Vietnam with kids truly is the perfect trip for families looking for hands on educational and transformative travel. The country is teeming with unique activities and sites to visit that will appeal to all age ranges. From making things by hand to experiencing local life and immersing yourself in the culture through food, Vietnam really has it all for family travelers.
After a few weeks exploring the country, we have come up with our top 10 things to do in Vietnam with kids (or even without!).
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1. Sample the Local Vietnamese Food
If you haven’t experienced Vietnamese food, you are in for a surprise. The food is not anything like you might expect. It is fresh, flavorful and for the most part not spicy. For picky eaters there is a ton to try, and even more for adventurous eaters. Each region of the country has their own speciality, so make sure to try as much as you can.
One of the best foods to try in Vietnam with kids is Banh Mi, (our favorite was in Hoi An) a meat filled sandwich on crusty fluffy baguettes. Families may also enjoy bun cha in Hanoi, pho all over the country and of course rice pancakes with all sorts of goodies inside. If you aren’t sure how to go about sampling all of the food on offer, consider a cooking class or street food tour to get you going.
Hanoi Food Tours
2. Attend a Water Puppet Show
Attending a traditional water puppet show in Vietnam with kids will be a highlight for both the littles and the adults. We saw one water puppet show in a local village that was quite basic, but still very entertaining.
The best show however is in Hanoi at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre by the lake. This is the real deal when it comes to water puppet shows. Live music accompanies the fun stories displayed on the blue lit water. My son was engaged and thrilled the entire show!
Tip: If you are in Hanoi for a few days, head over to the box office on your first day to book your tickets through the automated machines. If the expensive seats are sold out, try the cheaper side seats- they offer almost the same view for less! The theater isn’t big at all, so most seats are fine.
3. Crawl in the Cu Chi Tunnels
The main reason for our visit to Ho Chi Minh City was to visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels used during the Vietnam war. My son didn’t know a ton about the war, but I had told him about these tunnels so he was keen to check them out. We highly suggest taking a boat tour (we went with Les Rives) to the tunnels rather than the 2.5 hour bus ride. It’s a nice change of pace and allows you to see life on the river as you go.
During the tour, you will learn about the different tactics used in the war against the Americans as well as have the opportunity to crawl through the tunnels yourself. Definitely a fun experience for most kids even if they don’t fully understand much about the war.
Tip: If your visit to Vietnam with kids doesn’t take you all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, consider making a stop at the Vinh Moc Tunnels near the DMZ line.
4. Make Silk Vietnamese Lanterns in Hoi An
One of the best hands on experiences in all of Vietnam has to be making silk lanterns in Hoi An with the Lantern Lady. After visiting the town, you will surely become enamored with the beautiful lanterns hanging all over town. The lantern making class is a great way to learn how these are made as well as bring one home for a souvenir. There are two options – making one from scratch or the express version. We did one of each and loved it! My son could have visited every day, he enjoyed the process of making the lanterns as much as just hanging out at the shop. A must do for any visit to Hoi An.
5. Cruise the Emerald Waters of Halong Bay
Visiting the iconic and picturesque Halong Bay is on most families Vietnam itinerary for good reason. It is a beautiful excursion offering plenty of opportunities to experience this UNESCO world heritage site both on and off the boat.
To avoid the mass commercialization of the area, we recommend taking a cruise through the marvelous beauty of Bai Tu Long Bay. This area is on the east side of Halong Bay and is a much less crowded, providing unparalleled views of the area without the congestion of Halong Bay proper.
If your budget allows, definitely consider a luxury overnight cruise. This was one part of our trip that we did not skimp on price and it was worth it. We loved the on board cooking lesson, kayaking sessions each day, fishing for squid at night and soaking in the pool while cruising through the beautiful emerald waters.
6. Ride in a Basket Boat on an Eco Tour
Hoi An is a family dream destination with many hands opportunities like lantern making, pottery workshops and experiencing village life just outside the town. One of the best activities on the myriad of village tours offered here is riding in a basket boat while fishing for crabs on the river. This is one of the only places in Vietnam where you can experience these unique boats. With only 2-3 people per boat, you will have a fun time spinning your way down the river searching for crabs. Just be careful the crabs don’t get loose in your boat like ours did!! We took a tour with Hoi An Village Experience, but there are many others as well.
Other Hoi An Village Tours
7. Experience Local Life in a Village Homestay
Another top experience in Vietnam with kids is a village homestay where you can experience local life just like the locals. While there are many such offerings for village visits, our homestay with IndoChina Junk at the Yen Duc Village allowed the perfect combination of cultural exchange opportunities and hands on activities like rice husking, fishing with a bamboo basket and learning how to make a broom from rice stalks. Furthermore, riding bikes around tiny village lanes has to be one of the best experiences to be had in Vietnam with kids of all ages.
8. Stay in a Shack in Ninh Binh
Needing a break from city life, the best bet is to head south of Hanoi to Ninh Binh where you can stay in a ‘shack’ while also giving back to the local community. The popular Nguyen Shack here offers an off the beaten path experience with its natural surroundings as well as their mission to give back to local communities in financial need.
Guests sleep surrounded by karst mountains on a private lake, can bike through ride paddy fields and hike to spectacular viewpoints all miles away from the hectic buzz of Vietnam’s city life. A perfect escape from the crazy streets of Hanoi en route to the South. Or if your route is taking you South to North, a nice retreat before you reach the craziness of Hanoi!
10. Explore Some of the World’s Largest Caves in Phong Nha
Vietnam is known for having an extensive network of massive caves dotting the country. Phong Nha is home to the largest cave in the world, but at $3000 per person is quite prohibitive to visit! However, this area still boasts some other impressive caves making a visit on your way to/from Hue worth the effort. Families will enjoy exploring Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave easily. The truly adventurous families can try ziplining (for 10 and over) through the Dark Cave, ending their visit with a mud pit bath inside.
Even More to Explore in Vietnam with Kids
There are so many other amazing experiences in Vietnam that we didn’t have time to cover, but would love to check out on our next visit. Trekking through the rice fields while learning about the indigenous communities of Sapa (while staying in a gorgeous eco resort!) is high on the list, as is staying in a bamboo hut on the Mekong Delta. Sunbathing in Phu Quoc will be another top spot to visit next time. The possibilities for immersive travel in Vietnam with kids feels limitless. Until next time!
Have you been to Vietnam? What did we miss?
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