What to Do in NYC: Must-Sees for Visitors From Mexico

Visitors from Mexico make up one of the top 10 most popular nationalities that come to New York. They’re drawn by great music, museums, sightseeing, and terrific souvenirs among the world-class shopping opportunities here. Almost 2 million New Yorkers speak Spanish at home, meaning tourists from Mexico won’t have too much trouble getting around town. If you feel homesick, NYC has great Mexican food, including several places offering modern, New York takes on classics. And if you want a taste of something else entirely, we’ve got that too. Read on for the New York must-sees for visitors from Mexico.

Mexican Visitors in NYC: Culture and History

rockefeller center nyc

Image: Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Rockefeller Center used to boast a Diego Rivera mural that was commissioned by the Rockefeller family. Although it’s no longer there, it’s still a wonderful place to see murals, carvings, and sculpture. The most famous of these is of Prometheus, on the lower plaza; it’s one of the most photographed sculptures in New York. Atlas, across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, is another often-photographed sculpture, but a leisurely walk around will also show other incredible works. (Stop into the cathedral itself as well; it’s magnificent.) At the Museum of Modern Art, an impressive collection of works by Frida Kahlo can be seen; the museum holds other works by Mexican artistscheck out the fine selection of photographs.

Looking for something live and interactive? This year’s PEN World Voices festival (April 25-May 1, citywide) focuses on Mexico’s literary culture. A series of programs celebrates Mexico’s culture and heritage, from books for young adults to a salon on sociopolitical issues.

Heading uptown, El Museo del Barrio, which focuses on art from Latin America, Puerto Rico, and Caribbean cultures, offers a permanent collection with more than 6,500 objects, including the categories Modern and Contemporary Art; Graphics; and Popular Traditions (with devotional arts and masks).

At the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York, which was developed to strengthen the links of the Mexican population living in New York, visitors can view art exhibitions and film screenings, hear panel discussions, or participate in a book discussion; it’s also a good source for info on cultural happenings in the city. The Americas Society is focused on understating the various topical and social issues facing the Americas; check out their musical, visual, and literary events.

The Hispanic Society of America remains one of the classic “hidden treasures” of New York. The collection is amazing, ranging from decorative arts to architecture to an impressive array of sculpture, all housed in an incredible Beaux Art building on the northern side of Manhattan.

Mexican Visitors in NYC: Entertainment and Shopping

museum of the moving image lobby

Image: Peter Aaron/Esto., courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image

If you’re looking for a nibble as you walk around, Jacques Torres (several locations) is known for their hot chocolate, but a cookie or one of their caramels would also do nicely. On a cooler day, opt for their Wicked Hot Chocolate, with a spicy mix of allspice, cinnamon, ancho chili, and smoked chipotle (sure to please a Mexican palate). Li-Lac Chocolate, which has been around since 1923, makes their chocolate in small batches—try the butter crunch or the coconut clusters. At the Shops at Columbus Circle, you’ll find plenty of goodies to take back home as gifts—or keep for yourself. We like the Crabtree & Evelyn for bath products, Diptyque for candles, and Papyrus for paper goods. Grab a to-go sandwich from Bouchon Bakery, sit at one of the small tables, gaze out at the city, and you’re in business. If you want to check out goods from Mexico, La Sirena in the Village sells Mexican folk art, clothing, and even masks.

A strong history of cinema, coupled with a wealth of terrific Mexican directors (Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro), means New York is well aware of Mexican cinephiles. If you fall into that group, mosey on over to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens; it's the only museum in the city dedicated to film and its like, including 19th-century optical toys and revolving exhibitions. Make sure to wander into the store, which is great for movie and gaming buffs.

This summer Jaime Camil, known for his role as Rogelio De La Vega on the CW's Jane the Virgin, will make his Broadway debut in the Great White Way’s longest-running American musical: Chicago. The handsome actor will take the stage playing alongside his long-time friend Bianca Marroquín—a very big deal since it marks the first time two Mexican-born actors will lead the cast of a Broadway musical. Note that Camil is set to leave after a limited run of only 24 performances (i.e., July 31st).

Looking for more of a live musical experience? Joe’s Pub, named for Joe Papp, founder of the Public Theater, offers musical performances over dinner and drinks.

Mexican Visitors in NYC: Food and Drink

shake shack burger

Image: m01229/Flickr

Mexican food in New York has as many purveyors as it does interpretations. Café Frida on the Upper West Side offers food with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, like artisanal salsas, as well as street food dishes—try the molotes de flor o frijolitos: huge empanadas with squash blossoms and goat cheese. (And yes, they have an extensive margarita menu as well.) The restaurant is also conveniently located near the American Museum of Natural History, so it would be a shame not to wander over there. Check out the hall of Mexico and Central America, which features an Aztec Stone of the Sun. Also, don’t miss the newest attraction—“Dinosaurs Among Us,” which looks at the evolution from dinosaurs into birds. If you’re still hungry after trekking around, pop back up the street and grab a burger or a concrete (a delicious ice cream confection) at Shake Shack. Try the new chicken sandwich, too.

Toloache in midtown is the place to go for creative Mexican food: think lobster salad with quinoa, ceviche with sweet potato puree, and suckling pig tacos with cactus salad. Don’t miss the side dishes at the Village's Ofrenda: sweet potato fries with jalapeno truffle salsa, grilled string beans with chipotle aioli.

When you’re in New York, you want something New York-y. So head down to Crif Dogs in the East Village, popular for post bar-hopping cravings. The hot dogs are deep fried, thus explaining part of their appeal; it’s also the toppings, from chili to bacon-wrapped with teriyaki and pineapple.

Should you need help from the Mexican Consulate, you can find it in midtown:

27 E. 39th St., Nueva York, NY 10016

About the Author

Evan Levy runs fable & lark, which offers interactive museum tours inspired by great stories. See for all the details.

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