I just spent a week in Mazatlan, soaking up the atmosphere and checking out some hotels we’ll be adding to our reviews.

Mazatlan has a different feel than most other Mexican beach resorts because it has a real history and some architecture that goes beyond the new blocky concrete resorts look. This was a major port city in the 1800s and there are a lot of interesting historic structures built during that time and spruced up in recent years.

In some cases, a mere sprucing up wasn’t enough. The historic Angela Peralta Theater opened in 1881 but eventually fell into disrepair and sat abandoned. After lots of effort and fundraising to avoid demolition, the theater was rebuilt and restored, opening again in 1992. I was fortunate enough to catch a dance performance there. Here’s what it looks like before the crowds file in.

The heart of the old city is Machado Square, where restaurants and bars are indoor/outdoor affairs. Locals, tourists, and expats spend hours at cafe tables soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying fresh seafood. There are frequently music shows going on in the square or at specific restaurants like Pedro & Lola. (Save room for the banana pie—trust me.)

If you stay at Casa Lucila, which I’ll be posting a review of soon, you can walk to all this from a seaside location a few blocks away. If you love it so much you can’t bear to leave, there are houses for sale in the old city…

See more at GoMazatlan.com