Each summer, crowds from inside and outside of Chile flock to the shores of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. Last summer, I saw the beautiful beaches, the relaxed atmosphere and lovely southern California type climate and assumed these were the reasons people came here. This summer, I am discovering that Viña has numerable other things to offer, with concerts, festivals, fairs, sports and any number of activities going on all the time. One just needs to know where to look.
Fortunately, I am well connected this year; my Spanish has vastly improved, and know (almost) all the latest happenings.
First, there is music. Some of you may be familiar with the internationally famous concert hosted each year in February. Some of the biggest names in Latin music come here for a full week as part of The Festival of Viña del Mar. The open-air Quinta Vergara hosts this, and numerous other events, all summer. I did not attend the big concert in February, as tickets can be hundreds of dollars (I said it was famous!). However, I did attend two amazing classical music concerts in January. The Fundacion Beethoven hosts music events each Friday night in January, free of charge, at the Quinta Vergara. It is all stadium bleacher seating, separated into orchestra (La Platea) and mezzanine (La Galería) sections. I have never attended such a concert sitting on cold bleachers, so it was an experience. I loved to see how many people attended, of all ages, with entire families. I loved the music and the singing. I especially loved that it was free, within walking distance, and the perfect way to spend an evening with friends.
Second, the ferias come to Viña each summer. This is not the fresh fruits and vegetables feria that I frequent each Saturday. These are closer to local craft markets, where people come to sell their (mostly hand-crafted) items. Though not usually interested in these in the U.S., I found that I kind of enjoy them here. They tend to remain in place for several weeks, are open late into the night and have an atmosphere about them that encourages people to linger. There are food booths, sometimes music and other activities (especially for kids). (Pictures below)
I found red pepper marmalade (surprisingly yummy) and orange ginger marmalade (a new favorite. I found shoes (!), earrings, bracelets and a new shawl made of alpaca wool (for this winter). I returned several times just to wander and see what I could see.
Something I did not try this year was the Playa del Deporte (Sport Beach). Though I had been running three times a week (until I hurt my ankle), my runs rarely took me far enough to reach the fitness area. At the far end, they have several Cross Fit-looking apparatuses and space to hold classes. Each day, there are yoga, pilates, Body Combat, calisthenics and various other classes. For CLP$3,000 (or about USD$4), you can take any of these open air classes.
They hosted a color run here a few weeks ago. Sadly, I could not participate. But it seems like there is always something happening. And there was so much I missed! Every week, I discovered something new that I wanted to try. I can’t wait for next summer.