Family Fun in Quito
Quito truly offers great tourism attractions all around. But there is only so much a young tourist can handle. And as special as a moment inside a beautiful church or a spectacular vista from the city’s many viewpoints can be, kids need some full-hearted attention to their playing needs.
Since 2004, the old textile warehouses located in the neighborhood of Chimbacalle have become just the place: a wonderful children museum called MIC (Museo Interactivo de Ciencias, or Interactive Science Museum). Since its inauguration in the early 2000s, I’ve witnessed this institution’s growth as it has added different specialized halls, which explore everything from neuroscience, optical illusions, physics, nature, the environment, Quito’s history, and a great, and large, section for toddlers, making it highly inspirational for kids of all ages. It is perhaps the best place in Quito for didactic fun for kids, which also features a fascinating mobile sculpture by French-artist Maurice Montero, excellent temporary exhibits (a great Da Vinci ‘inventions’ display took place last year) and the site’s antique looms; the views from the park onto Quito’s old town are also impressive.
Chimbacalle is also interesting because of its railroad station. It is here where the world famous ‘most challenging railway’ came to its heroic arrival from four meters above sea level in Duran (Guayaquil) – climbing over 3000 masl in the Chimborazo area – to finally reach Quito at 2800 masl! The entire line has recently been restored and it is one of the country’s star tourism projects. You can see the majestic old-style wagons and steam engine, and why not book a visit to nearby Cotopaxi National Park by train (remember to bundle the little ones up!) and experience the exciting ‘paramo’. Chimbacalle Station is found several blocks to the east of MIC.
Other options in old town Quito – when the nagging “I’m bored” or “not another church!” make it too difficult to appreciate anything while sightseeing – you can head to Museo de la Ciudad. While showcasing the city’s history in what was once the colonial hospital, with a slew of interesting installations, you can take your kids to the ‘Creactivo’ hall, a section set aside for didactic play and games.
The city is generally packed with green areas and public games (Parque Metropolitano, Parque El Ejido), and you can also take a very pleasant boat ride (or peek inside the Astronomical Observatory) at Parque La Alameda. Don’t miss out on the Botanical Gardens and the Vivarium (a wonderful snake house), both located in La Carolina Park. Kite-flying at Itchimbía or Panecillo is also fun for the family, especially on Sundays, if you want to share with the locals. And just outside Quito, you also have an orchid house at Pahuma, the butterfly farms in Mindo, or the Guayllabamba Zoo… Take your pick!