One day we hired a driver to take us to the Teotitlan market. On the way we stopped for an interesting rug-weaving demonstration, showing us how the Zapotec made their dyes, yarn and selected patterns. The market was crowded and hot, but it was fun, and we returned home sporting peasant blouses and the ornately embroidered gingham kitchen aprons indigenous women wear.
Of course, there is no trip to Oaxaca City without seeing Monte Alban, the pre-Columbian mega-center of the Zapotec people. Go early before this enormous archaeological site on a nearby mountaintop gets hot and crowded, and you'll have the place to yourself.
A museum that I promise will not make your kids groan is the spectacular Museo del Palacio on the zocalo. It's better than many American city museums and has state-of-the-art interactive technology for kids, clever exhibits on regional history and a chic gift shop to which parents can escape while kids go through the earthquake house for the 10th time.
The most direct route is through Houston and on to Oaxaca City, about $418 round trip.
Where to stay
Casa de los Milagros: A three-bedroom house we rented for $240 a night. Rooms can be rented for $90 to $120 each on a per-room basis; www.casadelosmilagros.com.
Las Bugambilias: With nine rooms set back off the street, this is a quieter, although less private, option with no public kitchen. Rooms for $65 per night; www.lasbugambilias.com /oaxaca-bed-breakfast.htm.
Armando Ruiz was our teacher, and I recommend him. One two-hour lesson costs $15. Three two-hour lessons, materials included, cost $40; www.ishuakara.com.
Textile museum: Most of these classes were free or about $15 for a three-hour class; www.museotextilde oaxaca.org.mx.
Where to eat
La Biznaga: Our favorite was La Biznaga, which also seemed popular with the local arty set. It has a hip, relaxed atmosphere in an open-air patio with modern art and fusion food. Service is slow, so be prepared. It had the girls' pick of sopa con pollo y arroz (chicken and rice soup); 512 Garcia Vigil.
Los Danzantes: Fantastic for fine dining in interesting architecture. I don't recommend it for really young kids, but for the over-8 crowd, it's a treat; www.losdanzantes.com, 403 Macedonio Alcala.
La Olla: Excellent for a lunch of traditional Oaxacan food (moles, stuffed chiles, soups). 402 Reforma; www.laolla.com.mx.
For great tamales, hang out at night on the zocalo, and look for the stand near the farmacia. Find the line of people and you will find the famous tamale lady. Bring napkins.