Good planning is critical to helping ensure that your family excursion to Colombia is all it can be. As you’d expect of a capital city like Bogotá—populated by some 10 million people—the choices are seemingly endless. That’s why we make it easy for you with the following 10 places to thrill parents and children alike. For further information, see Tips for Traveling with Kids in Colombia.
#1 Ride the Cable Car to Cerro de Monserrate
Bogotá is a sprawling city of 10 million people, and nowhere provides as sensational an appreciation of its vastness as Cerro de Monserrate—the 10,335-foot mountain rising dramatically to the south. A ride on the funicular (cable car) to the summit makes a great first stop for a grand vista of Bogotá laid out below.
At the top, there are landscaped gardens and a church to explore, plus two excellent restaurants and a snack bar in case you get hungry. The paths are steep and paved with cobbles, and therefore not suitable for strollers. It's hugely popular on weekends, so get there early, although sunset at the top is an unforgettable experience.
#2 Museo del Oro
This is Bogotá’s most popular venue and for good reason. The world-class Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) dazzles everyone who visits, regardless of age. More than 34,000 pre-Columbian gold pieces—categorized by distinct cultures—are displayed within massive vaults of the Banco de la República, in a striking Modernist building on Parque Santander.
Don’t miss the intricate Balsa Muisca—a 19-inch-long golden raft showing a cacique (chief) and his attendants. Life-size caciques and warriors are also depicted here, adorned with gold amulets, bracelets, breastplates, and headpieces. The last of the venues before your exit is the circular Sala de la Ofrenda (the Offering Room). You enter an unlit room, the doors close, and you stand in darkness. Then, haunting pre-Columbian music begins as the wraparound glass walls light up, displaying a large collection of gold pieces seemingly floating in the sacred waters of Lake Guatavita. It's a striking image that will leave an indelible mark on kids as well as adults.
The Maloka interactive science and technology center offers an educational experience that's also fun. Its nine halls feature more than 200 creative exhibits dedicated to teaching children about the universe, electricity, molecular sciences, and culture. These include a hair-raising (literally) static-electricity experiment, a car-lifting physics demonstration, and a lesson on how the weight of the human body changes on different planets. It’s a bit advanced for younger children, and it lacks English-speaking guides to answer questions.
#4 Changing of the Guard in Plaza de Armas
Teens particularly will enjoy this traditional military parade, held in the spacious Plaza de Armas between the Neoclassical Capitolio Nacional—where Congress meets—and the Casa de Nariño, the presidential palace. The heavily guarded palace can be toured (45 minutes) with 48 hours’ notice, but no reservations are needed to enjoy the public parade, performed every Wednesday and Friday at 2:30 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. More than 200 soldiers—the Presidential Guard Battalion—in colorful 19th-century ceremonial costume march along Carrera 7 and into the plaza to furl the Colombian flag. Get there early for a prime vantage point—the east side (Carrera 7) of the plaza is best. You'll need to open your bags for inspection as you pass through military barriers on Carrera 7 and 8.
#5 Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolívar
If you’re an outdoorsy family, there’s plenty of leafy nature in the heart of Bogotá. The Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolívar—the huge metropolitan park named for the great "Liberator" of Colombia's independence movement—offers enough activities to fill an entire day. Little ones can enjoy the sandpits and jungle gyms in the playground. Older kids can row a boat on the main lake, which also rents peddle-boats and canoes. And the entire family can enjoy a bit of exercise cycling and running the park's trails before perhaps enjoying a picnic by the lake. Also, the park is a principal venue for concerts and festivals, so keep your eye on the social calendar for any events that appeal.
Divercity is a cleverly named virtual village in the Centro Comercial Santa Fé shopping mall. It's the perfect place to park youngsters while you enjoy some retail therapy or relax with a cappuccino. Focused on kids 12 and under, its multidimensional attractions include ball pits, climbing walls, and even go-karts. And because all children love role-playing, they can pretend to work as doctors, firefighters, police, or even TV hosts. They’re "paid" in tokens, redeemable at Divercity’s shops and games. All the activities here are intended to spark the imagination and to teach lessons in cooperation and the value of work.
#7 Andrés Carne de Res
Andrés Carne de Res is more extravaganza than restaurant. It's a raucous mix of live theater and wild décor that spans seven acres in Chía, about a 45-minute drive north of Bogotá. When Andrés Jaramillo opened this roadside grill in 1982 it had only ten tables; today it seats 2,000 party-hearty patrons. The vast menu (64 pages) spans the continent, with huge meat platters and a wide-ranging kid’s menu.
As tremendous as the meat-heavy menu is, you come here for the ambiance. You'll see staff in Day of the Dead makeup and dressed in fantastical costumes, and every inch of the place is adorned with a rainbow-hued riot of neon signs, tchotchkes, and knick-knacks. There's also a “children’s zone,” with face-painting, clowns, stilt-walking, and a climbing wall. Dance lessons are even held in a studio. You can then try out your moves on the dance floor, as the disco here goes into the wee hours (note that children aren't allowed in the late evening).
The smaller sister property, Andrés DC, in the heart of Bogotá, is also a phantasmagoria of fun, but the flagship original takes it to the nth degree. It's well worth the extra drive. For more options on fun things to do around Bogotá, see this article.
#8 Parque Finkana
Animal lovers are in hog heaven at this family-friendly agricultural theme park (formerly Parque Panaca), near Zipaquirá. Separate sections are devoted to ducks and geese, pigs, horses, cattle, and more. There are species from around the world here, with lots of information displays and English-speaking interpretive guides to help make this a great learning experience.
As for interactivity, kids can hold rabbits, milk cows, and feed baby goats, pigs, and sheep. Younger children can ride llamas, but the entire family can saddle up for horseback and pony rides. Take a seat in one of the arenas and marvel at equestrian shows and well-trained pooches performing incredible tricks. Note that Parque Finkana's basic entrance fee does not include access to most interactive activities or shows, which cost extra.
#9 Catedral de Sal
A must-see on any family’s Colombia itinerary is the underground Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral) at Zipaquirá, about a 45-minute drive from Bogotá. You’ll want half-a-day to explore this amazing 25-acre complex, comprised of three levels carved out of a vast halite (rock salt) mineral deposit. It’s a thrill as you walk downhill through the long entrance tunnel and emerge on the upper level, where broad corridors are carved with 14 Stations of the Cross bathed in eerie colored lights.
The lower level includes a shrine, the massive 72-foot-tall cathedral, and fantastical biblical figures. Don’t miss the underground mirror lake, plus the recreation of Michelangelo’s Creación del Hombre (Creation of Man) inset in bas-relief in the ground. Guided tours are compulsory because it’s easy to get discombobulated amid the labyrinth. So don’t let the little ones go wandering off. To make the most of your visit, let the kid's play on the climbing wall. Also, there are plenty of outdoor food stalls, and the adjoining Museo de Sal (Salt Museum) provides more details on local salt mining.
Bogotá’s nightmarish traffic means the city's ciclovía system is a breath of fresh air. Each Sunday in the capital traffic is banned from many thoroughfares. Then, tens of thousands of families don roller blades or hop on their bikes and enjoy some fun and exercise on the 208 miles of traffic-free ciclorutas (bicycle routes). Refreshment stalls are set up along the routes, and intersections with cross-traffic are policed (plenty of local tour operators rent bicycles and roller blades). There are even alfresco aerobics and Zumba classes. Overall, ciclovía is one of the best ways for you and your family to experience Bogotá as a local. For more cycling ideas in Colombia, check out this article.