On May 5, Cinco de Mayo honors a Mexican military victory – and often is celebrated by adults drinking margaritas and beer. But Philadelphia offers plenty of kid-friendly ways to celebrate Mexican culture on Cinco de Mayo – and throughout the year. All year, Philadelphia has authentic Mexican food, a street that feels like you’re in Mexico, and Mexican artwork. And, leading up to Cinco de Mayo, Philadelphia has music and dance performances to celebrate Mexican culture.
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo With Kids in Philadelphia
Cinco de Mayo, May 5, is celebrated mostly in the U.S. (for why, see here) – and mostly by adults toasting with tequila or Mexican beer. But Philadelphia offers lots of ways for families to celebrate Mexican culture on Cinco de Mayo – and the rest of the year.
Authentic Mexican food in Philadelphia
Celebrate Mexican culture by stopping by one of Philadelphia’s many authentic Mexican taquerias, inexpensive eateries that specialize in freshly made tacos. The tacos are soft corn tortillas wrapped around ingredients like seasoned beef, pork, chicken – or if your children are adventurous eaters, goat or tongue – with toppings like roasted peppers, chopped onion, and queso fresco. For about $8, you get three hefty tacos. That’s more than I can eat myself and plenty for two little kids to share.
You’ll find many authentic Mexican taquerias and casual, family-friendly Mexican restaurants clustered near the intersection of Ninth Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia. A few are: Taqueria Prima at 1104 S. 9th Street, Fiesta Acapulco at 1122 S. 9th Street, and the less casual Moctezuma Restaurant, a BYOB at 1108 S. 9th Street.
Take a walk on a Mexican street – in Philadelphia
Imagine walking down a shopping street hearing Mexican music floating out through store doors, seeing Mexican flags and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe in store windows, and shops selling sports jerseys with soccer stars, and frilly girls’ dresses and tiny white suits for children celebrating First Communion.
You and your kids might think you were in Mexico, but this is Philadelphia, on Ninth Street just south of Washington Avenue. In restaurants, TVs are tuned to Mexican sports events and soap operas, or a Mexican show that resembles Judge Judy. The magazines, videos, and music on sale are mostly Mexican and signs are mostly in Spanish – the hairdresser is the peluqueria. You are still in Philadelphia, but you’ll feel like you’ve taken a quick trip to Mexico.
Visit a Mexican grocery store – in Philadelphia
Do your kids like pinatas? Walk into a Mexican grocery store and you might see a ceiling draped with pinatas, from stars exclaiming “Viva Mexico” to Disney characters to SpongeBob, a curious mashup of Mexican and American culture. My kids were willing to look, but not to try frozen slices of papaya or peanuts coated in red pepper. I highly recommend a slice of Tres Leches cake, soaked in cream, served up from the refrigerated case of the Mexican grocery store El Paisano 2 Food Market, on Washington Avenue near 9th Street, recognizable by the mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the outside.
Cinco de Mayo Dance and Music Celebrations
In the days leading up to Cinco de Mayo, May 5, the Mexican Cultural Center sponsors free performances by mariachi bands, folk bands, contralto singers, and costumed folk dancers in public parks and other locations in Philadelphia. The full schedule is here: http://mexicanculturalcenter.org/ The restaurant El Rey, located at 2013 Chestnut Street, sponsors a celebration of Cinco de Mayo that begins during the day of May 5, with Mexican street food, live mariachi music, and pinatas – but also alcohol, so this event is less family friendly, especially after 5 pm.
Mexican artwork in Philadelphia
Treat yourself and your kids to the pleasure of visiting the quirky folk art gallery and store Eyes (402 South Street). Kids might enjoy seeing the Mexican masks that look like tigers or dogs or mythical creatures. Small toy ceramic skeletons are dressed for the Mexican Day of the Dead, a joyful Mexican holiday similar to Halloween that honors the dead. The Eyes store itself is a visual feast, with mosaics on the walls, ceiling, and the entire outside wall. This is a fun store for kids who don’t want to grab things but could be a challenge for very young kids. For a more formal way to appreciate Mexican art, including a Diego Rivera mural, visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Mexican coffee at the slightly more upscale restaurant Blue Corn (940 S. 9th Street) is worth its own visit. Brewed with cinnamon, orange zest and lime zest, and sweetened with brown sugar, and served bubbling hot in a Mexican ceramic glazed mug, this coffee is uniquely Mexican. Yum.
Family friendly Cinco de Mayo
There are lots of family-friendly ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by exploring Mexican culture in Philadelphia. But if you’re closer to Chicago, Traveling Mom recommends exploring Mexican culture at a free Mexican art museum and by enjoying authentic Mexican food.