5 Things to do in Mexico City on New Year’s Day When (Nearly) Everything is Closed

The holidays are a great time in Mexico City, but New Year's Day is one of the quietest

We’ve reached the end of our 5 day trip in Mexico City. And this year we came prepared for New Year’s Day — a day that nearly everything is shut down. And  if you’re going for New Year’s Eve, I recommend you read my top 10 ideas for celebrating New Year’s Eve in Mexico City. Because, again, you’ll find it just as tough finding anything open.

But don’t fret – we got you covered. And now we bring you the 5 best things to do on New Year’s Day.

We found something open! Enjoying corn muffins from the nearby Maque bakery. Trust me, it gets more exciting from here (though those corn muffins are the bomb!)

The last thing you want to do is just wander around aimlessly — like we did last New Year’s Day. Though, we eventually found a restaurant open (with questionable health code practices). Let’s just say, the food quality didn’t even reach the very low bar of a Taco Bell. Eek!

So take our advice to heart — and figure out your plan if you have a late flight out. Or you can take our tried and true 5 recommendations on what to do on your New Year’s Day in Mexico City outlined below.

5. Take a Stroll Through the Polanco Neighborhood

At the coffee bean – business isn’t exactly booming. But hey, they’re open!

New Year’s Day is a holiday for Mexican families to be together. So it isn’t a shock (in hindsight) to realize that most neighborhoods clear out. However, in fancy Polanco you’ll find many restaurants and some stores still open. The neighborhood caters to Mexico City elites and has a high concentration of hotels for international travelers. Translating to: money to spend and nowhere to go! So yes, you’ll find options! A good place to pick up some fresh bread and pastries is at Pasteleria Esperanza.

Inside the Esperanza bakery in Polanco. A good spot to pick up some pastries to wander.

4. Eat at One of Mexico City’s Most Famed Restaurants

We loved the old school ambiance inside La Hosteria Santo Domingo, located on an empty street just 10 minutes walking north of the main Zocalo square. If only we knew about this place last year! Well, now you’re in on the secret. First off, nothing gets us more pumped up than a free basket of bread. We pretty much chowed down on 2 loaves before even ordering drinks. But the main draw to come (besides it being open) is to try one of Mexico’s most famous dishes (which I’ve never before moving to Los Angeles) called chile en nogada.

But what is it? Basically, it’s meat stuffed poblano chiles bathed in nogada, a walnut cream sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley. Yum! These are typically only available in the summer and early fall, but La Hosteria serves them year round. One thing to be aware of — the sauce is room temperature/slightly cold. We’re so used to getting dishes pipping hot (and all the restaurants I’ve had this dish in LA have served it hot). The kitchen didn’t screw up – it’s actually supposed to be a little chilly. Well, now I know!

3. Take in Some Art and Culture at Soumaya Museum

The funky exterior of Soumaya Museum

Soumaya Museum (or in Spanish Museo Soumaya) is located in Polanco. So another good reason to save New Year’s Day to explore this neighborhood. This is a private museum that is open on New Year’s Day. The museum’s collection includes works by European Old Masters as well as art of the Italian, French, German, and Spanish schools from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. The place is larger than it looks. It just kept on going! But the best part is the very top floor where you’ll find the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside of France.

We recommend going to the very top floor first to check out the Rodin collection. By far, the best part of the museum for us.

Trying my best at Rodin’s The Thinker… I think I convinced Kevin to pretend he doesn’t know me.

2. Go VIP at a High End Movie Theater 

Just across the street from the Soumaya Museum is the high-end Mexican chain of theaters known as Cinepolis. But the best kind are the ones known as the Cinepolis VIP brand. These are the theaters where you can reserve your seats, watch in comfy lounge chairs and enjoy food and drinks inside the theater. We love the iPic in Los Angeles. Though, keep expectations in check – it’s nowhere near as fancy as the iPic. But tickets at Cinepolis are $8 USD per ticket (vs the $25 USD at iPic!).

They show many of the movies in English. An easy way to know which ones are actually in English are labeled as “subtitulada.” Or subtitled (in Spanish).

1. Float Along the Canals in a Private Boat

Xochimilco Boat Rides are available year round. And it was a surprisingly enjoyable activity that turned out much better than we expected. The reviews online are a mixed bag. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are flying out of Mexico City, you’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to get to the boats. The launch point can easily take 1 hour by Uber from central Mexico City. The good news is that you don’t need a ton of time here. We hired a boat for 1 hour, but do your homework going here (and know how much to pay!).

  • Cost: 350 pesos per hour, about $19 USD, (NOT per person); signs advertise 500 pesos per hour, but we had no issue bargaining.

Along the way, you’ll see many Mexican families lounging around, dancing, eating or drinking. The party continues! We passed countless mariachi bands and food stalls along the way. One thing to note – you can bring your own food and drinks. That way, you can enjoy a picnic on the water and don’t have to bargain along the way if you get hungry or thirsty.

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for New Year’s Day in Mexico City. Or if all else fails, there is one place you’ll be bound to find open (and where we ended up). Starbucks!!

5 Things to do in Mexico City on New Year's Day (When Nearly Everything is Closed)
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5 Things to do in Mexico City on New Year's Day (When Nearly Everything is Closed)
There is a ton to do in Mexico City around Christmas and the holidays. But be prepared for New Year's Day when shops and restaurants are shut. Check out our top 5 things to do when nothing is open!

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