Culture, charm, kindness, history, exercise and breathtaking views.
Those are the first words that come to mind when I think of Mexico City.
Dangerous, trashy, gross, rude and uncharming.
Those are the first words that people told me as they heavily questioned why I would go to Mexico City to see an NFL game.
They told me I was crazy for going.
I now think they are crazy for not.
In November, I flew to Mexico City with 2 very good friends to see the Houston Texans take on the Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca. Never once did I hesitate on going to the game since I am a person and blogger of experiences, but I would absolutely be lying if I didn’t say that I had some concerns about general safety after everyone’s negative responses about going. To me though, every city you go to has its ups and downs and negative reputations to hold at bay…and yes, some more than others, but if you are street and travel smart then you will normally be fine.
Mexico City is now one of my favorite places that I have been and I can’t wait to take another trip down there (maybe even just to buy Christmas presents with how well the value of a dollar goes down there AND you can score some VERY cute finds). The city is enriched with culture around every corner and it is impossible to take it all in within a few days. From churches to stadiums to parks to castles to food upon more food, you could easily spend a solid week ingrained in the MXCD lifestyle and still feel like you are missing out. The city itself is very comparable to NYC on a cheaper scale and there is always something going on day or night.
I have to say that I commend the city for their efforts during the NFL game week. The collaborations absolutely went off without a hitch (well if there was one, I didn’t see it so that counts). The NFL Experience was very vibrant, well executed and central for all tourist and locals alike. It was a special feeling to see so many different types of people partaking in this event and the NFL Experience was plenty spread out throughout Bosque de Chapultepec (their main park area…think Central Park for reference) so the pedestrian traffic was never overwhelming in any area. Photo ops were abundant as they brought in artistic renditions of each team’s helmet, set up interactive zones that included skills challenges and fitness workouts and had NFL ambassadors on hand for autograph signings and meet and greets. With all of this taking place in the gorgeous park area in the center of the city, you were never left seeking something to do!
Once game day arrived, the NFL had set up areas around the city for the fans to be able to take shuttle buses to the game. Don’t know that I would go back and do it any other way but this definitely made for a unique transit experience. With as many places as I have traveled to, I have never seen or been on a bus so tightly packed that I was left questioning the oxygen level on the 40 min trip. Since we didn’t want to chance waiting on another bus to arrive, we somehow squeezed our group on to one that normal people would have called full…not in Mexico City! We stood crowded into the middle of the bus and were told to hold on tight to the hanging handles as the bus very speedily and abruptly started making its way to the stadium. Driving in Mexico is like driving in an alternate universe with no rules. Although there are lanes, I don’t know that anyone knows what they actually mean and you really have to hold your own. Our bus driver definitely knew what they were doing but my arm felt like it was going to fall off as I had to stay positioned the exact same way for about an hour. We were packed so tightly that there was just barely enough room to turn your head to talk to the person next to you. Good news is that as I worked up a sweat from standing firmly in my then over-baringly warm jacket, I felt like I got a full body workout in since my oblique’s and abs were in full recovery mode the next day!
As we pulled up to the stadium, excitement and sense of relief set it. Relief that I survived this bus ride and excitement that what we had dreamed about for 8 months was here. The stadium was lively and already abuzz as we exited and made our way in to find our seats. After getting privately escorted (that’s how I roll jk jk) to our seats, we walked through a long tunnel and down and up a series of stairs (I’m telling you…everybody in Mexico City should be SUPER fit with all the walking they do!), we finally got to my favorite part of seeing any new stadium…my first glance. As we came up the last set of stairs, the tunnel opened up to an amazing view of Estadio Azteca from the end zone. The design and feel of the stadium is absolutely built for a true sporting event and was a fantastic place to host an NFL game. The way the upper level is designed, it is open but yet slightly lips in to keep in the crowd noise. Very unique and truly amazing!
The game atmosphere was different from watching in the US but well worth the experience. It was great to compare and see what they value as important during a game there vs. in the states. The one common ground? Plenty of beer! I am actually pretty sure they one up us on that because I have never seen beer carried around in stacked souvenir stadium cups before and people bought them up like there was going to be a beer shortage soon. Vendors would come out and be sold out within minutes before even making it through the section. The other popular item? The cigarette vendor. All I have to say is that that is one of my LEAST favorite parts about the city in general. Smoking is just disgusting, no ifs ands or butts, especially when in confined spaces like that. Not cool. Just not cool.
At the stadium I felt extremely safe and secure as there were armed guides and police placed throughout the space inside and out. In fact, if you watched the game, I was lucky enough to be sitting around the section that the laser pointer was coming from and in the midst of enjoying the game and still trying to get over a HORRIBLE call that costs the Texans a touchdown, I look up and all of a sudden there is a full geared out SWATT team lining BOTH sides of our section! My initial reaction was to be a bit concerned as I timidly asked one of the guys what was going on. Were we under attack? Was there a threat against this Texans fan section??? No. They thought the laser pointer was coming from our area and decided to surround the section to locate the culprit. Don’t think I have ever quite seen a sports laser pointer issue handles with police in riot gear and weapons, buuuuuttttt to each their own. We watched about a whole quarter with them watching and analyzing us; however, I was very impressed by their friendliness and you could tell they truly wanted us to feel at ease and safe. So what happened to the douche with the laser pointer you might be asking? Oh…they got him…he was up in the suite above us and they filed right out and marched up to get him, you could actually see them going in the suite and arresting him. Pretty cool if you ask me and definitely a story I will remember forever.
Although my Texans lost to the Raiders, my experience only increased my love for Mexico City and I highly recommend to everyone that they at least take a test trip out to this destination. It truly is a buried treasure chest among many other Mexico destinations, filled with so many hidden treasures. I have 0 regrets about going and I met many unique people from all over that only enhanced my experience. One thing I have learned in travel is that you cannot always go by what others say or how they feel about a place. Each destination is different, just as each human is different and we all value different things. Mexico City may have had its extreme rough patches and by all means not perfect today, but that stigma should never leave you so narrow minded that you miss out on a great place and culture that is making a change for the best.
You see, to me, to live life is to experience it, if not, you are wasting life’s beauty. Now that my choice airline, Southwest, flies to the city, I plan on taking another trip to Mexico City sooner rather than later!
In Love with Mexico City
As a side note, I would like to say that I am happy that I could help out an economy that was in need. By the NFL hosting a game in Mexico City, it is reported that is generated $43 million dollars in tourist spending for the city and $32 million of that was incremental to the Mexico City economy. It was the first time since 2005 that an NFL game was played there and with them hosting another game this year, I look forward to seeing where new expansion will take the NFL.