As they’ve gotten older our boys have become increasingly suspicious of big cities. If we spend too much time in one, they become twitchy and agoraphobic. So lately, we’ve largely avoided metropolitan areas. But on our summer trip to Ecuador, we used Quito as a base between excursions and ended up spending four nights there, with nary a twitch.
It doesn’t hurt that Quito is an astoundingly beautiful colonial city, with Andean views around every bend, that the climate is ideal, and that it’s exceptionally green for a city of its size.
Here’s what we liked best:
1- Parque la Carolina
Playgrounds? Check. BMX track? Yes. Outdoor family gym? Of course. Reptile zoo? Por supuesto. Paddle boats? Absolutely!
This large shady urban park lies in the northern part of the city and it truly has it all. I picked our hotel, Lugano Suites, a modern hotel that has large two-bedroom suites, because of its proximity to this park and it was definitely a good decision. There’s nothing like having a sense of outdoor space when visiting cities with our boys.
2- La Compania de Jesus
Yawn. That’s the response we usually get when we announce to the boys that we’re going to visit a church. But what if they could go “behind the scenes,” climb up steep narrow candlelit staircases like the diminutive monks that they are, and emerge above the church, the plaza, and the pigeons below? Well, then you’ve got an adventure. We were lucky with our timing because La Compania de Jesus’ cupola is only open to visitors during the month of August.
3- Casa de la Cultura
Give me a good diorama over a computer display anytime. This museum has fabulous ones, depicting different scenes from everyday life over time in various parts of Ecuador. They also have a great display of Inca gold object, pre-Columbian art and pottery, and (less interesting to us) Spanish-era religious art. And it’s all free!
4- Parque El Ejido
The old-school safety-shmafety charm of this park’s playgrounds did not escape my boys. It’s right across the street from the Casa de la Cultura and they were ready to run around after our museum visit. They especially loved the zipline and the twirling chain cage (I said old school, didn’t I?)
5- Plaza San Francisco
In a city full of picturesque plazas, this one has it all: colonial architecture, church, outdoor cafés, and even the obligatory flocks of pigeons. The plaza’s Café Tianguez serves up traditional Ecuadorian food, such as the delicious hearts of palm ceviche and strong coffee, and is a great place to pigeon/people watch. The attached craft shop has extensive inventory of crafts and artwork from all over the country, as well as world-famous chocolate.
6- Casa del Alabado
This small quiet museum in the middle of Old Quito is one of the best museums we’ve ever visited. It’s in a lovely renovated colonial home, replete with inner courtyards and stunning doorways. The building holds a private collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts, some dating back 6,000 years. We spent a leisurely hour there with nary a whine from anyone.