Let me start by saying this: if you haven’t visited Tijuana yet, you have to do it. This city is wonderful and surprising in so many ways. Honestly, I did not know what to expect. You hear the good, the nice and the bad but you experience the amazing by yourself. Nobody else can live the same experience as you do, so don’t assume that if someone had a not so pleasant experience yours will be the same.
I felt safe at all times while I was visiting and exploring TJ. The people are lovely, the food is delicious and there are so many things to do in Tijuana.
On this blog post, I will focus on the unconventional things to do in Tijuana. The things that most people (tourists) who visit TJ don’t really do.
Here are my 15 suggestions:
1. Eat A Taco At Taqueria Franc
If you are into trying new, tasty things, all stuffed up in a taco, this is the place to go. Most of the patrons here are people from Tijuana, as the place is very popular amongst locals. The place is always packed because the food is great, cheap and the service is super speedy. If yo you are vegetarian, even better – they will have a tasty, vegetarian taco for you as well.
2. Get Involved With The Local Charities
Many people overlook this great opportunity when visiting a new place. There is always something that you can help with. And that help can come by giving as little as a few hours off your trip to a charitable cause.
There are many charities and causes that you can help and contribute towards while visiting Tijuana. One of them is the ‘Desayunador Salesiano’, which feeds over 500 homeless people on a daily basis. You can help through donations or by serving breakfast.
3. Visit The Xoloitzcuintles (Xolos) Stadium – Estadio Caliente
Tijuana is a big populous city but believe it or not, it did not have a proper stadium until 2007. The stadium was built in 2007 and it enabled the Tijuana Football Club to get into the first division of Mexico. The Tijuana football team is called Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente or more simply put, if that’s too hard to pronounce, Xolos (Cho-los) de Tijuana.
But, what’s with the name, right?
The Xoloitzcuintles are a Mexican breed of dog, actually the favourite breed of dog of the person who built the stadium and owns all the Caliente Casinos. A dog like that can cost over 1000$. If you want to see them in action, there’s a racecourse, next to the stadium, part of the Casino Caliente, where you can see these beauties doing what they know best.
The stadium has everything built in a state-of-the-art way and just walking around is pretty impressive. From Mayan designs to the VIP booths where you can gamble, have dinner and watch a game at the same time, everything is really well thought through and it’s definitely worth a visit.
4. Take A Cooking Class
Great food is a big part of the Mexican culture. Food is not just a thing in Tijuana. You don’t just eat because you are hungry. You eat because everything is so delicious! You will find that there are many great restaurants but there are also many cooking schools, in which you can enrol for a day (or for a year) and learn how to cook proper Mexican food (not Tex-Mex, Mexican).
I strongly encourage you to take one of the classes. You will not only end up eating what you’ve cooked, but you will have a blast as well and go home with some new skills to impress your party guests.
5. Shop For Souvenirs At Tijuana 664
I totally loved this shop. If you want to leave Tijuana with a great souvenir (that you can wear), this is the place to go. You can pick from hundreds of t-shirts all bearing a message about how you’ve explored Tijuana. My personal favourite was ‘Straight Outta Tijuas’ (no extra explanations needed). If you want something that’s authentic and will look great on you, pay Tijuana 664 a visit.
If you want something that’s authentic and will look great on you, pay Tijuana 664 a visit.
6. Give Back By Cleaning A Beach
I think travelling is also about giving something back to the places and communities that are giving us so much. Cleaning up a beach is a great way to give back when you are visiting Tijuana. It’s also a fun thing to do and if you have kids, they can get involved too and learn more about living a responsible life.
There is an organisation that you can join if you don’t want to do it all by yourself, it’s called Kilometro 1 and you can find them here.
7. Cross the Border To The United States By Foot
Ok, I’m guilty of wanting to do this for a long time. It’s Hollywood’s fault. I’ve been seeing the whole crossing the border thing on so many movies that I wanted to do it myself. It’s definitely an experience and the really nice part is that on the other side of the border there are some great outlets waiting for you, if you are into shopping.
8. Eat At Casa De La Tlayuda
The food at the Casa de la Tlayuda is no ordinary food. The food is specific to Oaxaca, and everything that you will eat there is authentic, delicious and… well interesting. The things I’ve tried there, I have to admit, I have not tried before. The location is central, so it’s perfect for lunch or dinner and the restaurant is so pretty.
I have had the pleasure to meet the owners as well and they are lovely people. You can’t go wrong with Casa de la Tlayuda when visiting Tijuana, from a food, tastes, service and overall experience perspective.
9. Try The Orxata
You cannot leave Tijuana without trying the Orxata (Horchata). In Mexico, the Horchata is made of rice, vanilla, sometimes it has other ingredients (sesame, almonds, etc) too but it always has cinnamon. It can be served cold or hot and it’s sweet.
10. Visit The Local Food Markets
The local food markets in Tijuana are a paradise. You will find everything there. Yes. Everything. From sweets in chilli to fresh fruits, amazing cheese and amazing condiments that you’ve never heard of – it’s all there. You will also find small shops with souvenirs at really good prices, compared to the central ones and guess what else – pinatas! Pinatas in all shapes and sizes, ready to give you that precious candy. That of course, if you manage to break them… I found it rather difficult (it’s not as easy as it seems on TV).
11. Turn Into A Butterfly
Wait, what? No, I’m not trying to say that you are a caterpillar and you should stop eating to turn into a butterfly. It’s easier than that. You don’t have to stop eating. all that you have to do is explore the street art in Tijuana (which is really beautiful by the way, and great for Instagram photos). While exploring, you will also find the secret of turning into a butterfly. Spoiler alert: it’s a mural, check my photo.
12. Taste ‘Los Chapulines’
What are chapulines? How do you even pronounce that?
It’s pronounced ɡrɑːshɒpə(r).
Yeah, that’s grasshoppers for you.
You have to try them and you can find them with street vendors on any normal day and if you want to eat them in a more fancy way, you can order them at Casa De La Tlayuda, as an appetiser. Tried them from both sources, but I’m not saying more, you have to try them for yourself.
13. Have a Caesar Salad
And you’re gonna say – ‘But that’s not special, it’s not unconventional!’ Well, it is if you are eating a Caesar Salad where the Caesar Salad was invented. Bam!
You can actually do that at Caesar’s in Tijuana, where the salad started from. Caesar Saldini was an Italian restaurateur who operated restaurants in both Mexico and the States. He invested the salad in the ’20s as he ran out of supplies and decided to do something ‘by the chef’ with what he had left.
This is yet another proof that nothing related to food goes wrong in Mexico!
14. Experience The Nightlife
Tijuana is very popular for its nightlife and yet many travellers don’t get to experience it (unless they come from San Diego for the parties). One of the most popular places is Plaza del Zapato. Plaza del Zapato has everything – from tapas to bars to pubs and places to dance, with great music, you will find it all there.
15. Play Some Slots At Caliente
Do you miss Vegas? Or you’ve never been to Vegas? Well, this is quite similar, once you go in. Caliente has all the slots you want and all the betting options that you would like to make. I’m not a gambler ( I don’t even know how to play poker) but occasionally, I would throw 5£ at a slot. In Vegas, I won 200$ with just 5$. It’s all about knowing when to stop and not taking your losses too serious.