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Mazatlán may be best known for its wide, sandy beaches and sporting activities, but visitors who neglect to sample the city's cultural events and attractions are missing out on a multidimensional destination.
Mazatlán's Carnaval: A Weeklong Party--The week before Lent is Mazatlán's famous Carnaval, or Mardi Gras. People come from all over the country and abroad for this flamboyant celebration, topped in size and revelry only by those in Río de Janeiro and New Orleans. Highlights of the event include parades, special shows, the coronation of the Carnaval queen, outdoor concerts, more than 150 food and beverage vendors, all-night parties, and extravaganzas all over town. Every night during Carnaval week, all along the Olas Altas oceanfront drive in the southern part of town, the streets fill with music from roving mariachi groups, local traditional bandas sinaloenses (sporting lots of brass instruments), and electrified bands under tarpaulin shades. The crowd increases each day until the last night, Shrove Tuesday, when musicians, dancers, and people out for a good time pack the malecón. The following day, Ash Wednesday, the party is over. People receive crosses of ashes on their foreheads at church, and Lent begins.
Architectural Highlights--Two blocks south of the central plaza stands the lovely Teatro Angela Peralta, a national historic monument. Built between 1869 and 1874, it most recently underwent renovation in 1998. The 841-seat Italian-style theater has three levels of balconies, two facades, and, in true tropical style, a lobby with no roof. The theater was named for one of the world's great divas, who, along with the director and 30 members of the opera, died in Mazatlán of cholera in an 1863 epidemic.
The Plaza Principal, also called Plaza Revolución, is the heart of the city, filled with vendors, shoeshine stands, and people of all ages out for a stroll. At its center is a Victorian-style, wrought-iron bandstand with a diner-type restaurant underneath. Be sure to take in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in the 1800s, with its unusual yellow-tiled twin steeples and partially tiled facade.
(c) Zagat © 2013, Google.
Beaches & Surfing
At the western edge of downtown is rocky, pebbly Playa Olas Altas, a lovely stretch of pounding surf, but not suitable for swimming. Around a rocky promontory north of Olas Altas is Playa Norte, which offers several kilometers of good sand beach.
Mazatlán is one of only a few resorts in Mexico where surfing is common on central town beaches. The waves are best at Los Pinos, north of the fort -- known in surfing circles as "the Cannon" -- and at Playa Los Gaviotas and Playa Los Sabalos. Waves are most notable and consistent from May to September. Other notable surf breaks are found at Olas Altos, Cerritos, Isla de la Piedra, and El Camaron, at Playa Norte.
Mazatlán claims to be the billfish and shrimp capital of the world, and whether or not it's a valid claim, deep-sea fishing in Mazatlán is generally less expensive than in other parts of Mexico. If you request it, your captain will practice "catch and release." Locals suggest making fishing reservations for October through January at least a month in advance; at the very least, do it the minute you arrive in town.
(c) Zagat © 2013, Google.