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Car-free Sundays on Paseo Colón: nine blocks of fun and fresh air

Summer Sundays are days for leisure, for friends and family, and for fun. The Municipality of San José’s Committee on Sports and Recreation and the Ministry of Public Health have teamed up for just that purpose: to give you a healthy share of fun, free from even a whiff of car exhaust.

The Tico Times paid a visit to a recent edition of the “Exhaust-Free Sundays,” during which nine blocks of Paseo Colón are closed to vehicular traffic, and activities are set up for all ages and abilities. The idea is to bring folks outdoors to have a good time without risks or breaking the budget. All activities are free, and municipal police are around to solve any problems that arise. (Tomorrow’s event, Feb. 28, is the last one for a while, so this is a perfect time to check it out.)

One whole block is for skating, with a rope barrier down the center that leaves plenty of room for all, experts and beginners. Skates are available to rent in all sizes, in-line or four-wheelers. (Socks are required.) For a less invigorating way to pass the time, there are games like giant checkers, tic-tac-toe and pick up sticks set out on the street.

Or up the ante on a mechanical bull; you can ask the young man running it to make it rough and tumble or a bit soft. Ever tried a hula hoop? Let the professionals show you how. Try a little volleyball – you don’t need a whole team, just start volleying – or play some street soccer. The liveliest activity of all at the Feb. 21 event was Zumba: about 50 men and women were at it all day, some really into it and others at a moderate level. Some took time out for their water bottles.

For the very brave, there is a canopy that spans one whole block. Just climbing up the metal stairway to the cable can set some hearts leaping, but when even five-year-olds do it, it can’t be too dangerous.

Big plastic inflatable structures aren’t just for kids, although they seem to take them over. Some are water slides, so expect to get wet. Some wobble so much you traverse them on your knees. Gleeful shrieks, laughing and smiling faces show what fun they are. There are rock climbing challenges and trampoline, and for the littlest tots there are puppet shows and clowns with balloons.

Information booths allow visitors to take a seat for a while and learn about healthy eating and fresh, smoke-free air.

For those whose best activity is watching, there are displays of martial arts, gymnastics and hip-hop fusion dancing. Skateboard cowboys have a block to themselves to show off their skills on ramps and railings. The street fills with bikes and baby strollers, families and friends. Teenage volunteers are everywhere, helping and encouraging.

These festivals, sponsored by the San José and the Ministry of Health, are free and open to all, including tomorrow, Feb. 28. Organizers are not holding any events during the month of March, but mark your calendars for their return: April 10, 17, and 24, and May 15, 22, and 29. The festivities take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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