I fell in love with Ashleigh and her adorable daughter through her delightful Instagram feed @littleashleigh which documents her long-term travels with her sixteen month old daughter and husband throughout Central and South America. I think it’s the kind of thing a lot of us dreamed of doing when we were young but then when we actually had kids it just seemed overwhelming. Ashleigh breaks it all down on her blog Little Girl, Big World and makes it seem more than manageable.
I was delighted when Ashleigh agreed to share her tips for Medellin, Colombia. I know for a lot of us the country Colombia brings up a lot of concerns about safety but I’ve been seeing it pop up more and more on my radar and Ashleigh assures us that it’s a great choice with kids.
Hi there! I’m Ashleigh, a wife and stay-in-many-homes mom, traveling full time with my husband and sixteen month old daughter. When our baby was seven months old, we left the United States to explore and over the past eight months have “globetotted” through Central and South America. Along the way one place kept coming up…Colombia. Friends, nomad families, and tourists alike touted the beauty and benefits of this country enough that when we were ready for our next destination we said, “Sure, why not?”. We planned on exploring what we could for one month, but after an Airbnb went awry and we scored a sweet apartment in Medellin, here we are, nearly three months later, still learning and loving it more every day.
Traveling with kids or not, there’s plenty of culture, cuisine, and comfort to keep you entertained or content, depending on your style. It’s a modern city and there’s truly a little something for everyone! The locals will make you feel at home from minute one, but fair warning, your tiniest traveler is likely to be the center of attention! Young and old alike will converse, head pat, and interact with your tot with genuine enthusiasm. From sighs of “cuidado” when she stumbles, to offers of holding her while we eat (Yes, please!) I’ve yet to experience a more kid-friendly culture and I’m breaking down all the scoop below…
When to Travel
Medellin is nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring, and while I would disagree slightly (to me personally, it feels more like Summer), there’s no denying it’s beautiful year round. In our time here during February/March we’ve experienced 85 degree days and only a few afternoon rain showers. It’s warm, but not humid, and slightly breezy. You may want to have sunscreen and a hat available for outside days, but you’ll find plenty of shade as well.
Typically we choose short term rentals via sites like AirBnB, but when our chosen temporary home wasn’t quite what the listing suggested (the only time in eight months that’s ever happened), we quickly scooped up a spacious studio in a modern high-rise. Laureles and Poblado seem to be the most common neighborhoods with expats and travelers for amenities and safety. (Though Medellin is generally safe, travelers caution is always advised and there are definitely still areas which aren’t recommended for exploring.) We’re located in Conquistadores, just next to Laureles, and enjoy plenty of parks and playgrounds, lots of local restaurants, a large Exito for groceries and necessities, and Unicentro Mall for shopping. Two Metro stations are about a 15 minute walk away and a trek to downtown takes about 30 minutes should we feel like footing it, or a quick $3 taxi ride if not.
Notes about accommodations:
Food & Dining
Unlike some places we’ve visited, Colombia’s food selection is most similar to what we’re accustomed to in the United States. You’ll find most familiar grocery items and a plethora of cuisines to choose from. We do a mix of cooking and dining out, with everything from pizza, sushi, Thai, vegetarian, and brewpubs, to local street food. (You have to try the fresh chips…simple, but my favorite, aka: weakness.) A few favorite dining spots are Crepes & Waffles, a delicious chain, and the many ‘menu del dia’ options like Veg Station. As for feeding our little one, she’s at the age where a little of whatever we’re having works well but if you’re in the stage of puree’s, the fresh fruit and veggie selection can’t be beat. Seriously, I’ve never seen more beautiful strawberries!
As with most of our travel, we do lots of walking and prefer babywearing for the majority of our exploring time, but there’s plenty space for strollers, too. Just beware the deep drains at some curb sides, you may need a little help lifting over. Otherwise, sidewalks are plentiful, though sometimes a little uneven.
For farther jaunts around town, the Metro is clean, safe, and efficient. Rush hours get crowded but typically no less than three locals will offer you a seat if you’re traveling with little one. They’re likely to make sure you’re keeping your belongings safe as well.
Should you prefer a taxi, they’re plentiful and inexpensive. Car seats are recommended but not enforced and we usually just strap our daughter in the carrier before taking off.
Activities and Things to Do
The great thing about Medellin, even though it’s a city, is the amazing amount of parks and public space to roam and explore. A few favorite spots are: Parque Lleras, Parque Bolivar, Plaza Botero – a lively spot including larger than life sculptures by Frank Botero, and Luces Park (there’s a public restroom located under the library should you need it!) and Parque de los Deseos Bonus: most larger parks have free WiFi.
For more of the outdoors, don’t miss the Botanic Garden. This is one of our favorite (free!) spots to let the little one burn off some energy. Within, there’s an orchid garden, a butterfly farm, and you’re like to spot a few iguana’s and kitties running around. Weekends are full with locals picnicking and enjoying the outdoors and on Sundays, there’s also Mercado verde near the main restaurant with lots of local organic homemade food and goodies, plus yoga, and more.
A few more inexpensive must do’s:
Other things worth noting:
Despite what some of the Internet would have you believe Medellin is generally safe. Before we arrived I’d read about kidnappings for ransom via taxi, baby snatching, and obviously, drugs. I was anxious about our trip to say the least. The truth is, I haven’t found it to be much different than any large city. (Disclosure, we did live in Chicago for ten years, so cities aren’t as intimidating for me as they once were.) What I’ve experienced is that it’s clean, police are plentiful, and locals are extremely helpful and always seem to be looking out for tourists. They’ll ask to make sure you know where you’re going, remind you to keep bags zipped and close to you to reduce theft, and taxi drivers will warn you not to flash your phone as apparently theft through the window is common. I feel very comfortable taking our daughter out without my husband (something I can’t say for other places) and taking taxi’s or exploring a little alone. Nighttime doesn’t have to be avoided either, provided you stay in main common areas. We do use caution everywhere we go but in general, there’s absolutely no need to walk around in constant fear. Like many who’ve visited before, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
I’m by no means an expert but we’ve experienced a lot in our short time here and if you have any questions I’m happy to help out! Otherwise, you can find me documenting our adventures on my blog, Little Girl, Big World and sourcing products for my travel-inspired product line called Fosterie. Happy travels!