Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- The airport code for Zacatecas is ZCL. Volaris (tel. 866/988-3527 in the U.S., 01-800/122-8000 in Mexico), a Mexican discount airline, has nonstop flights to/from Los Angeles (twice a week) and Tijuana (daily). American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300 in the U.S. and Canada, or 01-800/904-6000 in Mexico) flies nonstop to and from Los Angeles. Seats are hard to come by around Christmas, when native Zacatecans fly home in large numbers. Aeroméxico (tel. 800/237-6639 in the U.S., 01-800/021-4000 in Mexico) and its affiliates link Zacatecas to other cities in the country by way of Mexico City.
Taxis from the airport, 29km (18 miles) north of Zacatecas, cost 220 pesos.
By Car -- From the south, you can take Hwy. 45D, a toll road, from Querétaro through Irapuato, León, and Aguascalientes (a 6-hr. drive). It's expensive (about 300 pesos) but fast. Hwy. 54 heads northeast to Saltillo and Monterrey (a 5- to 6-hr. drive) and southeast to Guadalajara (a 4 1/2-hr. drive). Hwy. 49 leads north to Torreón (4 hr.) and southeast to San Luis Potosí (3 hr.). Hwy. 45 heads to Durango (4 hr.).
By Bus -- Omnibus de México, Estrella Blanca, and their many affiliates handle first-class bus travel to and from Zacatecas. Together they operate 20 buses a day to and from Guadalajara; 20 to and from León (where you would change buses for Guanajuato); 30 buses that go to and from Mexico City, stopping in Querétaro; and 12 per day to and from San Luis Potosí. The Central Camionera (bus station) is on a hilltop a bit out of town. The taxi ride costs 35 pesos. You can check schedules and buy tickets from several travel agencies in town. Ask at your hotel.
The downtown office is at Hidalgo 401 at Callejón de la Caja (tel. 492/924-4047 or 492/925-1277); it's open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Sometimes there's an information desk outside on Hidalgo.
Understanding traffic circulation in the middle of town requires an advanced degree in chaos theory. I either walk or let the cabdriver handle it. The city's main axis is Hidalgo. From the Plaza de Armas (main square), it goes 8 blocks southwest to the Enrique Estrada Park and Hotel Quinta Real (changing names as it goes); in the opposite direction, it reaches another 8 blocks to the Rafael Coronel Museum (again making a name change). The historical center of town extends several blocks on either side of this 1.5km (1-mile) stretch of Hidalgo.
I enjoy walking around Zacatecas, but the terrain is hilly and the air is thin. Cabs are inexpensive and readily available. Their availability declines somewhat between 2 and 4pm, during the midafternoon meal.
Special Events & Festivals
During Semana Santa (Holy Week), Zacatecas hosts an international cultural festival that the town hopes will eventually rival the Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato. Painters, poets, dancers, musicians, actors, and other artists converge on the town.
The annual Feria de Zacatecas, which celebrates the founding of the city, begins sometime during the first week of September and lasts for 2 weeks, incorporating the national Fiestas Patrias (independence celebration). Cockfights, bullfights, sporting events, band concerts, and general hoopla prevail. Famous bullfighters appear, and the cheap bullfight tickets go for around 125 pesos.