(In this monthly column, schoolteacher and mom Ilana Long explores fun things to do in Costa Rica that cost absolutely nada.)
As each weekend approaches, I like to look out for free, family activities in the goings-on about town. So when you just want to get-out-of-the-house-and-do-something, here’s a suggestion. There’s plenty of good, old-fashioned fun to be had at Avenida Escazú.
This week is perfect timing to get to know the outdoor mall, as Avenida Escazú is hosting an annual Art Walk on the sidewalks. The festival runs from Oct. 6-9. That means more than 100 local artists will flock to the broad walkways and courtyards. At the stalls lining the ample sidewalks, expect to see sculpture, pottery, textiles, photography and paintings galore. And for bonus points, head over to the stage to see the live music. Family activities are also on the docket. On the 8th, the Artflow gallery will open a free art show, “18 Women of Note,” featuring talented Costa Rican artists.
But Avenida Escazú makes my list of fun and free on any day. At central points at the outdoor mall, sculpture reigns supreme, including the reclining woman by famed Costa Rican artist Jorge Jiménez Deredia. L-O-V-E presides over another sidewalk.
Kids can scramble all over a couple of the most accessible sculptures: Sit next to Lego Man on the bench and have a photo taken, or rub the big toe of the goofy guy who sits outside the stores. Even adults can’t resist sitting on his chest and giving his nose a good rubbing! (Or is that just me?)
For a hot day, visit the irresistible fountain set into the sidewalk. Bubbling water gurgles and spits out of the in-ground spouts at random intervals, sometimes shooting up high, and sometimes barely peeping over the surface. Colored lights change rhythmically and brighten the water, throwing rainbows of color into the shallow, glassy pool below. Rarely can a child walk past this masterpiece without daring to rush across, risking wet toes for the sake of a good time.
And if the kids still have some energy, there is a free playground area, where they can slip down the slides and play on the swings in a safely fenced area.
The Lego store has a free play area, too, where kids can try out their skills as budding engineers and architects. Even grown-ups sometimes can’t walk past the play table without digging their hands into the jumble of Lego pieces and building a bridge to nowhere or an alien spaceship.
Avenida Escazú can be approached from Santa Ana from the Multiplaza, PriceSmart side, or also from the San Jose side—by parking in the Trejos Montealegre neighborhood and walking through the back way. On the backside, be aware that the parking isn’t secured.
As malls go, this one’s a hit. It’s been designed for walking and for nursing a coffee in the breezy shade of the many outdoor café-esque restaurants. You can find cheap eats at the food court, a flick at the cinema, laser tag if you’re so inclined, and of course, chic clothing and fine food and drink. Happily, this fab avenue offers the kind of entertainment that appeals to kids as well as adults. And you don’t have to spend any money.
The Art Walk is at Avenida Escazú, Plaza 101, Torre Lexus, Oct. 6-9. Inauguration is at 6 p.m., Oct. 6.
Contact Ilana Long at email@example.com