Officially called the Zona Urbana Río Tijuana, this part of Tijuana borders the Tijuana River/Canal across from the palacio municipal. The heart of the district is the Plaza Río Tijuana (Paseo de los Héroes btw Independencia/Cuauhtémoc), with dozens of shops and restaurants, several hotels, and some of Zona Río Dance Clubs.
In fact, the Zona Río boasts some of the largest and liveliest clubs in the world. A day trip here might encompass bargain shopping, a gourmet dinner, a musical performance, and a night of drinking and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
Centro Cultural Tijuana
A block away from the Plaza Río, across Avenida Independencia, is the Tijuana Cultural Center, with more than 60 works of art by the famous Mexican painter Raul Anguiano.
Well-known Mexican architects Pedro Ramírez Vásquez and Manuel Rosen Morrison designed Tijuana’s industrial-looking landmark, the Centro Cultural Tijuana (Héroes and Independencia, tel. 664/687-9600, www.cecut.gob.mx), with a giant, white spherical planetarium (now an IMAX theater).
The government-sponsored complex covering 8.6 acres opened in 1982 with the goals of strengthening national identity in Northern Baja and promoting cultural tourism. Today its 1,000-seat performing-arts theater hosts the Baja California Orchestra (OBC) and other performances (with some outdoor events in summer). Some 1.5 million visitors tour the center each year, many of them children.
The Museo de las Californias, with historical, anthropological, and archaeological exhibits (10 A.M.–6:30 P.M. Tues.–Fri., 10 A.M.–4 P.M. Sat.–Sun., US$2). The center also has a café, bookstore, and shops. Tickets are sold 10 A.M.–6 P.M. daily. In 2008 CECUT expanded with the opening of El Cubo, a large space for art exhibitions that took three years and US$9 million to build.
More shopping, dining, and nightlife are to be found along an eight-block stretch of Avenida Revolución (La Revo, in San Diego-speak), where the remaining clubs are oriented toward an increasingly local Southern California crowd.
Tijuana Arch and Monumental Clock
This controversial addition to the skyline is located at Avenida Revolución and Primera, but it is visible from most of the city. To its backers, it’s the symbolic gateway to Baja, but to most locals it’s a visual hangover from the Y2K celebration. Either way, it’s a good landmark to meet your friends after a long night in TJ.
Playas de Tijuana
A boardwalk and seawall along the beach have given Playas de Tijuana a facelift and are intended to help keep erosion in check, but problems with water quality and police corruption persist. Although many foreign residents live here, tourists are few and far between.
Reports of parking scams in which police direct drivers to illegal lots and then tow their cars or allow the homeless to break into them are enough to keep visitors away. It’s best to park at the border and take a taxi.
At the north end of the beach, the U.S.-Mexico border fence extends across the sand and out into the ocean, dividing Tijuana from the neighboring community of Imperial Beach, California.
At the north end of the district stands the historic Plaza Monumental Bullring by the Sea. Two universities are located near the toll road: Universidad Iberoamericana del Noroeste and the Colegio de la Frontera Norte.
South of Playas de Tijuana, the Real del Mar (Km. 19.5, Mexico 1 D, tel. 664/631-3401, US$70–100) resort has comfortable accommodations and a golf course. Hacienda del Mar (Paseo Playas 116, Playas de Tijuana, tel. 664/630-8603, US$50–60) is a more central and less expensive option.
On the boardwalk, Café Latitud 32 (Malecón de Playas de Tijuana 50, no tel., mains US$5–10) serves coffee drinks and sandwiches and hosts occasional live music.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition