Guatemala City

In 1773, after the devastating earthquake that crumbled a lot of Antigua, the king of Spain moved the capital to Guatemala City. Long before the Spanish conquest, it was the site of Kaminalijuyu, a prosperous Maya city. Kids will enjoy the collections of Maya goodies in the Guatemala City Museums.

Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia (Parque la Aurora) - The Archeology and Ethnology Museum in Aurora Park has an excellent collection of Maya artifacts, including exquisite ceramics and stone implements, models of the Maya cities of Tikal, Quirigua, and Zaculeu. Best of all are the dioramas of life in a Maya city ceremonies with lords and priests, the market place, a family compound, carving the stone stelae.
In the ethnology section of the museum are tableaux of Guatemala village life and distinctive costumes and headwear from each different village. Mannequins model the most treasured Guatemalan fashions. Labels for the exhibits are in Spanish.
Close by, is the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Natural History Museum). This is the place to see the local plants and animals of Guatemala, along with exhibits of minerals and paleontology. Don't miss the gorgeous (stuffed) quetzal bird, with shimmering with iridescent green feathers and a long swooping tail. The quetzal bird feathers were highly valued in Maya culture. There are also scenes of the animals in their natural habitat, such as the jaguar and wild turkey prowling the jungles around Tikal.
National Zoo (Zoologico Nacional La Aurora) - Also in Parque la Aurora, the National Zoo has many kinds of animals native to Guatemala and Central America, including animals of the rainforest, such as spider monkeys, parrots, macaws, and jaguars, crocodiles, coatimundi. The jaguar enclosure lets you get a good look at this amazing animal. The herpetarium has wonderful selection of exotic snakes. In the zoo is a fun "adventure" playground, with slides and wooden climbing structures for kids.
Relief map of Guatemala (Parque Minerva) - To get an overview of Guatemalan geography (quite literally), visit this huge relief map. It's bigger than a soccer field. You climb up in observation platforms to see the map overall.
Museo Ixchel - The Ixchel Museum is chock full of costumes from all around Guatemala, a colorful display of the distinctive clothing from more than 100 different communities. Traditionally, you can tell at a glance where a woman is from by her skirt and embroidered blouse (huipil). Anyone interested in clothing is sure to enjoy the museum.
Popol Vuh Archeological Museum - This museum covers Maya archeology, with the most of the exhibits devoted to the Classic period, when Maya culture was at its peak. Don't miss the replica the Dresden Codex (one of the very few Maya books), big and little funerary urns, and the mask collection.
Around Guatemala City -
Lake Amatitlan - Lake Amatitlan is a popular weekend recreational area. The United Nations Park (Parque de las Naciones Unidas) has architectural recreations of Tikal, a Spanish style colonial plaza, a Highlands village. Want to relax? Stop into the Parque Recreativo de Amatitlan. This recreational park has swimming pools, playground with swings and slides, and motor boat rides on the lake.
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