Singapore is one of my favorite cities in Asia and the perfect choice for families looking to dive into Asia with kids. I always tell people that Singapore is the best of Asia providing a multitude of things to do and experience with none of the hassle. On the outside the city feels very western with organized public transportation, great infrastructure, cleanliness, etc. But as you dive deeper you can really experience so many different cultures in this Asian melting pot. While you can easily stop over quickly, you can also easily spend a week or more in Singapore with kids.
Little India in Singapore with Kids
One of our favorite places to visit in Singapore is Little India. Of course we have a special affinity for it since we lived in India for almost a decade, but it is a wonderful area of the city for everyone. My 7 year old says it feels like India, but is cleaner and smells better! I agree. There are so many things to do in Little India in Singapore; it provides enough India to bring it all back for us and to give you a taste.
The first stop in Little India should be to one of the many flower stalls along the road across from the market to buy some beautiful smelling jasmine flowers for your hair or to wear as a garland. For 1 dollar these will fill your day with such beautiful smells, you might find yourself wanting to go back for more.
Next up, head to the Indian Heritage Museum to learn more about how Indians first found their way here. We particularly enjoyed the interactive features of the museum including the ability to try on hats from India, sample different languages and dressing computerized paper dolls in different Indian outfits.
You can’t leave Little India without getting some mehendi! Pick from a variety of designs or have them free draw something cool for you. Don’t forget to bargain! For $5 or $10 you should be able to get pretty amazing designs. Yes boys can get this done too!
To get a sense of the spiritual side of India, make a stop at the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. Shoes come off as you wander around the courtyard of this colorful temple taking in all the different Gods on display. Ask the locals what each are for if you are curious. You just might be surprised as to what the different Gods are for.
If you are in Little India during meal times, we loved Komala Villas on the main road. Try the puri set plate for channa masala and puri bread or go for a dosa with some amazing coconut chutney.
Chinatown in Singapore with Kids
Another wonderful ethnic neighborhood to add onto your Singapore itinerary is a visit to Singapore’s Chinatown district.Did you know that 80% of Singapore is Chinese? As you can imagine with those population numbers, this is a busy part of town with visitors and locals alike.
For the most part Chinatown is filled with tourist shops and eateries, but it’s still worth a wander around to see the old shop style buildings and to load up on souvenirs. Don’t forget to bargain!
While pottering around here, look out for great souvenirs like chopsticks with your name engraved (great to use during your visit to reduce single use waste!) or go for the gold with a marble name stamp with English and Chinese.
Your first stop should be to the beautiful Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. The temple has several stories that you can explore for hours, but we particularly enjoyed the ground floor, 3rd floor for an easily digestable history of how Buddhism started as well as the large prayer wheel on the rooftop.
Shoulders and knees must be covered, but if you have forgotten, free garments to comply are provided.
We ended our visit with a trip to the famous hawker stalls at the Chinatown Complex. A must have is the Malaysia dish popiah, the delcious, albiet super strong kopi (coffee Singaporean style) and if the line isn’t super long, try the chicken rice at Liao Fan Hawker Chan, the only Michelin starred food stall in Singapore.
Singapore Botanic Gardens & Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden
One of the things I love about Singapore is the abundance of free family friendly attractions. One of our favorites is the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. There have been public gardens on this site since 1859, continuing on today with these two. Singapore’s Botanic Gardens provide a wonderful retreat into nature, getting you away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a bit.
We absolutely loved the children’s area at the Botanic Gardens. There are great educational signs around the area as well as fun playgrounds and water splash areas to keep the kids entertained for ages. If you want to make sure not to miss anything, enter the park through the Children’s Garden itself.
If you are pressed for time, you could easily start at the Children’s Garden and then work your way through some of the other gardens as time allows. Be warned, kids will find it difficult to leave the children’s area.
If you happen to travel with your scooter grab it to ride along the many pathways checking out the vast areas of the Botanic Gardens. The Orchid Garden is one area where you must pay, but it is minimal and worth it if you are interested in seeing Singapore’s flower. The rainforest area also has a nice boardwalk area to Potter around in.
If you happen to here during the evenings, check out the amphitheater to see if there are any free concerts available during your stay.
Within the gardens, there are several great places to grab a bite or cold drink. We loved the little shop opposite the Orchid Garden for delicious organic fruit juices and for the fact that they sell cups of ice to refill your water bottles! Singapore for the win.
Gardens by the Bay
Touted as one of the most reviewed attractions in Singapore, it’s easy to see why once you visit. Gardens by the Bay is another mostly free attraction for families. It consists of two conservatories that you have to pay to enter. One is a cloud forest and one is flower dome. These are a wonderful way to experience nature up close if you are over the city landscapes!
