the safari bus were inspiring and a refreshing change from the concrete jungle that surrounds us every day.
Next, we happened upon an underground area called The Subterraneum. This area features a short film in Spanish talking about the history of mining. Then, the group descends 500 meters down into the mine shaft in a freight elevator. Below, families clamor into cars which workers drive through the mine. You learn a bit about mining history, and let’s just say that there are a few surprises along the way. However, I don’t recommend this particular attraction for those suffering from claustrophobia.
Another attraction we visited was called the Jurassic River. After climbing onto a pontoon boat, we floated down a small river where we saw some nicely replicated species of dinosaurs in their “natural” habitat.
The girls wanted to see the Bengal tigers, so we hiked into a forest of gray oak trees down to the tigers’ den, crossed a suspension bridge, and then hiked our way back out. As we were hiking through the forest, I felt like I was back in Peninsula State Park in Door County, WI, as opposed to 90 minutes from one of the most populated cities in the world.
There are several other activities within the park, such as paddle boats on Lake Ziwa, zip lines, a small petting zoo, Euro Bungy, some workshops for smaller children and a theater featuring performing parrots. Tickets range from 169 to 185 pesos per person, and some of the workshops require a small extra fee. Overall, Bioparque Estrella is a nice destination for some relaxing, family friendly fun.
The park is located on the Mexico-Querétaro highway. You pass the toll for Tepozotlán and then drive for about 40 km to the Jilotepec exit. From there, you will drive another 30 km to the park. It took us approximately 90 minutes to arrive, but it was definitely a manageable day trip.
You can buy tickets on-line, but they are not good until the following day. So buy your tickets in-person at the park, or buy them the day before on-line. Currently, you get a 25% discount for tickets bought on line. Note: Even if you buy them on-line, you still have to wait in line to get the actual “boleto” to enter the park.
Children under age three do not have to buy a ticket. We did not see this on the website, so we paid for a ticket for our two-year-old, but they did refund it.
DO bring cash in small bills for the snack areas.
DO bring a stroller if you have small children. The park is nicely paved.
Buy the food for the safari animals before you get on the bus.
Listen to the safari driver. He will tell you which animals to feed with the cup and which you can feed with your hands. If you do not feel confident with your Spanish, look around and see what the other people are doing.
If you want to see the tigers, be prepared to walk approximately two kilometers, and you cannot bring the stroller for that part.
There are pretty much just snack foods for sale at the Bioparque Estrella, but there are quite a few restaurants outside the park that offer meals and beverages.