As stated previously, just about everything you’ve taken for granted in your native country is available here. High-speed Internet service, water purification and pressure
systems, cable and satellite TV, computers, VCRs, DVDs, digital cameras and other high-tech gadgets, cappuccino or espresso, state-of-the-art medical facilities, name-brand imported products are all readily available. On rare occasions, one may need to order a special item from the U.S., in which case an incoming “duty” may have to be paid.
While Lakeside offers a Walmart Superstore and food outlets such as Subway and Dominos Pizza; others such as Chili’s, Sirloin Stockade, Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s, Applebee’s, and Baskin & Robbins are as close as Guadalajara. Retail outlets such as Walmart, Sam’s, Home Depot, Price Club, Ace Hardware and Office Depot are also available in Guadalajara, about 45 minutes away.
At Lakeside, you will find blocks of stalls, streetmarkets, galleries, and workshops in the area. Antiques, furniture, tapestries, glassware, lamps, wrought-iron furniture, masks, pottery, jewelry, art and artesanias of all kinds are sold here. In fact, the Lake Chapala area is fast becoming the region’s supplier of quality crafts, replacing Tonala.
Visitors to Lake Chapala’s north shore will find dozens of bungalows, casitas (guest houses), hotels and B&Bs in the area, from 5-star hotels with pristine pools and a panoramic lake views to intimate bed & breakfasts on quiet side streets. The services and ambiance will vary greatly at each lodging place, but it is safe to say that there is something for every person, preference and budget.
Balnearios (thermal springs) are one of the Lakeside’s most relaxing and therapeutic natural attractions. Underground thermal springs are numerous, and can be found in remote mountain areas, and occasionally in private homes. The largest and best-known public balneario is in San Juan Cosala, between the towns of Ajijic and Jocotepec, which features natural thermal water in various swimming pools, three hotels, and a restaurant. For visitors who want something livelier, there is Tobolandia, a water park in Ajijic offering water slides and other diversions.
There are also two golf courses in the Lake Chapala area, several health spas, tennis courts, video arcades, etc. Not to be missed are the many presentations by the Lakeside Little Theatre, the Circle Theater and other groups.
For exploration of other attractions, there are several tour guide businesses, which utilize vans or buses at reasonable prices. Popular destinations include historic Guadalajara, a tequila factory, Ballet Folklorico in the famous Teatro Degollado, and even “shop-till-you-drop” jaunts to the Tonala artisan’s district, Walmart and Price Club.
From the Chapala pier, a number of excursions are possible, from a one-hour ride along the lakeshore to extended lake and island tours. These could include a two-hour visit to Scorpion Island (Isla Alacranes), with its regional food restaurants and bird watching; or four hours round–trip to Mezcala Island (Isla Presidio), a national monument with the remains of a fort around which the historical Battle of Mezcala took place.
A number of special events highlight life at Lake Chapala. Among them are: the annual Carnaval (Mardi Gras) held at Chapala’s huge Cristiania Park; an annual arts exhibition called Feria Maestros del Arte, the annual Chili Cook-Off, a 3-day festival held each February to benefit a variety of local charities; the annual celebrations for the Mexican, American and Canadian Independence days held in the gardens of the Lake Chapala Society; and annual fiestas held in each town plaza in honor of the local patron saints.
The Carnaval, usually held in February, attracts thousands and begins with the traditional “burial of Bad Humor”, the beautiful floats, costumed and masked groups, followed by “serenades” to the Carnival Queen and the crowning of “The Ugly King” in the Main Plaza.
Each patron saint fiesta runs for two weeks, and provides nightly live bands, a wide assortment of food and free-flowing alcoholic drinks, fireworks, carnival rides, and a multitude of booths, gift & novelty stands, and games of chance. The Mexicans have a love of loud noises, and it is common during fiesta time to hear cuhuetes (pyrotechnic rockets) and firecrackers going off at all hours.