San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Smog-free Sundays on Paseo Colón

Books, bikes, balls and ballet are just some of what you’ll find Sundays through Easter Holy Week on San José’s Paseo Colón.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the avenue is closed to traffic, letting pedestrians take over. The “smog-free Sundays” will continue through April 10, and each will offer something different.

The idea is to bring out families and friends to play together, enjoy the Costa Rican summer sun and take advantage of all the activities provided by the San José Municipality, the Culture Ministry and the San José Sports and Recreation Committee. And the price is just right: It’s free!

Want to try fencing? Aerobics? Or join in a volleyball game? Here’s your chance. The San José libraries have an open tent section with books, games, jigsaw puzzles and crafts; families can work together on puzzles, play table games or sit all day reading. Stick horses and Hula-Hoops are there to try out, too. Farther west on the avenue are huge rubber structures for kids to bounce on, climb, slide down or get soaked to the skin in the water tunnel (bring towels and extra clothes for that one).

If you think sitting under a bucket of water and getting dunked can’t possibly be fun, an eager, smiling line of kids waiting their turn recently proved otherwise as grown-ups, mostly dads, lined up opposite them to throw tennis balls at the bucket. And with the kids already wet from other water games, well, what’s a little more water. This was one big crowd pleaser, as everyone stopped to watch.

Walking along the nine-block area, you’ll find groups doing aerobics to music and mini basketball and volleyball courts where you can join in or start your own game. There’s a roped-off area with a ramp for bicycle stunts and skateboards, and another for quick fencing lessons, or at least putting on the mask and togs and handling “swords” just like in the movies. And there’s a big rubber mountain to conquer.

By far the most popular event, judging from the long line, is the no-stress zip line that whizzes you 50 meters across the street and is never more than 5 meters off the ground. No shrieking was heard and no fear-frozen faces were seen, and, rest assured, this and all activities are well supervised with an emphasis on safety.

While joining in or watching the action, your attention may be drawn to a band marching by, a troupe of dancers or actors in costumes, a group from a martial arts school or some 10-foot-tall folks marching along on stilts. You can also bring your own bike, balls, skates, dogs, friends, kids or grandparents and enjoy a summer Sunday. And if the fun doesn’t leave you too tuckered out, you can cross Calle 42 to La Sabana Park, with the help of the Traffic Police, and enjoy more sports action, or just watch or stroll with the family.

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