The other area of the park that you must pay for is the sky walk. If you arrive during a quiet time, we definitely recommend a visit up here for a great view over the park and the city. If it’s busy, you could be waiting in line for ages which may not be worth it.
Regardless of what you do here, make sure to spend some time waking around the Super Trees and all the other sculptures and nature exhibits.
However the best bit for families is definitely the children’s section which houses a huge water splash pad area as well as a fun obstacle course that ends in a challenging tree house where kids up to 12 will have a blast. It is easy to spend half a day or more here.
If you need some AC and food, head over to the mall on the other side of the “boat building”. In the basement there are several great stalls for a quick bite. Alternatively, head to Satay by the Bay for some delicious bites to eat for great prices.
If you haven’t arrived during the late afternoon, make an effort to return to Gardens by the Bay in the evening for the Rhapsody of Lights that occurs each night at 7:45 and 8:45. Its a 15 minute light and music show that is great fun to see. And it’s the perfect excuse to see Singapore lit up at night!
National Gallery Singapore
I am not always a huge fan of visiting museums with kids, but after seeing the advertisements of the Children’s Festival at the National Gallery Singapore, I thought we should check it out. It was difficult to get the buy in for my son, but once he was there I couldn’t get him to leave. We actually ended up visiting twice during our 4 day trip!
Apart from the summer Children’s Festival series, the permanent Keppel Center for Art Education is a huge hit for kids. The Keppel Center has several cool interactive art exhibits including a “city room” where kids can build their own cities with cardboard blocks or wooden blocks using different light displays, shadows and more. Further on in the center are rooms to learn about block printing and pottery. The best part about it is that these are all free exhibits! It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. As my son says their AC is cold which was welcome for a steamy summer Singapore day.
See Singapore by Water
The traditional bumboat snakes through the city by water, providing a great side-by-side perspective of the old and new Singapore.
The Duck Boat isn’t cheap, however it does provide a bit better of an overview with some interesting facts about the city. Even though it was much dryer (pun intended) than the Viking Boat Tour in Dublin that we love, it is still worth the hefty price tag. And honestly, kids love being in an amphibious vehicle that can go both on water and land![box]Note: In light of recent events in the US with a Duck Boat sinking, many people are advising to stay away from Duck Boat tours. I get this view 100%, but I leave it up to you to decide. We personally felt super safe the 20 minutes we were on the water, however accidents can happen in a split second. I would now definitely request to have a life jacket even though they are not required.[/box]
Even More Places to Visit in Singapore for Kids
There is so much to do in Singapore that you can’t fit it all in during a quick visit. Even with a week, we still had things left on our to do list. For ourselves and for you, here are some other family favorites in Singapore.
Singapore Zoo and/or Night Safari
Everyone raves about the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. We had just returned from 2 weeks in the jungle so we felt we had gotten our animal fill, but if this is your only stop, set aside a day, yes a day because it’s that big and that hot, to check it all out.
The Night Safari takes visitors on a tram ride through a park containing only nocturnal animals that are roaming in their natural habitats without cages. Visitors can go through a rainforest, savannah and the jungle to spot all sorts of animals.
Jurong Bird Park
If you need more animals, Jurong Bird Park is over 20 hectares, with 8,000 birds representing 600 species. Part of ticket prices cover their hospital and the Breeding and Research Centre that works to ensure the welfare of birds around the world. Have fun and help the world of birds too!
Treetop Canopy Walk
We really had hoped to get to this on our visit, but ran out of time. It’s meant to be a wonderful oasis of nature right in the middle of the city. The Treetop Walk itself can be quite long for young kids (around 6km in very hot/humid weather), but you can take a taxi to Windsor Park and Venus Drive which makes the walk much more manageable for the littles. The 250 meter canopy walk takes you across the forest tops providing a wonderful perspective of the jungle below – concrete and natural! This is really a stunning place to check out for a different view of Singapore. It also provides a great opportunity for animal spotting. Keep a look out for monitor lizards (they are huge!) on the ground and monkeys in the trees!
For many tourists, Sentosa Island is their go to spot in Singapore. This previously deserted island is now a resort park with packaged fun for everyone in the family. While this isn’t our cup of tea, I wouldn’t mind checking it out just for a little bit of relaxation!
You can visit just for the day by taking the cable car over. Once on Sentosa, there are a number of family focused attractions that you could easily spend a few days here. There is a water park filled with exhilarating slides and rides, there are beautiful beaches as well as Universal Studios Singapore for all of the kids young and old who love amusement parks. If you have ample time in Singapore, definitely check it out!
Highlights of Singapore with Kids
- Getting mehendi designs on our hands in Little India
- Eating Popiah and other local favorites at the hawker centers
- Seeing the city from above on the skywalk at Gardens by the Bay
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