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10 ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Chicago with your kids

If making plans for Cinco de Mayo leaves you salivating at the thought of tacos and tequila drinks, you’re not alone. In the States, the holiday has evolved into the ultimate excuse to enjoy Mexican food and party, especially in cities with large Mexican-American populations. But while I am all for parties (especially boozy ones), there’s more than one way to celebrate Cinco. And if you have kids or have never made time to dig deeper into the vibrant culture behind the day, now is your chance.

Here are a few fun ways to celebrate Cinco De Mayo with the kids at home and around the city:

Visit the National Museum of Mexican Art

For a closer look into the dynamic and diverse stories of Mexican identity in North America, you can check out “Nuestras Historias” year-round during museum hours in the Permanent Collection Gallery. But go on May 6, and from 10-11 a.m. you can also check out their bilingual Toddler Program for some fun in the galleries and art studio. Classes are $10. Registration is required.

1852 W 19th St.Chicago, IL 60608

Sign up to run the Cinco de Miler

If you and the family are feeling 5K-ready, there’s still time to sign up for Chicago’s only 5-mile race celebrating Mexico’s colorful culture. Participants will receive a fitted technical t-shirt and finisher medal that double as a bottle opener. There’s also chips, salsa and tamales on-hand for post-race snacking. Race day is May 6.

Montrose Harbor, Chicago, Illinois

Cinco de Mayo Piñata Party

Corral up the kiddos and drop by Lincoln Park Zoo anytime between 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 6 or Sunday, May 7 and craft edible piñatas for their favorite animals. It’s a fun afternoon activity for the kids that will teach them about history, culture and animal enrichment–and it’s only $5 per person or $18 for a Family Pack. Check out the link above to register.

2001 North Clark St. Chicago, IL 60614

Join in the Cinco de Mayo Parade

Nothing says “celebration” like a parade! This one kicks off at noon in Little Village on May 7 from Cermak Rd. and Damen to Marshall Blvd. Expect colorful floats, Mariachi music and more.

Cermak Rd. & Damen to Marshall Chicago, IL 60608

Head out to Mole de Mayo

Technically, this one isn’t a Cinco celebration, but it’s still a great excuse to get out and enjoy more Mexican food and culture. This year marks the 8th annual celebration in Chicago’s historic Pilsen neighborhood with the festival centered around chefs and restaurants battling for the best mole. The outdoor festival will also include live music, luchadors and an open-air market so you can support local artists and crafters. Admission is free.

18th St. at Ashland Ave. Chicago, IL 60608

Check out books at your local library branch to learn more about Mexico

Pick up a few books on Mexican history and art or a Spanish-language book or two. Even if you aren’t bilingual, you’ll probably be able to sound your way through a baby board book.

Make a Mexican meal

Mexican grocery stores are all over the city and if you’ve never been, it’s a great place to go to exploring and try new things. Create your Cinco de Mayo menu and then hit up the market nearest you. Some of my favorite go-to items: avocados, nopales (prickly pear cactus), fresh papaya, tortillas and cotija cheese. If you don’t have a grocer near you, check out the international aisle at your local market.

Learn how to play Lotería

Similar to Bingo, this is a simple card game can be found in many local botanicas around the city and offers a great excuse to go explore them if you never have. You can also score a free downloadable version and check out how to play here.

Try some Mexican candy

If making your own piñata sounds like work and you’d rather concentrate on the candy or pick one up at the store, Dulcelandia Candy is your place to go in Chicago. It’s a Mexican candy wonderland and they have four locations around the city. Not in Chicago or able to make the trip? Buy it online. Never tried Mexican candy before and not sure what to expect? Learn more here.

Get crafty

Create a Mexican tissue paper flag. Download a printable Papel Picado Banner template to DIY. Fashion together a piñata and make it as elaborate or as simple as you wish. Use whatever you have on-hand to make your own maracas. Have fun with it and use the time while you’re creating to discuss the meaning behind whichever craft you decide to make.

And, if at the end of all your cultural exploration around the city you need help finding a patio to kick back and relax with some great food and drinks, we’ve got you covered there, too.

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