This post is one of a six-part series on our recent family trip to Perú. The dentist will be visited. Jorge el Curioso will be watched. Paracas will be braved. Bread will be eaten. Spanish will be spoken. Mmm, Spanish will be spoken badly. And more bread will be eaten.
After our first day in Lima of doing it the amped-up super-dee-duper ambitious way—Bakery-check! Downtown-check! Let kids chase birds—Photos! Photos! Oh dear, now they’re heading for the fountain, okay, grab the kids!-check! Alfajores and King Kong-check! (Desserts filled with manjar blanco.) Restaurant that overlooks the square-check! Selfies with the square-check! Go to dentist!-check! Go to eye doctor!-check! Meet tia for lonche-check! And on and on—we were wrecked. Roberto and I were laid out flat on our bed contemplating either putting the kids in front of Jorge el Curioso for two weeks or moving up our return date until I revealed The Formula.
The Formula: (10 a.m. to 12 p.m.) + Running + Breathlessness + Happy Screaming + Dirt = Two-Hour Nap + Parental Sanity
So, between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. every day, we searched for places to tire the crap out the kids! We’d make them run for two straight hours. Make them touch dirt and get that blissed-out, exhausted look. Then, come one p.m., it’s milk, snuggle time, and synchronized napping. Post-nap, there is lunch and then ultra-ultra low-key activity.
Here is the winner:
- Parque de Las Leyendas: This zoo ended up being our favorite place to take the kids. The park is divided into the three geographical zones of Perú: selva (jungle), sierra (highlands), and costa (the coast), and each contains animals specific to that zone. (The kids seemed to like the Humboldt penguins of la zona costa and the monkeys of la zona selva best. There is a monkey island!) The park also contains an international zone with animals from around the world, a botanical garden, and Complejo Arqueológico de Maranga, the fifty-four archaeological monuments of Lima’s most extensive ancient city. Besides the animals, the kids LOVED the train that departs from near the entrance. The train ride around the park cost S/.3.00 each for everyone two and older. The kids also loved the maze, which was near the playgrounds. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, it turns out that the ex-director of this park was sentenced to prison this year for corruption, but we didn’t know this till I was home doing research for this blog. While we were there, the animals seemed happy and well-fed, but here is an article detailing the ex-director’s crimes and the investigation into the health of the animals. Here is a link to ticket prices. The cost had gone up since we had been there in 2013. I think there may be a connection to there being free toilet paper in the restroom and no attendant to run after you when you don’t know you have to pay, like I didn’t in 2013. Parque de las Leyendas is located at Av. Las Leyendas, San Miguel, Lima – Peru.
Other great places to let kids run:
- Parque de la Reserva: This park is open Tuesdays to Sundays, from three p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Well, unfortunately, for this trip, we couldn’t remember what the Web site said for the days or times it was open, and we took a taxi there one late Monday afternoon when it was closed. We did manage to make it there in 2013 with our seven-month-old, and although he wasn’t walking then, he loved the water fountains, the water show that was synchronized with classical and traditional Peruvian music, and color-changing lights. Originally, this park was built to commemorate civilian reservists who fought in the defense of Lima during the War of the Pacific, but since May 2007, when the city held its first Circuito Magico del Agua water and lights show, this park has been in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest public fountain complex, with its thirteen distinct fountains. General entrance is S/.4.00. This park is located next to Estadio National.
- Parque de la Exposición: Minus the Japanese garden and koi pond that was a gift from Japan to city, which Roberto said was much better kept up when he was a kid as it was once enclosed and visitors had to pay to enter, Roberto has only great memories of playing in this park as a boy. We liked the wide open spaces for toddlers to run after birds, the long, clean sidewalks, lined by gardens, the fountains, and statues. To learn more about the park’s history, including its former life as the home to Lima’s first zoo, and the many events regularly hosted, check here. This park is located in the city center and is enclosed by Av. 28 de Julio and Paseo Colon.
- Parque María Reiche: This park is one of the most beautiful we visited. Throughout, large well-groomed flower gardens form the most popular shapes of the ancient Nazca Lines. María Reiche, a German mathematician, archeologist, and technical translator, studied and advocated for the Nazca Lines most of her life, and it is for her this park is named. It is located along El Malecón in Miraflores, a six-mile boardwalk that hugs the coastline. Other parks and playgrounds dot the length of it.
To the west is the Pacific and sheer cliffs enrobed in tumbling greenery and flowers. To the east is Miraflores. Only parents will spot the awesome, enclosed, Astro Turfed playground.
- Parque Kennedy: The kids went crazy here for all the abandoned cats. The cats were very friendly as they are used to people, and we had to pull the kids off them as they couldn’t stop hugging them. There is also a nice, enclosed playground. Additionally, the park is located in the heart of Miraflores, among funky stores, restaurants, artists, and food vendors.
- Parque El Olivar: Roberto also has many memories of coming to this park as a kid. It is a long stretch of green space with a trail that can be used by slow pokes like us or bicyclists. It is located in the well-to-do, pituresque district of San Isidro, so you may see a high quantity of nannies dressed in white out with the kids. Check here to learn more about this National Monument. This park is located enclosed by Av. La Republica and Av. de los Incas.
- Parque Municipal de Barranco: Barranco is known as the hip, bohemian district filled with great hang-outs, bars, and cafés. Roberto jokes that it’s where the hippies hang out. It was once a beach resort and is known now for Puente de los Suspiros (the Bridge of Sighs) and also home to famous writers, like Vargas Llosa. The small park was fun for the kids to run around. It’s not very big, so we crossed the street to visit Puente de los Suspiros and then the kids found a gem: many, many, many steps to the ocean.
The park is enclosed by Av. Miguel Grau and Av. Pedro de Osma.