I have had the pleasure to call Tijuana, Mexico home for nearly two years - and I love it. Yes, you read right - I love it. Forget what you think you know, and trust me when I say - Tijuana is a best kept travel secret.
Unlike tropical Cancun, cultured Guadalajara, and historical Oaxaca, Tijuana often is not preceded by a positive adjective. When I mention to people in the U.S. (and elsewhere) that I live in the young border town, I am often met with wide eyes, blank stares, and a meek “why?” Okay - so there was that uptick in violence a few years back (which is now on the decline), there is the idea that it is a city that survives by catering to rowdy gringos looking for a good time in bad places, and the city is admittedly in dire need for more green space. I get it. But still, I stand by my opinion that Tijuana is a hidden gem that is unfairly overlooked.
The city is not synonymous with its infamous red light district, and has quite a bit to offer if you look in the right places. The cultural center (CECUT) hosts numerous lectures, art exhibits, and film screenings; food is amazing - from street-side torta stands to high end restaurants with deconstructed, modern Mexican cuisine; and the city is a is a photographers dream thanks to neighborhoods that fit together like Jenga pieces and colorful graffiti. As if that's not enough, Tijuaneses (people from Tijuana) are incredibly friendly and some of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for their northern neighbors that I have encountered in all my years of traveling. Are you sold yet?
If not, this is my final plea. Visit Tijuana. Come see the good in a place known for the bad. Come experience the friendliness of a city that is proud to be redefining and developing itself after years of struggles. Come and see why I love Tijuana.