This large long plaza is situated along Avenida Hidalgo. It is only one of four plazas stretching east, west, south, and north. The cathedral (see Attractions) is at the center of these four plazas. Plaza Tapatia is seven blocks long and anchors the Teatro Degollado at the west end to the Cabanas Cultural Institute at the east end. Many different shops and stores surround this plaza on all sides in between.
This plaza is a great area for people watching. The plaza always seems to be crowded no matter what the time. Depending on the part of the plaza you are at you will see vendors selling trinkets, artwork, and other collectibles.
One interesting item that I saw for sale that I had never seen before in my travels were inflatable aluminum balloons. These balloons were in the shape of a crayon and varied in size from 3 feet long to 30 feet long. The vendors were inflating them full of air and then hitting the bottom of the balloon with their hands, and then the balloon would soar into the air oftentimes, a hundred feet high or more. These balloons created quite a spectacle and on most nights you would find many children gathered around hitting the balloons high into the night sky.
There are several fountains and many benches scattered around the plaza. These afford a comfortable place to sit and watch people go by or to sit and read a book. Near the west end of the plaza, near the theater, you will find a tourist office. This office had a very friendly staff and offered free maps, information, and guides. They also sold local art work inside the office at reasonable prices.
One thing I will never forget, happened to me while I was strolling along the plaza one evening. It was several days before Christmas and I happened to be walking by some carolers who were singing outside of a tin door. I sat and watched them over my strawberry smoothie and when they were done singing the door opened and they were pulled inside. The door closed and then opened again, and an old man inside beckoned to me to come on in. He was a wizened old fellow, his features chiseled deeply into his face, showing the wear and tear of his years. Once I entered I went from the darkness of the Plaza to the brightness and cheeriness of an office party. This was an office party in appreciation of the work that had been accomplished in the store over the year. This store sold washing and drying machines as well as other general merchandise. Apparently the entire family worked in the store as there were several generations present as well as other workers.
This gracious family stuffed me with their local cuisine and gave me small presents. I talked to them in my Spanish, and they tested their English on me. I was impressed with there hospitality and willingness to take a complete stranger into their home/store.
At the east end of the Plaza Tapatia near the Cultural Cabanas is a large enclosed mall. This mall is three stories high and can be very crowded depending on the time of year, and day you visit. Christmas season can be madness inside this mall. Vendors sell everything from T-shirts, to wallets, to pig intestines. The mall is separated by what product is being sold. For example, all the food vendors are situated in one corner of this mall.
During the month of October Guadalajara holds an event that is known as the Fiestas de Octubre. This is a month long event that attracts many artists and vendors to the plaza. Cultural events, festivals, and music is also offered at various locations along the plaza. Hotel and restaurant reservations are highly recommended for this month, if you are going to be staying anywhere around the plaza.