As school vacation days near and holiday shopping
costs rack up, plan a budget-friendly visit to the National Museum of Mexican
Art in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Not only does this museum
introduce visitors to the bright and engaging art of Mexico, it's
also free, making it an inexpensive day out with the kids even when
you add in a visit to one of the nearby ethnic restaurants.
I recently visited the museum with four kids. Several had
been studying Spanish in school and were working on Day of the Dead
projects. This was a chance to see real ofrendas (Mexican shrines
to dead relatives). In spite of the fact that numerous pieces of
the museum's art feature the skulls and skeletons representative of
the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that celebrates the
deceased, there's nothing gloomy or disturbing about these art
The museum is made up of spacious rooms with different
types of Mexican art-from sculptures to paintings to photographs.
The bold, bright colors are captivating and the skeletons
incorporated into the artwork interested the boys in the group. We
even loved the gift shop with its sculptures, masks and ofrendas-it
was nearly as much fun to look through as the museum
The building's small size meant we were able to see
everything in an hour. We then walked to Nuevo Leon, a
hugely popular Mexican restaurant on 18th Street. We arrived early
for lunch-good thing because as we were leaving, the line was out
We enjoyed truly scrumptious ethnic cuisine at a great
price. Be prepared for long waits if you arrive at mealtime.
Crowded conditions also would make it a challenge to bring a
stroller inside. But if your kids can endure a wait, the food and
atmosphere are definitely worth it. Also keep in mind that this is
a cash-only restaurant. But it's a great way to end a day immersed
in the culture of Mexico.
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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