Toluca (also Toluca de Lerdo) was a pre-columbian cultural center and is now the capital of Mexico State.
This is one of the most industrialized and prosperous cities in all of Mexico, a city of numerous factories, hospitals, universities, athletic events, and cultural venues. Toluca is due west of Mexico City, at almost 9,000 feet. After coming from Mexico City, you will be impressed with the clean air, but may get altitude sickness your first day there, so take it easy. Also, bring warm clothing. Nights are always cold, and there may be severe hail any time of year.
International airport in Mexico City is another alternative.
There is a passenger train from Mexico City to Michoacan which stops in Toluca. The equipment is old and the service is slow (sometimes taking twice as long as a bus).
The highway between Mexico City and Toluca is one of the most modern in the country (and an expensive toll road).
Toluca has one of the largest bus terminals in the country. From Mexico City you can get several lines to Toluca at the western terminal called Observatorio (at the end of the east-west subway line). Flecha Roja has regular service to the northern terminal, Terminal Norte, as well. Buses for Toluca depart every few minutes. Some lines (e.g., Caminante) have on board movies. From the north side of Mexico City, there is a terminal at Cuatro Caminos also with buses to Toluca. Other buses run from the suburb of Naucalpan to Toluca.
From the main Toluca terminal you can go to any points west (e.g., Michoacan), south (Ixtapan de la Sal), or north (e.g., Queretaro).
Toluca also has another station on Fidel Velazquez just for Caminante busses that have hourly service to the Mexico City airport.
There is no boat here: no lake, no river, no beach. It is too cold for outdoor swimming, but there is an Olympic sized pool on the southwest outskirts of town at the great athletic center.
Toluca has the best taxi system in the world: over 5,000 taxis for a city of about half a million. Just walk to any major street and wave at a passing taxi. The city is fairly compact, so fares are pretty cheap: 30 pesos will take you to most places.
The place to be is the Portales downtown, then you are in walking distance of many interesting parks, gardens, museums, churches, theatres, stores, restaurants, hotels and government offices.
Another interesting location not far from WalMart would be Parque Urawa and the library.
On the southwest corner of town by ITESM (Tec de Monterrey) is the Centro Cultural Mexiquense with an anthropology museum, folk arts museum, modern arts museum, and library.
UAEM (state university) related events and centers and located all over the city, though most are located in the Ciudad Universitaria and stadium on the west side.
Avoid coming to Toluca on Fridays. Some guide books talk about a "quaint Indian market" but it is a flea market that clogs many streets. Also, when the afternoon comes, many Mexico City families come through Toluca to get into the countryside.
The state university (UAEM) is here with several campuses for medicine, dentistry, nursing, chemistry, humanities, engineering, business, public administration, economics, behavioral science, and neuroscience. The most prestigious private university is a Tec de Monterrey campus (ITESM). There are dozens of newer private universities, some for-profit.
This is the city to come to for employment in factories, the state government, hospitals, construction, and a growing service economy.
Casa de las Artesanias. On the corner of Tollocan and Urawa Av. There you can get many nice hand made typical things.
This is one of the safer cities in Mexico, in terms of sanitation, traffic, and crime. The local PAN mayor ran on a platform of 3 minutes response time for the police.
If you find Toluca too calm, take the hour bus ride to Mexico City.
If you find Toluca too traditionally Mexican, just taxi to the southestern suburb of Metepec, and you will think you are in southern California with malls, multiplexes, big box stores, and luxury car dealerships.
If you find Toluca too stressful and modern, take a taxi or bus southwest, past the big prison, to Almoloya de Juarez. Walk around the sleepy town square and look at the church built on the grotto of water (ojo de agua). Look for the magic line in the water.
You can get out of Toluca for a daytrip to the volcano (El Nevado de Toluca) but that might trigger altitude sickness in some, or the Zacango Zoo, or the spas at Ixtapan de la Sal, or Valle de Bravo.